An obvious clue?
We've established the idea that the first half of SoM seems more complete than the second. From this, we have conjectured that when the game was altered to fit a cartridge (from the planned CD-ROM addition to the SNES), either the second half had the most cuts, or simply wasn't developed as planned. I'll be covering aspects of this possibility in future articles, but for right now, let's discuss a related topic --- the possibility of water travel.
In the final game, there are three primary forms of transportation:
1)Through the wilderness --- Until the Upper Land, this is your way of getting somewhere. Yes, you could travel by cannon, but that is more of a shortcut. Nowhere else in the game do we
2)Cannon travel --- One of the more ridiculously fun aspects of the game, cannon travel appears to be quite a versatile means of getting somewhere, except that the number of locations it can transport you to is limited. This would make sense, as it would be bad for business if eager daredevils were transported halfway across the world to someone's front lawn. It serves a good purpose in the design scheme, too. Cannon travel places you only where the designers want you to be, often in an area that has no way out other than another cannon.
3)Flammie --- Go anywhere, land anywhere (that was programmed) with your very own dragon.
That's quite a jump from 2 to 3. It is nothing but well-intentioned speculation, but certain dialogue and situations reveal that the acquisition of Flammie after Vandole's palace may have been a tad premature.
The concept of water travel has occurred to me for awhile, and others have similar ideas. It is explored in detail by user zhaDe of kafuka.org here, as well as at seikens.com here. zhaDe gives a very clear exposition of the situation with many things I hadn't considered, though I don't agree with him on every point.
One of the things you'll notice on the world map are occasional beaches. Yes, they could be there as embellishments, but for now, let's assume they were placed for transportation purposes. This is not a stretch as it's the same concept from Seiken Densetsu 3. There are several throughout the world:
Some seem more straightforward than others. The Mandala shore stands out along an otherwise green coastline. An island next to Tasnica has a very prominent beach. Gold City has an area out of the way for a possible water landing. Turtle Island is surrounded by shore, which presents us with an interesting conundrum as we'll see below. Kakkara Desert is one huge beach, and there are two areas in the Ice Country I've circled in red which seem like natural ports. Matango also has a similar area nearby.
zhaDe writes the following. I've made some minor grammatical corrections:
I had always conjectured that you climbed the mountain from the bottom, but zhaDe makes some excellent points that expand on this. The Lofty Mountains area is light on content. And it would not be out of place to have a wilderness like we had in the beginning of the game with multiple paths that may take one to the Palace of Darkness, or Mandala, etc. This scenario reminds me a bit of Mt. Hobbs and Fabul from Final Fantasy IV. Both have an Asian martial arts setting with a mountain where you can prove your bravery.There is a shore in the bottom of the Lofty Mountains...the area in the mountains is very small, only two areas. I guess there would have been other areas leading to the crossroads of the village, the Palace of Darkness and the sage's place. On the world map, there are two palaces but the Palace of Darkness is in a cave so it should not be visible from the air. I guess the cave was supposed to be part of the way you climb up there...Also in the same area: Watts...says : "Whew! That's some climb huh !?", and another character in town says something like "I was impressed until you said you FLEW here. The ancient temple north of the village is useless too...
You can travel from Mandala to the Palace of Darkness by walking all of about fifty steps down the mountain. This is the entirety of the Lofty Mountains active view:
That literally is it. So let's examine some dialogue from the Japanese script, and see if there are any clues as to the nature of the area. What Watts says is closer to, "As you may expect, I'm exhausted from climbing this mountain!" This doesn't prove that we were going to climb, however, since he doesn't have Flammie like we do. Another townsperson says, "Relax here. We are very welcoming to our visitors." Relax after a long mountain trek? We also get, "The Palace of Darkness was constructed by hollowing out part of the mountain. You would think you're walking into a cave."
So perhaps the overhead view of the Palace of Darkness was shown to be a regular temple because you need to know where to fly. But if you had to climb the mountain, it may have been depicted as a cave, or not at all. The woman zhaDe mentions may have actually been impressed.
The final point of interest is the Ancient Temple, where we get to experience "Veedios" that were recorded long ago, and reveal more about the game's background. These could have been actual cutscenes that weren't realized when going to a cartridge. We get vague hints throughout the game of the great war that happened without ever getting a complete picture. I'll cover this in a future article as I'm mainly concerned with the possibility of a water vehicle at this point.
Speculating here is a bit tougher. Tasnica itself does not have a shore; the shore is on an island nearby. But how does one get from there to the palace without a boat? Is there a ferry? Would they have forded a shallow lake? It's clear from the overhead view that one can only get there by landing on a walled-in platform. So how do Jema and the residents travel to and from the kingdom? The whole point of Tasnica is to find a spy we didn't know was there before arriving, get a Sword Orb and see what the kingdom is all about. Some really big things were left out here.
If we docked on the shore northwest of the city, we would have to travel by foot from there. It's possible that landing on the shore would bring up the active view of the city immediately, but there would have to be an entrance somewhere. Hmm...
Note how there's a wall surrounding the entire city, keeping us in. Said wall may have always been there, but could it have had an exit? Look at the house in the bottom left corner. It appears to be more like a gate or a guard tower, since all you do is walk through it. Except...it doesn't go anywhere! You walk through and hit the wall. I've drawn an arrow to indicate how you could have gotten out. I've also circled a few spots where the town's road ends at the wall.
I used no clipping codes (thank you Flying Omelette) to walk out of bounds and didn't learn anything I wouldn't have from looking at the rip above.
Turtle Island itself is surrounded by a shore, indicating that a water vehicle could have been used to reach it. Yes, a steep hill surrounds the village, but let's work with what we have. There is a good deal of speculation that said vehicle could have been acquired at the island or is the island itself! As explained at seikens.net:
It is possible that this turtle may be related to Booskaboo from Seiken Densetsu 3, a sea turtle that transports the heroes until they encounter Flammie.
Possibly, but we have to consider a few caveats. First, if the island is the turtle, we would hope that it would downsize, as it would be very difficult to maneuver into some of the shores we've examined. Second, as mentioned above, the island has shores itself. If we acquired the turtle at the island, how would we get to it without another boat? Cannon travel? I'm fairly skeptical about this. This is my translation of some of the dialogue here. Again, I don't know any Japanese, and can only use translators and dictionaries. This is the toughest dialogue I've attempted to translate yet.
We can only conclude that, like a lot of the game, there was intended to be more here. I don't see any evidence that this was anything more than a sidequest. It's also not clear if the island is literally a turtle shell, or just in the shape of one.
This part of the world is one huge beach. The mountains in the northern part would prevent an early entry at the Moon Palace. Since Kakkara's active view involves a lot of similar screens that add up to a one-dimensional puzzle, it's not far fetched to presume that there was more intended here. As zhaDe points out, it would make more sense to take a boat here than backtrack to the Upper Lands to take a cannon.
We have a situation that's similar to Kakkara. While there is sand all around the Ice Country, there are a few places that seem especially suited to being a port. I've circled them here:
Next to the Scorpion Village is a large sandy area, though it is at the end of a narrow river. At the southern end is a break in the rocks, which would be a perfect place to thrown an anchor. I didn't circle it, but Toto village also has an area that may have been your first steps on the Ice Country.
Matango is reachable by cave from the Upper Land, so there is no need to take a boat there. However, it would be a great time to acquire a boat. zhaDe thought along the same lines.
So what would this version of Secret of Mana look like? Let's consider the events from Matango onward.
1)From Matango, we get a boat, with instructions to proceed to Kakkara or the Ice Country. We can travel from one to the other by the same method and complete the necessary tasks. (We could go to the places mentioned in #4, but it'd be easy to make it impossible to complete the missions at this point.)
2)The Empire can't be reached with our boat, so instead we travel by cannon.
3)After the second battle with Geshtar, we're either bailed out by Flammie without getting him full time, or find another way back to our boat.
4)We now can head to Gold City, Tasnica, Turtle Island, and the Lofty Mountains.
5)After completing Joch's test, we get Flammie. This allows us to go to the sunken continent, where there are no shores. I imagine the boat would just sail over it. The game then proceeds as normal.
The final thing we'll consider is the Lighthouse. Note how it's very close to the Ice Country, and not as out of the way as it appears on the world map:
This has no shores, somewhat ironically. However, a look at the active view shows a huge area in
front that you can't help but picture a boat at. It could be there just for completeness, but it seems to fit our hypothesis. In the final USA game, Pecard only tells us about the sunken continent, but I could see him giving us clues about where else to sail. We leave thinking that there is yet another serious loss of content. I have attempted to translate Pecard's speech:
"I am the keeper of this lighthouse, Pecard, who watches the seas like an eagle! The seas are rough, and boats don't pass through here much, but I continue to look at the sea. You may have seen the enormous coral reef northeast of here, but did you know it's actually a continent which sunk in ancient times? In fact, the Mana Palace [Mana Fortress?] is a switch that would refloat the continent. The power of that ancient civilization was incredible, but I'm sure whatever lies underneath the continent is unfathomable!"
Nothing in the game points us at the Lighthouse, and it can be skipped as is. We get yet another vague clue about the game's background, but notice how Pecard mentions boats in the Japanese script. This is the only place in the world where this happens. I'm quite certain that if there was a ship in SoM, we would be hitting up the Lighthouse more than once.
We've considered just about everything we can at this point. An additional form of travel in SoM is not a stretch, and may simply be a concept with no place in the final game. As usual, we're guessing, and can't conclude anything for sure based on the available evidence. I have not played Seiken Densetsu 3 in over a decade, and have no time right now, so any information from there that would shed further light is appreciated.
Next: Fanha and Geshtar
As usual, the Spriters Resource and Galen Puronen's DeviantArt was my primary source for map rips. Screenshots are mine. Square owns everything; information here is provided only for educational purposes under the Fair Use Doctrine.