Monday, January 6, 2020

Secret of Mana Remake, Part 2 - Zanzibar

Today on Secret of Mana: Upper Land, Matango, hot and cold climes, and beyond.

Jabberwocky is huge and intimidating in this version. I actually like the way this looks more than the Jabberwocky in the original game. Some of these bosses are turned up to 11 and look like monstrous versions of their former selves.

The fight itself. It's another spell spam fest. Not really feeling the remix of the boss theme, but I'm going to play this entire remake with the remixed soundtrack on so that I can really compare it to the original on all levels.

Moon regales the others with tales of Upper Land: A place where they have the food of all seasons. If I could live in any location from this world, Upper Land should easily be the winner. The lack of any kind of inn is pretty weird though.

The winter lands, where we meet our first moogles. They look fairly FF-Accurate here, though the wings are a bit big. Typically moogle wings are very de-emphasized to the point that it's easy to forget they even have wings.

Fall is home to red leaves and hooting owls.

Spring is still the best, with pink blossoms and flowers everywhere. No shots of Summer because it's the generic season and looks the same as every other forest area in the game.

Here's a shot of Undine being summoned to unleash Freeze against the Spring Beak. This thing looks much more like a bird than the original version, which looked a bit like some kind of robot.

The actual fight. Note how Spring Beak attacks with Sylphid spells, which is fitting given its proximity to the Wind Palace. This version does nothing to confirm what the deal is with the Sprite's village being destroyed and whether it's The Empire or this boss that does it.

It's noteworthy that Silence has been renamed to Confusion in this version.

Matango is still a wondrous place because it's Matango, but it's missing a lot of atmosphere without the shade layer over everything.

The original game made this place feel like it was hiding under a layer of tree covering that allowed the fungi here to florish. Why they got rid of this shading, I don't know. Matango is super-generic in the remake as a result.

The theme music of Matango is still outstanding in the remake at least.

King Truffle is still a fun character. You could say he's... a fun guy.

Great Viper fight! This thing looks NOTHING like how it looked in the original.

The fight is a Thunderbolt-spam fest in both versions. At this point I'm surprised the PS4 version didn't do anything to slow down or curb magic-spamming.

One of the game's sadder scenes is even moreso in this version.

With Flammie rescued, it's off to the desert.

Your characters don't have to actually die on this part. I was zipping around the desert trying to trigger this cutscene, and the other two characters got ganked in the process. It's funny how they appear as ghosts in cutscenes, World of Warcraft-style.

The desert theme is one of the truly amazing remixes that this PS4 version has to offer. This soundtrack is very hit-or-miss, but when it hits...

Here's the Sand Ship, one of the most forgettable parts of the game. With the dialogue souped-up here, we learn that this is what the Tasnica Republic deployed to keep The Empire away from the Fire Palace. So their immediate surrender when Geshtar shows up is even more egregious of an abdication of duty.
Geshtar, in Mech Rider form. This fight, like Matango, lacks the charm it had in the original version. It has this washed-out mobile phone game look to it.

Here's the fight itself, which is obnoxious because his evasion rate is so high.

After that it's off to Todo Village, home to the walrus people. This is still my favorite SoM town.

Look at this cozy inn. What a great place. This is a good time to note how this version stacks your party on top of each other when they enter a new area, and it looks bizarre.

Direct comparison shot of the two versions. Note how the dialogue is just slightly more fleshed-out for readability.

Next up...the Ice Forest, which has its own remix. And it's tremendous. The entire OST of this version should have been like this instead of going on so many musical tangents into every possible genre. I've only been linking the really good tracks. This is near the top of the list. I could listen to this every time it snows.

The Ice Forest itself looks great in this version. Really lives up to the original and enhances it.

The wolves here are still a great place to build up some levels, though it's better to wait until Salamando is acquired so you can level that up as well.

Boreal Face is still a cool boss. Check out how the trees strobe in this version.

For whatever reason, this fight is a miss-festival, moreso than Geshtar even (and Geshtar was buffing his evasion, this thing isn't). I hope this isn't a thing going forward, enemies with super-high evasion.

Got Salamando after this and immediately built it to L3 on both characters. Magic is the order of the day in this game.

I forgot to get the Midge Mallet again, so I detour back to the Dwarf Village for it at this point. It's a bit of a hassle to get back to the early areas after you go past Upper Land.

...wait, what? They renamed the Midge Mallet? Presumably because they thought it was offensive, but "Minor Mallet" is way more offensive.

Hoofing around the early areas a bit, I find this odd location. That wall on the right looks like it was supposed to go somewhere originally. Dead ends aren't really a thing in this game except in places with cut content like Northtown.

Up at the top you can see The Sprite lagging way behind as I run through this area. The absolute BEST change this game makes from the original is giving the CPU characters better following AI (they don't get stuck as often) and preventing them from holding you up if they do lag behind.

I try out the Minor Mallet here and midge it up. It'd be cool if we could stay in this form and hit just as hard, like Ant Man.

After much trudgery, we finally arrive back at the snow lands...

 The Ice Palace is one palace that doesn't contain a Mana Seed pedestal. Is this what's left of Lorimar? We'll never know.

This dungeon is noteworthy for two things: The music, and the path branching early on. One of the two paths leads to a Glove Orb, and it's important to get it.

At the end of the palace is the library. It'd be rad if you could inspect these bookshelves to learn all about the history of Lorimar, but c'est la vie.

 After falling down a pit trap, our heroes have to battle BITING LIZARDS. They look like cute Pok√©mon, despite being vicious murderers.

Whipping over pits doesn't have the same appeal in this version of the game. At least it pretty much looks the same.

The Frost Gigas gives you a chance to leave instead of fighting, and the default position is "Yes" so it's easy to hit that by accident. A bit of comedy here as both of the other two characters were frozen in the room before this, so they got yanked into the boss' room in that state.

Frost Gigas doesn't have much more HP than Fire Gigas despite this being like, the halfway point boss of the game, because scaling and pacing. The boss HP and equipment stats all ramp up drastically in the last couple of areas of the game after being fairly stagnant during the 80% before that. Sorta like the U.S. minimum wage between 1980 and 2019.

The fight is over in mere moments, though the Frost Gigas does offer meager resistance by casting Ice Saber on everybody. It's like fighting Gabby Jay.

You might notice a disturbance in the force here: Elemental sabers DO NOT CHANGE WEAPON COLORS. I was really looking forward to seeing what Fire Saber would look like. Would weapons just glow red, or would they now have like actual fire enchants? The possibilities were endless! ...well, turns out it isn't visible at all.

Time for a depressing moment with Santa Claus saying he stole the Fire Seed and became a monster because kids stopped believing in him. On the surface this all seems pretty silly, but it's actually a really poignant scene. This game occasionally has little scenes like this that have to do with loss (of life, innocence, etc) that are depressing if you think about them too much.

He goes on to mumble about how he won't harm anybody if we let him out of the shed. "I'm all better now!" he says. Thumpthump.

Got the Fire Seed. All things considered, this might be a proto-scene of the inherent weirdness that would come to characterize just about everything in this series from Legend of Mana onward. We're just a minute or two away from somebody on the dev team getting the idea for Lil' Cactus.

That's it for Ice Country. Time to get fired off to the desert (remember, no Cannon Travel animations).

Kakkara looks pretty good, with cloud-shadows moving across the ground.

The next stage is the Fire Palace, which doesn't have the normal palace dungeon has the Water Palace's calmer variant. Don't recall that being the case on the SNES because it really stands out here. An error, maybe?

You can travel here earlier in the game, though you can't proceed very far without Salamando. In theory you could get him from Ice Country and then do this next instead of the Ice Palace. You won't be able to re-install the Mana Seed here without getting it from the Ice Palace first though, which makes it kinda pointless. Would have been cool if you could do them in either order and have it make sense, the way you could do the Sand Ship/Ice Forest events in either order.

Memorable room here, filled with lamps that almost all simultaneously go out when you step on a switch.

Here's the Minotaur, a forgettable and easy boss. No Mini-Taur in this game. I relied on physical attacks for a lot of this fight which was a nice change of pace.

Since Salamando is already acquired at this point, there's no elemental to get here. It does, however, finally unlock L4 magic. The party's spells are at L3 for a while, so this is super-welcome. They'll be at L4 for a while too. So weird how the player rapidly gets L5, L6, and L7 in like an hour of game time after that, plus three new elementals to level up. It's overwhelming and totally defies the good pacing of the first half.

"My nipples were hard as rocks" says Primm. Wait a minute! Primm isn't insulting anyone?

::everyone flinches as she speaks again::, she did it. She said things without putting anybody down.

Besides L4 magic, the other reason to clear the Fire Palace is that it flips whatever switch to make The Empire appear as a Cannon Travel option.

The Empire is, sadly, just as truncated as it is in the original game. It feels like several chapters of story crunched together into a very short amount of time, and the vast majority of the continent visible from the air isn't reachable in the game and never comes into play.

The sewers! I hate sewer levels.

Here's Krissie, who looks like a stacked Cloud Strife. ...exactly like that, actually.

She gives our heroes the unfortunate news: Dyluck is creeping around like Imperfect Cell, sucking up people's life-force and leaving only tattered clothes behind.

The Resistance Base still has that one unreachable door. I wouldn't think much of this, except the game doesn't really have unreachable things like this for flavor anywhere else. Just this, and the "road to nowhere" (also in Northtown). It figures because Northtown is also full of houses that don't have doors. It just reeks of being unfinished.

Time to really brush up on the Four Generals of Vandole. I find the Emperor and his group very interesting considering how completely underdeveloped they were. A lot of what they could have been made it into Final Fantasy VI at least, in the form of Gestahl (Emperor), Kefka (Thanatos), Leo (Sheex), and Celes (Fanha). No Geshtar equivalent, because he became Dalton in Chrono Trigger I think.

Sheex, the Dark Knight of Vandole, is in the General Leo role because he's the strongest and the leader. He's also said to be noble and honest in the original script (what little of it we have access to pertaining to these guys). Specifically, that he WAS noble and honest before all of this began (presumably, before he got into Underworld stuff). That's about it.

Geshtar's thing is mechs, Thanatos' thing is the dark arts, and Fanha's thing is...being female? Maybe she has Runic.

In any case, let's take a look at these guys, in their new concept art for the PS4 version of the game:

Emperor Vandole. Interesting how these characters are all disintegrating in their character portraits. Like it's meant to represent the corrupting influence of the Underworld.

Sheex, looking very not General Leo like.
Thanatos is of course the worst of the lot, falling squarely into the Kefka role. On paper he's more terrifying than Kefka, because he's timeless and continues to haunt humanity throughout the ages.
Fanha is officially gorgeous in this version. Too bad we don't see more of her personality or fighting ability in this remake. She's just as left out as she was originally, with like 3 lines of dialogue where she's basically a haughty shill for Thanatos.

Last but not least is Geshtar, destined to be Thanatos' marionette. He's kinda the Gades of the four generals...but not really. I don't think it ever expressly indicates that he's the weakest, though he is the one you fight throughout the game.

Interesting how townspeople in The Empire talk about their struggles with war the same way townspeople in Pandora do. While they all deal with their respective losses to "the enemy" the guy in charge keeps the destruction mill running.

LOTS of new armor for sale here, as the game completely throws out the pacing of equipment at this point. Here's the Ruby Vest of Chrono Trigger fame. No luck with it halving fire damage here.

Here are some of the door-deficient houses of Northtown. It's the only place with buildings you can't go into (well, besides Southtown).

Here's the road to nowhere that should lead to the Carousel area. The Carousel is nowhere to be found in this version, obviously. Not even on the overworld while flying.

Phanna/Pamaela reveals that Primm stole Dyluck from her in the first place. That seems like a very Primm thing to do.

I'd like to play a version of this where you play as Dyluck and Pamaela. I bet they'd have been interesting characters. The Dyluck "heavy fighter" template became Duran in Seiken Densetsu 3 while, looks-wise at least, Pamaela was most likely the template for Angela. Which leaves the three SoM leads as Hawkeye, Rise, and Charlotte. No Kevin equivalent that I know of in this game, though the werewolves in the Witch's Forest are definitely similar enough to him.

How do I figure that Randi is a Hawkeye equivalent, you ask? In the original beta of this game, he had MP. Which means he was intended to have spells. I think he was probably a light fighter who got one spell from each of the elementals, much like Hawkeye in SD3, with Dyluck being the heavy, non-spell fighter. Doesn't make much sense to have two non-magic fighter characters in a four-player version of this game, as it was originally slated to be. Question is, was Pamaela/Phanna intended to be playable too? It's definitely odd how much screentime gets devoted to her and Dyluck.

Time for more boss fights! Doom's Wall is looking good in this version. I've never seen this thing actually advance or crush the party in any version of the game. Supposedly, it can happen.

It has a weakness of Lumina, which I don't have yet. Had to settle for using Fire Bouquet a lot. It's probably Primm's best attack for the entire second half of the game, even after you get Lucent Beam, due to the low MP cost (3 for Fire Bouquet versus a whopping 8 for Lucent Beam). Blaze Wall costs 1 MP more for the same damage and an unnecessary status effect that doesn't work on bosses.

Dyluck gets an entire cutscene in this version, showing how evil he is under Thanatos' influence / mind-control. That's right, we're trying to save Duran from Kefka, before we go to Vector to meet The Emperor and then have to fight Dalton on the roof. I think the main reason I like this game is because it has so much proto-DNA of other games from Squaresoft.

Two bosses in rapid succession, as now we get the Vampire. This is where being able to carry 12 Faerie Walnuts in this version really starts to become important.

Once again, I lacked the proper elemental weakness to use, so I spammed what I had. Also tried to mix in some physical attacks, which quickly became frustrating since the boss spends so much time in the air. They really didn't do much to dissuade the player from spamming magic in this game.

Krissie - the sexiest Cloud cosplayer ever - infamously believes The Emperor, and it's time for the banquet. Off to Vector!

Primm apparently hasn't seen what she looks like on the initial loading screen. Also, no, your personality isn't great. You've got this completely backwards.

 Of course, it's all a trap, and we don't even get the banquet. The Emperor has us right where he wants us, so does he...

A) Sic his four generals on us at once in a sure-fire bloodbath
B) Detain them, take away their weapons, and send them to be executed
C) Put them in jail, let them keep their weapons, and then immediately let them out when they ask for it

The answer is...C! After all of that we get dropped into a battle with Metal Mantis, while keeping all of our weapons, because that makes sense. I've always liked this fight because it's a chance to have a real battle with the Mantis Ant, kinda. Still not a fan of how different it looks in this version though.

Will the bosses ever get more than 12-1300 HP?

Even though the graphics in this version look kind of flat, I like the way you have cloud shadows moving over outdoor areas.

Is the Emperor a giant or is he just shown that way in these cutscenes? In any case, his initial "plan" of jailing everybody failed, so now he's going to Step 2...

...sic Geshtar on us while he and the other Generals all leave. This will work for sure!

The final boss of this episode. This is a pretty annoying boss, and they make you do it 3 times.

Here's the video. I mean, these fights are pretty redundant. It retrospect, this game makes spell-spamming a little less tedious by giving you hotkeys. I didn't really pay any attention to those until later. More on that in a bit.

Geshtar loses again, and BURNS DOWN THE IMPERIAL CASTLE. Man, The Emperor's master plan is foolproof so far!

This necessitates a rescue from the now-grown Flammie. Gotta say, they did a GREAT job with this. It looks exactly like it does in the clay models that were made for the original game.

As we fly off, King Truffle clings to Flammie's tail. That's completely unsafe, almost as unsafe as being fired out of a cannon.


  1. Big wings nothing, that entire moogle is enormous!

    I've heard that enemy evasion isn't so much the problem in this version as your own accuracy.

    Those snowmen are also huge.

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