Sailor Moon: Another Story (Part 3)
We continue the series looking at the 1995 Super Nintendo RPG Sailor Moon: Another Story. Catch up on Part 1 and Part 2 and join us as the Inner Senshi jet-set around the world looking for stones of light to save Tuxedo Kamen’s life! First up is Sailor Mercury in Switzerland, which isn’t nearly as photogenic as you might expect…
Chapter 2: In Search of the Stones -Sailor Mercury-
Alternative Title: The True Enemy is Gross-Ass Old Men
So! You might remember from the end of chapter 1 that Tuxedo Kamen had been mortally wounded by the Opposito Senshi. With his body attacked by Darkness, the Senshi are told by the ghostly apparition of Kunzite that they must find the Stones of Light of the Great Four, scattered across the world, if they hope to save Mamoru’s life. As such, Ami, Rei, Makoto and Minako all fly off to separate corners of the world because this is likely the only chance they’ll ever get while working as a Sailor Senshi.
Chapter 2 is split up into four separate stories, following each of the Sailor Senshi in a foreign country. This is very, very cool. We never get to see the Senshi on their own in either the manga or the anime. It’s a refreshing attempt to reframe these characters we know and love in surprising situations. While these situations may not be the most thrilling (prepare to see a lot of empty corridors), the chance to develop these girls by themselves is really engaging.
And tough. These boss battles are uncompromising, even against your sorry part of one…
So! Sailor Mercury is in Switzerland. That’s not a bad gig. The place looks lovely, actually, this opening shot of Sailor Mercury atop a mountain with a lake below her is remarkably stunning, even in shitty 16 bit graphics. Unfortunately, this is the last time Sailor Mercury’s story is going to be attractive in any sense, because she’s attacked by Youma and sent off a cliff into a cave underneath the glacier… and she never leaves it. Well I guess glittering ice caves are easy to design?
Mercury (it’s never Ami in her story, she never de-transforms, which is another nice touch for some reason… makes her seem like a super agent of some kind…) is carried to a village beneath the ice by some dude named Hans with a severe Oedipus complex. Well I’m only guess that, he looks this is the case. He might just be caring for his ill and dying mother. Either way her really digs his mummy.
So, Hans tells Mercury when she wakes up that this village has been under the ice, out of contact from the rest of the world, for 200. You know how many questions this raises? I suspect this might be a detail that comes up again late in the game, but for now it’s just bizarre… It brings the aesthetic of this village close to that of Final Fantasy V or VI, that semi-medieval feeling. This would not be the only thing Another Story cribs off those games, of course.
I actually thought the interior of the cabin was rather lovely in looks. It felt authentic. Someone obviously paid a lot of attention to the design of this thing.
Sadly this level of design does not transfer when you step outside to find yourself in a homogeneous ice cave. It’s just white and blue sparkles. Might be nice for a section, but to have two identical villages, winding boring passages between them and two caves all looking exactly the same there is definitely a flaw there.
We find out that, despite being a goddamn super hero, Mercury is not allowed to leave the village because of all the monsters until the guy who saved you, Hans, SAYS it’s ok.
Goddamn patriarchy… only lets Sailor Mercury leave his horrid hell hole of a village when she proves useful to him… grr…
Turns out, his mother is dying, and he desperately needs one Doctor Schwartz (these writers are doing wonders with Swiss names…) to help is mother. Despite Mercury being on a mission to save Tuxedo Kamen’s life, decides this is more important.
I think I may be a psychopath, because I really wouldn’t bother with all this running around.
Schwatz is apparently in the next village over, which means navigating horrid thin identical corridors of ice and random encounters every 8 steps. That’s horrendous. Lucky the battles don’t last too long, even with lonely weakling Mercury. No offence, you’re just level 4.
You might recognise Blizzardo from a rather good episode from the first season there. The battles here are actually well balanced in terms of length and difficulty. The enemies hit hard enough to require healing every so often, and give decent exp.
That will change… but for now we arrive at Andeng village which is, naturally, identical to Kainess village. We discover that Schwartz isn’t even in his stupid clinic, he’s hanging out in some cave up North.
Uhnn… should’ve let Mrs Hans bite it…
Speaking of which, all these people are rather concerning. I like that they all have dialogue, but the writers appear to have nothing of note to say whatsoever. It’s like being in an old person’s home
Ok! So I head North. After a while spamming Mercury Aqua Mirage, I’ve levelled up a bit. I’m feeling pretty confident about myself. OH HOW FOOLISH.
The cave entrance I come across is filled with horrific monster who can kill me in 3 hits at full health! And my attacks barely do anything! What the hell?
At the first sign that I’m severely under-levelled, I presume that I’m in the wrong place. This is obviously designed to ward you off the wrong path. There must be another cave around here, right?
Oh! There is! This must be an area that’ll level you up so you don’t get your ass kicked by those horrible star Daimohns.
WRONG. Same tough enemies. I decided to stick with me second decision. This second save must lead to SOMETHING, right? I’m pretty lucky in finding an enemy by itself. Hitting hard and healing every other round with nigiri I manage to kill it, gaining a level, and beginning to hold my own against these jerk monsters.
Of course this long horrible cave ends in a dead end. FUUUUUU…
Back to the first save after numerous long battles and I finally find this jerk Schwartz.
Finally, it looks as though Sailor Mercury’s travails are over. This kindly old man will surely… wait what?
Well this is disturbing beyond all comprehension. The dirty old man trope is rather common in anime, of course, but actually –being– Sailor Mercury in this scene brings this horrid harassment home.
Yeah it’s creepy. It’s amusing seeing Sailor Mercury completely disgusted by this gross old man, but still…
What I am enjoying at this point in Sailor Mercury’s story is Mercury herself. She’s interesting to play. Her responses and decisions are precisely what I would expect from her. In some cases, she’s more confident than Ami would be, but thinking back to how Sailor Mercury would act they have it spot on.
There’s not enough to sick your teeth into character-wise, but come on, this could have been a total car crash in writing, and as it is it’s genuinely interesting.
So, Schwartz follows me back to Kainess village (shudder) and attends to Hans’ mother. She’s going to be all ok, right? I don’t have to get some other item that will magically cure her and-oh shit she needs moss.
Moss. Life-giving moss. Fan-fucking-tastic.
And Hans is still giving me shit about going by myself! Mercury, patient as she is, has to stroke his ego and ask if they can go together, just to make him feel better about being completely shite.
I’m being overly mean for comic effect, of course. He’s fine. He’s… bland. Mercury seems to have a small thing for him, despite claiming to Schwartz that Urawa was her boyfriend. I liked that slip quite a bit actually.
SO. Where’s the moss? Right behind the place where I found Schwartz. Excellent level design guys, not annoying at all.
After the 68th Blizzardo I murder, I silently pray that the next will have Schwartz’s stupid old face. Seriously guys, there’s a lot of empty battles here, and the rate of exp gain has dropped right off. Mercury Aqua Mirage and Shine Aqua Illusion are powerful enough to wipe enemy parties in one hit 90% of the time.
So battles are boring again. And I’ve gotten confident about my level.
The levels of coincidence shoot through the roof here, even more so than an average episode of Sailor Moon. Mercury, looking for Zoicite’s Light Stone, has ended up hunting for moss, for fucking moss, and when they come across it, grabbing it magically reveals a secret chamber.
I know the limitations of the design and hardware and so forth, but this was pretty eye-rolling.
In the stone’s chamber, a pit hole immediately opens up and swallows the stupid thing. Fantastic. I might roll my eyes further, but I have a sneaking suspicion that the stone didn’t fall into another cave by accident.
Rather interestingly, you’re actually given a choice here. Mercury can either decide to just jump straight in the hole, or, you know, show human compassion and take Hans back to his dying mother.
Rather stupidly, I didn’t save the game state before reaching this point, so I have no idea what the alternative option is, but, alas, I chose the option of what I thought Sailor Mercury would actually do rather than what was convenient to me…
…so I walked Baby Hans back to his stupid dying mother killing 10,000 Youma on the way, then walked all the way to that cave with the dead end (we know know why it’s there I suppose), and finally found what I was looking for.
And something else, too.
While declining to give her name, this is Nabu, the Opposito Senshi version of Mercury. She does look like a rather awesome goth version of Mercury, and is calculating as Mercury is. I like this a lot actually. We see a whole heap of “Shadow Senshi” in the anime and the manga, from the Great Four to the Phantom Sisters, from the Witches 5 to the Amazoness Quartet. The Opposito Senshi, rather remarkably, work the best for me in sheer twisted parody of our Senshi.
Nabu, you may be interested to know, is an ancient Mesopotamian god. The Babylonians saw Nabu as the god of Wisdom and he was associated with the planet Mercury… hence her being the nemesis of Sailor Mercury. Clever, isn’t it? I like this a lot too, both in concept and execution.
What’s not so great is this boss battle, which for all intents and purposes, is the first true boss of the game.
The first round of Nabu isn’t hard… it’s just incredibly long. Mercury and Nabu exchange pitiful damage against each other, and Nabu has an insane amount of HP when you standard attack does 4-8 damage. If you don’t miss.
At this point I’m not sure if I’m under-levelled. I never ran from a fight, but didn’t particularly grind much because I could defeat the monsters so easily.
It would have gone a lot faster if it weren’t for the EP system. You have only enough energy to fire off 3 Shine Aqua Illusions before you’re left with the standard attack, and energy-replenishing items cost a heap, so it’s just a battle of attrition.
Not great balancing, but I got through it. Phew!
We get a fantastic scene of how Nabu came to be in Hell Destiny. This is reeeeally interesting. She was discontent with society. She’s in the underclass. I can totally get on board with this.
Neo Queen Serenity’s utopia isn’t without flaw. It seems too perfect, which can breed discontentment, as it has done here. Nabu is reeling off some Russell Brand anti-establishment bull about the Silver Crystal, the Ginzuishou, not being unlimited. I get the feeling that she doesn’t like a self-appointed autocracy, and who would?
It was a great idea to show glimpses of the streets of Crystal Tokyo in its prime, something we’ve never seen before. Now, they look kinda rubbish considering this is in the 30th Century, I mean it’s just a crappy 1990s street covered in diamonds (actually that sounds awesome), but it’s enough. This is stuff I always wondered about watching Sailor Moon R, the society, the people.
You might notice that her friend Nabu is chatting away to is silent here. This is Nabu’s memory after all. I like that she has no idea what Nabu is talking about, not can she hear that someone hears Nabu’s talk and begins to respond…
Apsu really seems about 10 times scarier than she did in Chapter 1. She can monitor thoughts of dissent and dissatisfaction from afar, manipulating the malcontent into serving her, not with threats or promises of riches, but play playing upon their drive to see change in a world they see as fundamentally corrupt.
They’re like Young Republicans, is what I’m saying.
Very satisfied with all this. Hang on, Nabu what are you-
That WASN’T THE REAL BOSS FIGHT? There’s a SECOND ONE? What the hell, the first took 10 minutes of spamming attack…
Nabu must have taken a hit of PCP because she hits about 3-4 times harder than she did before, not to mention she now has a couple of new attacks, including a toxic fart cloud that poisons poor Mercury.
If I thought I was under-levelled before I’m POSITIVE now. Mercury’s HP is melting like butter, so I need to recover every 3 hits or so. More than that, I have to stop to cure poison, and Nabu’s evasion has shot up, meaning I only hit about 70% of the time.
UGH. I actually had to reload 3 or 4 times (I wasn’t going to train, Jesus), and resorted to a cycle of Shine Aqua Illusions, health items, poison cure, EP replenishment items.
That’s right, I caved and used up all my expensive items just to finish of Nabu. Not pleased. I felt this was really unbalanced in comparison to the surrounding enemies. Not to mention I had about 2 choices of attacks. It wasn’t just a bad fight – it was boringly bad.
Still, after 20 minutes of this junk I defeated her, and it felt pretty good. I like playing as Sailor Mercury, I’ll miss just seeing her alone.
The end of Sailor Mercury’s arc sees her rushing back to Han’s house, watching as Schwartz administers some kind of mossy tincture to the woman, who instantly changes palette from greyish to normal. Bit schlocky, yes.
I can’t help think this would all have been avoid if the goddamn stone hadn’t been hanging out in M. Night Schyamalan’s The Village. Oh, total spoilers for The Village there, but I’m sure you don’t care.
Mercury seems to want to avoid hanging around too much… there’s the suggestion that she’s attracted to Hans in some way? Or just super grateful he dragger her back to his house when she was unconscious? Or is it Nightingale Syndrome with the sick mother? I don’t really get this, Hans is such a nothing character, but the writers realised they needed to give some kind of emotional arc to Mercury here.
And I think this is better than the alternative of simply finding the stone and returning home. Her hesitancy to leave, and acknowledgement of her duty, rounds her character out a bit and makes this… well, not satisfying, but engaging at the very least.
I vow to train like crazy before the final boss in the next section. Sailor Mars is gonna kick ass!
*hurriedly Googles for Gameshark codes*
Sailor Mars gets a tan in Turkey, finds out she used to date a creepy psycho in her past life.