Wednesday, January 8, 2020

Secret of Mana Remake, Part 3 - The Lighthouse

We pick up where we left off with JESUS FLAMMIE IS COMING RIGHT FOR US

As I was saying, we pick up right where we left off with the acquisition of our flying mount. The overworld does indeed exist on the PS4 version (I wasn't sure after the barrel cannons) and it has been changed in a lot of ways. Ice Country no longer has the large green area on the SE side, seen here in the SNES version:

Said large green area was actually a holdover of the beta version of the world map, where Ice Country looked like this:

Given the size of the continent and the fact that it has a massive walled city, this actually lends a lot of credence to my idea that Ice Country started out as the kingdom of Lorimar. It was decimated by the Empire (which is right across the water from it) and became Ice Country (plus whatever ruins would have been on the east side). Ice Country's climate being incongruous with the areas right next to it (and having huge craters) means it's probably what the Empire blasted. When they had to slash that entire storyline, so to went half the continent, and the craters.

It kept the unusually emotional vibes and music, despite that it's just another area now. The fact that it's still such a thought-provoking and memorable place despite having almost no story significance...well, it could have definitely been a lot more.

More on the beta world map later on in the post.

Here's Gaia's Navel, of Chrono Cross fame. I like how pretty much the entire first third or so of the game takes place inside what is essentially a crater, with the "Upper Land" actually being the rest of the world. Since the game isn't 3D you can never see that there's an insurmountable wall in the distance in all directions. If the people of this world didn't shoot themselves out of cannons to conveniently skip over all of the cut content like the sea turtle they'd never be able to get out of this pit.

Here's the Lighthouse, with Jean-Luc.


Here it is.

The Lighthouse, everybody.

Another place that feels like it was supposed to have a ton of story significance and yet doesn't have any. Maybe it was this game's version of the End of Time from Chrono Trigger and the guy at the top was to be a Gaspar-like figure who directed the player.

Here's The Empire, viewed from the unused southern portion. The continent has a LOT more detail in this version, with roads and ruins/forts in numerous places. They just added these details for flavor, I'm guessing, but it highlights even more how much of this space isn't in the actual game. There's Ice Country right across the bay from Northtown.

On the other side of the world is the Tasnica Republic, the second-strongest nation. It also had a lot added to it in this overworld. Lots of roads and unreachable locations, as the only reachable place is still the castle...which still seems wildly unfinished. Really makes you wish they'd added some more areas to this remake. Find the original concepts and use those ideas to make it a little closer to what it was supposed to be. It's a missed opportunity for sure.

Gold City is home to the best buyable armor once you get Flammie. It's pricey. A player that wants to farm at this point could get ludicrously overpowered if they bought Battle Suits and Duck Helms for everyone though. The problem is that it isn't really a good part of the game to stop and farm, since magic levels are stuck at L4 (with four elementals) and a couple hours from now they'll be L7 (with seven elementals). Grinding things out now would be a waste of magic levels.

Not sure what that is. A palace on the edge of nowhere. Can't reach it or land nearby. I get why they added all of these fake locations for world-flavor. It's a little frustrating though.

Ascending the Lofty Mountain 18 times is the next phase of the game, as we collect the next three elementals.

At least I really like this area. If they had to make you traverse one zone 18 times, this is one of the better ones.

Jehk and Joch are like Proto Masa and Mune, except they're the same guy. He's like Tyler Durden.

Before I continue with the actual game, let's look at more underdeveloped side-areas. Mandala Temple is now referred to as containing artifacts from "the dark times" of the past. The dark times when people didn't have health insurance or clean air. The dark times...when Jeopardy was on TV.

Is this an Aerith reference? I don't believe this NPC is in the original game. It wouldn't be the most surprising thing if it was. Even Everquest has an Aerith reference:

You cheeky bastards!

This place still comes off as a proto Zeal Kingdom. It's fitting that their sound crystals are from a destroyed past civilization, given that Zeal Kingdom itself is that very concept. An Atlantis allegory 12,000 years old.

Lorimar was shorted to "Lorima" I the SNES version of the it's shortened even more to just "Lorim"

More clips from the Day of Lavos, apparently. The characters refer to these things being videos yet we don't see anything. ...They're the sound-rings from The Time Machine. Just another in a smorgasbord of unrealized ideas that just sorta landed in this game at random intervals.


People arguing on the news!

Next up is the Dark Palace. This is a pretty legit dungeon, given how rushed everything around it is. It has a complex layout and some puzzles.

Here's a good level-grinding spot if you want to be a gimp 'sploiter like me: A group of enemies that summon more of themselves, can't reach you, and have a door nearby to respawn them if needed.

Here's the Magus flame path.

Lime Slime with PS4 enhancements looks pretty damn rad.

This is the one that shrinks as you fight it. It's always rad when characters level up at the end of a fight because it lets you know the fight is over in a pretty rewarding way.

In this version, Shade reveals a shocking revelation: He was once king of Mavolia, the Underworld domain that the bad guys draw all their power from. That must make Shade a super-badass, right? How'd he get sealed up? Who's the king now? any of this canon or did they just add it for mood, like all of the new unreachable world map locations?

Primm says something nice. I'm shocked too.

Northtown. The Imperial Castle is next to it, with Thanatos' ruins to the east. Him having a ruin constructed here makes sense. Not sure why he has a similar-looking ruin next to Pandora though, given than Pandora is the Empire's enemy and has very little use for an Undead Ruin next door.

Gnome is here...and he's got a problem. It involves Primm.

"And then there are things. You gotta help me!"

Alright, that was a pretty good scene. They've gotten a lot better.

Spiky Tiger's big brother, Blue Spike.

This fight is noteworthy because it still feigns death when it's almost defeated. It's no joke, especially if you haven't upgraded armor to anything from Gold City yet.

The game's rush to give the player random free orbs is still intact. No restoration of any missing bosses. Ah well.

Gorgon Bull is the next big boss in Gold Tower, which is still the same four-room micro-dungeon as before.

This is another fight where I take a huge amount of damage due to not having up to date armor yet. The attack power of bosses goes through a huge spike around this phase of the game (as does the defense power of armor) since the game is like, missing a lot of intermediary stuff.

Mammon hasn't changed much. He's memorable for a completely insignificant character. As the king of Gold City (A Vandole Empire Subsidiary) he's kinda like the mayor of Midgar being a Shinra puppet.

Wait a minute. Karon's Ferry uses the same airship assets as the Kilroy airship, which resembles the Big Whale from FFIV. ...and Karon flies you to the moon.

Mind...blown. Did the idea of going to the moon ALSO originate in this game? Secret of Mana is like the common ancestor of all of the greats (from Squaresoft).

The "moon palace" is still an empty starfield with a couple of enemies in it. Running across it in the original was a bit like the Desert of Nobilia in Secret of Evermore because it could go on and on. Interestingly enough, that desert also had a Karon Ferry of sorts.

Well, they significantly shortened the starfield room in this version. You pretty much reach the crystal you have to hit within a couple seconds of walking in.

I have a theory that Luna was originally supposed to be a single-character elemental, like Lumina and Shade. I've got nothing concrete to base this theory on, though. Just from the way the game is set up, it feels that way.

Our heroes ask the tough questions about Watts. They actually explain why he shows up all over the place by pointing out that the Dwarf Elder probably asked him to keep an eye on the Sprite.

There's the Turtle Island.

It's full of refugees from the Empire. They're safe now...on the back of a turtle with no commerce. Looking at the straw huts here, I have to wonder if this area in the original game consisted of proto-assets for 65M B.C. in Chrono Trigger.

I save Kakkara with the Sea Hare's Tail. How? I don't know. Probably the same way Rat Tails get you adamantite in FFIV.

Here's Primm talking about Krissie and being totally wrong on two out of three counts.

Light Saber is now Holy Saber, plzdon'tsue. Unfortunately it still isn't the original name of Saint Saber. Lucent Beam is still Lucent Beam, which is just tradition at this point.

Tasnica is as underdeveloped and unfinished as ever, with every soldier saying the same line.

Also, the music here in the remake is AWFUL. It sounds like spastic circus music. I'd link it, but individual remake tracks are hard to come by on YouTube given the incredible amount of fanmade remade tracks that exist based on the original game. Honestly, this is a tradeoff I'm okay with.

Here's the fake chancellor who turns into Yakra the Dark Stalker. No trial in this game though.

The weapon models look a lot like they did in Nintendo Power, with some exceptions like the conch shell fist. You can see the Were-Buster axe here.

The Masamune looks like a katana, so Randi temporarily gets to be Crono.

Jehk's trial cave contains Metal Babbles. ...and lots of bones. I never noticed those before. They must be Jehk's previous victims.

"YOU SHALL NOT PASS!" screech the dopplegangers.

::Morgan Freeman's voice-over fades in:: "They did pass, however."

Jehk then shoo's us away and goes back to gnawing on unidentified meat.

At the Tree Palace, we get a good look at Sheex and Fanha. Some really outstanding characters here, with complex motivations.

...Fanha is purdy.

Who are you again?

I think this guy spawned General Leo and possibly also Culex from Mario RPG. So like everything else in Secret of Mana, there's a certain historical significance to his existence, even if he's almost a rando within the context of his own game.

Not so intimidating now that we know Mavolia was once ruled by SHADE.

Physical attacks got a good workout here, and you can still more or less trap him in a loop with Dispel Magic, as long as the Sprite has Shade at L4 or higher.

We got Dryad, etc. Next stop: The Lost Continent, which is a lot less interesting-looking than it was on the SNES. Where's the giant coral reef? It doesn't look much like a lost continent anymore. In the next episode I'm gonna knock off the endgame and get the platinum trophy.

Moon hopes to get taller soon.

Before I head to the Grand Palace, I take the time to build up all of Primm's spells to L7. Can't get L8 until after Pure Land. This takes forever, but it helps to do Primm's spell-building in the Wind Palace where she gains points twice as fast as in any other inn due to it being considered a combat zone. As for the Sprite, they're better off leveling up spells during the farming phase where I'll have to take out hundreds of enemies for rare drops.

Now for more SNES beta map images:

Here are a some more unidentified, deleted landmasses. My first thought is Gold Isle and the Lighthouse, except those places are also in the beta screenshots. The one on the left sorta looks like a ruin. It's possible that THAT is Lorimar, though it could just as easily be the remains of a city from The Past. Maybe it's the original location of the ancient city that they shoehorned into the Grand Palace (just to use the assets they'd already made, presumably, like the underground airship)

Here's the original version of Tasnica Republic. Note the beach/landing area in the upper left that connects directly to what is clearly a long path through the overworld. The castle looks like Minas Tirith and the actual country is pretty huge, with some sort of fort to the south and an interesting-looking field in the upper right. In the final game, this whole part of the world is empty even though it looks like it should have stuff, with the one area being the castle and it being empty and incomplete. With Lorimar destroyed and Pandora full of problems, I bet that Tasnica was supposed to be in the Guardia role where you helped troops from here fight back monsters from The Empire on a bridge, CT-style. I base this on Tasnica having a Chancellor who is a monster in disguise and tries to get the heroes jailed.

Here's a magazine scan from early in development (when it was still on CD, I think). None of these shots exist in the game except the lower right one. The upper left overworld shot is of a place that doesn't exist in the final game, with what looks like snow and a major city.

This shot is pretty damn interesting too because it shows an early build of the game where HP and MP are apparently both displayed. ...and Randi has MP. I've got another theory that Dyluck was supposed to be the heavy fighter with no MP and Randi was supposed to be a Hawkeye-type light fighter with some spells. Probably one spell per elemental.

One last interesting thing for today: The French commercial for the original game.

1 comment:

  1. The graphics in this game can be somewhat half-assed at times (I mean, this whole remake is), but I must say I like the look of the world while flying. Don't know why they cut the cannon travel animation the way they did.

    I suppose the magic level lockout could be considered a grind-deterrent even while expensive equipment is available. A number of NES and SNES RPGs let you buy really good equipment once you get a ship/airship if you could get the money, and I always appreciated that. Lufia comes to mind.

    Those old men have enormous heads.

    The "newsreels from the past" part is over so fast it's easy to forget that's a part of the lore in the game.

    Shit, I don't want to alarm you but Primm has been replaced by an imposter.