Secret of Mana: The Villainous Unknown

The Cutting Room Floor finds many things deleted from games: never-seen animation, unused backgrounds, extended music, and other stuff absent during play but still present in the code. My favorite sort of discovery? Full-fledged characters who were cut from a game.

I’m always intrigued by the idea of a hero or villain yanked from a storyline and lurking bitterly in the ones and zeroes. Secret of Mana has a fascinating case.

Secret of Mana lost a great deal of its original outline when it came from the never-released Super NES CD system to the humbler Super NES, and there’s plenty to uncover in the code. Messing around reveals some character poses never glimpsed during gameplay, and there’s one entire villain who doesn’t appear in the game.

Well, the standing theory is that he or she is a villain, at least. The unused character appears among the graphics for Secret of Mana’s familiar antagonists, so it’s fair to assume that this was a servant of the Empire or the sorcerer Thanatos. That, and the obscuring white robes and headdress don’t evoke a good guy. Faceless characters look less human and are therefore less sympathetic, after all.

But where would this deleted figure have appeared? The most logical choice is the ruins south of Pandora, where brainwashed townsfolk and masked cultists gather. The hooded villain would fit right in there, perhaps in a boss battle where it lifted its hands to summon one monster after another.

Of course, this leads to the most likely explanation, and it’s a killjoy: Robesy McHood is just a disguise for Thanatos himself. He first appears to the heroes at the ruins, and while he doesn’t fight them directly, it’s possible that he was to appear in this surreptitious, white-swaddled form before revealing himself. Which means this isn’t a real secret character after all.

Sifting through the Secret of Mana code also reveals the above character, a guard apparently meant for a castle or fort that never came to be. He’s not as interesting as a faceless cult leader, but I do like how he resembles Pete from Disney cartoons not a little.

Despite evidence to the contrary, I like to think that the white-clad villain is a discrete character, and not Thanatos. And if that’s true, the unknown cult leader at least deserves a name. What sort of apt Secret of Mana title fits best? I’d go with something like “Paltus” or “Sidonak,” but I know you’ll all submit better suggestions in the comments!

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