the artistry and psychology of gaming


Glass Desert (Seiken Densetsu 3)

Glass Desert (Seiken Densetsu 3)

The world of Mana draws many parallels to our own world.  Like ours, the name of the planet also has another meaning.  For us, it is the ground beneath us, but for those of the world of Mana, it refers to something a bit more abstract: a spiritual force that governs the laws of nature, sometimes manifesting in what its inhabitants refer to as magic.  Then again, what is magic, really, but a force ill understood.  Were we to hypothetically travel back in time, the primitive beings of that epoch might regard something as simple as a ballpoint pen to be magic.

One of the most beautiful and surreal places in this world is known as the Glass Desert.  This place exists on the southern end of an island west of the frigid north.  Though it is near the snowfields, it is a fairly temperate place, largely due to the constant cloud cover.  From the air, it looks like an ordinary desert, aside from a few, scattered, shimmering bits that give the desert its name.  On the ground, however, it becomes evident why the Glass Desert is so special.

Upon landing, it seems to be a completely ordinary desert, with its fine sands rippling into the distance.  There are many plateaus in strange shapes, and though the rocks that line their sides are of a dusty light blue and a dusty bright purple, their tops are still covered in sand.  There still seems to be something unique about the stratum that makes it different, but nothing noticeable.  Nothing, that is, until it hits you: the sudden realization that deserts don’t usually have a cloud cover.  Yes, clouds usually mean impending precipitation, and what makes a desert is the chronic lack thereof.  The clouds overhead cast their usual gray haze over an atypical canvas: the sprawling sands of an arid wasteland.

I landed in a crater formed by several levels of plateaus.  Aside from the unique coloration of this place, most of what makes it visually interesting is the unorthodox topography, especially for a desert.  Legend has it that a great battle was waged here long ago, between those who invoked the earth spirit, Gnome, and the fire spirit, Salamando.  Between the heat of the flames crafting glass from the sands, and the massive quakes and manipulation of the ground, this place was formed in its current incarnation.  Of course, time has caused much of that glass to revert to sand, thus bringing it back to its desert status, which is why almost no vegetation exists here.

There are places where the edges of plateaus are so thickly covered with sand that they form eternal cascades.  In these places, it is possible to traverse the walls as one would a smooth slope, but the cascades move so quickly that one would have to lope in order to do so.  Some are far too steep for even the greatest of running speeds to counteract, making them remain impossible to pass, unless sliding down from the top.  Another fascinating area is a natural bridge of glass over a ravine where many glass spires erupt from the ground.

The sullen sands are quite the treat for cloud enthusiasts, but when the sun sinks beneath the horizon, the desert’s true colors emerge in quite the literal sense.  There may be something about the way the moon’s rays penetrate the cloud cover, or there may be something else at work here, but at night, the desert becomes ablaze with color.  The gray sands become the dusty blue-purple typical of any twilit beach.  The rock walls glow with colors of neon green and fuchsia, lighting up the desert in a spectacle only believable if beheld.  In my many years as an adventurer, I’ve never seen anything quite like it.

Further back is a cave, and on the other side of it, the desert ends, and a formidable crag takes its place.  At its summit, one can see other rocky spires piercing the thick cloud cover, truly a sight to breathe in when punctuated by a setting sun.  Atop this crag is a rock formation shaped like a dragon’s head.  Its eyes and mouth emit an ominous glow, beckoning adventurers to enter the thusly-named Dragon’s Hole.  That, however, is a story for another time.

While a place with such natural wonder as Glass Desert might seem enticing to any adventurer, it held a special place within my memories.  When I was younger, most evenings were cloudy, at least to my memory, and the evenings of the seaside town of my youth were no exception.  Staring into the sands of this desert, I lost sight of the colorful walls, and I was right back to that unforgettable evening on the island.  It is said that the sense of smell is the most powerful tool in recalling lost memories, but having been born without such a thing, it is my vision that draws me back so strongly.  Whatever the case, it is always a wonderful surprise to find a lost memory in a desert amongst so many other grains of sand.

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