Learning we were in the town of “Menos” (the Freshmaker), we bought ourselves a Wind Spear, because we could just not pass up the chance to be a Dragoon. Spears are nice precision tools in this game, having a thinner hit box than usual, which isn’t best for combat but is probably worth buying just for the sake of upcoming puzzles. They also make up for their thin hit box by having a good long range, long enough to attack past the Scorpions in the nearby area. Too bad the game never hands you one for free. The rest of Menos was a faucet of leads: chief of which was news that there’s a special harp in the town of Jadd to the north, and Amanda’s brother – newly introduced – might be associated with it.
After a quick foray into the nearby desert, we turned back and tracked down a Chocobo egg we had heard about in Menos, and after a quick walk we found it at the end of an optional path. Of course it hatched right in front of us. The Chocobo imprinted on us, because that is the only thing baby birds ever do in stories like this, and it joined us as a partner. Naturally the Chocobo couldn’t attack, though if you used its ASK, it would let you ride it so that you would become invulnerable like any other Chocobo in the series. Not bad for a newborn. Oddly enough, this was an optional portion of the game, despite some events that will follow…
The desert, which was to the west of Menos, was wide open and a huge pain, as the game gradually introduced the concept that the Silver Sword we had picked up somewhere was the only item that could hurt undead and slimes (and yes, in this case it’s definitely just the Silver Sword, not all swords). Complicating this were the scorpions encouraging us to dig out our spear against them. Menu dive, menu dive, menu dive. We found that poison gas blocked progression down the only route north of the desert itself. In the northwest corner of the desert, we also located the town of Jadd, The City With No Background Music. Very odd – also odd: an early RPG with interconnected buildings that actually felt like a “city!” In Jadd, we learned the city’s ruler was a hated man named Davias (originally a transliteration of the English word “Devious” and called “Devius” in Sword of Mana. This is one of those instances where I think we can agree the older, less accurate localization was probably better warranted). We learned that Mr. Hello-My-Name-Is-Evil was the son of a Medusa and thus a sorcerer, blessed with the power to turn people into animals.
From here, the game set up another bunch of leads, though these were a lot less ambiguous than the ones from Menos: the poison gas was probably controlled by a magical harp, which had stopped playing recently, which implies Amanda’s brother had gone missing. We learned that to uncurse… something (presumably Davias’ animal curse but the game actually cut off its explanation virtually mid-sentence), we would need a medusa’s tears, which implies we’ll be running into Davias’ mother before too long. Taken with the harp clue, this implies that Amanda or her brother has been turned into an animal and presumably the surviving sibling was looking for a cure. Sure enough Davias’ throne room had a conspicuous parrot just lolling around as Davais warned us not to piss him off. We tried to track down a kid that knew where Davias’ mother was living, but he would only tell us for “a bag of Fang,” which… we’re pretty sure just meant “drugs.” “They’re very valuable,” he says, about the item with a legal-market sell price of 0. Speaking of the legitimate market, we bought some Gold equipment, which was pretty much the last time we ever bought equipment in this game without near-bankrupting ourselves. And after so long spent swimming in cash!
It turned out (with no help from the game; thanks Internet!) that bag of fang was a drop from certain dinosaur enemies that also dropped a whole whack of empty chests, even though no other enemy in the game has this behaviour. You can sort of see how the developer thought this would work: the player would go in, hunting the dinosaurs, get all excited to see a fang chest, only to end up disappointed that the chest was empty, right? The trouble is, as I’ve already said: the game never told us that the dinosaurs even dropped the fangs. The empty chests certainly weren’t suspicious to Kyle and I. After all, who were we to say that empty chests were unusual? Perhaps that’s how the game handles an enemy with no items! Kyle brushed them off as natural just as quickly as me, so this can’t just be a programmer’s instinct run amok.
Anyway, our shifty friend in Jadd took a big whiff of the ‘fangs’ then told us “Palm trees… and 8,” which tells me the fangs get you high pretty much immediately because that’s just liquid nonsense.
We knew already that the medusa lived in a cave that was hidden by an oasis in the desert, but we didn’t know which oasis: there were three in total. At first we assumed the hint was saying that there would be 8 palm trees near the proper oasis but that turned out to be untrue of all of them. When I thought about it, I realized that that wouldn’t explain how to open the cave to begin with, so it was probably a bad idea from the start. Kyle and I had to check a walkthrough to work this out, and wow, I have no idea how people worked this out in ’91. This. Is. A. Stumper. First, you have to go to the oasis with two trees (if there were only one oasis, I think this puzzle would be a hair more obvious, and still would have been extreme). Once there, you have to walk Sumo around the trees in a figure eight pattern. Yikes. Though I have to give the game credit: this isn’t a grid-based game and even though I slipped off the pattern, it didn’t care. It was probably checking waypoints around the trees, assuming the shitty hit detection wasn’t working in my favour for once. Still, the cave opened, and we stepped inside to find Amanda lurking by the entrance.
Amanda explained that yes, she was also looking for the medusa’s tears to cure her brother, who had become the parrot in Davias’ throne room. Unfortunately, she revealed that while Davias had allowed her to depetrify him, that privilege (or something to that effect, the details weren’t clear) was bought at the price of the Mana Pendant. Davias presumably still had the Pendant, but being a hero we’d hold off on that to help an old friend out before killing the yutz. Amanda joined us with her throwing knives and the ability to de-petrify with ASK. Petrification was odd in this game as it doesn’t turn you entirely to stone… just your feet, preventing you from moving but not attacking (you can, funnily enough, still use the Sonic Blade-like dash attack from the sword, because it just moves you back to your original position where you lock down once again!). Even without Amanda’s help, it clears up after maybe ten seconds.
Deep inside the dungeon, we found the Ice spell, which could be controlled remotely and allowed us to turn enemies into a snowman that we could push onto switches (or to just eliminate them without EXP and Gold, though we never bothered, because why would we give up EXP and Gold?). Unfortunately, snowmen were just as fragile as empty chests, or eggshells. And like empty chests (less so eggshells), snowmen could not be pulled, only pushed. That meant if we ever smashed and enemy, or got them in a position where we couldn’t get them to the switch, they counted as “dead” and would not respawn until we were far away (at least three rooms). This was at best inconvenient (often having to re-cross gaps you sometimes can’t with ease) if not sometimes unworkable, as you’ll see before we wrap up the game in full. Thankfully, pre-placed broken chests and pre-placed snowmen respawned, but the game wanted more and more dynamic snowmen from this point on.
Unfortunately, Kyle died in the dungeon near the end, thanks in a large part to the Shadow Zeroes, an enemy that continues to appear until nearly the end of the game. Unfortunately, because they’re from nearly the end of the game, at this point they outclass you by degrees. We had to restart. Eventually we caught up and fought the medusa, who like most 8-bit medusae threw snakes at us somehow. Also, Sumo sooooort of forgot to make her cry, and she laughed at us for that little oversight. But good news! Turned out Amanda was bitten by the medusa and so was going to turn into a medusa herself. What joy. (How she was bitten when she can’t take damage, but Sumo “wasn’t” bitten when he really, really was?) Having turned into a medusa partway, Amanda cried a tear and asked Sumo to take it and kill her, before she lost her “feelings” and turned into a monster. Kyle tried to talk to her another time, but remember that talking to people in FFA involves bumping into them. In doing so, we learned that Amanda was right: she was part-monster and we got contact damage off of her! So we did the humane thing, and throttled her from a distance with a heavy chain-whip, like the doctors use. And we won 2 EXP and Gold for the trouble! And now you know the exact value of true friendship.
It turns out this scene was censored in the North American edition, with even more changes occurring in later scenes that mentioned it. The most immediate change is the fact that Amanda and Sumo weren’t originally looking for medusa tears but medusa blood. This makes more sense in one way but less in another. It explains why they didn’t bother to get any tears, because that wasn’t what they were going back with. But why couldn’t they use the Medusa’s blood? They got plenty of blood from her, it has to be everywhere. …Right?
(In Sword of Mana, it seems the blood has to come from a living medusa, and the medusa was taunting them about that. As Fuji and Sumo are both present in that version, Fuji keeps Amanda alive only long enough to drain the blood, which is incredibly dark.)
We returned to Jadd and found Davias’ throne room empty save for the parrot. We used the tears on the parrot and restored Amanda’s brother, named Lester, who joined us to get revenge for his sister (another bit of censoring here, where Sumo sort of mumbles, coughs and otherwise glosses over the fact that he killed Amanda in the North American version). Lester was, unfortunately, a bard. That meant his ASK ability was to change the background music. Thrilling tactical options. He also had a bow, and had the ability to open a staircase into the rest of Davias’ mansion with his magic. We pressed in, walkthrough in hand, because the dungeon looped on itself a lot and it got irritating fast. Worse, actually: the dungeon closes the looping passageways behind you if you didn’t notice you’ve looped and walk more than a room away. Unfortunately, it’s hard to tell if you’ve looped because this game’s LoZ-style dungeon design rules and Game Boy limitations made the rooms pretty damn similar in more dungeons than it didn’t.
As for what was in the dungeon, the place was full of Black Mages that could do a hell of a lot of damage, and there wasn’t much we could do about it except stand in a direct line and pray our shields worked, which they usually didn’t. As an additional aggravation, there was a switch puzzle in the dungeon that glitched out and didn’t work during our first attempt. From all of this, you can see how this dungeon may have come off more than a little irritating. In hindsight, I’m not sure how we did as well with it as we did!
At the top of the tower, we found Davias, who turned into a Mindflayer, because squids are the traditional children of medusas. Mind Flayers have actually been popping up all over the series since their first appearance in Marsh Cave in FF1. We killed Davias with the chain whip after multiple losses, which were very sloppy of me. With his dying breaths, he… called us “darling” again (Sumo, is this just some giant revenge plot? Or a Scott Pilgrim reference?) and said that Garuda was flying the pendant to Glaive via Mt. Rocks. Mt. Rocks. I’m so angry at that name that I’m not even going shake my fist at Garuda showing up again. To help us on our way, Lester taught us the Mute spell, which would never help us ever. He also removed the poison gas that was blocking the way north with the help of his magic harp. Music finally returned to Jadd, just in time for us to never come back.