Part 48: Commentary: Updates 36 - 40
Pokiehl: Dream Teller
It wasn't until writing this thing up that I realized I misspelled "Pokiehl" in the original banner I had. At least no one noticed!
If you come back to the room where you fought Deathbringer before finishing the Dragon Arc (or it could be at any time after beating Deathbringer, not sure which), you can fight Deathbringer II. Normally there's no reward for beating him, other than having a page in your beastiary filled, but having a SaGa Frontier II save nets you an alright 2H Sword. I'll show the save stuff off later.
This quest is all about the backstory of what exactly happened ten years ago between Escad, Matilda, and Irwin. Escad, of course, is as big a dick as he's always been.
The real meat here is Matilda and Irwin. Irwin convinced Matilda to go to the mines since they're friends and stuff, and Matilda is enjoying her freedom from the temple, at least until the mines cave in. The main reason, of course, is because she's fallen for Irwin, and a priestess can't be romantically involved with a demon because, well, it'd be weird. You know, in a world with sentient talking tea pots. That, and the whole "Irwin wants to destroy the world" thing kind of hampers that as well, though part of it is due to how Matilda is "forced" to be a priestess or something.
The point is, they're both doing stupid things because they're horny teenagers.
Irwin then steals Matilda's elemental powers, partly to spare her the burden of becoming a priestess or whatever, and partly because such powers would be useful for global destruction. It's win-win for the demon.
Then Escad catches him and ends up getting sent to the Underworld, where he's understandably bitter about the demon stealing his friend's powers and sending him to hell and all that. And that's how Escad became the biggest dick in the world.
Of course, Matilda ends up being a priestess anyway, except she pretty much does nothing but lie in bed all day. But, you see, she has the freedom to do so. Except she could've just, you know, run away with Irwin. Daena even tries to convince her to do so like five times later on. It's all stupid.
Speaking of stupid, Escad is so blinded by rage that he absolutely refuses to reason with any line of logic that isn't "KILL DEMON ARRRRG" and will attack you if you don't side with him. Escad is kinda fucked in the head, blinded by rage in one of the most extreme examples I can think of. Too bad beating the shit out of him doesn't knock in some sense into his thick skull.
Can't Look Back
Another one-off quest that involves Mephianse, who we've last seen trying to destroy the world. Of course, that never comes up again, and here he's on an expedition trying to find his brother, even bringing his students along because Geo's teachers really don't give a shit about their students' safety. Seriously, they're incredibly irresponsible, as we've seen already and will see in the future.
Anyway, the story here is Mephianse's brother went here to search for a Faerie treasure, one rumored to let one meet the dead. His brother wanted to speak to his dead wife for unspecified reasons, and in turn Mephianse wants to find it to talk to his brother. Mephianse believes an ice witch killed his brother and has been saying such to every single person he meets.
Except the Faerie didn't kill him and is understandably pissed that this jerk is going around telling everyone that she murdered his brother. The truth is that Mephianse's brother turned himself into a yeti-like creature to adapt to the harsh environment and went feral in the process. So, you know, the usual.
Then we murder the monster and Crystalle berates Mephianse again for his lies and half-apologies.
So this quest begins with Daena telling Matilda to go with Escad. This way, Matilda can be with the one she loves and regain her youth from Irwin's powers, and also Irwin would lose his biggest reason to want to destroy the world and would instead settle down with Matilda in Faerie Land. Matilda wins, Irwin wins, and Fa'Diel wins.
There's only one problem with this plan: It makes sense.
So then Escad comes in, even a bigger dick than usual, and literally attacks Daena for even daring to suggest a plan that involves no bloodshed. Matilda then teleports us away to the Mindas Ruins to escape Escad's dickery.
Matilda and Irwin meet up for the first time in ten years and rehash the same bullshit about freedom and living your life the way you choose and all that shit and none of it matters because Matilda chooses to live in the most ass-backwards way imaginable, talking about being free even though she's still a damn priestess like she was supposed to be and still not going off with the man she loves like she wants to be and how the fuck is she a Wisdom of all fucking people.
I mean, even Escad has the excuse of not knowing the whole story. All he knows is Irwin took her powers, not knowing he did it partly as a favor, and that combined with Escad's racism led him to be completely anti-Irwin. He's still a dense racist prick, but at least his motivations actually make sense. Matilda's make no sense at all, and the interesting part is that the game actually focuses on this. It's not bad writing on the game's part (though this quest line in particular could've benefited a lot from some clarification at some places), but that Matilda is intentionally written to be nonsensical. It's really hard to imply what the hell Matilda's end goal is here, though I think I came up with the best explanation I could, which I'll get into later.
So after yet another bullshit trip through the ruins (though paying Niccolo will let you bypass all the bullshit again), you have to choose between Daena and Escad. Choosing a character locks the other out from being a NPC permanently, and choosing neither locks you out from both. If you don't choose Escad, he pretty much dies here. Which is fine with me, so we kick his ass.
So continuing on with Matilda's baffling decisions, she decides not to go with Irwin, because that would make sense. You can hear Daena's mind literally exploding at the inanity of it all, because she actually has a solid plan that would benefit everyone, but nope, that would require common sense to prevail.
Escad and Irwin are dicks, but Matilda's just on a whole other level of nonsense. She's the living embodiment of .
So Daena tries one last time to use reason on Matilda, which of course doesn't work because it's Matilda. So now we'll have to deal with Irwin, who's going to revive the great wyrm Lucemia, mentioned in the World History as a huge beast that destroyed a ton of towns before dying by literally eating a volcano. At least that makes the backdrop of this quest line's final dungeon rather epic.
I managed to spit out a theory behind Matilda's motivations, and honestly it's the only one that makes sense. I really wish the game gave a bit more of a hint as to why Matilda was so batshit insane, but whatever.
Basically, while she could be with Irwin, she thinks he'll feel bitter against her because her presence will curb his natural desires to destroy the world. So her plan is to let him destroy the world, after which he'll then take her. He has his freedom, and he'll accept her. Win-win for Matilda, even if it means the world is destroy and many people die.
Of course, this is just my theory, and if the Japanese version or the Ultimania guide actually goes into Matilda's reasoning, I would really love to find out. Or if you have a better theory, again, I'd love to hear it. Anything that would make Matilda's motivations make sense would be great to hear.
Anyway, Lucemia itself is a pretty lengthy dungeon, but it's cool because you've got some epic music going on and, you know, you're navigating a massive decaying wyrm that's being resurrected by a demon. A shame there's not much variety in the backgrounds, even the insides, but then the backgrounds always look amazing anyway.
Selva shows up to let us leave if we want. You know, if there was one thing I wanted clarified in the game, even moreso than Matilda's motivations, it's Selva's motivations. Why the hell does he give a shit about Matilda and all this? What the hell is his plan here? The closest I can figure is that he has a thing for mage chicks, or maybe he wants the world to be destroyed or whatever. At least you can kinda-sorta bullshit some reasoning behind Matilda's actions. Selva? Who the hell knows.
There's different scenes here depending on who you saved between Daena and Escad, and whether you brought them or not. If you save Daena but don't bring her, she survives, but won't become a NPC. If you save but don't bring Escad, you get to watch him die after getting his ass kicked by Irwin. Almost makes me wish I didn't let Daena kick his ass before. Almost.
The fight itself is pretty tough, as Irwin spams attacks like a motherfucker, leaving you little time to actually hit him. His attacks hit a large area, plus he has one that hits a huge portion of random parts of the battlefield. This fight was a slog, but luckily my STs can deal huge amounts of damage, and I managed to stun him long enough to actually get one off.
That's his only form, so with that Irwin is slain and the world is saved. Also, Matilda dies because why not.
You know, despite this being the Faerie Quest, there really wasn't much to do with the actual faeries. Some, yeah, but this was more about the story between Matilda and Irwin. The Dragon Arc deals heavily with dragons, and the Jumi Arc deals heavily with the Jumi, but the Faerie Arc really has jack shit to do with the faeries. They're just there.
So, the finale. It has some nice music to it, to start with. Matilda's happy that she and Irwin are both dead and thus spend eternity together in the Underworld. Irwin, however, is not exactly thrilled with this concept. He values his demon blood and his desires to destroy the world over Matilda. She may have had a chance while she was alive to sway him over, but now Irwin wants to focus on finding a way to be reborn and once again try to destroy the world.
The entire time, Matilda's main philosophy was giving Irwin his freedom, thinking he would choose to be with her at the end of all this. Instead, Irwin chooses to focus solely on his personal ambitions. Matilda lost.
The woman who could have chosen to be with the one she loved refused, believing in his freedom. She was so committed to this, that she left herself open to the possibility that he may not choose her given the choice. Perhaps he never really cared for her the way she did for him. In the end, she gave him his freedom just as she wanted, but the cost was existing alone in the Underworld.
This arc suffers a lot from the poorly-explained motivations of its characters. It's the worst-written of the three arcs, as there's still a lot of stuff I don't understand. It also has the worst characters, though that's really by design as everyone is intentionally messed-up. I really wonder if Matilda was supposed to be sympathetic, or if we were supposed to root against her.
Me? I like this ending, at least. Matilda got what she preached, but certainly not what she wished. But hey, that's freedom for you.
The Cage of Dreams
This quest happens after you finish one of the three big quest lines. It's the set up for the game's final dungeon, though obviously we won't be doing that for a long time yet.
The story here is that the Sproutling who gave you the Colorblocks back at the very beginning and who has stuck around your home the entire game has been chosen by the Mana Goddess to resurrect the Mana Tree because of the love you've given him.
While this game has no real overall plot, it does have a major theme of love. It's evident in the major quests, such as the Faerie one just now with Matilda and Irwin, but it's also present in some of the smaller arcs such as the Capella/Diddle quests focusing on the two's friendship. The entire game is about the importance of love, even if you don't actually need it, and this quest in particular ties love and the power of Mana together. It's interesting to think of mages long past killing each other with the power of love.
Anyway, Nunuzac, who was a conjurer that got trapped in another dimension and is represented by a giant circle, kidnapped the Sproutling because he wants to save its life and not bring the Mana Tree to the world, fearing it would lead to war over its power.
Nunuzac's one of my favorite characters, because he's one of the smarter characters in the game. Even if the game's theme argues that he's wrong, it does present his argument fairly, though makes him seem a bit of a pessimist. In other quests, though, he has much more of a sense of humor, and is easily the best of the Geo professors and one of the more entertaining characters in the game. That, and he's a fucking circle.
This quest is pretty much nothing more than Pokiehl and Nunuzac having a debate about the importance of the Mana Tree. Nunuzac's wary of bringing it back because of all the wars he's fought in over its power, while Pokiehl argues that though they don't need the Tree, it can bring more good things to the world than bad, comparing the Tree's power with love.
This is one of my favorite parts of the game, as it involves two of my favorite characters having a friendly debate on the merits of reviving a tree. They both greatly respect each other, and it's a civil debate, one Pokiehl eventually wins. It also ties in the game's theme, with Pokiehl preaching about the importance of love and how it inspires others.
Eventually Nunuzac lets us into some dream world or wherever that he trapped the Sproutling in, and after a short uneventful dungeon we find the Sproutling. It turns out the Sproutlings and essentially all plant life are part of a circle. The people give love to the plants, the plants give love to the Mana Tree to heal it, and the Tree gives mana and inspires the people to love. People have closed themselves off due to all the horrible wars from the past and mistrust, and the whole point of our protagonist is to get people to open their hearts again, thus why we do noble things like help a rabbit kidnap a flower or murder dragons to help an evil overlord regain his power. Well, even those eventually lead to love in a way, I guess.
Our protagonist is never really the main character of the stories he's involved in. He's always more an observer who helps out when needed. But it's his presence that inspires others to open their hearts and fight for what they believe in. That's why I'm perfectly happy with this game not having an overarching plot, because this game really isn't so much about our character, but rather all the other people he meets and influences along the way. That's pretty much why the Mana Goddess has such a vested interest in the protagonist.
And that's why she gives us the Sword of Mana.
After spending...two hours!? writing about my thoughts on these quests, I think I'll end this talking about good ol' game mechanics. So let's get down to the map.
Each land has its own mana values in the bottom left. Each land also gains values from adjacent lands equal to half the total value of its surrounding lands, rounded down (I believe). Another important thing is that there's a few quests that are unlocked by having three of a certain element, two of which are in Domina. Mana levels are also how you unlock demi-human pets, which you can't get from eggs but rather recruiting them after talking to them in specific areas after getting a certain element to three in the land they're found in.
Most lands only have a few specks of Mana, but the Sword of Mana is different. The land it spawns, the Mana Tree, has full mana levels for all eight elements. Thematically, this makes sense, but this also means it's very handy for boosting lands' mana levels, as the four adjacent to where it's placed will also get all their mana levels boosted to full.
The reason this map looks weird and the quests have been a little off from normal game progression is to maximize the output of the Mana Tree. It will be placed in the top right corner of the map above, giving full mana levels to Domina, Duma Desert, Lumina, and the Fieg Snowfields. Domina gets two quests unlocked, the other three get a demi-human, which also unlocks a quest in Duma Desert. In addition, lands that we place in the four empty spaces between adjacent full-mana lands (beside Duma Desert and Domina in the picture above, for example) will also get full mana levels, which will be handy. In particular, we got an artifact from Trent long ago, the Golden Seed, which essentially gives us a second Trent, except this one can much more easily get full mana power and thus lets us grow plants much more quickly. Not too important, but handy.
And with that, I'm done with this update. Thanks as always for reading through all that.