By Tomm Guycot | June 1, 2008
At long last, here's the synopsis of how Mythri played out... minus a few juicy details, which I'm holding back just in case I need them. You know. Later.
GAIA: The main setting for Mythri is the planet Gaia, which orbits another world called Luna. Gaia is similar to Earth, with oceans, land, plants, etc. It was based on the concept that the "wonders of the world" some of the more imaginative among us attribute to aliens actually were created by aliens. Thus, you find features such as pyramids, Stonehenge, Moai heads, etc.
Two forces permeate this world: Love and Magic. A person can only hold one force in their hearts. At the beginning of time, a man and woman shared a love so pure, that when they died, their spirits united in a gem called Mythri, which is said to be the source of all Love. To balance Magic with this power, the world’s wizards created Arcana: Another gem, and the source of Magic. War broke out between Gaia and Luna over control of these two gems, and their eventual locations were lost to time and legend. Luna cut off contact with Gaia, ending the conflict. Time has passed on Gaia and stories of Mythri, Arcana and Luna are considered little but legend.
Mythri follows the story of Kageru, a young farmer who suffers from severe depression. Because of his negative outlook, his actions are largely decided by the people he meets and the events that transpire around him. (If it sounds trite, please bear in mind that in 1998 this hadn’t yet been done to death.) Unfortunately, Kageru's mercurial nature makes it hard to discuss him without first introducing the characters with whom he interacts.
ABEL: Abel is your typical carefree adventurer -- think Final Fantasy VII's Zack Fair. The son of an innkeeper, he learned about the outside world from travelers and decided to set out on his own. He’s good enough with a sword to get by, though that doesn’t do much to assuage his financial situation. Broke and weary, he happens upon Kageru’s farm one night and convinces the reluctant farmer to join his adventure. What do these two have in common? A strange feeling of emptiness, like something missing in their lives. To this end they sign up as runners for the Kokan trade organization, which results in a series of wacky quests. We wanted the player to ease into the darker tone of the game, so they wouldn’t be immediately turned off, and Abel was the perfect companion for them. His cheery outlook is the perfect contrast for Kageru’s less than cheery perspective. Abel’s influence is a powerful force throughout the beginning of the journey.
SLADE: If Abel is the first positive influence in Kageru’s life, Slade is the worst negative one. The tough guy of the rebels, Slade attacks Abel and Kageru in the course of one of their missions. Slade was born to a single mother with no way to support him, so he grew up more or less by his own devices. He’s been around the block, and that experience comes in handy as the party travels across Gaia. Slade is based around a concept I find interesting: When you’re a child, bullies have an incredible amount of power. Now, as adults in the real world we know that the bullies of our past probably had bad home lives, or felt they couldn’t succeed in school, or whatever. We can humanize them once we understand the reality of the situation. However, for the kid being picked on, a bully is a scary, powerful person who doesn’t have to answer to anybody. Slade is designed to be this vision of “the bully” -- from Kageru’s perspective, and throughout the game he torments the farmer for a variety of reasons.
CORRYN: Leader of the rebels, Corryn keeps a cool head and tries to make the best decisions in every situation. She is an artist, and her motivation for stopping the war is that it’s stripping the world of culture and replacing it with cold, utilitarian machinery. So okay, it's not the best motivation for a rebellion -- what'd you expect from an 18-year-old Orange County kid? I did my best. She serves as the unofficial mother of the group, though midway through the journey the pressure of leading becomes too much and she passes leadership to Slade. Corryn’s childhood was a happy one, in the artist-centric town of Sokoku. When her father conceded to some unnamed shady deal with the government at the expense of his own art, she took the idealistic road and ran away from home, where she met Slade. When she returned home later, her father was nowhere to be found.
ANGEL: The last key member of the rebels Kageru meets is Angel, a young girl who fled the magic academy when her spells couldn’t seem to come out right. She’s ashamed of this, and doesn’t want her wealthy parents to find out. Angel's was quite the high-class upbringing, so she finds journeying with rebels to be an exciting and romantic change of pace. She takes to Kageru quickly and attempts to coax him out of his shell. At the same time, it seems she enjoys flirting with Slade, and he’s glad to flirt back -- if only to watch Kageru’s reaction. Her gentle nature contrasts Slade’s treatment of Kageru, though a series of events sends Angel into depression as she realizes her stable family wasn't quite as rock-solid as she had always believed. She's also troubled by her feelings for Kageru, since she isn't supposed to feel Love -- which might be to blame for her inability to consistently control spells. (This is probably the most annoying gameplay conceit I’ve ever come up with. I promise not to do it again). With her romantic illusions shattered, Angel begins to find it difficult to relate to those around her.
KAGERU: A year after I drafted my first concept for Mythri, featuring the depressed youth vandalizing his kingdom’s capital, a number of influences had entered my sphere. Well to be fair, Cloud Strife came first and was a direct inspiration. However, a year later I had also discovered Shinji Ikari of Evangelion?. Then, giving form to that dynamic duo, came Kamui of X. Along with a design to fit these inspirations, Carol offered up a name: Kageru. (For reasons that should be obvious for the Japanese-literate in the audience.) Kageru was designed to be a real downer; I wanted players to experience the dissonance of playing a character they didn’t particularly like. My challenge as the storyteller, then, would be to develop him in a way they could grow to like him and look back at the end of the game to realize their opinion of him (as well as that of the other characters) had completely changed.
When the player meets Kageru, he’s reciting a depressing haiku.
But before he can start up his very own emo band, Abel swings by and gets him involved on a journey of self-discovery. Kageru provides a negative voice to counteract Abel’s cheerful attitude (which admittedly leads the pair headlong in more than a few RPG clichés). Kageru’s cynicism about saving a child trapped in a mine is meant to mirror the player’s, and endear an unlikable protagonist to the masses. After the rebel attack, (in which Abel dies), Kageru finds himself without friends in a hostile environment, one that persists when the party begins traveling the world. Kageru had a rough time growing up; his father routinely beat him and his mother eventually died, leaving Kageru alone without comfort. As the boy grew up, he took on farm duties himself, leaving his father little to do but drink and lash out. Eventually the old man disappeared. Kageru carries these scars with him on the quest, which makes Slade’s abuse difficult to take but hard to counteract.
Kageru tries to express his growing feelings for Angel, but like any confused young man, assumes he’s failing and keeps digging himself into a hole. Slade eventually finds a way to trigger a manic episode, and Kageru acts out violently for a time, keeping pace with Slade on the jerk-o-meter. This only exacerbates Angel’s growing depression, which makes things rough when Kageru snaps out of it and realizes what a tool he’s been. As he learns about his fellow party members, Kageru begins to learn more about himself. Corryn and Angel’s encouragement slowly takes root, and Kageru feels more comfortable taking a leader-type role. Unfortunately this doesn’t amuse Slade, the de-facto leader at the time, and the rivalry between the two only deepens.
THE EAST: The game begins at Kageru’s farm, which is in The East. The cities of the East are simple RPG type locations, nothing too fancy or high tech. Most people are farmers or traders, trying their best to earn a living in a bad situation. The capital of the East is Atlantis, a wonderful city across the ocean. The first town Kageru and Abel come across is Terrafirm, a mining community (thus allowing a young child named Jimmy to wander into the mine, where Kageru and Abel must rescue him from a monster). The Kokan trading company that hires the pair is in Outpost, and from there they are dispatched to stop the rebels (who, as mentioned, capture Kageru). Military forces do destroy the rebel base, though, and after a daring escape, the party proceeds south to Oasis: a desert town guarded by a huge Pyramid (in this world, the Pyramid is a metallic, technological military base). When the party returns to the East later on, they also pass through Corryn’s hometown in the north and Higai, where Angel’s parents govern. They also meet an old mechanic named Noah who builds them an airship.
THE DOPPLE GANG: Every Japanese-style RPG needs a wacky group of faux-antagonists who serve more as comedy relief than anything else: the Turks, Ultros, and... well, one look at the Dopple Gang’s slogan should give you an idea who else:
Remon: "Our mission on this world is clear..."
Remon, Java, Ichigo, and Peach's gang is a quartet of crazy unemployed adventurers who appear time and time again to pester the party. Kageru and Abel encounter them early on, but they continue to show up throughout the game. As the name would suggest, they’re able to assume the appearance of anyone they meet (in fact, Java wears a trenchcoat he acquired upon his first appearance -- when he copied Abel).
Remon is the spiky-haired, hot-tempered leader of the gang. Ichigo is Remon's girlfriend and also obviously annoyed by everything he says or does. Java, the cool-headed one, wonders why they're at odds with the party in the first place, and Peach serves the "kawaii!!!" role, similar to Sasami from Tenchi Muyo. And, as you’ve probably noticed, the Dopple Gang uses the “food based” naming scheme of Ozzie’s troupe in the Japanese version of Chrono Trigger?.
ANUBIS: The party meets another recurring character in the Pyramid: Anubis. The Angel of Death, Anubis appeared on Gaia for reasons which slowly become clear. It seems a great purge is coming, which Anubis has felt. Being somewhat preoccupied by death, he decided to come watch it unfold. He believes the party is central to this event, though he’s skeptical, considering his prophesies told him a weak farmer and female magic user would be the ones responsible. Naturally, he must test the party in battle. On top of that, he also calls each member by a cute foreshadowy name. Anubis has a number of unfair battle abilities, including one where he resurrects any dead characters just to kill them immediately.
THE WEST: The party narrowly escapes Anubis (and a legion of soldiers) in the Pyramid by falling through a teleport which takes them to... The West. Naturally, the West is the rival nation at war with the East, however, this half of the world is much more advanced militarily, and the party passes through several ports and a military base on their trek north to find a way home. Along the way they liberate a town from marauding pirates...or not. Captain Roberts offers Kageru a place on his crew, and if the player accepts, he gets a playable bonus ending where the pirates are besieged, Roberts dies, and Kageru becomes the new captain of the Pirates of Dread. Work out that allusion on your own. This was the first time (in my gaming experience) choosing “yes” to the dreaded “Join me!” option actually resulted in something interesting rather than a short penalty or game over.
Along the way, the party runs into the same guy who ran the trading company in the East. This time he’s the man in charge of ADVendor (sigh... sorry), a Western trading company. Mighty suspicious. The party corners him in Niju Towers -- a structure which allows ships to pass through a narrow canal -- before he’s able to escape. Following some leads, the party learns that the capital city of the West is... Atlantis. Curious about that particular development, the party charters a ship back to the East.
ATLANTIS: Located in the center of the ocean, the mystical city of Atlantis rules over all of Gaia. The aesthetic for the city was "magical," which means a lot of shiny things I guess (look at our screenshots for a cameo by the Pillar of the Sky from Final Fantasy Legend II?). Most of Atlantis is a utopia, completely oblivious to the world outside its walls. In true Midgar fashion, there is also a slums area where the party visits Club XK. They sneak inside the city by teleporting from Babel (a tower that became a repository for all of man’s advancements) into the underbelly of the city. They eventually raid the palace in an attempt to speak with the King, hopefully convincing him to stop the war. The war which, it turns out, Atlantis perpetuated so that both sides of the world would stay in Patriot Act mode, with Atlantis reaping the profits of a war economy (years before ‘war economy’ entered the Metal Gear lexicon, even!). The mastermind behind this all was, of course, the King. He was never given a name for whatever reason; we simply referred to him internally as “Atlantis King.”
The party discovers a number of things as they stealth through the palace, seeking out the throne room for an impromptu audience. One, it soon becomes apparent Anubis followed them to Atlantis and is in pursuit. Two, the Kokan/ADVendor guy is actually the king’s right-hand servant. And three, Atlantis King is in possession of Arcana, which grants him control over all the world’s Magic. How could the party hope to defeat such power? Well, the party finds their way to the crystal chamber before Atlantis King ever shows up, and as they gaze into Arcana’s facets, a mysterious woman named Lilith appears, says a bunch of things implying the party is the reason she was able to reach Atlantis, and teleports away —- Arcana in tow. This development allows the party to fight a weakened (but utterly furious) Atlantis King, who is still capable of destroying them. Fortunately, before he can do so, Anubis busts in and the two heavies duke it out while the party escapes through a teleport... to parts unknown.
PARTS UNKNOWN: In a true Japanese RPG twist, the party finds themselves in an abandoned space station (incidentally hovering just outside the Gravity Well which results from the two planets’ joint orbit). Inside, they hear a strange voice and collapse as the mysterious character we ended up calling Dream (not Yume? Really? We must have been slipping) treats them to a flashback. While Corryn gets a rather pedestrian scene about running away from home and returning to find her father gone, the rest of the party shares a vision that is... notably different.
It seems some twenty-odd years ago on Luna, a bored farmer named Kageru joined up with Abel and Angel to bust their pal Slade out of the Palace (where he was imprisoned when they all started a student rebellion for kicks). A long series of events land them all in jail, except for Princess (!?) Angel. When she disobeys her father's wishes again, he invokes the rite of "soul banishment." This is a process which sends a person's soul to Gaia to start life over from the very beginning, explaining why those four all feel a common emptiness inside.
Yes, I have seen Please Save my Earth. No, it wasn’t until after I’d written Mythri.
(Worth noting -- while the character names could be changed by the player at the start of the game, I wasn’t sure if I wanted to hard-code them in the flashback or use the player-chosen names instead. I went back and forth on this many times.)
Needless to say, the group doesn’t take this revelation so well (except for Kageru, who is thrilled he used to be quite the charmer as far as Princess Angel was concerned). They travel through the Station and teleport into a swamp on Luna. Luna is much different from Gaia (it is, in fact, that crystalline, perpetual-night fantasy world that started this whole mess), so the swamp is much less a noxious bog than it is a multi-colored jungle with crystals strewn about. They set up camp, and a depressed Angel invites Kageru on a midnight walk where she finally gives in and asks him to comfort her -- if only for a night. They make their way through a destroyed village to the Palace, where an angry mob is making demands of the Prince.
ROAN: Roan is the Prince of Luna, which makes him the King’s son and, technically, Angel’s brother. He’s also the final member to join the party. His father’s decision to banish his own daughter didn’t fly so well with the citizens, and the silly little student rebellion became an actual band of freedom fighters who have left Roan’s authority in shambles. He’s a noble young man who strives to do what’s right -- he traveled incognito when he was younger to get a true feeling for the plight of his people. He also has to contend with Lilith’s dark forces, which rule a blackened region of Luna and threaten his people’s very lives. However, with those people now lauding the rebellion as heroes and expecting Angel to appear according to ancient prophecy, Roan isn’t commanding very much respect. Yes, I realize I created a plot about a weak ruler fighting a hopeless war without support from his people after his father made controversial decisions. Despite chronology making a political statement impossible (written in ’99!) what I was trying to show was the duality between Gaia and Luna. On one planet a respected government fought an unjust war, while on the other, a well-intentioned ruler couldn’t fight a necessary one because his people didn’t trust him. Which, I suppose, are still two sides worth exploring based on your views of modern day American politics... Does this make me a creative visionary or talent-wasting pre-cog?
After Angel reveals herself to the angry mob in an effort to shut them up, Roan ushers the party deep inside the palace. It seems the King is still alive, but is on his death bed and wants desperately to see the daughter he banished. While father and daughter reconnect, Roan takes the others (at Slade’s request) to a hidden chamber where Mythri is being kept. No sooner does the party see the titular crystal than Lilith reappears to steal it. Slade walks over to stand by her side, revealing he’s been working for her this entire time. Kageru tries to do something about it, Slade kicks his ass, the villains teleport away, and the party is left behind, betrayed.
LILITH: Lilith is the main villain of Mythri. Though the summary makes her sound like a Zeromus-style final-act villain, her presence has been hinted at throughout the game. Slade periodically hears a voice the player is lead to believe is Anubis, but is in fact Lilith making sure he hasn’t strayed from his mission to guide the party. She’s also appeared to Angel a few times, tempting the young girl with promises of power, control, and freedom. Lilith’s goal is to destroy Mythri. Not, as you would expect, to rule unopposed with Arcana, but because she was the third person in the love triangle that created Mythri before time immemorial. She’s intensely jealous of the “two lovers,” and wishes to destroy them. Lilith encountered Slade when he was a child, after slaughtering his mother. She raised the boy herself, and they eventually become lovers. Of course, Slade fell under the disillusioned belief that Lilith felt Love for him and continued to do her bidding in hopes of ruling the world together. However, as becomes readily apparent, Lilith sees him as little more than a puppet. In the final battle (still to come!) I wanted to change things up, so Lilith’s first form is actually the big huge ugly religious-art-gone-wrong creature that caps every RPG, and her third form is just her normal human body.
LUNA: Before the player chases after Lilith to save the world, they have a handful of optional quests to do on Luna. Most of these involve proving to the various towns that Roan isn’t evil and that the rebellion is a bad idea. Luna, as already mentioned, orbits Gaia around a Gravity Well. While Gaia is a world built of hard work and human effort (Love), Luna is more magical, completely dark but for light radiated by the crystals that dot its landscape. We made the grass blue because instead of using chlorophyll to absorb sunlight, plants on Luna absorbed magic energies from the crystals. Lilith’s lair is on the dark half of Luna, and she stands at the ready to lead her foul monster armies across the border to slaughter the people of Roan’s kingdom.
ENDGAME: At the top of Lilith’s Tower, the party runs headlong into Slade. Kageru takes him on alone and, again, gets pretty beat up. However, he learns he can depend on others so everyone else jumps in, and together they defeat their old friend. Lilith shows up, utterly disgusted by Slade’s loss, and tells the party to meet her in the Gravity Well. Slade, without meaning now that Lilith abandoned him, begs for death. The party instead spares him, but he rejects their forgiveness and chooses to remain a complete jerk to the end. After a brief return trip to the space station, the group teleports into the Gravity Well.
...And Angel is kidnapped by Lilith. Facing the final dungeon without the main healer was meant to show the player we meant business, and that they better have been using strategy instead of just bumbling through the game and healing after every battle. And you thought Contra 4 was cruel.
By the time they reach the center of the black hole, Lilith has Angel convinced that the only way to be happy is to destroy Mythri (only Angel, being trapped between Love and Magic, could do it -- using the forces of the Gravity Well). The party pleads, but Angel goes through with it and Love vanishes from the world... until Kageru shouts that he loves Angel. And she loves him too... and Lilith is pretty cheesed off. Especially after Angel uses the same magic to shatter Arcana as well. This tips the balance of power in our party’s favor, or as the spirit from inside Mythri explains: while Arcana was literally the source of all Magic, Love can be found in every human heart. So its source is every one of us. When Lilith makes one final attempt to wipe out the party with the scant magic energies she still has, it’s an easy win for the good guys.
As Lilith screeches into the abyss, the literal space abyss around the party is collapsing. Nuking Arcana has serious ramifications for every single magical thing in the universe, which means there aren’t a lot of safe places to hide. Angel and Kageru stay behind on Luna, while Corryn and Roan retreat to Gaia (as per Angel’s orders). On Gaia, the lack of Magic sends Atlantis into the sea, which isn’t nearly as bad as the situation on Luna, because Luna explodes. This causes some tidal/weather changes and it rains for a really long time on Gaia, raising the oceans and swallowing the wicked city of Atlantis. We see Roan and Corryn standing at the water’s edge gazing at a much, much smaller Luna in the sky. We never know their final fate, but we do know Noah survives (oh ho!).
After the credits scroll, the Mythri theme quietly pipes in, and a series of Size 1 Manga Stills slowly center in on what remains of Luna. Something sparkles on the surface. We move in closer to see it’s a single gem, the same color as Mythri. As the screen focuses on the surface of the crystal, we see a faint silhouette inside of Kageru and Angel, locked in a happy embrace.
If you really want to play Mythri, I would recommend Digital Devil Saga?. No, seriously. It’s Mythri with all the Christian / Evangelion references sucked out, and Hindu ones put in their place. For those curious: Serph/Kageru, Argilla/Corryn, Sera/Angel, Heat/Slade, Roland/Roan, Cielo/Abel, Angel/Lilith... enjoy!