Part 60: Commentary: 50
The Quiet Sea
The SS Buccaneer's a bit of a unique land. It requires being placed in a water space, the only land with such a requirement (though a couple others can be placed there, like Lucemia). There's no actual exit, so to leave, you have to tell Tusk you don't like his ship, which is simply cruel. Also, you have to navigate to find quests.
The sea is a 5x5 grid. You always start in the same location, the sea loops around (so going west five times will get you back to your starting spot), and you can't stop unless you hit one of a few certain squares. One gives you the choice to stop sailing, some have you battle monsters, and there's several that trigger quests. This particular quest is gotten by going South East East from the starting position, though you can get there in a more roundabout way if you really wanted to.
The story here isn't that exciting. The wind dies down, so you have to go to the deck and have the penguin find the ghost. The ghost then spooks everyone, and you end up having to kill it.
Of course, there's always the humor of the penguins' incompetence, but overall it's a rather mellow quest.
Gilbert: Love is Blind
Before we start on the quest proper, I'll talk briefly about Elle. Elle is a bit odd, in that she has no physical attacks, but she's also not useless like Pearl. Elle attacks exclusively with magic, while even Bud and Lisa have weapons and their own unique ST's. I'm not sure how exactly her Syncho, Elemental Shield works, as I can't find any information on the specifics, but it doesn't sound too bad against magic, though I find most monsters and bosses generally don't use magic too often. Overall, not that effective an NPC, as magic tends to lock the enemy in place and prevent you from hitting it with your attacks or ST's.
Anyway, this fucking quest. This is by far the easiest quest to miss in the game. The next Gilbert quest is the first quest you can do in Geo, and doing that before this one means you miss out on this one for the current playthrough. Also, it's kind of difficult to stumble upon, as it requires picking up Elle as a NPC, taking her to meet Gilbert, and then going back to Elle's place, and figuring out you need to go to the SS Buccaneer next.
It's not obvious that Elle is even a NPC you can use, as you have to go back to her place in Madora Beaach and talk to her to even find that out. It's also not that intuitive to bring her to Gilbert other than thinking Gilbert has a thing for sirens (and really women in general). The rest you can probably figure out on your own, but overall you'll have to be willing to do all sorts of crazy experimentation with NPCs and other characters to find a quest like this without a guide. That said, there's tons of extra dialogue to be had doing this, and it seems every playthrough I always find cool new dialogue between characters I didn't expect, like Niccolo and Capella in the second update. There's so much awesome stuff hidden in this game.
The craziest part is that, though this quest is best known for being so easy to miss, it's also one of the most entertaining quests in the game. That seems to be a trend with Gilbert's quests, though. Gilbert tries unsuccessfully to woo Elle, gleefully ignoring Flameshe's open mocking of him, and ends up kidnapping Elle and taking her to the SS Buccaneer. Gilbert isn't nefarious or anything, though he can cross lines from time to time. He's simply a fool who's so self-absorbed in his own romantic ideals that he's usually oblivious to what's happening around him.
Of coures, the real story is the second part of Elle's mini-arc, where she refuses to sing because the last time she did, she sank an imperial ship. The penguins end up trying to capture Elle and Gilbert because of Cap'n Tusk being hit by an evil otter in his heart (Have I mentioned I love this game?), causing Elle to sing to try to scare the penguins off of Gilbert.
Thus begins one of the most hilarious over-the-top scenes in the game, with the ship literally exploding during her singing. The game can get pretty damn serious at times, but god damn does it also enjoy being silly when it wants to be. You can tell the people who made this game enjoyed it with crazy touches like that.
So after the obligatory boss battle, we have Cap'n Tusk proving to be quite the badass, talking about his spirit holding the ship up and telling Elle to sing anyway since the "sirens sink ships" thing is hogwash.
There's even a hilarious bit of fourth-wall breakage here. Seriously, the translation team for this game also deserves a ton of credit. I can't say how accurately they translated the game, but they certainly nailed the spirit and humor of the game, and this quest above all is proof of that.
So Elle sings again, the ship starts exploding again, and finally, eventually, she stops and the ship survives. Of course, while the ship didn't sink, it certainly doesn't seem good for sirens to sing on ships for...some reason.
This really is the quintessential Legend of Mana non-arc quest. It's silly and over-the-top, there's a spirit of wonder and fun in the mix, and it tackles a somewhat-serious problem in a whimsical way. This game really is like a fairy tale at times, and it's nice to see it embrace this quality when it's telling lighthearted stories.
Of course, it can also be damn serious when it wants to be, but we'll get to that.
The Treasure Map
North North East leads to the next quest. Apparently there's a rivalry between Cap'n Tusk and his penguins and Roger and his Diggers cult of Dudbears. This one involves finding a treasure map.
This quest is somewhat simple. You have to find the eight Dudbears and talk to them a couple of times to retrieve pieces of the treasure map. The catch is that if you take too long in a room, Roger will find you and you fail the quest, locking you out of a couple others in this mini-arc. This is especially important in a room with three Dudbears in it. That said, I don't think I've ever failed this quest, so I don't know how long you really have in each room. Overall, a rather short and simple quest.
The Dragon Princess
I figured I should close out the Dragon Arc before going to Geo and digging my teeth into the Jumi Arc. This quest involves just going places and having Larc tell you whether or not you're going the right direction. I ended up going the right direction the entire time. Overall, the White Forest itself isn't that interesting a land, though unlike the other two Dragon Arc lands this one actually gets a couple more quests later on.
Once we get to Vadise's lair, we finally get a real introduction to Sierra, who's popped up from time to time but never really stuck around long enough. Turns out she's the dragoon to Vadise and Larc's sister, which explains why she follows us around and tries to stop but not really kill us. We "learn" that Drakonis is actually a bad guy, and that Larc's doing this so he can escape the Underworld and return to the land of the living, with the idea being that he could defeat the dragon he's giving Mana power to.
Unlike the other two dragons, Vadise willingly gives up the Mana Stone to prevent bloodshed and to talk our character into fighting against Drakonis. So now you're fighting against Drakonis. Then you fight Vadise and Sierra because they need a boss fight. And that's our lead up to the Dragon Arc's final quest.
The Crimson Dragon
This is the longest quest in the game. The only ones that come close are the final quests of the Faerie and Jumi Arcs, but this one has two dungeons and its own decent chunk of dialogue. Plus, the second dungeon is one of the largest and most-confusing in the game, but we'll get to that in a bit.
First off, we'll be hanging with Sierra for the entirety of the quest.
Sierra gets her own "Kill everything instantly in a badass manner" scene to further hammer in the sibling relationship between Larc and Sierra. It's thematic and stuff.
Anyway, the Underworld itself is a bit lengthy, but nothing really new. As a plus, the Shadoles who'd knock you back to the bottom of the Underworld during the "Diddle Had It!" quest are actually a shortcut here.
So we find Drakonis and Larc, and Larc demands he and Drakonis fight as they agreed. Naturally, Drakonis simply fucks him over instead because Larc's plan was stupid. So he transforms Larc into a monster and we have to fight and kill him.
So after we kill Larc, the Underworld shifts into The Flames just for this quest. This is the final dungeon of the Dragon Arc, with its own fancy music and everything.
Vadise then appears and talks about how teamwork can overcome Drakonis's solitude, and...it's not actually relevant to anything. They go nowhere with this theme. It's shoehorned in because, hey, we need to have some kind of morality theme, so let's go with "Being alone sucks." That said, this has nothing to do with Drakonis's inevitable downfall, so this is nothing more than fluff. I guess you could tie it more with Larc, but even that's a stretch. And of course the NPCs in this game are generally worthless outside of their Synchros, and Sierra's Defense against Dragons isn't that great anyway, so we could easily solo the final boss if we wanted.
So, The Flames. This dungeon is fucking huge and maze-like. There's a ton of different paths, and many trap floors around as well. You also have no fucking idea of what you're supposed to do. It's part awesome because it's really cool to be hopelessly lost in this massive castle, and part annoying-as-fuck because you still don't know where to go or what the fuck you need to do and it's been two hours now and god dammit I just want to knife the god damn dragon to death already fuck this place.
The actual goal is to destroy all three orbs. You see, each orb activates certain trap floors. Destroy an orb, and you can walk over these floors without falling somewhere else. You need all three to stop the trap floor that leads you to Drakonis. Two are guarded by regular dragon enemies with souped-up health, and one's guarded by a pathetic palatte-swap enemy (though even the palatte-swaps in this game have a decent amount of differences in their sprites).
After killing the first one, the exploding orb should tip you off to something, and maybe you can put two and two together easily enough and realize they have to do with the trap floors. Still, you won't know how many you need to take out, and even if you did, you still have to navigate the damn castle, and it's massive and sprawling and a god damn nightmare to do so without a guide.
Seriously, there's absolutely no shame in using a guide for this place.
After doing that, we fight Drakonis. Like Irwin, he's a pain to land a hit on, and he likes to chew on people and breathe fire because dragon. It's not difficult to evade his attacks though, so this comes down to being a battle of patience, much like Irwin, except easier.
After Drakonis is defeated, The Flames collapses and the Underworld rises again. Larc comes back, cursed by Drakonis to be stuck in the Underworld for a thousand years, as is anyone who touches him.
Anyway, Akravator and Jajara return from the dead, so everything's alright.
And even if he's cursed, Larc and Sierra are reunited. Overall, a rather simple arc with a hamfisted theme. It's simple, and it's a short arc, but it doesn't have the complex idiocy that the Faerie Arc's characters had, and it doesn't have the sheer awesomeness and complex backstory of the Jumi Arc. Looking back, I think I now prefer the Faerie Arc to this, as at least it was unique in making most everyone involved look like an asshole. This Arc was rather ordinary and pretty much goes as expected. Not that it's a weak story, but compared to everything else in the game, it's just not that memorable.