"I'm not really sure where 'here' is, to tell you the truth ." —The Boy
An Action RPG modeled heavily from the SNES' surprise hit, Secret of Mana. Despite rumors to the contrary, Evermore is not the sequel to Secret of Mana, but was made from whole cloth by Square USA (now part of Square Enix), and is one of the company's few games to have been developed entirely in the United States. It also featured a highly atmospheric soundtrack from newcoming composer Jeremy Soule, who went on to provide soundtracks for such classic games as Dungeon Siege, The Elder Scrolls from Morrowind on, Guild Wars and the Total Annihilation series.The game stars a B-movie-lovingboy and his dog, who stumble upon an abandoned mansion in the middle of Podunk, USA. After a mishap with a mysterious-looking device, the boy and his canine companion get transported to Another Dimension, and find out that four other people have been trapped inside for decades, the disastrous result of the Evermore experiment 30 years ago. His goal becomes to explore this strange new world, learn the history of the Evermore project, and find a way to get everyone back to Earth. While the story isn't nearly as involved as it might sound, the game isn't without its highlights, the aforementioned soundtrack being one of them, the subversions of some path-of-least-resistance video game economic tropes being another.The game itself is rather short, compared to Secret of Mana and other Square-Enix titles; it's also extremely linear, with no side-quests and a straightforward 'defeat the villain' premise. Otherwise, Secret of Evermore is fairly entertaining, with the boy constantly comparing his predicament to various (fictional) movies, and the dog shape-shifting into different forms, depending on which part of the game-world they're in.Over the course of the game, you gradually learn more about the world of Evermore and its inhabitants; specifically, that Professor Ruffleburg designed Evermore as a realization of its inhabitant's 'ideal world', each area catering to their own personal desires. For one resident, Evermore is a prehistoric jungle, while for another it becomes an archaeological dig.Each 'environment' in Evermore seems to exist in its own biome; each is separated from the others in some way (Fire Eyes' village is on a massive plateau, some areas are only reachable by travelling through sewer pipes, and the final area of the game isn't part of Evermore at all). Likewise, each area has its own distinct life-forms, which are unique to the region and do not appear in other locales.A long-dead post in the 'Secret of Evermore' GameFAQs forum featured an extended (and very interesting) discussion with one of the game's programmers who happened to stumble upon the conversation — topics covered before the thread 'died' ranged from what the programmers did after work, to an explanation of what the Gourd does (it doesn't do anything, incidentally), and even some personal anecdotes regarding the design process itself.
Awesome, yet Impractical: The Alchemy System itself. It is a really unique and novel idea, but in practice isn't very effective. There's only one boss in the game that's out of range of melee attacks and a handful of enemies that lurk outside of range until they try to attack you, and for all but the first boss of the game an upgraded Spear or the Bazooka will do far more damage than Alchemy. For offense all you need is the Crush skill, which is very effective. Otherwise you just need a healing spell (the base "Heal" you get at the start of the game works fine), a status healing spell, and Energize. Everything else is just a waste of money for the ingredients you need to cast them. The reason is that offensive Alchemy needs a lot of time to level up and does not damage scale well enough to keep up with the rising HP of enemies.
Badass Normal: The main character. No, stop and think about it for a little while: this is a young man who has been transported to an unknown world, who has no real skill in weaponry to begin with, but reacts to every threat to his progress through this unknown world by CLUBBING IT TO DEATH WITH A SEVERED HUMAN FEMUR.
Book Ends: At the start of the game, in Prehistoria, you encounter Raptors. Near the end of the game, in Omnitopia, you encounter Robot Raptors.
Boss Arena Idiocy: The first phase of the final battle consists of destroying some Fans and Speakers, which are virtually indestructible unless you hit the bombs being dropped at you at them.
Boss in Mook Clothing: There's an out of place Guard Bot in Gothica that you fight... however it's not the same as the ones fought previously. This guy will seriously wreck your day if you aren't prepared.
Boss Rush: The final area is one, in lieu of a final dungeon.
Brick Joke: In Antiqua, you find a boulder suspiciously similar to the ones you levitated in Prehistoria. Do the same here, and Tiny comes out and demonstrates his superior strength by picking up the boulder and throwing it away. Far away. When you inevitably end up at the southern end of the desert again, the boulder will land and form a bridge for you to cross. Lampshaded by the Boy.
Boy: Wow! That boulder was flying for a long time!
Broken Bridge: There is an actual broken bridge in Crustacia cutting off access to the west bank of the river. Only the dog can jump across. There is also a raised drawbridge in Gothica cutting off direct access to Ebon Keep.
Chain of Deals: Used in the desert city, Nobilia. You start out buying small items, and trade your way up to items that give you permanent stat boosts.
Charged Attack: Like in Secret of Mana, each weapon has multiple levels of charge. At first, you only have a choice between a piddly little swipe and a full swing, but as your skill with a weapon improves you can charge up to two power meters into a single blow.
Most likely, it's pure water, which would be pretty rare in the first two civilizations (and the last two don't sell it).
Ingredients are priced according to where the seller is located, and the patterns are fairly logical. Water and Clay are cheapest when bought from the man who gives you Acid Rain, and he lives next to a river. The alchemist in the Bugmuck has the cheapest Oil and Wax, and he lives next to tar pits full of bugs and skeletons. Limestone can only be bought from Blimp, and he lives near what looks to be a limestone cliff. Aside from Omnitopia, the best price on Ethanol is a merchant who lives near a pirate city (keep in mind what ethanol is used to make).
Cutscene Boss: Carltron never even gets to raise his hand to fight you. After the boy defeats his robots, Ruffleberg sneaks behind him and presses his 'off' switch. Judging by his sprite, Carlton was preparing to activate some sort of Arm Cannon before he froze in place.
Darker and Edgier: Pre-production materials and commercials imply that the game was supposed to be moodier than the final product, but was changed up near the end of development.
Degraded Boss: Robot raptors and Rimsala Eyes are crawling all over Omnitopia.
This extends even to the scenery; Aegis's face is built into the junkyard's architecture.
The Dev Team Thinks of Everything: Give the Boy a name that ends in S? His status screen will correctly refrain from appending an S in the header. For instance, "James' Stats"
Dolled-Up Installment: The game's original title was just "Evermore"; "Secret of" was tacked on to cash in on the success of Secret of Mana, as well as the recycled use of the ring menu system. However, this plan worked against the game's favor when Square decided not to produce an English localization of Seiken Densetsu 3, causing Mana fans to believe that the decision was made to avoid competition with Evermore.
Empathic Shapeshifter: The Dog, whose appearance is determined by what area the Boy is exploring. Feral wolf for Prehistoria, sleek jackal-esque dog for Antiqua, pampered poodle in Gothica, and mechanical Toaster-Dog (with Frickin' Laser Beams!) in Omnitopia. He looks like a fairly normal terrier breed in the real world.
Establishing Series Moment: The game opens with the boy having just seen a cheesy movie, and he makes many references to similar movies.
Eternal English: All four lands use the same language. Justified in that they're artificial constructs, not "real" locations.
Everything Trying to Kill You: Most egregious in the desert area, where the player is attacked by a malevolent tumbleweed. This stuff doesn't just defy the laws of physics by rolling against the wind; it actually chases the boy and absolutely will not turn aside until it has collided with him. After it has either landed a hit or been blocked, it blows away in random directions.
Evil Knockoff: Elizabeth, Horace, and Camilla each have robotic clones of them running around and making trouble. Clones of the boy (no harder than any of the three below mentioned ones) and his dog (who is a much stronger opponent) are encountered during the final boss fight.
Eye of Newt: The alchemy ingredients, often taking the form of chemicals, minerals, or various flora.
The Ferry Man: There is a desert ferryman who will ferry you across the desert to the Nobilia Trading Market... at the cost of one Amulet of Annihilation. He's chatty for a skeleton, constantly remarking on the desert scenery like a tour bus captain.
Fireballs: At least four different spells have this effect in varying degrees. Most are very effective with a little leveling.
Foreshadowing: After taking out the Guardbots with his bazooka and descending down a floor iris, the Boy runs into his dog again, which barks a greeting at him. At first, you notice something off about it, but you figure maybe it's just all the metal around where the Boy's currently located distorting his barking. Turns out that it was the Toaster Dog.
Guide Dang It: Good luck finding some of the Alchemy formulas without one. Sting, the formula in the desert, is probably the most annoying one.
A few mazes are confusing as hell unless one actually starts mapping them out.
Guns Are Worthless: Averted; the bazooka easily equals or outmatches the various melee weapons you put to use.
The bazooka does have some drawbacks. The recoil forces the Boy backwards quite a bit, which can be disadvantageous, and using it like a club is woefully underpowered. That being said, ammo (even without the infinite ammo glitch) is very cheap, so you'll likely never run out once it becomes available. The hand-to-hand weapons are more fun, but certainly less useful.
Actually the Neutron Blade wins out for highest damage potential if you know how to use it. Trap an enemy in a corner and use a Level 3 attack and you can potentially hit the enemy three times for 1000+ damage. That's enough to one-shot almost any non-boss enemy in the game.
Hope Spot: Thanks to Prehistoria's volcano, the heroes are catapulted high into the air. Luckily, they fall into an upended turtle shell that floats them gently downstream. And then dumps them over a waterfall.
Kleptomaniac Hero: There was one chest in which there was a subversion; you would get an alchemy spell and a new place to buy ingredients if you walked up to it and didn't open it. It was fair game after said transaction took place, though.
Lampshade Hanging: As a result of growing up on cheesy B-movies, The Boy is very Genre Savvy. Combined with the fact the world is actually made from the imaginations of humans who may be a few decades out of touch but are still educated and familiar with the common tropes of their respective themed worlds, and you've got a lot of this.
Level Grinding: Just like Secret of Mana, the Boy's weapons (minus the Bazooka) and alchemy can each gain levels; weapons go up to 3, and spells go up to 8. Unlike Secret of Mana, families don't stack, so each weapon/spell must be ground up individually. The Dog gets a subversion, as its attacks also level up to 3 and maintain across every form it adopts.
Long List: In Nobilia, one guard will inform you of all the things he will not permit you to do in the city square. These include laughing, crying, moose-calling, juggling mummified cats, eating pancakes on Monday - and of course, barking like a seal. (It upsets him.)
Lost Forever: There's a lot you can miss in this game without even realizing it, a lot of the optional Alchemy formulas and trade items are a case of Guide Dang It. Probably the worst offender is Gothica as a whole: the alleyway shops close once you kill Mungola, the castle doors once you return the worker's key, and if you open the wrong chest in Lance's house you won't meet Lance or get the Alchemy formula of the same name.
The various trade items can be acquired in multiple places if you miss them, but it's still very easy to accidentally trade the wrong item away and never see it again. Furthermore, the merchants around the world who trade you these items will offer you something different if you already have what they'd normally offer (Merchant A normally trades the Jade Disk, if you already have it he'll trade the Silver Sheath, thus Merchant B who normally trades the sheath instead trades the Chocobo Egg, and so forth). So not only can certain trade items be lost forever, but which ones you can lose depends on which ones you already have.
Gothica has a merchant in Ivor Tower who sales all the items you traded for reasonably cheap. They're only lost forever if you don't pick them up before you finish up in Gothica and everyone moves back to Ebon Keep.
Mad Scientist: Sydney Ruffleberg and his surface counterpart, Tinker.
Magikarp Power: The Spear-type weapons are ridiculously hard to use in normal (non-charge attack) combat, but very quickly get ridiculously overpowered after you gain a level (and even moreso at Lv3 when you can do the double charge). It is a long polearm weapon that is wielded in the worst way possible, to deliver incredibly short-range attacks that will usually get you hit in the process. But once you can throw it... the damage it does is simply overpowered (until you get a Sword leveled up). Combine a spear with the spell that gives you near-instant charge attacks and you got yourself a bazooka... that does more damage than an actual bazooka and doesn't send you flying!
The Maze: The desert south of Nobilia, where east and west eventually wrap around to each other. A tame example, compared to the trope's use in other games, since you only have to run straight north or south to reach your destination; but this one contains a difficult-to-find alchemy spell named Sting.
Gothica is chock full of these. Among them: the hedge maze around the chessboard, the Dark Forest (complete with a boss fight in the center, and another at the end), and the sewers under both castles to a lesser extent. This isn't even taking into consideration that you have to go through a teleporter maze to even get to Gothica!
Meaningful Name: Each of the game's 'worlds', not to mention the protagonist's hometown.
Tinker's brother, Gomi. Gomi means "garbage" in Japanese, an appropriate name considering the ramshackle tower he lives in.
There's a good reason why you can't go through the Omnitopia Greenhouse with the lights on: It contains Flowering Deaths.
Money Grinding: Lampshaded in one case, where a shady character is offering the amulet you need to get a ride across the desert and charging the outrageous price of ten thousand Jewels for it(especially as changing your money to the local standard effectively cut your stash in half). To come up with the money in the local currency, you'll most likely have to do a lot of this. When you actually do return with the money, the shady character is astonished that you went to the trouble;
Shady Character: Wow! I didn't think anyone would ever come up with the cash! I mean, you had to fight a lot of spiders and thieves to get that money! Since you went to so much trouble to buy this, basically, worthless piece of cra...ss jewelery I'm going to throw in a free gift!(Chocobo Egg)
They would be lethal, but the boy exclaims "Boy, I'm glad we missed those spikes at the bottom!". They also don't do any damage and serve nothing more than either a Broken Bridge or an annoyance for those timed bridges.
The Nose Knows: The Dog can be used to hunt out alchemy ingredients with a touch of a button.
Not Rare Over There: Annihilation amulets. 10,000 gems to get one if you don't want to cross the desert on foot, and once on the other side you can easily buy a couple others in the marketplace.
It is implied the monk who sells it to you is a scam artist. He feels sorry for you when you do buy it, giving a Chocobo Egg as consolation. If you do this early enough, you can actually get the Magic Gourd and then rebuy the Egg in Gothica. Afterwards he'll sell you Dry Ice.
Quicksand Sucks: There are appearing/disappearing hole of quick sand that send you back if you get caught
Reality Warper: The different worlds are manifestations of each of the inhabitants' personal utopias, as are the superhuman powers each one's developed during their stay.
Recurring Boss: Stronger copies of the game's bosses appear in Omnitopia, where their originals were built.
Ribcage Ridge: Bugmuck Swamp is named after a giant exoskeleton buried there.
Ridiculous Future Inflation: Sort of; the Omnitopian Credit is the least valuable currency in the game via the exchange rate between civilizations, but to compensate items are ridiculously more expensive.
Ring Menu: It's based on the Mana engine, after all.
Shout-Out: When the Boy and Dog are exploring the Rufflebergs' dilapidated mansion in the introduction, he finds "a chainsaw, a mummy, and a balloon animal". A chainsaw and mummy are also found in Maniac Mansion.
The Boy's outfit bears sharp resemblance to Marty Mc Fly's clothing from Back to the Future. Given the theme of the game, it doesn't seem quite coincidental.
Squishy Wizard: In an interesting twist, the main character is one in this game. Although there is no actual magic in this game, the boy is the only one who can use Alchemy. He also takes a lot more damage than the dog from enemy attacks.
Magic Knight: Once he's been outfitted with better armor; and his weapon selection always qualifies.
A Taste of Power: The Boy starts out with a bazooka, but it's quickly lost when his space pod lands. Cecil gives it back to you in Gothica.
In addition to the above mentioned Call Beads, you might not use your limited-use alchemy when your unlimited-use weapons will do the trick just fine. Exceptions are, naturally, healing, protection and buff spells. Adversely, once you would want to use those attack spells (lookin' at you, Verminator), they'll be woefully underleveled and you probably won't find the right ingredients at the nearest alchemy shop to Level Grind them.
There's only two alchemy ingredients you can't find normally: Dry Ice and Meteorite. Dry Ice is traded though by the shady figure in Antiqua who tries to sell you an Amulet of Annihilation. You can't find any more Meteorites in the game than the ones you pick up. However, the funny thing is that they're used only for the spell Call Up, which gives you a Call Bead.
Reflect: It reflects magic. The problem is, by the time you get it, it's only useful on the optional boss. And almost immediately afterwards, you can get the Game Breaker spell Barrier, which negates all damage anyway.
Explosion: More in the sense of its in-game description. Supposedly it can cut through barriers. The problem is, nobody in the game uses barrier spells. And you can get a more powerful version, Nitro, within an hour.
Super Cure: It combines Cure (removes status ailments) and Heal (restores HP), however by the time you get it, status ailments don't pose much of a problem and Super Heal (completely restores the HP of both characters) has been a staple alchemy spell.
Wake-Up Call Boss: In addition to those mentioned above, there's Thraxx. Up until you meet him, every enemy attack can be dodged, and even those that hit aren't that damaging. Thraxx will hit you for 5 damage and massive recoil every time you hit his exposed heart. He'll also use three attacks that can target the Hero in any place of the arena, two of which are unavoidable, and that each deal comparably high amounts of damage. To top it all off, you can only carry 6 healing leaves and you probably didn't get a full load of dog biscuits in town. Your only hope is that the maggots drop leaves or give you enough experience to level.
Which ends with an inverted Heads I Win, Tails You Lose boss battle. If you're successful in fighting off the raptors at the end, you get some free stuff, but if you fail (and you likely will fail), you just continue on with the plot.
Year Outside, Hour Inside: Prof. Ruffleberg's initial experiment with Evermore took place in 1965. Thirty years later, when the Boy finds them, they're not any older, and even comment in the ending that life will be much different now.
This may be more of a case of Who Wants to Live Forever? as everyone is well aware of exactly how much time has passed since the experiment, but none of them have aged a day. This makes them want to return home all the more.