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Badass of the Month Club: The Sprite

3:00 PM on 08.24.2009 // Ashley Davis

Time once more for the Badass of the Month Club, wherein the staff highlights a character or industry figure of noteworthy badassery.

This month's inductee into the Badass off the Month Club certainly doesn't have the appearance of one. Just look at him up there. He is squat, round, has big, floppy feet and is often mistaken for a girl. He only stands at about waist-height of the other two heroes of Secret of Mana, the game he appears in as a playable character. His official name is Popoie and he is a woodland sprite, two more facts that just add on to the uncool factor in most people's eyes.

But when you look at who he is instead of what he looks like, it becomes quite clear that you're not dealing with a shrimpy, wimpy girly-man. When you first meet him, he is part of a sideshow in the Dwarf Village. He and the Dwarf Elder basically scam your party out of their money (if you've got enough) by claiming that he is a poor little thing that is up to his neck in debt. When they're found out, the Sprite is reluctant to apologize. When he joins your party later on, he does so giving you lip the entire time.

So let's run down everything I've covered so far: he looks like a rabbit (or should I say Rabite?) wearing an orange wig, he's loudmouthed and rude, and when you first meet him, he toys with your emotions to get your money. He may look cute, but you know what they say: looks can be very deceiving. The Sprite is a complete badass.

WARNING!: This post contains Secret of Mana spoilers!

The most obvious clue in to the Sprite's badassery is his ability to use Secret of Mana's black magic. The Girl is only able to use defensive magic, and the Boy has no magic power at all. Only the Sprite can use the power of the elemental spirits in an offensive manner. These spells can be spammed one after the other, so that if you've got an handful of Faerie Walnuts on you, the Sprite can chain his magic together in an infinite loop. When this technique is used on one of the game's numerous bosses, they are unable to so much as move before falling over dead. It may be a very cheap way to play the game, but one thing's for sure: it's so bad.

But the Sprite is not just a one-trick pony. He's also got a myriad of cool weapons at his disposal, shedding off the common black mage's long history of being stuck with useless rods. In the event that the Sprite runs out of MP, he can still hold his own alongside the others with an axe, sword, or any one of the other six weapons. A normal black mage is already pretty cool, but one that can melee with the best of 'em is even better. By this logic, he trumps all other black magic users, which is quite a feat.

He and the Girl share most of the elementals, but they also each have an exclusive power the other doesn't have. The Girl gets Lumina, the light elemental, while the Sprite gets the dark elemental, Shade. Shade is a badass in its own right. After all, it is darkness personified as a giant winged eyeball. To have control over such power but to use it for good makes the Sprite an even more awesome character by association.

Outside of his magical prowess, the Sprite's got an attitude ten times the size of his body. At first, he may come off as being a little annoying, but after you get to spend a little time with him, it becomes apparent that he's just a really confident jokester. Even if the way he is still gets on your nerves, it does help you out every once in a while. For example, he is the one who tricks the grouchy earth elemental Gnome into working for the party. The scene plays out like so, just after you beat Fire Gigas:

Sprite: Dolt! Serve ME and maybe I'll forgive you. Otherwise, I'll throw you to my servant, Boy.

Gnome: Aieee! No! Let me be your servant!

Boy: HEY! Who're YOU calling a servant?

Gnome: Oh dear! Anyway, call me anytime, anywhere. Now, close your eyes...
Both you and your wife may summon me.

Girl: What?! ME married to...THAT?!

Sprite: I like your style, Gnome!

This particular set of dialogue in itself is a testament to how much of a badass the Sprite is. Even though Gnome does not know him or the rest of the party at this point in time, he cowers before the Sprite and assumes that the lady in the party is his. In addition, the Sprite makes it perfectly clear that he knows he's awesome.

As you may be able to tell, a lot of his awesome attitude is presented through his dialogue. Another great example happens when the party finds the first elemental spirit, Undine. When it grants its powers to the party, the Sprite laughs and remarks, "No one can stop ME now!" This statement is pretty much true, seeing as how from this point forward, the Sprite will be your most powerful ally.

Speaking of laughing, another badass quality of the Sprite is his ability to show expression. No one else in the game can do so. They might say that they're sad or cheerful or scared, but they don't show it like the Sprite does. Compared to everyone else, he is the most expressive character in all of Secret of Mana. In fact, he may well be the most expressive character in any Super Nintendo game. It's really quite amazing how emotive the little guy is.

While the Boy and Girl sleep quietly and still, the Sprite's mouth opens and closes as he snores. When something surprises him, he leaps off the ground with his eyes wide open. When he finds something amusing, his mouth opens, and his head moves up and down. There is no actual laughing sound to accompany his expression, but just watching his movements causes the brain to emulate the guffawing sound that would come out of him.

On top of everything else, the Sprite has a fearlessness that doesn't even fade when the odds are stacked against him. He's a goofball and a trickster for most of the game, but when things get serious, so does he. Like all of his other qualities, this one is magnified in comparison to his two friends. The Boy has just sort of fallen into his role as the hero and often second guesses himself. The Girl just wants to save her lover from the game's villain, and is most often moved to action by this personal motive.

At first, the Sprite also joins the group for personal gains. He was told that the Earth Mana Seed, an object that the heroes sought at the time, could help him regain the memories he had lost in the flood that washed him into the Dwarf Village. He joins the crew to get to the seed and use its power to return to his real home.

But then the events of the game sped up, and he soon found himself in the face of a dilemma. After defeating Thanatos, a creature called the Mana Beast rose up to destroy the Mana Fortress. If the heroes were to allow the Mana Beast to do this, it would mean the end of the world. On the other hand, if they were to destroy the Mana Beast first, the Sprite would disappear along with it, as they share a tie in the power of Mana.

The choice that the Sprite had to make wasn't an easy one. After all the time he had spent with the Boy and Girl, fighting alongside them and traveling the world as apocalypse unfurled, he formed a very close bond with them. He didn't want to have to leave the world, and he had the least reason to want to kill the Mana Beast out of any of them. But he is still the one who coerces the Boy into doing what's best, not for himself, but for the world.

Sprite: Hurry, or the Mana Beast will ruin the world! Come on! Do it!

Hero: ...I can't... I won't hurt a Mana Beast! I can't! They are only trying to restore Mana! And...... Sprite! If you use up all your Mana power, you'll disappear!

Princess: Oh NO!

Hero: Right... I can't go through with this...

Sprite: ...... Whaddaya mean? I'm NOT gonna kick the bucket! My world is seperate from this one. It just means I won't... see you again. Ok, if we don't stop the Mana Beast, your world is finished, right? Everything will perish. Trees... animals... PEOPLE! That must not happen! YOU have the Mana Sword, YOU must save this world... YOU have no choice! You made a vow to your mother, the Mana Tree, right? I'll be okay.

The last scene of the game, after the credits are finished rolling, is of the Sprite. He is a ghostly apparition sitting in the trees of the Upperland, watching over the world that he sacrificed himself for. After realizing that he was gone forever, the Boy and Girl vowed never to forget him. Because of how completely awesome he had been throughout the entire game, I found myself making the promise along with them.

He may not look the part, but badassery seeps down into the Sprite's very core and shows in everything he does in Secret of Mana. He does not look like a cool, macho guy, nor is he even physically strong, but he is a badass through and through. I am happy to have the privilege of inducting him into the Badass of the Month Club for the month of August, and will continue to play the game over and over just to see him in action.

Ashley Davis,
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