Sailor Moon: Another Story (Part 4)
We continue the series looking at the 1995 Super Nintendo RPG Sailor Moon: Another Story. Catch up on Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3, and join us as Sailor Mars visits Tibet, beats up a bunch of monks, and fancies a ghost. All in a day’s work for our fiery Senshi, no?
Chapter 2: In Search of the Stones -Sailor Mars-
Alternative Title: I See Hot Dead People
Sailor Mars arrives in the town of Lasa searching for Jadeite’s Hi Stone to save Tuxedo Kamen. You may instantly recognise the format of Mars’ solo quest from Mercury’s section… Crappy town, thin alley ways leading to an identical town… and a cave to the North where the story concludes. You can’t help but think this is completely lazy… but I can’t say that it’s not entertaining. The story, I mean. The gameplay can take a hike.
The first thing you notice is that Sailor Mars is on a holiday in a gross Tibetan slum, and is apparently deluded enough to call it a “city”. The towns in Switzerland at least had the excuse of being trapped under a glacier for 200 years.
There’s a pretty funny scene of Sailor Mars sensing evil energy (it’s kinda her thing, so it warmed my heart to see the reference). She can’t tell where it’s coming from, and potters around staring at stuff, even peering into the face of a bemused local. These tourists, I tell ya. Eventually she discovers the energy originates from the evil-looking scary-ass Buddhist temple (where else would it be?), and things get immediately a little suspect when she finds a large malevolent gem of some kind.
Wait what? This is a step above the Sailor Mercury stuff… evil gems? This sounds like Sunset Beach (no one got that reference did they?) Sailor Mars is cornered by… really nasty looking monks. This is all rather unexpected. Digging the danger! Feels like Temple of Doom…
And then… shock! Horror! Sailor Mars actually gets to fight Buddhist monks. These are the first bad guys who haven’t been, you know, Sailor Moon monsters. Or the Opposito Senshi I guess. So while burning these monks and their innocent dogs alive with Burning Mandala, I am a little surprised that I feel nothing but the bloodlust of battle. I must say thus far it feels… so much more powerful playing as Sailor Mars.
When I say “dogs”… I mean… look at them. I can’t describe them as anything else but dogs. But they appear to have no faces bar a misshapen mouth, they’re wearing Death Eater cloaks and their stingray-like tail comes out the middle of their fucking back. I mean, what the hell are these things? They’re called “Destroyer B”s, but to me they look like the Xenomorph created when a face-hugger jumped on a dog.
Maybe it’s intentional so you don’t feel as bad when you burn them alive, but I still felt a little guilty nevertheless.
So yeah, did Sailor Mars just kill some human-ass humans?
…if you say so? Rather surprisingly, Mars gets overwhelmed here. More monks appear and the EVIL GEM OF EVILNESS uses it’s evil powers to evilly bind her to the spot. It actually is kinda scary… Mars being cornered far away from home in this creepy temple by weirdly grey dudes in robes. But never fear, it seems every one of the Senshi are going to be rescued by a man. That was facaetious of course, but it seems so typical that you’re a goddamn flame-wielding superhero who has to be saved by a dude.
This guy continues to annoy me as much as Hans did in the Sailor Mercury chapter, but at least we have a little more characterisation from this guy. It’s a real shame that they only have the pictures in the dialogue from the anime characters – I actually think just seeing what he’s meant to look like would really amp up my ability to connect with him. Especially because Mars instantly thinks he bears a striking resemblance to Jadeite of all people…
Now, this is where the game takes a bunch of backstory from the manga that never made it into the show. We’ve seen in Sailor Moon Crystal, of course, that the Inner Senshi had relationships with the Great Four in their previous lives. Here, in Mars’ chapter, it’s all alluded to, but never made explicit, that she has some strange connection to Jadeite, and thus Faregg. As to why there was no hint of this in Mercury’s chapter? I suspect that’s do to with Zoisite’s sexuality in the anime.
There he was made gay, which would have meant suggesting that Zoisite, in this game at least, was bisexual. Which is no problem at all obviously, but for crappy game makers in mid 90s sexually-traditional Japan, it may have been a controversial issue they wished to sidestep.
A damn shame really, that could have led to some really interesting dissection.
Annoyingly, Mars passes out from the influence of McEvil Crystal and Faregg carries her to his bed in a neighbouring village. Just. Like. Last time. When Mars awakens you get to walk around this gross slum of identical people and houses, but there’s some artwork to be appreciated in the house interiors at least. Everyone’s suffering from this vague illness where all they talk about is soup, and I’m not even joking.
Eventually you stumble your way into the Elder’s place and discover that you have to go find the temple’s head priest to find out where Jadeite’s Hi Stone is. Naturally it’s in the exact same goddamn place we were before. Trek time.
That’s right, we get more condescending patriarchal bullshit where Mars is forced to ask for “help” to recognise what the hell the head priest looks like. As if that would be hard to figure out from a brief description? So yeah, we have to drag this asshole around to the other village.
Goddamn it, I’m Sailor Mars, I should be able to walk where I like and murder whom I like with magic fire and not be given guff about it, Faregg.
The battles outside the village are much like the ones in Switzerland – tough, then easy, then tough, then easy. It’s rinse and repeat stuff, but Mars’ techniques are a little more fun to watch. There’s also something… vaguely more unsettling about Mars’ section. I feel more threatened by the music and environment, maybe because the story started off with scary-ass monks.
Thankfully we’re now only dealing with monsters again, a nice mix from all three seasons.
You have to go through the whole rigmarole of training up again. Now seeing the downside of these individual stories, even if they develop the characters better… Anyway, after walking through this creepy and repetitive canyon, you find the village that looked like the second village that looked like the first village… I think that’s right. Anyway, there is some rather nice detailing in here, don’t you think? Perhaps Buddhist architecture is a little closer to home than 17th Century sub-glacier villages to the art team.
Inside the temple we started in, I’m definitely feeling that edge to the ambiance that wasn’t in the Mercury section. Something super creepy about sneaking into an empty village and finding… hey that statue looks hella conspicuous…
It’s the temple head priest, apparently. Faregg reads his mind, and instead of hearing “OHHH LORD HELP ME THE SHIT OUT OF THIS THING”, it’s a calm instruction to use the evil crystal thing to free him. Seems simple enough… too simple…
You know it just occurred to me that we’re in a holy temple trying to kill a monster that kinda looks like Brahma from the Hindu religion… Hrm… I’m sure it’s all coincidence. Either way, this fight isn’t so bad if you’ve trained, but I shan’t forget Nabu from the previous chapter – Mars is going to get some serious training soon. I mean, I have nothing better to do with my life than run around and spam Burning Mandala for 2 hours so why the fuck not?
I’m rather surprised and happy when, after Daisoujou from Sailor Moon R is defeated (BUUURN EVERYTHIIIING FIRE SOUUUUL), we’re met by Nergal, the next Opposito Senshi. Things are moving along a lot better than with Sailor Mercury.
Like Nabu, Nergal is a Mesopotamian deity, one of truth, war and the Sun, which is naturally why she’s the nemesis of Sailor Mars. Wikipedia also delightfilly informs me that “Nergal” actually translates to “dunghill cock”, so I shall be careful to call someone a Nergal next time they rush ahead of me in a queue.
I rather like that Nergal decides to beat the shit out of Faregg. Seriously, this lady is growing on me.
And now the addition I really really liked to this game: Phobos and Deimos appear to attack Nergal! We haven’t seen these guys in the anime in a long time, I think not since Rei’s introduction way back in season one. Rei has these pet crows (and Japanese crows are BIG and loud lemme tell ya) named after the two moons of Mars. Which is apt. Always liked the idea of seeing these more, gives Mars this connection that makes her even more aloof and haughty, much like the crows themselves.
These crows actually give Mars someone to bounce her emotions off later on, but for now they serve as my motivation: Nergal gets annoyed and makes them vanish (NOOOOO!) before kidnapping Faregg and telling Mars to come to… another temple for a final showdown? Can we not… just do it here?
So yeah, I don’t give a shit about this Faregg dude, I just want my goddamn crows back.
After the temple priest is revived, he helpfully explains to Sailor Mars that she’s in The Sixth Sense staring Bruce Willis, because that dirty Tibetan village she was carried to by Faregg is, in fact, full of dead people. I actually really liked this twist because I did not see it coming. Having only one solo Senshi chapter before this, I still thought I knew the format. And I totally did. But they still surprised me anyway.
It’s actually pretty creepy walking around the empty village and seeing it al dilapidated… even more so than it was before I mean. Even creepier is the music that plays when you enter an empty house, it’s the same music as the prologue in the pre-credits video when you load the game up. Really effective for some reason… this is just a crappy anime-tie-in game yet I’m actually getting the ambiance. Impressive.
Sailor Mars ventures north, finding tougher enemies and – yaaaay! Phobos! Looks like the birds are alright! Even better, Phobos will follow you through this maze of a cave. I really dug this. Not sure why I have such a connection with a fictitious 16-bit bird, but there you are.
Just in case you thought Mars’ days of murdering monks with fire was over, think again.
The final location is really rather cool. It’s the ancient ruins of a great temple. The monsters suddenly jack up in toughness, so you know it’s training time. The locations in Tibet are obvious more interesting and diverse than those in Switerland, which were all ice-caves. Very much enjoying Mars’ story more, especially this hook of going to rescue Faregg and get the Hi Stone from Nergal. It just moves the story along better than trying to find moss for some dying woman.
There’s a statue of Jadeite here… Mars is quite rude about him, not believing that these ancient people could have worshipped him as a god. I, too, and bamboozled. That guy is a tool.
The top of the tower sees Sailor Mars confronting Nergal, and maaaan this is another tough fight. Again, one of those *use all your items constantly for 25 minutes until she dies* fights. It went a little better having trained a bit more with Mars, but this was still an unbalanced and boring fight. I love the placement of flames around the tower, it really feels fitting.
After the fight, we get another suuuuper interesting scene of Nergal recalling her recruitment by Apsu. Nergal has a different motivation from Nabu, who feared the end of the Ginzuishou’s powers and what it meant for society. Nergal feels powerless in a world ruled over by an autocrat, and the powerful Sailor Senshi seem, again, like gods. Apsu entices her by promising to make her as powerful as the Sailor Senshi, if not more so… and tells her she will prove it by defeating the Sailor Senshi in battle.
So yeah, Nergal’s motivations are about war, where Nabu’s was about logistics. It’s more clever than I thought this game was going to be. They thought about these characters more than just as cardboard protagonists.
Nergal leaves with one last great evil line… they aren’t pushing boundaries here, but I continue to be delightfully entertained!
SO IT TURNS OUT FAREGG IS A GHOST. What are the chances. Also, now I didn’t quite get this, but as I understand it the protectors of Jadeite’s shrine chose Faregg to be, like, an avatar of their old deity, so they… “made” him look like Jadeite…? Like, with plastic surgery…? Very weird.
Sailor Mars seems genuinely upset by all this, and as he vanishes, we actually get some good pathos from Mars. It’s surprisingly interesting to watch, even if it is soap opera.
I love Mars’ line at the end here… it really gave her emotions more weight when played off against her loving crows, and made me really feel as though this character is feeling this stuff in this moment, more than a bunch of pixels really have the right to. Plus the thought of being comforted by a couple of crows gives me no end of delight.
Just to make sure the player realises how much effort went into this Tibetan temple over the shitty Switzerland location, we zoom up to find Luna the narrator once more look cute as heck on top of the tower, signifying the end of Sailor Mars’ chapter…
Sailor Jupiter visits Canada and starts messing around in a Romeo & Juliet situation. Things get a LOT more leafy, and things look nicer for it!