Fujikawa Q Editorial Dept.
Following the anniversary of UNDERTALE and DELTARUNE Chapter 2, creator Toby Fox has launched the column “Toby Fox’s Hideout”. In a joint effort between Weekly Famitsu and Famitsu.com, this is a monthly column written by Toby with official translation by 8-4. This time we bring you our second installment.
...Okay, before we continue, let me apologize; I have a rather important announcement to make (it’s short and shouldn't take long). Toby has asked me to include in this column a few questions for you, the readers, and so I have prepared a small inquiry at the end of the article. If you have a few minutes to spare, please write in if you’d like to submit an answer.
We’ll be having Toby respond directly to some of the responses we receive and publish them here in The Corner at a later date, so feel free to send some in!Toby Fox. You may know him for his work, UNDERTALE. Lives in the United States. He is currently developing his latest work, DELTARUNE. He has also provided music for Pokémon Sword and Shield and Super Smash Bros.
Issue No. 2 - The American “Secret of Mana 2”, “Secret of Evermore”
Ever since before I was even able to read or write, I have always loved RPGs from Japan. While other American kids would snack on PB&Js, I was devouring JRPGs like MOTHER 2 and Final Fantasy VI for sustenance. This eventually gave me bone and muscle atrophy and in return, an obsession with awesome spell animations. But as a child who relied on JRPGs for my source of protein, there was one issue that troubled me.
The majority of RPGs made in Japan had never been released in the United States. At that time, the market for RPGs in the U.S. was not yet as large as it is today. On the SNES, the entire SaGa series, Live A Live, Dragon Quest IV, V, VI...and plenty of other games had not been published abroad.
Even Final Fantasy V didn’t have an international release!
But...there was also one RPG at the time, developed by Square for the SNES, that was never released “in Japan”. The company responsible for its development was Square’s U.S. branch, SquareSoft, based in Redmond, Washington. (Incidentally, the headquarters of Nintendo’s U.S. branch, Nintendo of America, is in Redmond as well.) SquareSoft was primarily concerned with publishing games for an American market, such as the international version of Breath of Fire for the SNES (developed by Capcom).
For some reason, Ryu’s design was changed to look like some sort of barbarian on the localized cover. Did they think American kids wouldn’t buy unless the main character looked like Arnold Schwarzenegger...? Anyways, SquareSoft developed an RPG on their own only once. They were instructed to develop a game that was based on Secret of Mana 2 (known in Japan as Seiken Densetsu 2). And thus...
Secret of Evermore was born.
The battle system in this game is almost identical to Secret of Mana’s. The weapons- swords, spears, and axes- are used the same way. Every weapon allows you to have a charge and attack when you level it up. The game adopts pie menus, wherein most of the options are the same as well. But that is where their similarities end.
First of all, the setting is much different. The game’s protagonist is a brash, American boy. Often quoting fictitious B-movies as a catchphrase and accompanied by his canine sidekick, he sports an orange jacket with blue jeans like a 16-bit Marty McFly.
The game opens with our young hero coming out of one of his favorite low budget movies, and losing his way in an abandoned laboratory while chasing after his dog. Inside, they come across a mysterious apparatus and are transported into another world called “Evermore”, a version of Earth where various time periods exist simultaneously. They make their way through prehistoric marshes where dinosaurs roam, battle with the Minotaur in the Bronze Age, are taken prisoner in a medieval castle, and finally, launch into outer space.
Basically, as you progress through these different areas, you come across others who have been stranded on Evermore and join forces with them to search for a way back home. In addition to the setting of ancient Earth, the mechanic of “magic” has been replaced with “alchemy”. Instead of having MP, the player must collect various ingredients, such as oil, water, and clay in order to cast alchemy formulas. The ingredients can be purchased, but can also be obtained from hidden spots, which are all over the place.
Sound like a pain?
Thanks to your canine companion, you can actually gather things with surprisingly little trouble. With a long-press of the R button, your dog will use his snout to sniff out any nearby ingredients. That’s right- in this game, the only companion on your journey is your dog. While your dog can’t use any magic or weapons, he is still extremely strong. And each time you arrive in a new time period, your dog’s appearance transforms. In the first area you visit, the prehistoric jungle, he becomes a large and fearsome wolf. In the next, an elegant greyhound.
Among games featuring a dog as a player character, “Secret of Evermore” was pretty groundbreaking at the time. The only other work I can think of that could rival it is “Metal Max 2”. (Pochi carrying the bazookas on his back just looks cooler.)
What I find to be the game’s high point is its atmosphere- particularly its fantastic opening. The buzzing of insects and strange bird calls seem to come from all around you. You truly get the impression of being a lost child out in the prehistoric jungle. After some time, you reach a village, where the soundtrack picks up with a sort of tribal and simple sound. For some reason, you get this feeling of safety here. Inside the village, you’re probably alright...but once you step outside, you never know what might be lurking near... The entire audio arrangement attains this feeling.
The soundtrack was composed by Jeremy Soule, only 19 at the time, and was what set it apart from other SNES games. Synthesized strings, the use of bells, choirs, deep drums, sound effects, sustained pedal points that reverberate in the back... These elements all create a dark atmosphere, stirring up various emotions and drawing the player deep into the world of the game. Side note, Soule also went on to work on the soundtrack for the “Elder Scrolls” series, including Skyrim.
(Much of the music that appears in DELTARUNE Chapter 1 and Chapter 2 was also influenced by the Secret of Evermore soundtrack.)
Nevertheless, there are still a few low points. The alchemy and weapons in the game use the same level-up system “Secret of Mana 2” does, but the pace of it is slow to death. In addition, the need to go and collect ingredients for the alchemy formulas makes one want to use their formulas very sparingly. There are also a number of bugs, the game’s collision detection is tricky, and the way the boss battles play are troublesome. A majority of the levels are maze-like and confusing, and most importantly, the plot doesn’t feel well thought out. And yet, I consider it worth playing for the early game’s prehistoric area. The feeling of wandering aimlessly in a world of peril, desperately trying to escape!
Plus, if you manage to reach the game’s ending, your canine companion turns into an unstoppable toaster. It’s worth playing for that, right?
While “Secret of Evermore” has its fans, it was criticized quite a bit at the time of its release. This was not just in part to its game design, but also because of some certain speculation going around. Seiken Densetsu 3 had received no English edition, and some Square enthusiasts blamed this on the release of “Secret of Evermore”. According to the official announcement from Square, the two were completely unrelated… It was only recently that the English version of Seiken Densetsu 3 was released on the Nintendo Switch as “Trials of Mana”.
I just can’t believe I had to wait this long to hear “Nuclear Fusion”!
And that is why I wanted to talk about “Secret of Evermore” today. It has its flaws, but no other SNES games have the atmosphere it does. So if you ever find yourself lost in an abandoned lab and sent back 30 years, go and pick up a copy from the rental store, along with a VHS of “Back To The Future”!
(...Wait, I forgot. There aren’t any game rental places in Japan because it’s illegal, right? I guess that’s a long story for another time...)
By the way, if you’re reading this Square Enix, I’m available. I can make Secret of Inumore anytime! It’s easy- just change the main character, a boy, to a second dog. Don’t worry, I’m sure it’ll sell… 1 copy. I’ll buy it.
Now, I have a question for the readers! Are there any games from abroad that you wish would be released in Japanese? What games do you remember waiting forever for their Japanese edition?
I look forward to seeing all your answers!
~“The American Secret of Mana 2, Secret of Evermore” - END~
[T/N: The following is from the editor regarding a submission form Famitsu had up, which has since been closed.]
Even though I’m the editor of a game magazine, I (the person in charge) had never even heard of Secret of Evermore before. I guess there really are still games that just have no international release. So, Toby would like to ask all our readers out there, “Are there any games from abroad that you wish would be released in Japanese? What games do you remember waiting forever for their Japanese edition?” If you have an idea for an answer, please use the submission form below to submit your response to Toby. Any of you who’ve ever been dying to see a Japanese release of a game, come and tell Toby all about it.
Submission period: Monday 10/31 at 6 PM - Monday 11/6 at 11:59 PM.
Toby will be responding personally to some of your submissions. In the next Dec. 15th issue (on sale Dec. 1st), we plan to publish everything (this may end up changing). Until then, we look forward to your answers!