Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Yay updates

Hey, friends.

Updates are coming soon.  During the last month, I have been working on an extremely exciting (and laborious) SoM project with my new friend, zhaDe, which I will be able to announce as it nears completion.  You're going to love it, I promise.

Blog updates coming later this week!

Update 10/24/16:  Blame midterms and a project proposal for the subsequent delay!  I will try to get the next update up this week.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Time for a Break

I've been on a tear lately, but work and school obligations have preempted the next few articles for the time being.  Thanks to everyone for the glowing feedback  The next update is especially intricate, and will require much work.  Look for it in September.  I can be reached by e-mail in the meantime.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

The War

This article is the second in what has turned out to be a trilogy on the backstory of Secret of Mana.  This will most likely be the shortest one, but that's due to the very limited and broken chain of information we can deem from the script.

You wouldn't know from the look of things, but there's a war going on in Secret of Mana.  A huge war between 1)The Empire, Gold City, and allies, and 2)Pandora, Tasnica, Matango, Kakkara and allies.  There's a rebel alliance led by a young lady named Krissie, and a huge sandship in the employ of Tasnica.  There's a brave attack on the Witch's castle by a group of...five from the Kingdom of
Pandora, whose King is then devastated by the shocking news of their defeat.  There's a massive assault on Imperial forces at the Grand Palace consisting of eight soldiers walking back and forth, in glorious combat against...something.

What I'm saying is, there's supposedly a war, but little visual cues as to what exactly this war is.  We have a few hints, and a few descriptions of the action, but we don't get to see it, even if it's happening right in front of our eyes.  

On one hand, I know this was 1993, and technology was limited, but Secret of Mana was designed by the same company that had no issue depicting battles in Final Fantasy IV, Final Fantasy VI, or Chrono Trigger.

Final Fantasy IV Tank Battle
These give us a taste of what could have been with Secret of Mana.  Despite all of the attacks, missiles, and sheer horror, there is hardly any battle damage shown, or visual signs that any conflict is occurring.  When the Mana Fortress is launched at the end of the game, the sky goes dark, but no one on the ground references anything that has changed.  Nor does Northtown realize that their entire leadership has been dispatched by a teenage Mana Knight, and that their army is going up against one of their former generals and his huge Fortress in the sky.

And this, is more than just my personal take on the situation.  The designers said the game was going to have a darker tone, but they did keep a huge struggle against truly evil forces.  We have Imperial generals making contracts with the Underworld, the protagonist's mother being obliterated in front of him, and an ancient body snatching sorcerer about to destroy creation as we know it.

So how did this whole conflict begin?  It turns out, there's actually two wars in question in Secret of Mana.  One is the current war, which seems to have been going on for fifteen years, and the other is the ancient war involving the Mana Fortress, which is mentioned even less.

We'll start with that one.  The ancient war is first mentioned in the prologue.  I have retranslated the Secret of Mana script from the original Japanese.  Red is the original, blue is my translation.

Using the power of Mana, a civilization had grown strong...In time, Mana was used to create the ultimate weapon: the Mana Fortress...This angered the gods. They sent their beasts to destroy the Fortress...A violent war rocked the world, and Mana seemed to disappear...Before all was lost, a hero with the Mana Sword smashed the Fortress...Though the civilization had been destroyed, the world was peaceful again. But time flows like a river...and history repeats...

A very long time ago, in ancient times…a civilization that evolved through the power of Mana had prospered across the planet.  Before long, people began to use the power of Mana in war, and this led to the creation of a huge ship called the Mana Fortress…But its enormous power touched the anger of the gods, and the Mana Beast was sent to the earth.  A violent conflict between the Fortress and the Mana Beast wrapped the world in fire and poison; Mana was lost on the planet.  At that time, a hero came with the Mana Sword, and the Fortress fell.  The Mana Beast vanished from the face of the planet.  The civilization was destroyed in the war, but once again, there was peace.  Time flows (or streams, makes a current)…History repeats itself…

So, there was Mana.  And then humans began using Mana for destructive reasons, including the creation of a giant Mana Fortress.  The gods sent a Mana Beast to destroy the Fortress.  But wait, here comes a hero with a Mana Sword, who smashed the Fortress, and as a result, saved the world from the destruction it had coming.  The hero probably showed the gods that there were some good humans who wouldn't abuse Mana, and that the world was worth saving.  The Mana Beast was no longer needed by the gods.  The civilization was destroyed, but humans began to build anew, and probably were determined not to mess up again.

We'll examine the implications of this war in the next article, but this is all I can find about the conflict itself.

Fast forward to the present time of the game, and we have a war that began 15 years prior, and is still going on.  Information about this war comes from all over the place.  I'll try to place each piece of information in chronological order.

Northtown Resistance Member: All the trouble started about 15 years ago.
Northtown Resistance Member: The Empire was always a peaceful country.  But something went wrong 15 years ago.

The Empire was a peaceful country, but then something went wrong.  It may have been the influence of the Underworld, as we learn later that the Empire would give something to Mavolia in exchange for immense power.

Mana Tree:  Your father, the legendary knight, Serin should be standing here, now.  He was
badly wounded 15 years ago by the Emperor, but vowed to stop him.  On his way to a final showdown, he fell and never got up. That was in Potos.
Mana Tree:  Your father, Serin, was a Tasnican knight, who one would expect to be here [instead of you].  He fought the Emperor during the war 15 years ago.  Both were wounded, but the Emperor had the power of Mavolia.  With his last ounce of strength, Serin came to the forest near Potos, but must've have expired around there.  

We don't see it firsthand in Secret of Mana, but the Emperor has deep powers of his own.  So much so that he beat the Mana Knight.  This was at the start of the war.  

Pandoran Villager: The Empire attacked us once about 15 years ago.
Pandoran Villager:  Once, there was a big war with the Empire…15 years ago.

Pandora was attacked when the war started 15 years ago, but seems to have been relatively peaceful until Thanatos and the Witch made their move.

Tasnican Resident: Jema was the commander of the King's troops. His best friend was the hero, Serin.  When Serin fell in battle, Jema stepped down and never fought again...
Tasnican Resident: Although Jema was originally leader of the Knights; he himself discarded the title.  I believe he was shocked when his rival, Serin, perished in the previous war. 

As stated in the previous article, the Japanese word I've translated as rival is raibaru, which means just that.  We can assume it was a friendly one.  So after Serin fell, Jema took over, though Jema himself is not a Mana Knight.  Sword of Mana has a character named Vandole who was also an Emperor.  He was brought down by three, "Gemma Knights."  Any connection between that Vandole and the SoM Vandole is a loose one, but it's possible that one served as the inspiration for the other.  Jema does not deny being a Mana Knight, he simply tells Randi in Potos that only the person who takes the Mana Sword can power it.  The extent of Jema's powers in SoM are unknown, but it's clear that before Randi and friends, he was a key player in taking on the Empire.

Northtown Citizen: We once fought the Republic.
Northtown Citizen:  I lost my father in the war with the Republic 15 years ago.

MAN:Krissie's dad founded the Resistance...When he was caught, she kept us together.
Man:  Krissie's father was the leader of the Resistance, but we lost him in a fight with the Empire.  Seizing the opportunity, so we didn't fall apart, Krissie became the leader.

Krissie's dad probably founded the Resistance after the start of the war.  Given Krissie's young age, his death must have occurred recently.

MARA:Jema's friends, right? See, I'm really a Tasnican spy!  So was my husband 'till he got...caught.  I'm continuing his work.
Mara:  I guess you're Jema's friends?  As a matter fact, I'm a Tasnican spy.  My husband was one too.  He had an Imperial secret and tried to run away…but fell into the hands of the Empire.  I'm following in his footsteps by lurking around this Imperial town.  

Family who died fighting the Empire seems to be a common theme in the game.  Both Mara and her husband worked for Tasnica, which means she most likely knew Jema and Serin, a possibility that is never explored.

MARA:My husband was caught stealing a secret key on the Gold Isle.  Look! Here it is! Found it hidden in his things.  I'd gladly exchange it to have him back...Here, it's yours. I'll get my revenge!
Mara:  My husband was…was caught by the Emperor stealing this secret key of the Gold Isle.  Alas, I've cherished it in this small box as a keepsake of my husband.  I would gladly exchange it for my husband, whose life was stolen.  But, it doesn't have to be for nothing.  I will give it to you guys.  It will be delayed revenge.  Hehehe...

This is Mara's very purpose in the game; other characters reference her small box.  

JEMA:   Once I was one of Luka's followers. I studied the power of Mana, which sustains everything in this world.
Jema:  I formerly studied under Master Luka.  At that time, I learned the power of Mana which sustains the world, and is now being lost.

Jema studied Mana under Luka, but did Serin do so as well?  If Luka is teaching the Empire's allies about Mana, it makes sense that they would attack the Water Palace multiple times during the game.

KING: Jema's studying the power of Mana.
King:  Jema has continued to research the power of Mana all over the world.

Yet another character speaking of Jema's studies.

Tasnican Resident: We used to have a strong navy. But now only our sandship is in service.
Tasnican Resident: Tasnica was a naval power originally, but can not sail the rough seas after what's been going on with Mana recently.  Instead, by using a land-based sandship in the Kakkara Desert, we can effectively be on the lookout for the Empire's movements.

This is very interesting. The seas have become rough, so no ships can sail...is that why there's no water vessel in the game?  I'll explore more of this when I cover Meria, Morie, and Sergo in a future article.

JEMA:The Imperial forces have drawn back.  We managed to defeat their monsters in Pandora, too...I'll return home, and stop the Empire there.
Jema:  Way to go!  It seems the Imperial forces are in retreat.  The Empire had used their monsters to seize Pandora, but we managed to turn them back...I'm returning to Tasnica, and
will do as much as I can to halt the Empire's movements.

What exactly this entailed is not revealed.  Clearly, Jema is still on the front lines.

JEMA: If the Empire is being this aggressive, it means they almost have the Fortress.  I'm off to fight the Empire wherever I can.
Jema: If the Empire was aiming directly for the life of [Tasnica's] king, then they've begun to make their move.  I need to leave immediately and cut off their movements in various locations.  You also…please hurry.

So the war that began 15 years before hit a stalemate, and is now heating up at the time of SoM.  But of what of the ancient war that got events moving in the first place?  We will backtrack to that next time.

Next:  The Sunken Continent, the Mana Fortress, et al

Credits:  Additional material from Papers and Pencils.  Square owns Secret of Mana.

Monday, August 15, 2016

Randi

It's time to take a look at the protagonist, the star, the hero himself, Randi.  As Secret of Mana and Chrono Trigger began as the same game, it's not surprising that Randi and Purim have a striking resemblance to Chrono and Marle.  But Chrono is a silent protagonist, with a background typical of the world he lives in.  He lives in a peaceful village in the Kingdom of Guardia that happens to be having a huge fair honoring the year 1000 AD.  On the other hand, Randi is an orphan who hangs out with the worst friends ever, and lives in a boring village full of paranoid, cold-hearted, overbearing yokels who hoard gold in their basements and spend their days brooding over people who are different.

Randi's vital stats according to the Seikens are:

Age: 16
Height: 174cm  or 5ft7in
Weight: 62kg or 137lbs

Despite being the protagonist, Randi is yet another victim of Secret of Mana's limited execution in that he has little character development.  Most of the dialogue concerning his background comes in large bursts at different stages of the game.  We'll examine the original Japanese dialogue in the hopes of gaining a deeper understanding.

After you begin a new game, and watch the prologue, you'll be taken to a screen with Randi and his friends, Timothy and Elliot.  They are advancing on a a log that traverses a waterfall.  Text in red is the original American translation.  Text in blue is my retranslation.  My goal is to get more meaning out of the text with moderate paraphrasing rather than a total rewrite.

RANDI:Hey! Guys! Wait up!  Aaaaaah!

ELLIOTT:Shh! Be quiet!The Elder will find us here and he'll be mad!

TIMOTHY:Yeah. We're not supposed to be here.  There's a ghost around!


ELLIOTT:Ha! Do you really believe that? People say that to scare us! But I heard Grandma say something about a shiny object near the falls.

TIMOTHY:That must be some kind of treasure! We have to find it!

BOY:Help! I'm falling!  Aaahhhh..hhhhhh!

Randi: Hey! Everyone wait for me!  Aaaaaah!

Elliott: Randi, you dickhead! If you're careless, we'll be found, and the Elder will be angry.

Timothy: That's right. We're not supposed to be here by a law of the village. It's supposedly haunted. There's a ghost out here!

Elliott: Bullshit. They tell us that because they think it will scare us and we'll stay away.  But, if my grandmother really did see the shining light by the waterfall that she said she did awhile back...I could find it and have a great treasure!

Timothy: Let's hurry ahead!

Randi: Oh, oh, I'm falling! Wow...aah!!!

This short scene gives us our first hints of setting.  The youths are part of a village with an Elder, and they're at a place they're not supposed to be where there's supposedly a treasure.  This is like the start of countless stories and fairy tales, not surprising given that the designer revealed that those were the inspiration for much of SoM's story.

Like much of the game, the scene suffers from unnatural brevity, though we get the idea of Randi as an adventurous boy, lacking typical adolescent recklessness, but retaining the naive curiosity of his early youth.  (Later, he's quite humble about being the Mana Knight, instead of it getting to his head.)  In this scene, his friends,  Elliot and Timothy don't check to see if Randi's alive; they just run for help...I think.  It is not clear if they can't see his landing point from where they are, or don't know if he's alive or not.  They certainly didn't take time to ask.  Luckily, Randi seems to be unharmed from his fall, and quickly assesses the situation:

No way to get back up!  Now what am I going to do?
It's not likely I can climb back up if I try...

I have to get back!  The village is this way. I have to find something to cut through!
I need to go home to the village!  The village is over here...but this is impassable!

Little does Randi know that by fate, he's landed precisely at the spot to find the, "treasure."  Within eyesight appears to be a sword that is forced into a stone.  He doesn't consider the odd presentation; instead, he concludes that he can use it to go bushwhacking.  Wandering into the shallow waters where the stone lies, he begins to free the sword when he hears a voice.

..RANDI........RANDI....

RANDI:??

....RANDI....Remove the sword...

RANDI:Who are you...and what's this sword doing here?  Urrrrrrrgh!  Huh!?  Ow! That light...so bright I can't see...Ahhhhh! A g...g...ghost!

…...RANDI......It is I who asked...the sword...

RANDI:!?  Say what?  You mean this sword?

The brilliant light is gone in an instant.

...Randi...Randi...

Randi:  ??

...Randi...come pull the sword...

Randi:  Who?  ...what, is this sword?  So bright!  Wow, a monster!  

[It was] I [who] asked for the sword, Randi...

Randi:  ...!?  What?  Oh, the sword!

The light fades away, more and more.

Randi has pulled a sword from a stone---in this case, the Mana Sword, which waits near Potos, placed by its previous handler, waiting for its next handler.  Only chosen ones can take the sword, and it appears that Randi is it.  However, now that the sword is extracted, his village has lost its magical protection, and all hell breaks loose.  After breaking through the overgrowth the Sword, Randi encounters rabbit-like creatures called, "rabites" who attack him.  It is not clear if rabites are always hostile, or if this is just an effect of the Mana Sword, but it seems that Randi has seen these before.  It does not seem that Randi has been in combat before, but he's at least adept at improvising with tools---he is successful in fighting off the rabites are block his path.  He makes it back to Potos, where he rejoins what passes for townsfolk.  Let's look at the some of the dialogue:

Randi! The Elder was looking for you. What did you do this time?
Randi! The Elder was looking for you. What mischief have you been up to?

There's a strange guy in here. He looks kinda scary.
There's a man in the shop that I'm not familiar with. He has a very suspicious expression in his eyes; it's troubling me.

Hey, Randi! Stop playing with that sword before you hurt someone!
Oh, Randi! It is dangerous to wield such a sword. I will have to tell the Elder!

I have a real bad feeling about this...
This could be bad, don't you think? Kuwabara, kuwabara...(this literally means, "mulberry fields" and is analogous to, "knock on wood")

We don't see this collective attitude anywhere else in the game.  Potos has a unique back country feel to it, even though it's only accessible at the beginning.  There's not much to see, however.  The town doesn't offer much of a unique experience other than the reunion with Randi's friends and the Elder.

ELDER:RANDI! You're not hurt! They just told me what happened.

ELLIOTT:I thought you were a goner!

TIMOTHY:I told you it was stupid to bring someone like HIM along!

ELDER:You idiots! Weren't you told not to go there?  Huh? RANDI!  What's that you have?  ...Oh, no! It couldn't be!

ELLIOTT:Cool! Did you find the treasure?

TIMOTHY:Way to go!

ELDER:What have you done?!  How could YOU have pulled out the Mana Sword?  It's impossible!

TIMOTHY:THE Mana Sword?!  Legend has it that our village is finished...

ELDER:..If the sword is removed.  And here it is!  It is said that the Mana Sword has been
protecting our village from disaster.

ELLIOTT:So that's it!  That's why all the monsters are attacking us now!  How could an outsider like you yank out the sword and bring doom to us all!!

RANDI:Hey! Stop it!

ELLIOTT:YOU did it!  It's your fault!  You!

RANDI:Please, stop!  Waaah! Earthquake!..Aaaaaaah...

Elder: Randi! Are you safe? Elliott was just telling me the whole story...

Elliott: I should have known this would happen. He's so clumsy!

Timothy: Yeah, I really hate taking a guy like this along. This is what we get!

Elder: Idiots! I said not to go there! You have completely conducted yourself like brats!  Oh...Randi! What do you have there? It's...that's...no, that's impossible!

Elliott: Ooooh! Maybe you found the treasure!?

Timothy: That's pretty good!

Elder:  Bloody hell!  The Mana Sword has been pulled out!  Everybody had thought that it couldn't come loose, but…

Timothy: Wow!  The power…have you ever heard the legend that the village will be annihilated if it's removed?

Elder:  The legend says that the Mana Sword has been with us to protect this village.  It's pulled out now.

Elliott:  Eat me!  Look at what you've done.  Now the monsters have begun to run wild!  You're like a stranger now that you've removed the sword!

Randi:  Wow!  Stop!

Elliott:  Shut up!  Stop right there!  

Randi:  Wait a minute!  For God's sake, will…wow!  An earthquake!    Ahhhhh!

I have a few problems with this scene.  One, the Elder does nothing to interfere with Elliot's assault on Randi.  Second, Elliot an Timothy are very condescending, and it seems that they think of Randi as different, and a means to their own end.  At the end of this dialogue, Randi and Elliot have fallen into a chasm that was created by a demonic ant.  All of the sudden, the horrible sword he just acquired is slightly less horrible as Elliot implores him to use it against the Mantis Ant.  The
mysterious man in the pub watches the battle from above, and assists Randi during the battle.  After the Mantis Ant is dispatched, this man helps Randi up, introduces himself, and tells Randi about the sword:

MAN:That appears to be the real Mana Sword.

RANDI:Huh? What?

MAN:It is supposed to be pulled out by a knight in times of great trouble.  Problem is, you're too
young! Something must have happened to the Mana Sword.

RANDI:Here! It's yours!

MAN:Sorry, but the sword is losing its power, and must be re-energized!  Only the person who pulled
it free can do that.

RANDI:What should I do?

RANDI:Visit Sage Luka in the Water Palace.  She's been protecting these lands for over 200 years.  Listen to her advice.

TIMOTHY:RANDI! The Elder wants you in his house!

MAN:Well, I have to be off.  Oh, my name is Jema.

JEMA:I'll wait for you inside the Water Palace!

Man:  This sword appears to be the genuine Mana Sword.  This is quite serious…

Randi:  Yikes!  What do you mean?

Man:  When danger is imminent in the world, it is the Mana Sword that is drawn by the hero [who will save us].  However, you are too young.  Something has surely happened to the Mana Sword.

Randi:  I present it to you!

Man:  No, it's useless.  The Mana Sword has lost its power.  It must be revived.  It can only be done by the person who pulled the sword.  I can not.  

Randi:  How is this done?

Man:  It might be good to hear Lusa Luka in the Water Palace.  For 200 years, she has continued to watch over this land.  She might have some good wisdom for your ordeal.

Timothy:  Randi!  Come to the Elder's house!

Man:  I must go ahead because I have some business to take care of.  My name is Jema.  I'll be waiting at the temple.

Another quick and convenient dialogue chain.  Randi happens to have someone who knows about the Mana Sword and can point him in the right direction.  I'll address that later in the article.  Upon returning to the Elder's house, there is already a hostile crowd inside.  Let's take a look at the next scene:

VILLAGER:Elder! We can't go on like this!

VILLAGER:Yeah! There's no relief in sight.

ELDER: ... Oh, Randi!  You've really done it this time! The reason why monsters have appeared is because you removed the sword.

VILLAGER:It's settled.  We can't let Randi stay in the village anymore!

VILLAGER:If we do, more monsters will come after him!

VILLAGERS:Go! Get out of here! Yeah, on your way now!

ELDER:I don't want to do this, but I have no choice. I'm going to have to ask you to leave the village. You can take what's in the treasure chest downstairs. I know I've told you this before, but...Your mother brought you to this village when you were just a baby.  Soon afterwards, she disappeared...I took you and have done my best to raise you.  But now we must part.  I truly hope you can find your mother someday....Good bye, Randi.

Villager:  Elder!  We can't leave things the way they are!

Villager:  That's right!  We can't feel safe!  What if another monster shows up again?

Elder: Seems like everyone has made up their mind, Randi.  And the reason these monsters are appearing is because you removed the sword.

Villager:  It's settled!  As long as Randi is in the village, monsters will come!

Villagers:  Get out!  Yes, get out!  Get out!  Get out!

Elder:  Unfortunately, Randi, there's nothing I can do.  I'm going to have to let you go from the village.  There's a treasure chest downstairs; I hope it helps you in buying some equipment.  You probably don't remember this, but…when you were still young, your mother came with you to the village.  Immediately thereafter, she disappeared.  I took you in and brought you up as you have no relatives...farewell.  I pray that someday, you will meet your mother.

Good thing they finally have an excuse to get rid of Randi.  The Elder appears to be giving obligatory information, so he can feel better about sending Randi off to parts unknown.  If you talk to the characters after this exchange:

ELDER:I took you in and I raised you. But there's nothing I can do to help. Please forgive me.  Use the south-east exit. Go now before something else happens!

We're in danger as long as you're here. Please leave!

So that's why I felt something awful was going to happen!

I feel sad, but there's nothing I can do. It's YOUR fault!

Elder:  This hurts me.  I never considered you a stranger.  Please forgive me, however long it takes.  

See that!?  You pulled out the Mana Sword.  Get out!

It's trouble as long as you're in the village…please get out!

I had that nasty premonition…kuwabara…kuwabara…

I will be sad, but that's inevitable.  It's your fault.

So the Elder has given into mob rule and has booted his adopted teenaged son from the village, with no conditions for reconciliation.  We don't know if Randi had been outside before, and all he's given is 50GP and the Mana Sword.  His only choice is to see a strange man who happened to be in his town with convenient information.  The design of Potos was the same from very early in
development, so sadly, I don't think much else was supposed to be here.  There's not much character development in Secret of Mana, but Randi never mentions how much he misses Potos, and there's nothing to identify him with his town, unlike Purim and Popoie.  He doesn't protest his banishment, nor has anyone to say goodbye to.  With the exception of a silent reunion in the ending, the Elder, Timothy, Elliot, and the rest of the town quickly fades to memory.  I'm already sick from talking about this awful place, so let's count Randi as better off with the Mana Sword, and move on.

Randi seamlessly transitions into his journey, and we don't learn much about him until far later in the game.  In fact, most background on Randi is in the context of his parents.  He proves himself to be quite versatile in utilizing different weapons (but so do the other main characters).  He also seems to wield the sword with pride; wise older folks delight in how he saves them from the clutches of the Empire.

Randi shows interest in women in at least one scene, involving the leader of the resistance, Krissy:

RANDI:I'm RANDI! How do you do?

PURIM:Wow!  You're...a WOMAN!!!

POPOIE:Jealous?

PURIM:Knock it off!  I'm Dyluck's girl!

Randi:  I'm Randi!  So nice to meet you!


Purim:  Isn't that something!?  Trying to look good!

Popoie:  Hehe…jealous?

Purim:  Who!?  I'm devoted to Dyluck

Purim's tease in Japanese makes far more sense.  This encounter also opens the way for an eventual relationship between Randi and Purim, much like Chrono and Marle in Chrono Trigger.  We do see Randi reunite with Purim's parents in the epilogue.

At Tasnica, we hear about his father, Serin, even though we don't know he's Randi's father at his point:

Jema was the commander of the King's troops. His best friend was the hero, Serin.  When Serin fell in battle, Jema stepped down and never fought again...
Although Jema was once leader of the Knights; he himself discarded the title.  I believe he was shocked when his rival, Serin, perished in the previous war.

The Japanese word that I translated as rival here is raibaru, which means exactly that.  I would presume the rivalry was friendly, however, considering they were friends.  More dialogue in Tasnica:

Serin, our hero taught us to live in the castle. We all moved in 15 years ago.
After the war 15 years ago, master Serin began to convince folks to move into the castle.  Eventually, everyone came to live in the castle.

Jema's still the realm's finest warrior.  His only equal was the legendary warrior, Serin.
His Majesty trusts Master Jema first before all others.  He was a good rival of the legendary Master Serin, who was active in the war fought 15 years ago.

Clearly, Randi has roots in Tasnica.  We see how close Jema and Serin is.  So it begs the question, did Jema know what was going to transpire in Potos?  It seems strange that he would be that far out of his way at precisely the moment the village was attacked.  It's possible he may have known that the Mana Sword was removed, but not by whom, or what the immediate consequences were.  He never says if he knows if Randi is Serin's son, either.  He does tell the Tasnican king that Randi is the Mana Knight, but not that he's the son of Serin.  We're in the same boat with Mara, husband of a Tasnican spy, who perished around the same time as Randi's father.

If I may digress for a moment, there is this map that shows Tasnica during development:



This was after they scrapped their original plans, so an expanded Tasnica was abandoned at a later stage of development.  It would make sense if there was more here, since they had to go live in the castle from somewhere else, and there's a shore nearby.  With the way things stand now, there's only a castle.

The next moment of note for Randi is when he encounters the Mana Tree, after Thanatos has mortally wounded it.

MANA TREE:...RANDI... It is I, the Mana Tree.  The Mana Fortress is using up most of the world's Mana.  Soon all the beasts of will be transformed into one giant creature.  Only the great Mana Beast can bring back Mana.  But the Beast has little control over its rage.  If it were to attack the Fortress, the world would be finished.  The only way to avoid this is to beat it using the Mana Sword.  The sword can only be used by people of the Tribe of Mana.  Your father, the legendary knight, Serin should be standing here, now.  He was badly wounded 15 years ago by the Emperor, but vowed to stop him.  On his way to a final showdown, he fell and
never got up. That was in Potos.

RANDI:You mean the ghost I saw by the falls was my dad?

MANA TREE:That was your father, Serin. I was his wife... and am your mother. We are of the Mana Tribe.  The women of our kind become the Tree, and the protectors of the world. The men wield the Sword, and protect against evil!  You must stop the Fortress. Mana is weak, and its shields are down.  With my last energy, I will summon the power of the Seeds of Mana...

Sword power at maximum!

MANA TREE:...RANDI...  I'm sorry. I haven't been much of a mother to you...

RANDI:Mother! Is that REALLY you? Please..! ...mother?  Why won't you talk to me?  Mother!!

PURIM:RANDI...

RANDI:Mother...my...

POPOIE:...this is nuts!  Snap out of it! She's asked us to do something!

PURIM doesn't have a mother, and neither do I!

RANDI:...sorry...I'll be okay.  I've got a lot to live up to, and we've a big job ahead.

SPRITE:Now you're talking number one!

PURIM:Yeah! I feel like I just met my mom too! I know she's in my heart!

SPRITE:All right! Let's do it! Yeah!

Mana Tree:  Randi…I've been waiting for you.  I am the Mana Tree, who keeps watch over all of the world's Mana.  Do not grieve; even though you can't see me, my heart is there with you.  The Mana Fortress has been activated and nearly all of the world's Mana has been lost.  Soon, the Mana Beasts of the world will gather, and change into one huge being.  This Mana Beast is
the only one who can recover the lost Mana.  But when this much Mana is lost, so fast, the Mana Beast will begin a rampage.  When the Mana Beast strikes the Fortress, the world will meet its end.  There is only one way to avoid this, and that is to defeat the huge Beast with the Mana Sword.  The sword is passed down through the clan who carries the blood of the spirit---the Mana Tribe.  Your father, Serin, was a Tasnican knight, who one would expect to be here [instead of you].  He fought the Emperor during the war 15 years ago.  Both were wounded, but the Emperor had the power of the Underworld.  With the last ounce of strength, Serin came to the forest near Potos, but must've have expired around there.  

Randi:  Wow!  So the ghost I saw near the waterfall was my…dad?

Mana Tree:  Yes, your father.  The great Knight of the Tasnican Republic.  And I…was his wife.  I am your mother.  We are of the Tribe of Mana.  When a woman of our Tribe leaves an offspring, she continues to watch over the world by becoming the Tree.  A man in our Tribe takes the Mana Sword, like your father, to protect the world by bringing peace and order.  Now, go forth to the Mana Fortress.  Since the Fortress is powered by Mana, and Mana continues to wane, its shield should be disappearing.  With the last of my power, I shall unseal the power of those Seeds which have been sealed, and they will resonate with the Mana Sword once again!

The power of the Mana Sword is at its maximum!

Mana Tree:  …Randi…I'm sorry…I see the look in your eyes…I'm sorry I couldn't do more for you…

Randi:  Mother!  Are you really my mother?  Even though the Tree is gone, you'll be fine, right?

(silence)

…But we finally met!  Please answer me!  Oh God, no!  No! [a terrible sound that has no direct translation]

Purim:  Randi…

Randi:  Mother…I…mother…

Popoie:  …silly person!  I don't like this at all!  You heard your mother, don't let her words go to waste!  Even Purim doesn't have a mother.  And neither do I, damn it!

Randi:  I'm sorry everyone.  I'm starting to feel better.  I'm part of the Mana Tribe, and the continuing tradition of fatherhood, as I am the offspring of my mother.  What is being lost can
not be replaced, and I shall defend it!

Popoie:  Yay!  That's much better!  And you can expect that I will follow you.

Purim:  Well said!  Somehow, I feel like I also got to meet my mother.  She will be in my heart too.

Popoie:  Now we're good!  We will be fine from here on out.

The Japanese script has some very nice touches that add to the drama of the scene.  Unfortunately, this scene begs a few questions about the backstory.  If Serin died near Potos, did he meet the Elder or anyone else?  How else would they know that the Mana Sword is what's protecting the Village?  The dialogue makes it seem like Randi's mother brought him to Potos, but if his mother is the source of information, why would the Elder not inform him of this?  Obviously, the legend of the Sword near the village is not an old one, unless the Sword is always placed there.  In that case, wouldn't they monitor who's coming and going near there?

The Tree's comment about the Mana Beasts combining makes me think of the ones we saw flying over the Upper Land and the Ice Country.  If not, why else would they be there?

I find the Mana Tree scene to be touching, but it would be more effective if Randi had consciously wondered about his origin, or felt lost.  That may very well be the case, but it is not articulated well in SoM.  Furthermore, the loss of the Mana Tree after getting so close to it is somewhat cheapened by the ensuing death of Dyluck, after Purim was so close to saving him.  There are many parallels between the two, and it's a bit of a wearisome motif.

Shockingly, the final moment of character development for Randi is a short scene right before the final battle:

RANDI:...I can't...I won't hurt a Mana Beast! I can't!  They are only trying to restore Mana!  And......POPOIE!  If you use up all your Mana power, you'll disappear!

Randi:  Destroy the Mana Beast!?  Are you here, seeing but not understanding?  It can't be me!
 It's just not possible!  The Mana Beast is the only one who can restore Mana which will never appear again!  And Popoie…you'll disappear!

In the Japanese, Randi seems more concerned about Mana itself than the poor Mana Beast, but he certainly has concern for his friend, Popoie.  This is a good moment of conscience for Randi, not rushing into action, and considering the consequences.  At many points of the game, it is shown that the NPCs hardly recognize him anymore, indicating them SoM takes course of the time of months, perhaps even years, and Randi changes accordingly.  Sadly, Japanese sources have little else to add, and as stated earlier, Chrono is a silent protagonist, so there's not much that can be speculated by that.  But, we have opened a good discussion on the conflict in SoM, which is a great lead in to...

NEXT:  The War(s)

CREDITS:  Additional material from the Seikens, RomHacking, and the Mana Wiki.  Everything is owned by Square.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Odds and Ends, Part I

Every now and then, I come across things that don't merit an entire article, but are interesting nonetheless.  Almost all of these have been discovered before; though in many cases, I have things to add.  Today, we'll tackle the first few, and I'll cover the rest in a future article.  I should note that I'm not trying to cover every obscure detail and glitch in the game; I'll stick with the good stuff.

In other news, my first playthrough of Secret of Mana in well over a decade is complete!  It took me two evenings and a morning.  I somehow remembered everything except Barrels and how to get the Midge Mallet.  When I got to the Mana Fortress, my sword was only at Level 3, and Dryad was still at Level 0, but I quickly rectified that before the final battle.

Unused Dialogue      

Secret of Mana's script has dialogue that was either translated from Japanese but not found in the American game, or was never translated to begin with.  I don't know how much of this, if any, is present in the Japanese game.  Let's take a look:

(Unfinished diary entry)
...My cover's been blown...Some monster's using the Emperor's body to

(Text suddenly stops)
RANDI:What does this mean? 

Randi's Japanese sentence is a statement---something like, "I wonder what this means..."  According to user regrs of GameFAQs, this text can be triggered somewhere on Turtle Island with a slight modification to the game code.  The text references someone using the Emperor's body.  But are they referring to Emperor Vandole?  Nowhere in the game is it suggested that Vandole is anyone but himself, but the word used is clearly, "Emperor."  I could also see it as a reference to Tasnica.  The scenario seems quite underdeveloped, and I'm sure that originally, Sheex wasn't supposed to blow his cover as quickly as he does.  Considering how other puzzles are solved in the game, I wouldn't be surprised if one had to go to the Island first, find out who the spy is, and then return to Tasnica.  We've established in a previous article that Turtle Island is full of refugees from the Empire, so it makes sense that such a diary would be here either way.


Speaking of spies, this text is in the ROM, untranslated:

「帝国がスパイをおくりこもうとしているという、じょうほうが入った。
「ねんのため、いまは誰もここを通すわけにはいかんのだ。わるいが、かえってくれ。 

I translated this as, "The Empire has been trying to spy here.  Just in case, we can't let anyone through.  Try back again later."  But then I asked Clyde at Legends of Localization for help, and...

We've obtained information that the empire is attempting [or "planning"...] to send a spy [or spies].

Just to be safe, we cannot allow anyone to pass through here for now. I'm sorry, but please leave.

This should give you an idea of the difference between my amateur translations, and a professional who actually knows Japanese.  But, where can we place this text?  It's possible that it's a deflector for players who arrive at Tasnica too early, or something spoken by a member of the resistance in the Empire.  

According to zhaDe:

The very next dialog after the note is Jema saying that you found the spy [in Tasnica].
The events for the Turtle Island dialogue are right after the ones of Tasnica.

Another one:

Drink this medicine!  It'll fix ya right up!

At first, I don't know where to place this, but translating the Japanese, we have:

Instead of an Inn...Tasnica's specialty sizzling drink! Just take a sip and recover!  

Case closed.  

This signpost is in the Japanese with an arrow facing north:


Topaz Falls

Last, but not least...

The Empire sent monsters into the Palace!



This appears in the ROM with the Upper Land dialogue, so we can assume that they're referring to the Wind Palace.  In the game, we don't find out about the Wind Palace or monsters in it until we actually go there.



Northtown's Unreachable Door





One of the most famous anomalies in SoM is a door in Northtown that can not be reached. Flying Omelette, among others, investigated this years ago.  If one uses a no clipping code, the bottom level can be reached.  



You can return to the stairway by walking around the wall...but you can't go back again.  The door itself does not open, and has no triggers attached.  Very mysterious.  I have a theory.  Look at this very similar railing in Tasnica:



It appears that we should be able to go underneath, but there's sprites blocking us.  If you turn off clipping, you walk through the railing onto the platform. 

Back to Northtown, I went into the SoM editor to see where the collision tiles are set:



Note how there's no collisions set in front the door, but you can't go past it on the right.

Many theories about the mysterious door have been postulated; here's mine---they never finished programming the background.  Note how there's a plant sticking out from under the railing, implying that we should be able to go under there (otherwise, why not just have a wall?).  We can't go under the same railing in Tasnica.  Without the possibility of an area under the railing, I think their initial solution was to allow you to walk around the wall to the door, but prevent you from walking any further to the right with collision tiles.  Then, they may have decided that preventing you from walking on open floor was unrealistic, and just blocked the wall completely.  

As to what was behind the door, your guess is as good as mine.  There are no extra Northtown maps in the ROM.  For illustration, here's the nonsensical spatial layout of the house:



Dragon Cave Staircase

There's a staircase in Flammie's cave that can not be reached, and does not go anywhere.  To the right of it is a staircase that goes down to an open area with no purpose.  The developers must have been in a huge rush if they couldn't remove this remnant of an earlier design.



Todo's Other Exit

Flying Omelette mentioned a stairway to nowhere on the eastern end of Todo village.  Above it, is a strange white rectangle.  There's actually a passageway past this rectangle.  Sometimes, the developers would program scenery on one end of a map that would wrap around to the other end...i.e. extending a pathway where there'd otherwise be no room.  But this passageway does not line up with the exit on the left, so it's a whole different animal.  It could just be a remnant of something that was in the trees; there are five houses on the overworld map, and five houses in the active view.



Sandship's inaccessible area

I've been wondering for years what's on the other side of a wall on Tasnica's sandship.  A look in the ROM reveals a huge area---either undeveloped, or removed.  Or just part of the scenery, but I don't deal in easy solutions.  



Luka in Prison!!!

The Water Palace has a holding cell that is never used in the game.  But a look in the ROM reveals Luka present in one version of the map.  It's possible that during the Empire's takeover of the Water Palace, you would have had to rescue her from here.

UPDATE: I stand corrected.  CelesDestiny of GameFAQs has informed me that she's here after you get Dryad.  Apparently, the Empire attacked the Palace again, and locked her in there.  It's very easy to miss and begs more questions than it answers, but it's there.





NEXT: Randi

Credits: User CelesDestiny of GameFAQs reminded me of some lost dialogue.  Square owns the whole of Secret of Mana.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Playing through

Before I go any further here, I thought it would help my cause if I actually played through the darned game.  The last time I went front to back was around 2003.  I've spent more time doing research on Secret of Mana's development than I have actually playing it.  It's amazing what one can remember, even after all these years...

Saturday, August 6, 2016

Thanatos

In this article, we'll explore facets of SoM's primary antagonist, Thanatos.  Our concerns will be learning about his background, discussing his role in the game, and exploring the possibility that he was the forerunner for characters in other Square RPGs.  All of the red dialogue is the original translation, all of the blue is mine.  

In Greek Mythology, Thanatos is the god who personified death, according to Wikipedia.  He is analogous to the Grim Reaper, and shares many aspects with mythological figures whose lives revolve around death itself.  It is an appropriate name for the character, as we will see.

Very little is revealed about Thanatos in SoM itself.  To discover a possible origin, we'll go to the Wiki of Mana.  There is a reference to an exceptionally talented sorcerer from Seiken Densetsu 3 (Secret of Mana's prequel) named Belgar.  According to the wiki,

"...Belgar was corrupted by the dark magic he pursued and became the Masked Mage, now possessed of a strong hatred for the living and obsessed with his plots of revenge upon the world...[He] succeeds in destroying the Tree of Mana...and reveals his true form, the Dark Lich...After a long and hard battle, the heroes succeed in defeating the Dark Lich, much to his shock."

Let's assume that the Dark Lich in Seiken Densetsu 3 is the same one as SoM.  That Dark Lich is Thanatos' "true form" that is revealed in the Mana Fortress.  Comparing the two sprites, we see that they are similar.  Both seem to be a partial skeleton in some sort of magical habit that floats about.  

(left) Dark Lich from SoM and (right) Dark Lich from SD3


It is mentioned that Thanatos is from "Mavolia", the proper name for the Underworld in SoM.  At the risk of being ignorant of other Mana continuity, we can conjecture that after Dark Lich was defeated, his spirit was saved by the Underworld, but he needed a new body.  As his newly acquired body died, he searched the world for another one, requiring strict criteria.  This process was repeated through the centuries until he found the body that he currently inhabits, and eventually came into the employ of the Emperor as Thanatos.  We have absolutely no clue as to how this occurred, but we do know that he was a recent and perplexing addition to team.  According to a resident of Northtown:

There are guards called the, "four heavenly kings" that report directly to the Emperor.  They are: 

The leader, the knight of darkness --- Sheex
The machine rider --- Geshtar
The lone female --- Fanha


Then there is the magic knight, Thanatos.  I'm still not very familiar with him.

Since the Emperor has four bodyguards, I wonder if Thanatos offed one to get the job, or perhaps replaced one that was killed.

We've already explored much of the dialogue involving Thanatos in our last article.  The vast majority are in scenes with Dyluck, but there is one scene in the Grand Palace that we explored awhile back.  See that article for analysis of Thanatos' relationship to the other bodyguards.  

The first mention of Thanatos is in the Witch's Castle.  We arrive at the final area with Elinee, as she tells us:

ELINEE:  He's a magic knight from the Vandole Empire who is trying to crush the
kingdom from the inside!  

PURIM:  That's unforgivable, Elinee!

ELINEE:  I have almost the entire kingdom under our control.  Soon, he will conquer the Palace, using the southern Ruins as a backdoor. 

Note how Elinee mentions that Thanatos' goal is to storm the Palace and conquer the kingdom from the Ruins.  With most of the citizens under his control, it would be a cakewalk.  This is similar to what Sheex tries to pull off in Tasnica, except he takes the place of the King and attempts to get the Republic to surrender to the Empire.  Why Pandora did not storm their own Ruins for answers, or why no one would realize Sheex's very obvious plan requires much leeway.  

Later, we foil Thanatos' plans in the Ruins.  As we stated in the last article, it is only here that he realizes that Dyluck's might be a good body.  So most likely, his goal was to take Pandora.  But that seems to contradict what Jema says afterwards: 

JEMA: Thanatos is one of the "four heavenly kings" who report directly to the Emperor.  It's strange that he came here in person; that is much different than their usual methods.  The Empire is trying to unseal the Mana Seeds.  Considering the time
to come here from the Empire and the use one of their best bodyguards...something doesn't add up.  I'm getting a very uneasy feeling about Thanatos...

So Jema feels that the Empire is only after the Mana Seeds.  Except we come to learn that there's an alliance against them consisting of Pandora and Tasnica, among others.  We can presume that at this point, the alliance wants to prevent the Empire from getting the Seeds and restoring the Fortress...so why is Jema surprised that they would send one of their best men?  Especially since there are several Mana Seeds close by.

Outside of this, and what was discussed previously, there is surprisingly little else about Thanatos.  What plans the developers may have had should SoM been developed as intended are unknown.  But it is possible to speculate, should we go back in real time a bit.

If you happened to be an RPGer who was active between 1993 and 1995, you experienced one of the greatest trilogies of all time.  Even though the three games were not meant to be a trilogy, seeing that they were designed at the same studio, and brilliantly executed in succession leads them to a place of their own.  On August 6, 1993, SoM was released.  The following April 2, Final Fantasy VI (known as Final Fantasy III in the US) arrived, and finally on March 11, 1995, Chrono Trigger would launch as one of the last major releases for the SNES.  In 2006, SoM designers Koichi Ishii and Hiromichi Tanaka revealed that Secret of Mana and Chrono Trigger began as the same project.  What was originally intended for SoM had to be severely truncated since it was planned for a cancelled CD-ROM add-on for the SNES.  Some of the ideas were then retained and developed for use in Chrono Trigger.  This blog has attempted, among many other things, to gather as much as possible about the SoM that was originally intended, and we once again turn to those other two games for possibilities.

(left) Thanatos of SoM, (center) Queen Zeal of CT, (right) Kefka of FFVI
The three games were released relatively close timewise, so their development periods overlapped.  Thanatos is not as fleshed out as his closest counterparts---Kefka in FFVI, and Queen Zeal in Chrono Trigger.  So it's possible that ideas intended for Thanatos were later implemented with those characters.  First, let's take a look at Thanatos' motive.  

According to Dyluck:

DYLUCK: Thanatos is an ancient sorcerer who sold his soul to the underworld [for eternal power].  But even if his spirit is eternal, his body will die.  He has taken on a new body time and time again.  This endless obsession eroded his spirit, and he became an entity known as Dark Lich.

Thanatos also gave his motivations:

THANATOS: With the pending reactivation of the Mana Fortress, it is only a matter of time before the world is unified.

And later:

...with the Mana Fortress, we will begin a new era for this world!

So Thanatos wants a new, unified era for the world, possibly a contrived justification for his intended power grab.  He is also running out of time with his decaying body.  We'll compare this to the other villains.

Let's jump to Final Fantasy VI first.  Emperor Gestahl also has four assistants---Celes, Cid, Leo, and Kefka.  As stated earlied, Kefka is the primary antagonist here.  Emperor Gestahl is seeking to acquire Magicite, the remains of an Esper after they perish.  An Esper was part of a race separate from humanity with inherent magical powers.  With Magicite, a human could gain the Esper's power, but of course, they would have to be killed first.  Espers are somewhat reminiscent of the Mana Spirits in SoM, although they tag along with the party; they do not die.

Kefka becomes progressively more powerful throughout FFVI as he acquires Magicite.  It gets to the point where he can defeat Espers at will, along the lines of how Thanatos deactivates Dryad's powers in SoM.  He becomes obsessed with the warring Triad, a trio of gods who turned themselves to stone to end an ancient war.  If the balance of the Triad is
thrown off, the world will be in peril.  This, of course, does not stop Kefka, much like the fact that the Mana Beast will be unleashed does not stop Thanatos from activating the Mana Fortress.  Nor does the fact that the warring Triad, like the Mana Fortress, was part of the end of an ancient war that should not be repeated.  The Triad resides on a Floating Continent that is raised from the ground into the air by Kefka and Gestahl.  The Mana Fortress is on a Lost Continent that acts as a "switch" to activate it.  The Fortress then ascends to the sky.

Both Thanatos and Kefka betray their Emperor to have power to themselves.  (Both Emperors also attempt false peace talks with the heroes over a meal.)  Each of them also have little regard for their fellow bodyguards.  Kefka eliminates Leo directly, manipulates Cid, and attempts to destroy Celes.  Thanatos resurrects Geshtar to fight for him, and leaves Sheex and Fanha to handle Randi and friends.  Both are killed in the process.

Once the world is thrown off balance, Thanatos uses his Mana Fortress to destroy the Mana Tree (like the Masked Mage), and Kefka uses his Light of Judgment to attack the world.  Both are confronted in their fortresses by the heroes in each game's final sequence.  Let's take a look at Kefka's motives from the horse's mouth:

KEFKA: I will exterminate everyone, and everything!...Why do people rebuild things they know are going to be destroyed? Why do people cling to life when they know they
Kefka ends up becoming a literal god of magic
can't live 
forever? Think how meaningless each of your lives is!...I command the greatest power in the universe! You are all helpless before me!  I will destroy everything... I will create a monument to non-existence!

This is more explicit than Thanatos' stated motive, but if we presume that Thanatos was once Belgar, then the two villains have the same contempt for all that is living.

Now, let's take a look at Zeal from Chrono Trigger.  Like Kefka and Thanatos, she became more powerful and corrupted over time:

MELCHIOR: The more energy the Mammon Machine absorbs, the further the Queen degenerates.

What the character, Melchior, is referring to here is a Machine that could harvest the dreaded Lavos' energy to make the Queen immortal and omniscient.  It is placed into an Ocean Palace that eventually becomes the Black Omen, a huge craft not unlike the Mana Fortress that was raised up from below sea level and flies about the world.  The Queen is
warned that the Machine could destroy the world, but, as you may guess, that does not stop her from activating it.  In fact, she seems to think along the lines of Kefka:

Same concept?  Or just a coincidence?
ZEAL: Behold, my pretties!  Destiny, in its most brutal form.  All the dreams that might have been.  All the happiness, and sorrow, you might have experienced...I plan...to control the universe forever.  You will not get in my way!

A Ruby Knife is given to the protagonist, Chrono, to smash the machine.  The Ruby Knife has elements of the Machine---similar to the relationship of the Mana Sword and Mana Fortress.  In fact, the Knife ends up becoming the Masamune (a legendary sword), in the presence of the Machine!  The Chrono Wiki states that the Black Omen is the final dungeon in the game, although it is possible to defeat Lavos (the final boss) without entering it.  Queen Zeal does wait at the end of the ship, and her alternate form strongly resembles Dark Lich's.  Zeal's battle area is not unlike the Mana Beast's from SoM.  Zeal, as well as Kefka, end up with a cult-like following that Thanatos lacks, though this may have been something planned for SoM.  

It's not hard to imagine the Ocean Palace/Black Omen
as a cousin to the Mana Fortress
So there are similarities among these villains, but what can that actually tell us about Thanatos?  Nothing for certain.  But Kefka and Zeal may represent aspects of what was intended for Thanatos in the first place.  According to the 2006 interview, Secret of Mana was to have a darker tone, probably like FFVI or CT.  Outside of Thanatos, it is not hard to insert concepts from CT into SoM.  We have already done this in a few articles, but there is quite a bit more.  Hardly anyone notices the planet's decay of the world after the Mana Fortress is activated, which is not the case with the analogs in CT or even FFVI.  It's possible that Randi and friends would have traveled to some desperate locations ravaged by Thanatos and the Fortress.  Character development is also sorely lacking, and we'll visit more of that idea in future articles.

NEXT:  Odds and Ends, Part 1

CREDITS: Additional material from RPGClassics, Cold Run, Wiki of Mana, Spriters' Resource, and Fantasy Anime.  Square owns everything.