Monday, January 16, 2017

Odds and Ends, Part II

That awkward moment when you return to your blog after five months, and forgot where you were headed...

Unfortunately, graduate school and piano teaching take priority over this, and weeks easily turn into months when you want to update again.  I've been going back over my notes and catching up.  Since I lasted updated, Google has released a new translation algorithm to reduce errors.  The result is more coherent sentences, but not showing a translation of individual words hampers my ability to gain a deeper understanding of the text, so I will still have to use other means of translating.  

To be honest, there's only a handful of articles left and once those are done, I think I've covered most of what can be said about this game.  It's up to Square to reveal the rest!  In the meantime, here's Odds and Ends, Part II.  For Part I, click here.

The Extra Character

There's been a lot of interest in this unused character that can be found in the ROM data:



It can be found among the Emperor's bodyguards, so there is some speculation that there was a fifth one originally.  I doubt that's the case, as we've established that the game follows the tradition of the Four Heavenly Kings.  This character may be unfinished, as evidenced by the simple palette and lack of defining features.  It could just be an early attempt at representing a bodyguard that was scrapped.


However, recall this page from a Japanese promotion:



The inset image is of Thanatos' final form in the game, but the art shows Thanatos' gown as being white, not dark grey as depicted.  If the extra character is an early version of him, perhaps the drawing represents the character in a transitional phase between the two?  At the end of the day, there's no proof that this character was Thanatos.

My esteemed colleague, zhaDe, reminded me of this animation in the memory:


zhaDe's opinion:

"I still think he must have had something to do with the temple full of bald guys (which is of no use at all really) in the mountains. He looks bald too.  He looks kind of like a priest or some religious important figure and from the side view, it looks like the things on each side are wings (don't know why he would have wings.. but makes sense that he would live high up in the mountains if he did)."

I looked through the sprite table for both Final Fantasy VI and Chrono Trigger, and could not find other possibilities.

Moon Palace growing?

One of the most mysterious places in the game is the Moon Palace.  It is a Palace surrounded by...a bunch of nothing  Take a look at the world map:



Having a Palace surrounded by impassable darkness is very similar to concept of the Dark Palace in Seiken Densetsu 3, the Tower of Bab-il in Final Fantasy IV, and Magus' Palace in Chrono Trigger.  However, these are different concepts altogether.

The existence of the Palace is strangely hinted at the first time we're in Kakarra with flashing stars placed near its geographic location.  However, there is an impassable barrier, and the player can not proceed any further.  The Moon Palace is so rarely mentioned that I doubt many players would figure out the significance of this area.  Looking at a prerelease version of the desert, we see that the entrance was added later.  If you were just going to fly there anyway, why add something that ends up making no difference?  It is highly unlikely that you're going to walk there the first time since you'll have have Flammie by then.



Surrounded by mountains in a prerelease shot.  A southern passage through was added for the main release.

In order to cross the whole lot of nothing, one must ride a ferry piloted by a chobin foot named Karon.  Karon is a reference to Charon in Greek Mythology, whose ferry carried recently departed souls across the river Styx to Hades.




Let's see what Karon has to say about the void (my retranslation in blue):

Welcome to Karon's ferry.  Next stop: Moon Palace.  There's a lot of nothing in the palace. Don't get lost!

Welcome!  Welcome to my ship; I am Karon.  We will go to the Temple of the Moon.  Inside the Temple, the universe may continue indefinitely for all I know.  Don't get lost!  

After disembarking the ferry, we find a Palace similar in appearance to the rest, with hardly any content inside.  The only puzzle is to find an orb sealed by Lumina's magic, break the spell, and enter the stage room.  The orb is in a room full of nothing; we can presume that this is the same nothing from the desert.  There are no enemies or anything else here.  When we meet Luna, she says the following:

I, Luna the moon spirit, have awaited you.  So sad this place has grown...but enough!  Take with you my powers!  GO! Mana is fading...

I am Luna, spirit of the moon.  I've been waiting for you for what seems like forever.  Come, I will also give you my power.  Mana is being lost from the world.  Let's hurry!



Note the mention in the English translation that she's "sad" about the "place" growing.  Is it possible that the void is spreading?  Or is the Palace inside a link to some ever expanding universe? 

There is only one other mention of this area---when we're dealing with Sage Joch:

Surprise...went to the Moon Palace.  It floats eerily in the Sea of Wonders at Kakkara Desert's end...

"Eh? The Temple of the Moon? It's a strange place that seems to float in the sea of outer space [or ocean of the universe] on the outskirts of the Kakkara desert.

For a concept so fascinating, it hardly has any effect in the game beyond this simple scenario.  I'll close with one last thought---what is the precise difference between Moon magic and Dark magic?  Shade's magic appears to be derived from dark elements (Evil Gate, Dark Force), as opposed to Luna's Magic (Change Form, Lunar Boost, Moon Energy).  I could just as easily see the Moon Palace as the Palace of Darkness.


The Unstoppable Phallic Geshtar Machine

Have you ever stopped and looked closely at the shape of Geshtar's vehicle?  




Things that can't be unseen...

Upper Area in Grand Palace (whip area)

This one has always bugged me.  I got stuck up here awhile back, thinking there had to be a way out, but it seems that there is no peg on the lower level to whip back to.  Probably something unfinished, but why leave it in the game where a player could get stuck?




Magic Rope at the Lighthouse

I don't know if I've ever seen this mentioned.  If one uses the Magic Rope in the Lighthouse, they're magically whisked away to...the same room.


Neko


Years ago, I made the acquaintance of someone who was an intern for Square's art department in the early 2000s.  When discussing the development of Secret of Mana, he was told that there was no way to appropriately localize Neko for a foreign audience.  





It did not take much searching on the Googles to discover the importance of cats in Japanese culture.  Neko is Japanese for, "cat", which are said to bring fortune and good luck.  The Maneki-neko figurine is one that is often placed in shops a symbol of beckoning customers.  I have a vague recollection of reading about a Japanese legend which corresponds to the Neko character, but am coming up blank at the moment...

Nevertheless, Neko made far more sense in Japan than it did elsewhere.  

Water Travel Revisted

Awhile back, we talked about the notion of a water vehicle that was intended for Secret of Mana.  While reading the script one day, I came across this dialogue from the pirate, Sergo, regarding the state of the seas.

I'm Sergo, pirate and scourge of the 8 seas!  At least I used to be...The oceans have grown too stormy...I stowed away 'cause I missed my ship so much.  Wonder if the oceans will ever be safe again!?

And later...

The ocean's suddenly grown calm! And Meria's had a complete change of heart!

Yes, Sergo does help us escape in the desert, and helps illustrate another obscure minor character, but why is he necessary in the first place, especially as a pirate?  Also recall what Pecard told us in the Lighthouse:

The seas are rough, and boats don't pass through here much, but I continue to look at the sea.

This seems like quite a bit of exposition for nothing.  Were they supposed to sail the eight seas with Sergo at some point, or is he just an attempt at making this incomplete game somewhat deeper?

Next: Popoie

Usual Disclaimer:  Square owns everything, and the Spriters Resource is amazing.  

6 comments:

  1. Glad to see an update! Can't wait for more! :)

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  2. I've discovered how to schedule blog posts, which makes my life much easier. If you want to see more posts, share the blog with folks who may enjoy this sort of thing.

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  3. Welcome back! Awesome stuff as usual. I wish more people online in general were talking about the tantalizing unfinished-ness of this game.

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  4. You're probably over-thinking the Moon Palace "growing".

    I think "So sad this place has grown" is a poetic (or Yoda-like) way of saying "This place has grown so sad." This conveys a similar feeling to "I've been waiting for you for what seems like forever." but using fewer characters

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    1. You could be right. I think the reason I said that was because of something I read on a Japanese forum.

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  5. Hello, great blog, congrats again. As for the "moon" elemental I have read analysis that compare the mana elements with the japanese mythology elements which include the element of "heaven", also known as "void", "emptiness" or as some call it "aether" which is the source of all magic, or even "spirit"; so the power of Luna fits perfectly as being the cause for that place being "full of infinite nothingness" as Charon says. Also I read in some translation I don't recall that someone, perhaps Charon, says that the place used to be an ancient planetarium (from the times of the mana fortress?) perhaps created in a huge crater that was blown in the desert by some unnamed catastrophe. As for what her spells concern, invoking pure magical energy is certainly more likely to bring chaotic results, and chaos is also a fitting concept for "the emptiness of the universe", same magical relation with the magic absorb thing and even the transformations. The boosts and energizing are more a "spirit" thing, though the effect of the moon saber blows me.

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