Thursday, June 27, 2013

Future Policy for Pharmaceutical Neuroenhancement

The idea of enhancing intelligence is not a modern concept as various agents have been experimented with throughout history from various herbs in ancient times to modern drugs like cocaine and amphetamines in the 20th century. However, with increasing pressures on high school and college students as well as young professionals in a global environment that becomes more and more competitive every year there is a concern that the use of certain drugs for the purpose of “increasing brain power” will steadily increase. The problem with this potential increase in use is that these individuals who are now utilizing these types of drugs do not have a diagnosed medical condition that validates or normalizes the drug use, which may increases the probability of detrimental side effects associated with drug consumption.

Overall the term “neuroenhancement” typically refers to the practice of individuals with normal functioning brains consuming medications for the purpose of augmenting cognitive function. The most common modern neuroenhancement agents include methylphenidate (MPH or Ritalin), modafinil, donepezil and Adderall. The general understanding that the media portrays regarding neuroenhancement to the populous is that usage rates are rapidly increasing among younger individuals and that neuroenhancement provides a significant short-term increase in intelligence and focus. However, this understanding is only supported by unscientific small population college student survey data or online polling and is not supported by larger population studies of wider age ranges or clinical studies creating widely differing estimates of use (from 1% to 30+%).1-3

Apart from the hype, the biggest problem with neuroenhancement is whether or not it actually works.4-9 The working theory is that drugs that are effective neuroenhancers for individuals suffering from neurological condition x should also enhance cognitive ability in individuals not suffering from neurological condition x, albeit at some smaller percentage. However, this theory does not take into account characteristic neurological deficiency. For example donepezil is a cholinesterase inhibitor4 that increases the residence time of neurotransmitter acetylcholine in the synaptic cleft by reducing cholinesterase (which catalyzes acetylcholine degradation) activity. While useful to certain individuals who may have limited acetylcholine release or overactive cholinesterases, donepezil is not useful to individuals who have near saturated to saturated acetylcholine release, thus there is no significant positive benefit to be had, but may produce negative side effects. Adding to the debate of neuroenhancement utility is the lack of a standard for defining neuroenhancement in how much of an improvement in a given test or examination or some other measurement tool is due to enhancement versus randomness.10

Clearly there is a valid health concern with the use of these agents regardless of whether or not there is a positive benefit. The agents are inducing a chemical change in the brain and possibly elsewhere in the body to offset ineffective natural operation. Notable in this discussion are supposed neuroenhancers from the past like cocaine and amphetamines. Pharmaceutical companies were not shy about professing the ability of these agents to increase cognitive abilities, yet various studies demonstrated that there was little to zero actual neuroenhancement; almost all of the significant positive changes were associated with placebo effects due to increased confidence.11,12 There are eerie parallels between the use of amphetamines in the 60’s and 70’s and the use of drugs like Ritalin and Adderall in the 90s and 00s.13

When discussing policy issues associated with neuroenhancement the following questions are important: 1) What level of autonomy should be applied to patients seeking neuroenhancement from physicians? 2) Should neuroenhancement be regarded as a form of cheating similar to PEDs in sports? 3) What are the medical legalities associated with prescribing neuroenhancement agents? 4) How does neuroenhancement differ from other forms of societal enhancement like cosmetic surgery? 5) What regulatory policies should be assigned to neuroenhancers?

Some may argue that the most important element in this issue is a potential conflict between patient autonomy versus doctorial duty. The traditional role of a physician is to diagnose and treat injury/disease, reduce short-term and long-term suffering from detrimental conditions and potential treatments, comfort the patient’s friends and family and finally educate patients about treatment options and disease prognosis. This last element relates most to the issue of neuroenhancement. As previously mentioned there will be negative side effects to taking these specific types of agents, thus it is up to physicians to communicate the potential risks and possible benefits.

This educational role is the only authoritative ability that a physician has in this situation with regards to the patient. In the past when access to medications was more guarded and controlled a physician could deny a patient a prescription if he/she felt it would not be appropriate for the patient. Unfortunately in modern times the advent of the Internet eliminates this bottleneck of control. If a patient wants drug x he/she can acquire it with little effort from various online pharmacies or even less reputable sources regardless of physician approval.

However, despite being undercut by the Internet and globalization, the educational aspect is still critically important because physicians typically have a perception of harm probability that is more seasoned and profound than their patients, which allow them to understand genuine problems that could stem from use that patients would otherwise minimize in their zeal to claim the potential benefits. Utilizing appropriate educational techniques not only can physicians refuse to prescribe neuroenhancers, if deemed appropriate, through respectable and meaningful dialogue, but also reduce the probability that patients run to the Internet or doctor shop out of scorn for not getting their wish from their primary physician. Overall while physicians should have the ultimate say in whether or not a patient should take a neuroenhancer, the logistics of drug supply in modern society marginalizes that reality to one of an educational nature, thus both patients and physicians must take the role of education seriously.

The chief moral aspect of using neuroenhancers is similar to the morality surrounding the use of performance enhancing drugs (PEDs) in sports. Use of PEDs in sports is largely driven by the fact that the consumption of steroids, HGH and similar type components will allow the user to increase certain important abilities related to participation in a particular sport, thus increasing the probability of success and artificially shifting the balance of success between competitors. Rebalancing success probabilities demands widespread PED use creating an environment of collusion where because of the natural restrictions of time the advantages provided by PEDs force numerous other potential participants to consume PEDs.14 Unfortunately there are significant and reliable health detriments associated with PED consumption, which creates the moral question of fairness in that “is it fair to force individuals that do not initially want to take PEDs to take them to have a fair probability of success at their chosen athletic endeavor?”

This question embodies the very moral issue surrounding neuroenhancement, but on a greater scale. Where PED morality only touches on the issue of sport, which for most is recreational and only to a very select few a career possibility, neuroenhancement touches almost all occupations because of the so-called importance of grades and other examination evaluation metrics undertaken in the educational process along with the increased level of global competition for occupational opportunities. The morality issue for neuroenhancement becomes murkier in that there is questionable information on both whether or not they actually work and what type of negative side effects are associated with their use.

Some attempt to argue, similar to PEDs, that simply taking neuroenhancers will not increase an individual’s intelligence. Individuals still have to study, but because neuroenhancers augment certain passive traits like focus and attention to detail, studying should be easier and thus more enjoyable creating a positive feedback loop leading to even more studying and eventually higher grades; thus because the act of studying is still essential for receiving “enhancement” from neuroenhancers there is little reason to accuse individuals taking these agents of “cheating” or not earning their grades. In this vein supporters of neuroenhancement like to classify it as an alternative learning strategy similar to existing behavioral modification like psychotherapy. Unfortunately this classification is inappropriate because unlike typical learning enhancement methods there are potential medical risks associated with neuroenhancement as well as questions to existing benefits. Also this argument does not address potential collusion elements associated with widespread neuroenhancement use largely due to time constraints.

One interesting argument in favor of widespread neuroenhancement use is “the limited ceiling”. PEDs create a collusive environment because play is the principle and direct element that determines success. In the educational environment grades and other evaluation metrics are only a component of the portfolio that determines success. It is notable that in this situation poorer students would more than likely see more benefit from neuroenhancement. Therefore, if everyone has high grades then grades become irrelevant as an evaluation metric. An interesting potential irony of such a situation is that mitigating the importance of grades may increase the randomness of evaluation, which would create an inversely proportional relationship between benefits from neuroenhancement and usefulness of neuroenhancement in improving success probability. Basically those who would receive Bs without enhancement and get As with it actually have their success probability decrease because a number of C/D students are now getting higher grades saturating the attractive candidate selection pool.

However, while some may argue that widespread neuroenhancement will be a boon to all parties (the above paragraph seems to contradict that argument), the problem before even debating this issue is the attainment of an environment of widespread use is nearly impossible. Whether or not neuroenhancement works is debatable (probably not at the moment), but if it does work the effects are short-term; therefore, one must procure and consume a steady supply to ensure a continuation of any positive effect. Lower income students, especially those who have to work simply to pay current or future tuition, will not be able to continuously engage in this procurement, thus eliminating their involvement in neuroenhancement creating a wider gap between poor and rich educational scores. Some may argue that wealthier students have always had an advantage over poorer students typically having a better home environment, the ability to hire tutors and other resources, etc., but while that is the case why should society freely allow richer students another advantage over poorer students?

One of the obstacles for physicians in their responsibility to education patients regarding the administration of neuroenhancers is that almost all of them will be off-label prescriptions. Off-label is typically defined as using a drug in an unapproved manner or for a non-targeted population group. In the United States off-label prescriptions are legal, but because FDA approval is not required the safety aspects associated with using a given drug in an off-label manner are unclear.15,16 When the FDA approves a drug for use, multiple tiers of clinical studies must be conducted to demonstrate that the drug is both safe and at least as effective as existing alternatives (ignore the fact that a number of drugs are approved because companies conceal the negative studies, but that is what typically occurs when foxes are allowed to guard the proverbial hen house). Safety analysis is dependent on the inherent biological characteristics of the principle target group for the drug; changing those characteristics will change the identified safety profile of the drug with the magnitude of this change unknown.

Another problem with off-label prescriptions is that originally pharmaceutical companies were not allowed to promote off-label uses to physicians or prospective patients. The rationality of the regulation was that promotion of off-label drugs were inherently false and misleading because those claims did not have the support of the FDA and this support was important because of the aforementioned safety profile change in use alteration. This regulation has found conflict with First Amendment supporters since its inception and a recent appeals court ruling has raised questions regarding the scope of government regulatory power concerning off-label advertisement and promotion where a sales representative was criminally prosecuted in violation of his First Amendment right when promoting off-label uses.17 If drug companies begin to view neuroenhancement as potential big business then large-scale promotion activities could create conflict between honest evaluations of effectiveness and marketing hype even more so then they already have.

A secondary important issue is the liability concerns for physicians that prescribe off-label drugs. Once a drug has been approved by the FDA for sale to treat a given condition physicians are allowed to prescribe it for another condition if it is determined to be safe and effective. However, what if the drug has limited available safety information and the physician is simply prescribing blind? One precedence is seen in elective cosmetic surgery where the courts have typically defined injuries from that field similar to those along the lines of traditional medical negligence.18 Unfortunately one major uncertainty in this liability issue is proving cause and effect. Most medical negligence, including elective cosmetic surgery, is easy to identify and rather simple to connect back to the sequence of events that created the negligence. Most detrimental neurological damage that could be caused by neuroenhancement will usually occur later in life and could be difficult to separate from other lifestyle choices or simple genetic mutations brought on by aging.

Supporters who believe that pharmaceutical companies will “look out” for the well being of users do not understand history. Some argue that examples like Vioxx demonstrate why companies need to be careful due to the protracted litigation leading to large settlements/jury verdicts, which cast negative light on the company and hurt stock valuation. However, this argument is foolish because of the aforementioned difficulty in establishing a cause (taking neuroenhancer A produced by company A) and resultant effect (unforeseen negative neurological condition brought on by neuroenhancer A). If neuroenhancement becomes popular the profit made by participating companies, especially because of the collusion element described above, will dwarf any associated legal costs, if there are any in the first place. Regulation is the only appropriate means to create an environment of appropriate distribution.

One of the most common arguments in favor of neuroenhancement is that society already allows physical enhancement from various cosmetic surgery to even sillier things like penis enlargement; therefore, if these physical enhancements are allowed and numerous studies have demonstrated that social interaction and career advancement are bolstered by a high-quality physical appearance why should society place any significant restrictions on neuroenhancement? Initially this position seems convincing because there are similar parallels between the two.

However, there are dramatic differences between physical injury and mental injury. The safety uncertainty of neuroenhancement creates possibilities that such treatments could lead to societal negative neurological conditions like bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, Alzheimer’s, etc. Clearly the potential to significantly change the mental state of an individual must be measured against a person becoming slightly less attractive because of a botched nose job or saggy breast implants when considering possible differences in regulation. Another concern with comparing neuroenhancement to cosmetic surgery is that cosmetic surgery has a long-standing track record for actually providing a benefit to the user either societal (with the way people treat the cosmetic surgery patient) or psychological (self-esteem) whereas neuroenhancement has no long-standing track record for providing benefit and little short-term evidence for providing any benefit with possible positive and negative side effects.

While the principle function of neuroenhancers is to influence cognition, there is also reason to believe that they impact emotional and motivational functions as well; for example modafinil influences the functionality of a wide range of neurotransmitters including dopamine, norepinephrine, GABA and glutamate along with histamine and orexin/hypocretin.19,20 Cognitive benefit studies have demonstrated that MPH has a large positive effect on memory, but no statistically significant influence on attention, mood, rectifying negative effects associated with sleep deprivation or executive function.21 Negative short-term side effects were a slightly increased heart rate, headache, anxiety, nervousness, dizziness and insomnia.22-25 A single dose of modafinil unsurprisingly increased wakefulness and attention (because that is what it is designed to do), but had no effect on mood, memory or motivation and slightly increased levels of anxiety. Negative short-term side effects of modafinil typically were headache, dizziness, gastrointestinal problems, heart issues (diuresis, tachycardia and palpitations) and restlessness which may affect long-term sleep rates.26-29

The weakness of existing neuroenhancement studies should raise numerous red flags. Almost all existing studies only utilize a single administration dosage methodology, which is less than half the story in society.21 If student A is taking a neuroenhancer with the intent of increasing his/her grade there is one of two possible outcomes. Clearly student A has a certain expectation to how he/she will perform in a given exam; suppose student A projects a C for the next test and takes a neuroenhancer to attempt to increase that grade. After the test the student either improves or does not improve on the projection. If no improvement occurs it is unlikely that the student will continue to take the neuroenhancer. However, if an improvement occurs then it is likely that the student will entertain the idea of continuing to take the neuroenhancer.

The expected behavior of student A based on the outcome of the test limits the usefulness of the single administration dosage studies because either the student stops taking the neuroenhancer or takes it multiple times over a longer period of time. Of the few existing repeated dosage studies MPH increases feelings of energy, somewhat proportional to age (older people felt more energetic), but yields no other statistically relevant benefits.30,31 Long-term dosing of modafinil increased wakefulness, but also increased anxiety.32 Therefore, new studies need to be conducted with parameters focusing on long-term use with various dosage amounts to actually determine potential benefits as well as detrimental neuronal outcomes, which typically do not have a standardized method of assessment limiting the level of understand regarding rate of occurrence, reinforcing effects, dependence development and drug tolerance.

Another problem is that a number of studies fail to report raw data, which makes it difficult for outside parties to review the assumptions that went into producing the given conclusions of the study.21,33,34 Also the studied dosage can be a problem in that without a standard protocol some studies may miss operational windows. For example a number of drugs operate under a “mountain” activation curve (or inverted U-shape) where too much or too little of a drug impairs performance. Therefore, if a study uses a dosage on the wrong area of this activation curve the study could create erroneous results.

Regulation of neuroenhancers is a somewhat tricky question. Some would argue that off-label prescriptions, doctor shopping and Internet pharmacies may mitigate most of the protections offered by any regulation creating a general free-for-all arms race and collusion environment. However, such a possibility should not force the elimination of regulation. Otherwise it would be akin to agreeing that because speed limits cannot stop all individuals from speeding, speed limits are inherently pointless, a conclusion that is clearly false. Neuroenhancers should be regulated through physicians in that they should require a physician’s prescription with possible coordination with the DEA because of their potential for being addictive. In addition close attention should be paid to any physician prescribing large amounts of neuroenhancers. A secondary strategy for indirect regulation could involve opponents of neuroenhancement seeking to create an environment where any of the theorized useful elements of neuroenhancement are mitigated.

As stated above the two chief advantages that have been attributed to neuroenhancement are improved memory and improved focus/attention, especially within a sleep deprived state. These advantages are useful in the current educational environment because of its focus on memorization and long simplistic examinations that concentrate on one-dimensional concepts rather than problem solving and comprehension. If the educational evaluation environment changes from one-dimensional concepts to problem solving and comprehension the preparation methodology changes from straight memorization through cramming where time is an important factor to complex application where time is not an important factor, but instead learning strategy is the important element. Eliminate time and memorization as limiting factors in education and the value of neuroenhancers disappears, which would dramatically limit their use.

In modern society truth is often obfuscated by rumor, hype and singular circumstance; in the case of neuroenhancement such a scenario is currently occurring and is likely to continue, especially in the collusive “keeping up with the Jones” mindset society has created backed by promotion from pharmaceutical companies in effort to make more money. It is likely that neuroenhancement will attempt to become a lifestyle augmentation similar to cosmetic surgery and sexual dysfunction drugs like Viagra. Therefore, the widespread introduction of neuroenhancement will perpetuate a “rich get richer, poor stay poor” society for neuroenhancement will demand long-term use, which will require a steady stream of money, thus equal access to enhancement cannot be guaranteed or even expected. An underlying problem is that neuroenhancement may not even work over the long-term, which will result in wasting money by spending it on an ineffective product and giving it to pharmaceutical companies that do not need it in addition to possibly increasing healthcare costs associated with negative side effects.

While the above prediction is rather sarcastic, it is quite probable. The best strategy for neutralizing the expansion of neuroenhancement and the further expansion of inequality in society is to focus on the double layer of standard regulation and changing the usefulness of neuroenhancement in academia and the work force by changing the expectations and evaluation methodology from rote memorization to comprehension and problem-solving ability. Such a change should not only limit the importance of neuroenhancement, as it is currently understood, but also naturally, without negative consequence, improve intelligence and the ability to succeed in the future. Instead of looking for the quick-fix shortcut drug, society needs to actually address the problem.

Citations –

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4. Gron, G, et Al. “Cholinergic enhancement of episodic memory in healthy young adults.” Psychopharmacology. 2005. 182:170 –179.

5. Mehta, M, et Al. “Methylphenidate enhances working memory by modulating discrete frontal and parietal lobe regions in the human brain.” J Neurosci. 2000. 20:RC65.

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15. 21 USCA sec 360e(d) (1)(A).

16. 21 CFR sec 314.50–54, 807.92(a)(5), 807.100(b)(1)(1999).

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18. Kirsten Brukamp and Dominik Gross (2012). Neuroenhancement - A Controversial Topic in Contemporary Medical Ethics, Contemporary Issues in Bioethics, Dr. Peter A. Clark (Ed.), ISBN: 978-953-51-0169-7, InTech, Available from:

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22. Bray, C, et Al. “Methylphenidate does not improve cognitive function in healthy sleep-deprived young adults.” J Invest Med. 2004. 52:192–201.

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24. Peloquin, L, and Klorman, R. “Effects of methylphenidate on normal children’s mood, event-related potentials, and performance in memory scanning and vigilance.” J Abnorm Psychol. 1986. 95:88–98.

25. Volkow, N, et Al. “Reinforcing effects of psychostimulants in humans are associated with increases in brain dopamine and occupancy of D2 receptors.” J Pharmacol Exp Therapeut. 1999. 291:409–15.

26. Caldwell, J, et Al. “Modafinil’s effects on simulator performance and mood in pilots during 37 h without sleep.” Aviat Space Environ Med. 2004. 75:777–84.

27. Whitmore, J, et Al. “A double-blind placebo controlled investigation of the efficacy of modafinil for maintaining alertness and performance in sustained military ground operations.” AFRL-HE-BR-TR-2006-0005 ed. United States Air Force Research Laboratory. 2006.

28. Gill, M, et Al. “Cognitive performance following modafinil versus placebo in sleep-deprived emergency physicians: a double-blind randomized crossover study.” Acad Emerg Med. 2006. 13:158–165.

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Philosophical and Plot Musings in Terranigma

This blog post will be in the first in a possible occasional series that looks at the philosophical and unanswered issues in certain video games. Terranigma, released in 1995 for the Super Nintendo, is one of the most philosophical games available so it would be an appropriate choice to begin such a series. Overall it is an updated version of a series of posts I made on the TerraEarth forum approximately 5+ years ago.

What is Crystal Blue?

One of the more important elements in the game is Crystal Blue. To better understand the nature and role of Crystal Blue it would be best to ask three questions: 1) what is Crystal Blue? 2) where does Crystal Blue come from? 3) who can manipulate Crystal Blue and its role?

First, what is Crystal Blue? Based on the fact that the citizens of Crysta, including Dark Ark, are all replicas constructed from Crystal Blue, it can be concluded that Crystal Blue can be manipulated into some semblance of form. Therefore, one could regard Crystal Blue as some form of modeling clay. Whether the structure of this clay is energy based or matter based will be discussed later [See: Crystal Blue as "Tears of the Outside World"].

Second, where does Crystal Blue come from? This is an interesting question because Crystal Blue is prevalent in Crysta at the beginning of the game and must be present in some form in the towers and/or rest of the underworld or penetrate the towers because the Elder reports to Dark Ark that the healing properties of the Crystal Spear only function under the Crystal Blue. The Elder also reports that these properties will no longer be available to Dark Ark when he emerges in the surface world, so it can be reasoned that either no Crystal Blue exists in the surface world or its concentration is so minute that the Crystal Spear is unable to utilize it [See: What Is The Being In The Box].

Crystal Blue does not exist naturally in the surface world, but does exist in the underworld, so what information can be deduced from this fact? Currently there is no evidence to disprove a contention that everything in the underworld is constructed from or dependent on Crystal Blue outside of Dark Gaia itself. In a game where balance between surface world and underworld/lightside and darkside is largely stressed as a central theme one could contend that the appearance of Crystal Blue in the underworld is contingent on events in the surface world. It is unlikely that Dark Gaia can simply create Crystal Blue whenever it wants. Therefore, perhaps Crystal Blue appears in the underworld in response to the birth or rebirth of a living creature in the surface world. Crystal Blue in its unmolded/bubble form is derived from the breakdown of existing replicas.

A couple of concerns regarding that statement do jump out. First, why does the underworld exist at the beginning of the game if the surface world is not present? One answer is that the surface world has not been destroyed, but sealed/in stasis within the five towers, so the balance between lightside and darkside still remains in the context of the Crystal Blue, just no additional Crystal Blue can be created because no birth on the surface world occurs. Second, why is there no change in the structure of the underworld when Reborn Ark returns as certainly more life has been born in the surface world? This is more than likely true, but similar to concern one, the surface world was sealed not destroyed, so no additional Crystal Blue would be created when the surface world was unsealed. Although some additional birth may have occurred in the surface world who can say that Crystal Blue has not been formed to compensate because the architect of that form, Dark Gaia, obviously has other greater concerns than making more replicas or further molding the underworld.

Third, how can there exist such a balance when the surface world is so much bigger than the underworld? It is true that the underworld appears to be much smaller than the surface world, but unfortunately there is no available Crystal Blue conversion table to calculate how much Crystal Blue is created for a living being versus how much Crystal Blue it takes to construct a massive tower for sealing continents or a large lava flow. In addition there is question to the how the concentration of free-floating Crystal Blue changes throughout the game. The Second Law of Thermodynamics can be used as a friend in this situation as Dark Gaia would require more Crystal Blue to create a replica than what actually makes up the replica. Fourth, the First Law of Thermodynamics does not appear to be so friendly, it states that energy or matter cannot be created or destroyed, so really where is Crystal Blue coming from? One answer to this question is the energy utilized in the creation of life in the surface world somehow finds its way to the underworld [See: Crystal Blue as "Tears of the Outside World"]. An interesting final question, one which an answer is not immediately forthcoming is what happens to Crystal Blue created by the above methodology if no underworld exists (Dark Gaia is sealed)? I would guess that the energy simply takes its 'bubble' form.

For the third question, who can manipulate Crystal Blue? It is clear in the game that Dark Gaia is able to shape Crystal Blue into various structures and replicas, but can Light Gaia do so as well? This question of Light Gaia's ability stems from the very end of the game after Dark Gaia is sealed Crysta seems to exist in its original state, not the broken and desolate state it is in when Reborn Ark arrives. It initially seems appropriate to assume that the Gaians cannot directly influence events or material in the opposite plane, the desolate environment is more ephemeral in comparison to the original state, thus when Dark Gaia is sealed, although Crysta will disappear, the original state has a greater hold in the underworld.

In addition if Light Gaia could manipulate Crystal Blue it could be possible for the replicas to continue to exist, although this may create balance issues because the Hero tends only to exist if the balance of the world is threatened. Finally Light Gaia never actually states that it is responsible for Dark Ark's last day, it just tells him to enjoy one last day. Overall it is rational to conclude that the entire underworld does not simply disappear the instant Dark Gaia is sealed, but instead its Crystal Blue structure breaks down without its architect, which explains why people can see Crystal Blue reflected in Dark Ark's eyes, his physical structure is breaking down. To the point of desolate Crysta (before Dark Gaia’s defeat) versus vibrant Crysta (after Dark Gaia’s defeat) such a shift could be the result of the lack of Dark Gaia’s influence, i.e. it was using the Crystal Blue to manipulate the appearance of Crysta as a psychological tool against Ark.

Crystal Blue as "Tears of the Outside World:

How can one relate Crystal Blue as "Tears of the Outside World" if Crystal Blue only exists in the Underworld? Because the citizens of Crysta are only exposed to Crystal Blue in unmolded/bubble form, this analysis will only address that form. One theory could relate to when one generates tears, although happiness can be a reason, more commonly sadness is the root cause. Usually sadness is facilitated by a negative event whether it is betrayal, misfortune or even death. Therefore, the ills of the outside world appear in a pure representative quality in the underworld, Crystal Blue bubbles. One could also equate, in part, the number of bubbles as representative of “Dark Gaia's power” in the sense that the influence of Dark Gaia would be strengthened by the number of unfortunate events occurring anywhere either in the surface or the underworld.

This enhancement seems reasonable because although either Gaia may not be able to directly influence events in the opposite world, their essence or strength could increase and decrease based on the events that take place in either world. However, an interesting side question is what do the images in the bubbles represent in this analysis? One possibility is that the images represent the origins of that particular bubble; however, a second possibility is that the images represent a “window” of sorts between the two worlds and that image changes as the “bubble” aimlessly drifts through the underworld. Overall the second possibility seems more probable because although numerous images have a “sad” tone to them, various citizens of Crysta are not actually frightened by those images.

"Tears of the Outside World" may also be more of a material characterization instead of an emotional one. Each piece of Crystal Blue is a tear (a small portion) of energy that represents a counterbalance with events and beings of the surface world. This hypothesis seems to work well with the elements that people report seeing in the Crystal Blue including Ark fighting monsters and witnessing unknown locations, which is an image that Elle and others in the underworld have no direct familiarity with.

However, Dark Gaia does state that "When used up, the replicas regain their form and float like so…" so why can't these events be related to underworld events as the replicas seem to provide some of the fuel, if not all of the fuel, for the bubbles although not the original fuel. Crystal Blue only existing in the underworld supports the hypothesis that the images represent underworld events and at first glance the images seem plausible. Unfortunately although there is no evidence to support the fact that no one, other than the Elder and Dark Ark, in Crysta has ever left the town, making it possible that the unfamiliar places could be the towers, there are no other people outside of Crysta in the underworld that you meet other than the Guardian, leaving questions to what people are seeing in the Crystal Blue if the bubble images are exclusive to the underworld. Whether these images are of past or future events remains in question and more than likely are dependent on the origins of the images (i.e. is Crystal Blue ‘marked’ by the events that originate them or are they a form of lens for one or both worlds?)

Suppose they are past events on the surface world. There is little information regarding the events on the surface world and underworld before the surface world was sealed and there is no evidence that monsters existed on the surface world. Monsters seem to exist as somewhat of a mutation of the reincarnation process or unsealing process of the surface world, similar to either the malfunction of chaperon proteins during protein folding or even as a form of “pathogenic” intruder like a virus [See: The Role of the Ra Tree]. Therefore, there is no guarantee that "The Golden Child" fought monsters before attempting to seal Dark Gaia at an earlier time. If this is true then Crystal Blue more than likely reflects future surface world events not past surface world or underworld events. Places and people unknown to citizens of Crysta, Dark Ark fighting monsters, Light Elle shown waiting for Ark, etc all depict future events. Also it may be difficult to link past events due to breakdowns in the formation of Crystal Blue due to the surface and underworld being sealed at multiple intervals.

Crystal Blue as a Temporary Phenomenon?

One interesting characteristic of Crystal Blue may be associated with a temporal nature based on something Dark Elle states early in the game. Dark Elle: “… You should go outside. Crystal Blue is in the air and it's very pretty. They should help get your mind off bad dreams.” This statement seems strange if Crystal Blue was a permanent fixture in the environment. It really only makes sense if Dark Elle had experienced at least one day without Crystal Blue in the air. The kid in the domicile also seems to support this sentiment of temporality in that he cannot go out and play because Crystal Blue is in the air, but the tenor of the statement seems to imply that he does go out and play once in a while.

Finally the farmer reports that he does not know what Crystal Blue is and whether or not it will hurt his crops. The first portion of the statement is reasonable because even under normal circumstances it would be difficult to characterize and define Crystal Blue. The second portion of the statement though seems unreasonable because if Crystal Blue is a permanent fixture of the environment then the farmer should easily know whether or not it negatively influences his crops on a significant level due to time of exposure. This statement also could contradict the child’s statement in the context of whether or not bubble Crystal Blue is a new or old phenomenon. Of course if Crystal Blue is a permanent fixture of the environment and the farmer still is unclear then one of two different hypotheses can be postulated.

First, the farmer is a complete idiot. Second, the flow of time in Crysta is unique, almost like a "Groundhog Day" type situation where not necessarily the same day is repeated, as witnessed in the actions and the words of Crysta citizens, but the same week may repeat over and over again. This phenomenon could also explain the 'past' déjà vu type memories the people of Crysta have, seen from repeated weeks past. In addition let us say if the same week is repeated in Crysta, the dreams that seem to predict the future and re-live the past make a little more sense [See: Dreams of Crystians]. Of course one could come to the conclusion that this is only day two or three in the existence of Crysta, but to make that statement how would you addresses Reborn Ark's statement to Light Elle that he lived for a long time in Crysta with Dark Elle and has many memories together? Note: Time cycling defines the same Crysta (Crysta 1, Crysta 1, Crysta 1 etc.) not different Crysta (Crysta 1, Crysta 2, Crysta 3 etc.). One lingering question is what factors support permanent Crystal Blue bubbles?

What Makes Dark Ark So Special?

Why is Dark Ark so special? Dark Ark is told multiple times during the game that he exists outside of the loop of fate/time and is therefore special. How did it come to pass that Dark Ark exists outside of these cycles, especially because Dark Gaia created him or so it tells Dark Ark? Did Dark Gaia come to realize that the cyclic nature of creation and destruction in the world was eternal unless it created a being outside this loop that could change it, in some effort to change the balance of the world for a power grab over Light Gaia [See: Dark Gaia's Motivation]? If so, how was Dark Gaia able to accomplish such a feat or is it even responsible [See: Does Dark Ark Have a Soul]? Unfortunately for Dark Gaia, such a being would be outside of its control and not necessarily guaranteed to break the cycle. Is Dark Ark the only one in Crysta that has free will, the ability to make choices for himself? [See: Do Crystians Have Souls?].

If Dark Ark exists outside of the loop of fate then it is highly likely that he does have free will, therefore, Dark Gaia could not be guaranteed that Dark Ark would open Pandora's box. Although the game does not allow it because you have to advanced the plot line, if this is the case, Dark Ark does have a choice of whether or not to open the blue door. If you refuse, the three guys that try are sucked through the door, so perhaps Dark Gaia forced the issue by inducing those individuals in its residence to try to open the door and be sucked through motivating Dark Ark to open the door and claim the box? One could argue that none of the actions taken by Dark Ark were fated; instead they were decisions he made on his own with possible coaxing by outside entities like Dark Gaia and Light Gaia. Light Yomi seems to support this notion of Dark Ark with free will, “I'll be back when someone strays from the flock like Ark”.

Dark Gaia: “If you never found out you could have been happy… But you appeared to have learned more than you should have”. What does this mean? This statement implies that Dark Ark did have some semblance of free will and opening Pandora's box was not a guarantee. The statement by Dark Gaia is funny in a sense because it apparently did not anticipate that Dark Ark would meet up with people like Meihou and Kumari during his journey in the surface world? Of course it could be argued that Dark Gaia did not plan for Dark Ark to resurrect the world, in essence Dark Ark was not necessarily created solely to resurrect the world instead Dark Ark would be Dark Gaia's best chance to resurrect the world. Thus when the opportunity arose Dark Gaia and Dark Yomi pushed Dark Ark in the right direction. Overall the statement probably refers to Dark Ark learning about the true nature of Beruga. Recall that the revival of Beruga was central to Dark Gaia’s plan to break the cycle.

However, according to “The Golden Child” Dark Gaia did have high hopes for Dark Ark though as Dark Ark was created by Dark Gaia to rule the planet as his own. This statement also hints to what “The Golden Child” believes to be the motivation for the actions taken by Dark Gaia and also supports the contention that a Gaia cannot directly influence events in the opposite world [See: Dark Gaia's Motivation], thus Dark Gaia needs a form of avatar or figurehead in the surface world. Interestingly enough Dark Gaia cannot or does not simply destroy Reborn Ark's physical form (Dark Ark) in their confrontation even though it can do so for other residence of Crysta [See: Who is Reborn Ark].

To conclude Dark Ark was not destined to open the box, aside from the above reasoning, Kumari did say that Dark Ark existed outside the loop of fate and that type of statement is a key statement. Either one is inside the loop of fate or outside the loop of fate and once that designation is decided the particular being cannot enter or leave the loop. Of course one could argue that the fact that Dark Ark was not bound to fate may be exactly why he opened the box because perhaps none of the other replicas in Crysta were fated to do so, so they could not.

Side Note: Regarding Ark and fate in opening Pandora’s Box - another point that may support the rational that he is not guaranteed to open it is the individual on the left side of the table in the Elder's domicile who states: “If I told you this you would probably laugh Ark, but over at that door, you know, the one that the Elder said we mustn't open. When you go past it I get this spooky feeling as if someone is calling my name.” So apparently Dark Yomi does not really care who opens the box, just someone. Ironically this individual is the only one that is not trying to break the door down later in the day; maybe he is scared of what is inside.

Who is Dark Ark as a Person?

Given the burden of not only resurrecting all of the continents of the surface world (except for one particular one), but also all of its life forms, the character and motivations of Dark Ark is something that deserves analysis. Although Dark Ark is not destined to open Pandora's Box [See: What Makes Dark Ark So Special]; [See: Look it a Box, no it is Pandora's Box…], it is clear that if Dark Gaia could have anyone open the box it would prefer Dark Ark, so does it design Dark Ark with any special character traits in order to accomplish this goal? The first trait that becomes relevant is combat ability. Dark Gaia is surely aware that its pawn in the resurrection of the surface world will have to have the necessary combat abilities based on the trials in the tower, thus copying the individual who seals it would certainly suffice. It is unclear whether or not Dark Gaia is aware of the potential for monsters on the surface, but the existence of feral animals is certainly appropriate knowledge for Dark Gaia.

One of the individuals in the Elder's house states that the Elder told everyone never to open the blue door. Was Dark Ark designed with enough curiosity that Dark Gaia hopped would naturally lead Ark to open the door? This is a difficult question to answer without first coming to a conclusion regarding how long Crysta has existed when you start the game. If Crysta has existed for months/years then the answer is no, if Crysta has existed for days then the answer is maybe yes. Remember Dark Ark does not initiate the interest in the door, three of the four individuals in the Elder's Foyer do, so his curiosity is not strong enough to overcome the Elder's orders, but his sense of duty to save is fellow citizens is.

After Dark Ark saves his fellow citizens why does he elect to follow the instructions of the Elder, he already violated the word of the Elder once when he opened the door, so why listen this time (besides plot considerations)? Although Dark Ark is rather rambunctious, frequently placing him in hot water with adults, he does not appear to be selfish or self-centered for he actively plays with the children of Crysta and seems to have healthy relationships with those his own age, but he is excited about seeing the environment outside of Crysta and the surface world, excitement expressed on multiple occasions. However, in the end, he feels that he is driven by a deeper purpose as demonstrated in his conversation with Dark Elle when she is weaving his new cape and she asks if he will go far away, Dark Ark: “I don't know. I got this feeling after seeing the world outside, something, somewhere is waiting for me.” How did this element of Dark Ark's personality, this feeling come about, is it self-evolved or Dark Gaia imbued? It could be that this portion of Dark Ark's personality is derived directly from who he is modeled after (“The Golden Child”). This connection to "The Golden Child" creates a deeper purpose for the journey in lieu of 'The Elder told me to' or 'the surface world will be exciting'. In addition one wonders if the nightmares he is having at the beginning of the game [See: Dreams of Crystians] is any indication of what is to come.

With regards to Dark Ark's interaction with others on the surface it is initially hard to identify how well he gets along with others because most of the significant interaction involves the player making a choice of whether or not to assist the individual. Dark Ark does not appear to have any significant level of malice in his thoughts or actions, but how much he genuinely cares about people in the surface world is complicated by his naivety about what is actually happening. Thus his desire to know and explore may be the reason he accepts so many requests for assistance instead of some greater altruistic nature. Overall Dark Ark is not a bad person, but how good of a person he is, is debatable. However, Dark Ark does realize the value of friendship and having positive relationships with others.

Finally Dark Ark is very determined to succeed in his quest primarily because he is the type of person that does not want to leave things unfinished. Even when he almost dies at the hands of Beruga he refuses to die without knowing the real truth behind the reason for resurrecting the surface world. This 'never give-up' type mindset is enhanced by his conversation with the mountain goat in route to resurrecting human beings (one of the greatest scenes in the entire game… or any game for that matter). Interestingly Reborn Ark reports (speaking similar to Dark Ark) that he feels he has not changed over the course of his journey when returning to the underworld, so who really can understand him. As a final point it seems to me that part of Dark Ark's motivation may be ironically to identify the real motivation behind why the surface world needs to be resurrected outside of filler reasoning such as 'the Elder told me to do it'. Interestingly enough despite what Dark Ark says, he decided for himself to seal Dark Gaia, by seeking out the Starstones because he realized that the world needed to run on a balance of light and dark.

What or who exactly is "The Golden Child"?

First, it is obvious that "The Golden Child" is Light Side Ark. However, where did he come from and what is his role? Based on his own words and the words of Dark Gaia, "The Golden Child" at one point in time before the game begins had a hand in sealing Dark Gaia. How this occurred and its magnitude is somewhat foggy [See: Dark Gaia and Seals]. So, "The Golden Child" is a key instrumental cog in controlling the balance of the world. In addition "The Golden Child" does appear to be an associate of Light Gaia. He is connected to the Starstones, but what is that connection [See: What Exactly Are the Starstones]? Also what type of connection does he have with Dark Ark before their fusion? When "The Golden Child" is called forth by the Starstones he seems to know the situation. Is this knowledge similar to that of Light Yomi recognizing Reborn Ark as the hero [See: What is Yomi] or is he and/or the Starstones somehow collecting information during Dark Ark's journey through some perhaps psychic connection? Realistically was "The Golden Child" created by Light Gaia similar to how the physical form of Dark Ark was created by Dark Gaia or was "The Golden Child" originally a typical human that somehow transcended into "The Golden Child"? It seems that the latter is more probable because Light Gaia represents the possibility for surface world creation, but does not appear to ever actually create. If originally human then somehow Light Gaia tied his existence to the Starstones making him more than human, more than likely this transcendence occurred after "The Golden Child" sealed Dark Gaia as a form of reward or safety measure in case Dark Gaia was ever unsealed?

Finally what is his general lifespan? The lifespan and overall existence of "The Golden Child" is shrouded in mystery. Exactly how was he created, is he bound by a certain fate? It is possible that "The Golden Child" is bound by some level of fate in the context of his relationship to the Starstones [See: What Exactly Are the Starstones]. Overall obviously "The Golden Child" is an agent of good and balance in the game (why else would Kumari tell Dark Ark to call him forth and why would Lhasa residents believe that " The Golden Child is said to right the factors that shape fate."), but the personality we are exposed to seems to be very business-like and serious, in some ways contradictory to the personality of Dark Ark, which could further support their dichotomy. One interesting question is whether or not “The Golden Child” receives a body after the battle with Dark Gaia because Dark Ark is acting as a “host” of some sort and he will lose his Crystal Blue body, so what happens to “The Golden Child”? Does he only have one body, his original body, and can only fuse to the appropriate host for the rest of time to gain a corporal form?

What Exactly are Starstones?

The Starstones are interesting because they exist before Beruga is resurrected, heck they exist even before humans in general are resurrected (Liem obtains a Starstone by defeating Mud Doll in the Canyon). So what is the reason for the existence of a Starstone at this point in the game?
Depending on when one believes "The Golden Child" is killed, at the moment Liem obtains his Starstone "The Golden Child" is either sealed and dead or sealed and alive. Either way a possible solution could be that Starstones exist throughout the world, but have no meaning unless "The Golden Child" is sealed/killed. Regarding the connection between "The Golden Child" and the Starstones one could come to the conclusion that the essence/soul of "The Golden Child" is never extinguished, but instead if no physical form exists it seals itself at the Grave at Time's End.

The skulls in that particular graveyard could act as conduits for releasing the essence similar to the towers in the underworld. The Starstones act as a means to activate the conduit similar to the gigantic 'disco' balls in the control center of the towers. It could be postulated that the Starstones could be placed into the skulls if the "The Golden Child" is still alive, but nothing would happen because there is no essence/soul to release. You can place Starstones in the skulls before Kumari tells you to seek them out, but nothing happens because you cannot get all five before that point. The Starstones are still charging the skulls after the Arks fuse, so I would imagine that the Starstones remains in the skulls/alters until the essence of "The Golden Child" is stripped from its body or the body it currently resides in.

One question not addressed is how were the Starstones were scattered throughout the world? After the Starstones release the essence of "The Golden Child" the stones remain in the skulls until the essence loses its physical form and returns to the grave where the stones scatter to reform the seal because without the seal or a physical form the essence of "The Golden Child" would dissipate soon after. So basically Light Gaia created the Starstones as a mechanism to shelter the soul of Light Ark after Dark Gaia was first sealed, thus transcending his existence to that of "The Golden Child", which protects fate. Thus, Light Gaia as a means to maintain the form and existence of “The Golden Child” to ensure that its ‘champion’ could always come into existence when the balance of the world is threatened probably created the Starstones.

Of course Dark Yomi raises an interesting question about the true existence of "The Golden Child" when he comments that when he kills Reborn Ark there will be nothing to stop him and Dark Gaia. Does Dark Yomi believe that by removing Reborn Ark he kills Dark Ark ('the vessel') for "The Golden Child" thus even if "The Golden Child" returns to his seal there will be no one alive that will be able to unseal him and fuse with him. Or does Dark Yomi believe that killing Reborn Ark will destroy both "The Golden Child" and Dark Ark? It is improbable that Dark Yomi believes the latter, but Dark Yomi does not appear to know very much about "The Golden Child" in general, so he could be basing his reasoning on a flawed assumption.

A quick note: As mentioned above there is question to the actual reincarnation process that embodies "The Golden Child"? When, if ever, does he get his own body and when is he relegated to waiting for a vessel? One possibility is as followed for the life cycle of "The Golden Child":

Born in an actual body - Seals Dark Gaia - Connected to the Starstones by Light Gaia - Dies in Astarica - Soul sealed in Antarctica - Soul released by Dark Ark - Dark Ark fusion forming Reborn Ark - Born again in an actual body … This cyclic pattern of existence for "The Golden Child" can also be used to explain the graves in Antarctica as each grave is a cycle marker representing a physical death of "The Golden Child". Each grave has the same inscription: "When Light and Shadow come together, he shall rise again…" so it is not hard to concluded that each grave has a strong commonality with the others. Therefore, if one believes in some super cycle break theory it is possible to determine the number of times Dark Gaia has been sealed before the break by counting the number of graves, » 55th cycle +- 2.

If one really wants to get potentially wacky when it comes to theorizing, one could associate each Starstone with a particular characteristic of Dark Ark or "The Golden Child" based on the events that transpired in its acquisition. For example the stone originally acquired by Liem represents courage demonstrated in his combat against the Mud Doll. The stone gained from the scientist on Ayes Rock represents faith demonstrated by a voice informing the scientist that Dark Ark would arrive when the world was threatened to collect the stone and how he believes humans have become somewhat arrogant to so quickly abandon god. The stone from Astarica represents sacrifice demonstrated by the willingness of "The Golden Child" to drink from a goblet despite knowing the result, because it was necessary for the future. The stone from Penginea represents love/friendship demonstrated by the eagerness of the penguin to give up its stone for the flower to present to the female penguin. Finally the stone from Neo Tokio possessed by the girl represents strength demonstrated by her ability to live alone in the desolated town and survive. One could also reason that these attributes make up a large portion of the character of "The Golden Child" and could be a reason why he was selected as the chief replica of Dark Gaia's plan notwithstanding that it is smart to create a replica of the creature that defeated you. A final interesting side note is that despite his powers Meihou seems bound by fate in that he cannot find the Starstones even though be basically knows where they are.

How Does "The Golden Child" End Up Sealed/Buried at Antarctica?

There are two possible answers to this question. First, during the death of "The Golden Child", Kumari retrieved the body and buried it there. There is precedence to support the ability of Kumari to do such a thing for he does the same thing with Dark Ark. Second, due to the connection between "The Golden Child" and the Starstones whenever the soul/spirit of "The Golden Child" exists without physical form it inherently returns to its place of rest at The Grave at Time's End. It is difficult to conclude that any human buried the soul or body of "The Golden Child" for three reasons. First, no human in the game ever mentions The Grave at Time's End other than Kumari or his fellow monks, thus they would not know where it is, so it is difficult to believe that anyone would bury him there. Second, depending on when "The Golden Child" died the necessary navigational techniques to travel from the site of his death to The Grave at Time's End would not exist. Third, assuming that "The Golden Child" dies at Astarica I would venture that nobody is left alive to retrieve the body. Another interesting note about Antarctica is that there is no notification that it is unsealed/revived like the other continents in Chapter 1, instead it may be resurrected when Dark Ark unseals humans. Unfortunately there is no way to test this hypothesis because there does not appear to be a way to see a map of the world until receiving a ship, which is long after unsealing humans.

Where Does "The Golden Child" go After the Conflict at the Gaia Stone?

"The Golden Child" tells Dark Ark that it is time for us to return to our respective worlds. So "The Golden Child" returns to the surface world, but does he return to the Grave at Time's End or is he reincarnated? Resurrection would be questionable because of potential balance issues that exist with Light Gaia, "The Golden Child" and Kumari all in existence and no Dark Gaia, Dark Ark or Beruga, but it is hard to break away from the obvious regarding the Ending. One potential solution to this balance problem comes from the relationship between dreams and whether or not Dark Ark has a soul.

Who is Reborn Ark and what is His Fate?

Although there is some textual controversy regarding who the hero really is in this game [See: Who Really is the Hero] smart money says that Reborn Ark, who is an amalgamation between Dark Ark and "The Golden Child", is the hero. However, his existence is rather ephemeral in that his sole goal is to repair the loop of time/fate by destroying Beruga. The rational behind his extended mission of sealing Dark Gaia is questionable [See: Why Does Reborn Ark Need to Seal Dark Gaia]. So unfortunately we do not receive much exposure to many different personality traits making it difficult to elaborate the amalgamation process. Exactly what attributes such as body, mind and soul are constituted in Reborn Ark from Dark Ark or "The Golden Child"? Based on NPC interaction Dark Ark seems to clearly be the dominant personality of the two, but note that only Dark Gaia, Light Yomi and Light Elle seem to identify Reborn Ark as the hero (Columbus may as well), so perhaps "The Golden Child" may yield conversations to Dark Ark because he has formed relationships with those Reborn Ark interacts with while in existence.

Overall it is difficult to conceive that the fusion is not pure (there is no evidence to demonstrate otherwise), so what constitutes the body, mind and soul of Reborn Ark? It appears that the body is Dark Ark's ("The Golden Child" does not appear to have a body at the time of the fusion), but whether or not the body is entirely Dark Ark's or even relevant is debatable. Their minds are fused together as one as both convey knowledge only one or the other would know and the soul is that of "The Golden Child". The soul analysis of course depends on whether or not you believe Dark Ark has a soul and where it comes from [See: Does Dark Ark Have a Soul]. At the Gaia Stone "The Golden Child" makes the statement that it is time for both Arks to return to their respective worlds. Based on that statement it would be logical to concluded that Dark Ark returns to the ravaged Crysta and "The Golden Child" returns to the surface world in some form or another and Reborn Ark ceases to exist for the time being. However, does Dark Ark really only return to Crysta and "The Golden Child" really only return to the surface world [See: Who Really is the Hero]?

What Causes Reborn Ark to 'Grow-Up' After Talking to Kumari and What is the Significance of Reborn Ark as a Baby?

Most people probably look at the literal interpretation of this characterization as rebirth when "The Golden Child" and Dark Ark fuse together, life starting anew. However, how does that explain the rapid transition to adulthood? Does Kumari hasten time in a microenvironment surrounding Reborn Ark? If so why is it necessary to call Ra Tree, King Bird and Liem to his aid in order to do so? It may be that there is too much focus on the physical nature of baby Reborn Ark and ignoring the notion of a child's ignorance and innocence. It could be reasoned that when "The Golden Child" and Dark Ark fused and were reborn, the rebirth was in both the mind and the body not just body alone thus a loss of purpose in addition to physical ability. Therefore, Kumari invokes Ra Tree, King Bird and Liem to remind Reborn Ark what his duty is and what he has gone through, thus with this reminder Reborn Ark is no longer ignorant to what must be done, awakening his mind. Thus Reborn Ark grows both physically and mentally. Without rekindling the motivation and duty in Ark, the mere physical alteration would have little meaning.

One lingering question about the reincarnation/fusion process is the body construct of Reborn Ark. It appears Dark Ark provides the body for the fusion, but is the body of Reborn Ark constructed of Crystal Blue? Assuming that it is not Crystal Blue, otherwise why does Dark Gaia not simply destroy Reborn Ark's physical form during their confrontation, where does this new body come from, the basic reincarnation process? What exactly happens at the Gaia Stone after defeating Dark Gaia? Why does Dark Ark revert to his original Crystal Blue body? Does "The Golden Child" keep the reborn body and if so why? One possibility is that Reborn Ark's body is indeed some construct of Crystal Blue, but with the unionized soul the structure of the Crystal Blue is stabilized. The soul acts as bonding glue, so Dark Gaia cannot manipulate its structure as it did with other Crystians. At the Gaia Stone "The Golden Child" separates from Dark Ark, whether or not "The Golden Child" takes the entire soul is dependent on your belief about super cycle. Thus without the entire soul, the body, now Dark Ark has no agent to keep it from breaking down. Of course regardless of whether you believe the body is Crystal Blue or an actual body, you will encounter difficult questions.

Why does Reborn Ark need to seal Dark Gaia?

"The Golden Child" and Kumari both state that the loop of fate is broken because of the resurrection of Beruga not because Dark Gaia is not sealed. Therefore, when Beruga is killed, why does Dark Gaia need to be sealed for the loop of fate is not disrupted? Other then advancement of the plot, the best possible answer to this question is the hypothesis that either a new loop of fate is created when Reborn Ark is born, a loop that demands sealing Dark Gaia or unlike Dark Ark, Reborn Ark actually does exist within the loop of fate and his fate is to seal Dark Gaia.

So Who Really is the Hero?

One of the interesting quirks with the game is that many characters seem to spread their understanding and opinions of who the hero is between all three versions of Ark. "The Golden Child" and Light Gaia seem to regard Dark Ark is the hero. Those of the surface world (or at least those responsible for the graveyard in Antarctica), Kumari and Dark Gaia seem to hint that "The Golden Child" is the hero. Dark Yomi, Light Yomi, Columbus and Chapter 4 seem to acknowledge Reborn Ark as the hero. So who is really the hero? Obviously Reborn Ark has to be the hero in this cycle as he is able to open the Dark Side Box, wield the Hero's Arms in addition to the acknowledgement by the Yomis and the Chapter title.

However, what exactly does Light Gaia mean when it says: "You are the hero who appears when the earth is in danger. In you flow both the blood of Light Gaia and Dark Gaia. Your duty is now finished. Your body will soon disappear." This quote makes little initial sense as it immediately implies that Dark Ark is the hero all along, not "The Golden Child" or Reborn Ark. Note: It is highly probable that Light Gaia is talking to Dark Ark not "The Golden Child" or Reborn Ark here because at the Gaia Stone "The Golden Child" states that it is time for both Arks to return to their respective worlds before Light Gaia speaks. Also Light Gaia invites this Ark to enjoy one final day of existence in Crysta, something that would not make sense to anyone other than Dark Ark. If the two Arks went their separate ways at the Gaia Stone, how is it that Dark Ark has the blood of Light Gaia and Dark Gaia? Also if that is so, how is it that Dark Ark will still cease to exist once the underworld disappears due to Dark Gaia being sealed?

There are only two ways the above concern can be reconciled, first if Dark Ark evolved into the hero through the trials and ordeals of his journey. "The Golden Child" also makes the statement that Dark Ark did not die in his journey because he is the hero. So is it assumed to assume that Dark Gaia created Dark Ark with free will and attempted to manipulate him into creating a situation where Dark Gaia could disrupt the cycle of creation and destruction on the surface world, [See Dark Gaia's Motivation] but instead Dark Ark evolved into the hero who appears when the Earth is in danger? If true, what does that make the "The Golden Child"? Perhaps, "The Golden Child" is the heroic catalyst and Dark Ark before fusion is the hero substrate and after fusion is the hero product. As the heroic catalyst "The Golden Child" could then break from the fusion and Dark Ark would remain with some part of "The Golden Child" despite him no longer actually being with him [See: Does Dark Ark Have a Soul]. Second, both Dark Ark and "The Golden Child" are part of the real hero in Reborn Ark due to their respective souls, so in some context both of them are the hero, but this theory runs into problems when analyzing Dark Ark’s soul. Finally was "The Golden Child" the hero in a past cycle? I believe it is clearly possible [See: Does Dark Ark Have a Soul].

Dark Gaia and Seals (not the animals)

If Dark Gaia was sealed in the past by some entity, how did Dark Gaia break the seal? Two possible options exist for this question: first, Dark Gaia was not completely sealed in the context that it could no longer actively influence events, but still could passively influence events in both the surface or underworld. However, there is no evidence to suggest that Dark Gaia could ever directly influence events on the surface world, only beings that allied themselves with Dark Gaia ever influenced events on the surface world; therefore, under this sealing premise, sealing Dark Gaia changes very little on the surface world if you simply seal its ability to actively influence events seeing that most of its influence appears to be indirect anyways. Also this type of a seal does not jibe with the result of sealing Dark Gaia at the end of the game.

Second, Dark Gaia was not completely sealed in the context of time, for a short period Dark Gaia could not act and the underworld vanished, but later Dark Gaia was released from its seal and was able to influence and manipulate events once again. This theory seems more plausible because when Dark Gaia's powers are sealed after losing to Reborn Ark Crysta and the entire underworld will vanish according to Light Gaia. This reality demonstrates that when a Gaian's power is sealed it has no influence in either world, not a simple passive influence. Overall whether or not Reborn Ark is required to completely seal Dark Gaia is unclear because it is unknown what form or assistance "The Golden Child" had when sealing Dark Gaia in the past for the first time before Dark Ark existed and what the eventual fate of Dark Gaia will be in the future. However, theorizing about this issue is still possible.

The statement made by Dark Gaia, "There's someone inside you! The representative of Lightside… -- Just as before…" seems to be one of the defining statements in the game. This line can be interpreted in two ways: this Dark Gaia referencing the situation as occurring exactly as it had in a past time with another Dark Gaia or Dark Gaia could be referring to Light Ark (“Before becoming “The Golden Child”) as its sole opponent in a past time. Granted it is easier to interpret the statement as the former instead of the latter. However, that does not correlate with certain other side elements regarding sealing.

For example, who acted as the 'vessel' for "The Golden Child" when Dark Gaia was first sealed before making the copy of Dark Ark if "The Golden Child" was just a soul/spirit? Two possible options jump to mind. First, the past cycle Dark Ark was the vessel for "The Golden Child" and the events are happening exactly as they normally did. Of course if that were true, then it may complicate things regarding the difference in cycles between the start of the game and the end of the game. It basically implies that Beruga and Dark Ark are not special, instead they are just bit players that play a recursive role and that Dark Ark may actually be bound by fate, if he has fused with "The Golden Child" in a number of cycles past. (Kumari's understanding of fate may be flawed because he too is encapsulated in a potential super cycle, but that remains to be proven).

Second, the vessel for "The Golden Child" is someone else. This theory has its own problems because remember the fusion probably needs to be 'perfect'/'pure' fusion to form Reborn Ark. How can a past Reborn Ark be created between "The Golden Child" and another entity unless that other entity is very similar to Ark? Notwithstanding that problem, who would be available to even make a realistic attempt at the fusion? The only person that seems probable besides Ark is Elle because some characters describe the closeness of their souls. However, how does this fusion occur, with which Elle (remember Dark Gaia still exists so Dark Elle may exist as well) and if Elle acted as the vessel you would think that Dark Gaia would be able to tell a difference in spirit between Ark and Elle. Thus the person more than likely had to look like and “feel like” Ark, so Ark is acting as his own vessel and spirit with Elle somehow thrown into the mix just does not fly. Also neither Elle ever really volunteers to fuse with "The Golden Child", so how did it happen? Assume the most likely Elle to fuse would be Astarica Elle, this Elle demonstrates no desire to fuse with Astarica Ark and Astarica Ark seems to die while Astarica Elle is still unfused with Astarica Ark, so when did the fusion take place?

So, although it may seem more of a stretch to assume the second interpretation is what Dark Gaia means, it probably is correct because the first interpretation does not seem to hold up to scrutiny. Also one could argue that because there the statement is not concurrent that the second interpretation is correct. Note that Dark Gaia does not say the entire phrase in one breath, but splits it up into three different statements at different, but consecutive points in the fight.

After that long detour, in addition if this second sealing rational is correct, exactly what is the methodology that must be followed for Dark Gaia to re-emerge in the world? The underworld disappears, so any unsealing of Dark Gaia or the creation of a new Dark Gaia probably needs to occur in the surface world. However, how does this re-emergence occur? Suppose the requisite amount of time elapses, does the new Dark Gaia just 'magically' pop-up, remake the underworld and begin its job of creating disharmony and removing the unnecessary? How would this 'pop-up' occur? When Dark Gaia is sealed is it sealed in some unknown third world or was only "The Golden Child" responsible for sealing Dark Gaia in every previous cycle except for the one the game follows and Dark Gaia is only partly sealed and some portion of the underworld still exists and the essence of Dark Gaia simply resides in the unsealed portion of the underworld? Also what happens in the underworld in regards to Crystal Blue when Dark Gaia is gone versus when it re-emerges [See: What is Crystal Blue] and what happens with entities like the Guardian and Dark Yomi when Dark Gaia is sealed versus when it comes back? Overall the best explanation for all of these questions involve the events that occur at Astarica in that it plays a pivotal role in the resurrection/unsealing process of Dark Gaia [See: What the Heck is Happening in Astarica]?

Dark Gaia was not the only thing in this game to get sealed. Who sealed the surface world and what event transpired prior to it happening? Overall it makes little sense that Dark Gaia would seal the surface world because such an action would be contrary to its motivation [See: Dark Gaia's Motivation]. In the same vein it seems unlikely that any other entities that are affiliated with Dark Gaia would purposely seal the surface world. Neither of these entities would act in such a way because Dark Gaia would either be winning the battle or it would be sealed, so either there would be no reason to seal the surface world or it would not be able to. Therefore, it is logical to assume that either Light Gaia or some entity affiliated with Light Gaia is responsible.

Realistically Light Ark cannot be responsible because he dies before the surface world is sealed. So the only two candidates for sealing the world are Kumari or Light Gaia. Due to their close knit relationship it may not be important which one actually did seal the surface world, but the motivation does matter. Why would Light Gaia seal the surface world, in essence sealing itself? One scenario is that the situation was fairly bleak in that Light Gaia just lost "The Golden Child" and Beruga was more than likely still outside of his cryostasis, thus the breakdown of the loop of time/fate culminating in Dark Gaia's return forced Light Gaia, in effort to preserve its role in existence, to seal the surface world maintaining the static balance. One final side note: It could be possible that either Gaia could seal itself anytime anywhere, but an outside entity can only seal a Gaia at the respective Gaia Stone where the Gaia creates a real form. Perhaps when one defeats a Gaia with a real form, one destroys that Gaia rather than simply seals it. Maybe there is a difference in the type and duration of seal if it is voluntary versus forced?

Dark Gaia's Motivation:

In essence the major motivation for Dark Gaia is to send Dark Ark on his journey is to displace Light Gaia. Using Beruga, Dark Gaia can break the loop of creation and destruction removing the balance of the world because no longer will Light Gaia play a significant role in creation. Instead through Beruga Dark Gaia will control creation [Beruga's Generic Engineering and Zombie Creating (perfection to come) Technology] and destruction (the Asmodeus Virus which Beruga has converted into a weapon). With this type of control in the hands of Dark Gaia and its allies the role of Light Gaia is severely diminished. One particular statement made by Dark Gaia when Reborn Ark is traveling the infinite corridor to the Gaia Stone illustrate this motivation, "… Soon light and shadow will become one. … For Earth's new beginning I shall fight like you, with real form." This statement does allude to the fact that not only has light and shadow become one for Reborn Ark, but light and shadow will become one for the Earth. Of course in this case the light and shadow do not directly represent Light and Dark Gaia, but instead represent their roles in the cycle of time/fate where Dark Gaia will undertake the responsibility of both roles instead of only destruction.

Overall Dark Gaia intends to basically push Light Gaia off a cliff in regards to its functional role in the world. Note that this may not have originally been the intention of Dark Gaia, but when Beruga changed [See: What Drives Beruga to Ally with Dark Gaia] Dark Gaia saw its opportunity. It is an interesting though that Dark Gaia still has this motivation when entering into battle with Reborn Ark because Beruga is dead, King Henri is dead, Queen of Sylvain is dead (twice) and Dark Yomi is dead, so what kind of trump card does Dark Gaia have to accomplish its goal if it was successful in defeating Reborn Ark? Perhaps has Dark Gaia reached a point where it realizes that if it does not kill Reborn Ark it cannot win and going back to a cyclic balance between creation and destruction at this point is unacceptable, so it risks being sealed for its goal.

Look it a Box, no it is Pandora's box:

Dark Yomi: "You should be able discover the future that has been invested in this box". What does this quote mean? Dark Gaia: "But its real significance you will come to learn yourself." So what is the great meaning of Pandora's box? Also why does opening Pandora's box displace all of the 'souls' in Crysta? Dark Gaia reports that the box is not the underworld's box, but the surface world box. Therefore, assuming he is telling the truth, what type of control does Dark Gaia have over the box as it is not its box? One could make the statement that only a small amount of Light Gaia can directly exist in the underworld and visa versa with Dark Gaia and the surface world, so when the surface world box is opened, too much surface world energy is released into the underworld generating an unbalance in the underworld displacing the souls of those in Crysta. Perhaps the displacement means to lead the souls back to the surface world, which currently is still sealed, thus the souls instead are displaced to the towers where the surface world is sealed and are reconstituted into monsters.

Another rational, the that seems the most probable, could be that the surface world box has no real expulsion of power and opening the box does nothing in the way of releasing any energy and Dark Gaia manipulated Dark Ark by displacing the souls in Crysta itself. What motivation does Dark Gaia have to force Dark Ark to go to the towers? Clearly Dark Gaia wants Dark Ark to resurrect the surface world and Beruga to potentially shift the balance of power between the two Gaias. The previous possibility in the last paragraph may be problematic because when Reborn Ark opens Pandora's Box in the surface world, which should be the underworld's box, there is no resultant state of unbalance and associated displacement of souls as underworld energy flows into the surface world. While there are some possible explanations for this lack of chaos none seem to be clear-cut.

First, the surface world is considerable larger than the underworld and if the energy in the respective boxes is either equal or proportional to the size of the world then the underworld energy may more easily dissipate in the surface world. Second, the box only influences Storkholm/Crysta and when this box is opened only Light Elle and Reborn Ark are present and Ark is shielded from the effect of the box and Light Elle has no corresponding soul to be displaced, but that does not make very much sense. Also note that opening Light Side Pandora's Box does not extract the souls of all of the individuals in Crysta right away, but instead after a brief conversation with Dark Elle, another potential plan point of Dark Gaia.

Returning to the opening statements made by Dark Yomi and Dark Gaia, what do they mean? Dark Yomi's statement is probably in reference to the potential of the one who opens the box to resurrect the surface world and/or restore balance to the Earth. Dark Yomi's statement also may reveal some clue to the origins of Pandora's box (at least the Light Side one). Did the Elder create the box and lie about it originating in the surface world or was a Pandora's box created as a fail-safe in case one of the worlds was sealed? It makes a lot more sense if the Elder created the box as the jumping off point for its plan, but unfortunately such a deceitful answer is not that much fun. Therefore, it is entirely possible that the box, which corresponds to its appropriate world, is created in the opposite world when that world is sealed as a step in the process to remove the seal. The box seems to exist as long as its counter-weight guardian exists [See: What is the Deal with Yomi].

What is the Deal with Yomi? You Open the Box…

The Yomis are interesting both for what they are and their personalities. Overall the analysis will primarily focus on Dark Yomi seeing that it travels with you through about 95% of the game. So the first obvious question is what are the Yomis and why are they trapped in the respective opposite world boxes? Addressing the second question, first, one could regard Yomi as a gatekeeper for the box, one who ensures that the proper person opens the box. Recall that Dark Yomi had to instruct Dark Ark on how to open the box when first confronted with it. But why keep an opposite Yomi in a given box? One possible theory is that each Yomi, Light and Dark, fills the role of an aid de camp to its respective Gaia. Light Yomi informs Dark Ark that the first beings on Earth were Yomis. Therefore, it is not a large stretch of the imagination that two of these Yomis, one from each world were promoted to a role of assisting the function of the Gaians. Of course there is no in-game evidence to support or disprove this hypothesis other than the realization that the Yomis in the game are more important than the generic living being, similar in level to that of Kumari. In addition the Yomis may be bound to the opposite boxes as a means to balance the use and creation of each box.

The choices that Dark Yomi makes during the quest can be questioned. Early Dark Yomi motivates Dark Ark on his tasks as the aid de camp of Dark Gaia in effort to break the cycle and his behavior underlies that goal. However, his behavior is suspect after the resurrection of Beruga. Dark Yomi tells Reborn Ark that Dark Gaia instructed him to kill Dark Ark after he resurrects Beruga; however, Dark Yomi also states that he voluntarily “bided his time” until Dark Ark found the Hero. Later Dark Yomi reports to Reborn Ark as he is about to kill him, that he is sorry (he actually feels remorse that he is killing Ark, almost similar to if he had a gun to his head and was given the option: you or Ark), but the word of Dark Gaia is absolute. Why is it that Dark Yomi felt he could violate one order from Dark Gaia, but must follow another?

Perhaps Dark Yomi felt that he was still adhering to the spirit of the instruction by Dark Gaia because he would eventually kill Dark Ark, but instead as Reborn Ark? Of course that leads to another question of why did Dark Yomi felt that he needed to wait? If Dark Yomi killed Dark Ark before Dark Ark made contact with "The Golden Child" what would have happened? Note that the cycle of fate was already broken because Beruga had been resurrected, thus why did Dark Yomi wait until as he puts it “[Ark] finds the Hero”? Dark Gaia was responsible for the physical structure of Dark Ark, if Dark Yomi kills Dark Ark and Dark Gaia does not make another Dark Ark, what type of counter does "The Golden Child" or Kumari have? I guess Dark Yomi was trying to be too ambitious and out-maneuvered himself.

Possibly a very interesting point: Between the time when Dark Elle removes herself and Dark Yomi from the plane of existence to save Reborn Ark and opening Dark Side Pandora's Box you cannot enter the Light Side Pandora's Box. What happened to it? This function may be confirming that the box has some connection to Dark Yomi and when he was expelled, it ceased to exist or function.

Of course there are a few confusing issues regarding the separation of Dark Yomi and Light Yomi. For instance, how does Light Yomi know that Reborn Ark is the Hero if it just woke up when the Dark Side Box was opened? It is not unreasonable to suggest that Light Yomi, being a steward or aid de camp for Light Gaia, understands the nature of the Dark Side Box in that only the Hero would be able to open it and acquire the Hero's Arms. Therefore, when Reborn Ark opens the box, Light Yomi logically concludes that he is the Hero. This role and understanding by Light Yomi also can clear up another confusing statement, by Light Yomi itself during the Ending. Light Yomi congratulates Ark and likens him in accomplishment to a god, “You did fulfill you duty of creating heaven and earth. So you're what humans would call a god.” How would Light Yomi, who did not travel with Dark Ark, know about his accomplishments? Similar to the Hero association, obviously to become the Hero certain tasks need to be undertaken and it would be reasonable to attest that Light Yomi due to his status and role would know of these tasks. Therefore, if Dark Ark was the Hero or part of the Hero [See: Who Really is the Hero] he needed to accomplish these certain tasks, which primarily involve resurrecting and nurturing the world. Note that Light Yomi is likening the accomplishments made by Dark Ark not his actual existence as a god.

The final confusing issue separating the two Yomis comes from Ark himself during the Ending. After Light Yomi makes his God statement, Ark fires back with “You came along with me on my entire journey. You even stood by me and help me on my final battle.” Whoa, wait a minute, one of the initial assumptions of the discussion so far is that Light Yomi basically participated in about 5% of the journey, why would Dark Ark make this statement? Overall it stands to reason that Dark Ark does not recognize the difference between the internal and external Yomi. Reborn Ark, the Ark one would expect to have the greatest acuity regarding cycles and light/dark entities, states, “I don't understand this external and internal thing….” Therefore, it is reasonable that Dark Ark simply does not regard Light Yomi as any different than Dark Yomi or simply forgets.

Assume this explanation is not enough, then what about Light Yomi telling Reborn Ark that it was Dark Yomi that tried to kill him and that he is Light Yomi, "Don't be silly. That was Yomi from inside. I'm this world's Yomi." Of course one could still assume that Yomi is only one being by coming to the, what is a rather straw-grasping conclusion, that Yomi is lying in the above statement. However, the counter-question is why would he lie? Also how can Yomi be a neutral or singular being in a world full of internal and external beings which also include the top 'deity' as a being with both an internal and external side [Dark and Light Gaia]? The only way one could agree with Yomi being the only neutral singularity in the Terranigma world would be if it was a being of greater power than either of the Gaias. Unfortunately this theory is flawed because Dark Yomi, before attempting to kill Reborn Ark, states that it is adhering to the order of Dark Gaia/The Elder and its word is absolute. So a being of supposed neutrality and of greater power than either Gaia follows the orders of one of the Gaias? There is little reason for such a conclusion to make logical sense. Also the game basically illustrates that the Gaias are at the top of the spiritual food chain. Thus there really is no evidence that Yomi is only one being instead of two, one Light Side and one Dark Side.

What is the Being in the Box (not Yomi, but that which eventually constitutes itself as the Crystal Spear)?

The being itself talks to Dark Ark about the seal being broken. “I have awaited here for someone who could use me at will. Humans, upon gaining intelligence will learn of my existence. Using me, humans will gain power and expand their world. And time will resolve as it ever has. Like others before you, you have opened this box and met me. Do you have the courage to use me?” Interestingly enough if you say no the spear says, “So you are no more than yet another peasant dulled by peace….” So technically what is the Crystal Spear? Dark Yomi reports, after saying yes, “It looks like it took a liking to you.” How does Dark Yomi know this entity? Is the Crystal Spear the materialization of the being in weapon form created by Dark Ark's Soul? If so, how can Dark Ark have a soul if he is only a replica of "The Golden Child" [See: Does Dark Ark Have a Soul]?

Also recall that the being's final words are “Then take me in your hands exactly as your soul desires.”, which implies that the final form of the essence or being is created by the individual who takes possession of it, thus perhaps the very fact that the being was converted to a spear indicates something about Dark Ark's personality. One could assume that the Crystal Spear, the weapon the being eventually materializes into, is made from Crystal Blue. However, there are some questions regarding this conclusion. The weapon itself still functions and exists in the surface world and there is no evidence to demonstrate that Crystal Blue can exist in the surface world (Crystal Blue seems to be an underworld-based phenomenon). Of course whether or not this localization is accurate is dependent on how one defines the elements and methodology that constitute a Magirock [See: What is a Magirock].

However, the Crystal Spear does lose its ability to heal Dark Ark. One could argue that the Crystal Spear still exists on the surface world because unlike the loosely floating Crystal Blue in the underworld, the Crystal Spear is an extremely dense and concentrated Crystal Blue that can survive the brutality of the surface world environment similar maybe to the bodies of Dark Ark and Dark Elle. This theory has a problem in that Dark Gaia reports at the portal that the Crystal Spear only works under the Crystal Blue not with the Crystal Blue. So if the Crystal Spear is Crystal Blue why can it not focus parts of itself to heal Dark Ark's wounds? Of course the healing rate and capacity would not be as fast as it is in the underworld, but it should still exist. Either way, it can be reasonably assumed that the Crystal Spear somehow uses or manipulates Crystal Blue into energy to heal the wounds of its wielder. If this is true then the being that constitutes the Crystal Spear has the ability to manipulate the Crystal Blue.

Returning to the question of what this being actually is or represents, the being reports that upon gaining intelligence humans will learn of my existence, does this mean the entity is god, maybe even Light Gaia? This possibility is interesting because one could argue that because it is next to impossible to support or disprove the existence of a god, a god is used to fill in the gaps involving events and phenomena that cannot be sufficiently explained. Thus the less intelligent a species the more reliant on gods it would be. But one could also argue that it takes some level of intelligence to even conceive or comprehend the very idea of a god. However, a final viewpoint of intelligence may be useful in discussing this situation. Perhaps this being has a different idea of what constitutes intelligence, something far beyond what we humans regard as intelligence, thus humans need to evolve far beyond their current state before understanding this being.

Of course the being also reports that "And time will revolve as it ever has" which implies that if a state of hyper-understanding is required, humans have already reached that state at least once before their destruction. Deciphering whether or not the being is a part of a Gaia is difficult because of the elements associated with Pandora's box. It is probably not Light Gaia because Light Gaia apparently cannot manipulate Crystal Blue. Now the being could be part of Dark Gaia, especially if Dark Gaia had a hand in the creation of the Light Side Pandora's Box, but that does not seem probable because it is the Light Side Box. Although Dark Yomi resides in the Light Side box he does not appear to have any abilities within the box (he comes out of the box to do anything). So it would be reasonable to assume that Dark Gaia would have limited to no influence inside the box as well.

If the being is not a part of either Light or Dark Gaia, then what is it? Well if you take the characterization of the box by Reborn Ark literally (note that Reborn Ark is the only individual that calls the box, Pandora's Box) then maybe the being represents hope, the last thing left in Pandora's Box, suspending belief for a moment that apparently no real evils left the box when Dark Ark opened it (although one could argue that Dark Yomi is the embodiment of those evils). How probable is it that the being is hope? Revisiting what it says to Dark Ark and analyzing "I have awaited here for someone who could use me at will. [Can one wield hope, probably not in the most conventional sense, but a strong willed individual to rally people can utilize hope]. Humans, upon gaining intelligence will learn of my existence. [It is a little bit of a stretch, but one could reason that hope is a philosophical concept that only an intelligent being can comprehend]. Using me, humans will gain power and expand their world. [This portion of the statement is rather self-explanatory]. And time will resolve as it ever has. [Those who “wield” hope will battle disharmony and despair like in the past to construct a better world]. Like others before you, you have opened this box and met me. Do you have the courage to use me?" [Again rather simple when related back to the cycles of time and fate, seals and the typical battle between hope and despair]. So although it is not mentioned the most probable solution is that the being, which later materializes into the Crystal Spear, is the manifestation of hope.

Why Drives Beruga to become an Ally of Dark Gaia?

The decision to ally with Dark Gaia more than likely occurs after the first appearance of the Asmodeus Virus and before the surface world was sealed. From the computer records Beruga appears to be a great scientist and a potential humanitarian before the virus strikes (there is no information to indicate that Beruga originally designed this virus and if he had there would have been no reason for him to enter a cryogenic state because he would have had complete control over its instrumentation, so the virus first appeared randomly through some natural mutation). Whether or not Dark Gaia created Asmodeus is unknown, but seems unlikely because the Gaias seem not to be able to directly interact with the opposite world. Therefore, any deaths are random. Although Dark Gaia can use Asmodeus to achieve its goal, at the onset Asmodeus seems to be just an indiscriminate killing device.

The emergence of Asmodeus might be the first break in the loop of fate and the emergence of a man that can manipulate it may be the second. Beruga is even able to create a vaccine that is 80% effective. Unfortunately by the time the vaccine is developed a vast amount of people have already died. In lieu of these events, it would be difficult for a man like Beruga to not begin to evaluate the worth of a human life. It would not be surprising if amid all of this death he began to classify certain people as worthless and certain people as useful. Such a characterization is not a far cry from eugenics. Now that the eugenics seed has been planted, it would not be inconceivable to theorize that soon after this occurrence Dark Gaia or a Dark Gaia associate contacted Beruga about a possible allegiance with Dark Gaia to usher in Beruga's 'perfect world'. Beruga references Dark Gaia so it is difficult to conclude that it is just a coincidence that Beruga's eugenics plan coincides with Dark Gaia's motivation without any contact. The initial portion of the plan involved the selective distribution of the vaccine to the remaining key people in the populous (due to conveniently insufficient production), but it stands to reason that so many people had already died that the distribution and development conduits for food and water had become severely depressed, if not completely destroyed, thus even though some key people could survive they would end up starving to death, a fact noted by Beruga's computer. The fact that starvation existed disallowed completely breaking the role of Light Gaia.

Also just four quick notes: 1: Beruga was not supposed to kill Dark Ark. Dark Ark died because Beruga's re-programmed robots thought that Dark Ark was a threat to Beruga. Dark Ark was supposed to be killed by Dark Yomi per Dark Gaia's instructions; 2: Asmodeus is probably initially a naturally occurring virus; however, as virologist know the construction of a vaccine typically requires the use of the actual virus, thus in the process of making the vaccine Beruga would collect samples of Asmodeus and be able to convert it into a viral weapon. Such a reference is made by Meihou: "… It appears a virus weapon called Asmodeus was used."; 3: Remember Asmodeus did have a 90% fatality rate, but it may be jumping the gun to assume that Asmodeus destroyed 90% of the surface world population just because it has a 90% fatality rate without knowing how fast it spread and how fast it killed although based on Beruga's commentary Asmodeus must have caused some sever damage; 4: You could consider that Asmodeus may have deleterious effects on non-human life forms because so little is known about how it functions and kills, thus Asmodeus could be a catalytic agent for the formation of monsters on the surface world.

Who is Dark Elle and what is her Fate?

Dark Elle might be one of the more unusual characters in the game, especially when trying to characterize her reason for existence. One nagging question regarding her existence is that she does not seem to serve a beneficial role to Dark Gaia, thus why create her? Unlike the other citizens of Crysta, Dark Elle has a significant role in foiling its plans and more than likely bolstering character development of Dark Ark. One possibility is that Dark Elle was created to develop some form of motivational emotional crutch for Dark Ark because as stated earlier at no point in the first chapter does the Elder or Dark Elle state that Dark Ark needs to journey to the surface world and resurrect life there for the sake of Crysta or the sake of Dark Elle; however that reasoning somewhat falters because Dark Ark departs primarily because the Elder tells him to and because of a feeling inside him that something is waiting for him. Also based on one's analysis of the life of "The Golden Child" there may be no inherent emotional connection between Dark Ark and Dark Elle due to a previous connection between "The Golden Child" and Light Elle. So why does she exist?

One possibility may be that the existence of Dark Elle is related to Dark Gaia, but not part of the overall plan. When Dark Gaia was removed from its seal Dark Elle was one byproduct of this unsealing process because of how the unsealing occurred [See: What the Heck is Happening at Astarica]. Of course the details of such a creation are suspect in how does a Crystal Blue copy of Dark Elle emanate from this type of unsealing process? Another possibility may be intertwined existence, something that was pointed out by the twin girls in Crysta, in that when Dark Ark was created Dark Elle needed to be created as well. In addition to questions about her physical creation, there are questions regarding her soul. Dark Elle is different from the normal citizens of Crysta and she is also different from Dark Ark. These differences would indicate that there could be a possibility for difference in soul acquisition and/or retention. So does Dark Elle have a soul? At the beginning of the game it is unclear, but near the end of her existence it could be argued that the answer is yes. [See: How Does Dark Elle Stop Dark Yomi].

An interesting theory about the physical creation of Dark Elle could be directly related to the accumulation of Crystal Blue in the underworld [See: What is Crystal Blue]. Early on it seems logical to conclude that Crystal Blue is some form of modeling energy that Dark Gaia can mold into various replicas. But consider for a moment that this is not the truth. What if, Dark Gaia does not have completely control over what the Crystal Blue becomes? Perhaps certain elements of Crystal Blue upon arriving at the underworld already have a pre-destined fate to become a certain element of the underworld whether it be a replica of someone on the surface world or a lava flow etc. Think about it similar to undifferentiated stem cells versus differentiated progenitor cells. Thus Dark Elle was created not by the hands of Dark Gaia, but a unique series of events that caused the her Crystal Blue construct to behave differently, most likely due to the events in Astarica.

Regardless of where she comes from it is clear the Dark Elle cares very deeply for Dark Ark, such feelings that more than likely can be classified as love. However, how deep are these feelings because in chapter 4 a darker part of Dark Elle's character emerges. If Light Elle does not show up, Dark Elle will kill Reborn Ark when he is a baby. She apologizes prior to action, which implies a negative action, "Ark Forgive me…." What does this mean? Does Dark Elle violate her feelings towards Ark in favor of following Dark Gaia's orders? Is this not basically the same person in which she prayed to whatever god she believes in to protect Dark Ark earlier in the game? Can we conclude that Dark Elle is a utilitarian as she values the safety of Crysta over the life of her best friend/possible true love/soul mate? Why then does Dark Elle walk away after the awakening? Is it that Dark Elle was only killing a baby Ark, something she could handle, but now having to kill a more recognizable Ark, she cannot do it? Or does she not believe that she has enough power to kill an awakened fully-grown hero?

Unfortunately Dark Yomi interrupts before she can give an explanation. One possibility is that Dark Yomi spills the beans that the Elder and Dark Gaia are the same entity and once Dark Elle learned the true identity of the Elder, she comes to the conclusion that she cannot cooperate even if it means the destruction of Crysta. Does this mean that Dark Elle has a soul and free will as well? Her decision to prevent Dark Yomi from killing Reborn Ark seems to indicate that she does. Another interesting question would be if Dark Elle is simply Crystal Blue why does Dark Gaia not kill her when she disobeys it? Can Dark Gaia only give shape to Crystal Blue when it is without some form and is unable to remove such form? Or can Dark Gaia's influence not reach the surface world even when Crystal Blue is concerned [See: Dark Gaia and Seals]? The latter explanation seems most probable based on everything stated so far, Dark Gaia is simply unable to direct its powers against anything on the surface, even if that creature is Crystal Blue, thus stopping Dark Elle is not a possibility.

Interesting Side Point: Dark Yomi states "At least Ark won't have the courage to kill his friend." Dark Yomi is rather perceptive, so if he comes to the conclusion that Ark does not love Elle, instead considers her a friend can this be believed? In this case Dark Yomi may be a little off here because Dark Ark more than likely loves Dark Elle because when Dark Elle is weaving her cape Dark Ark can say to her that he will not go far away because although the world is huge, "… I love this village because Elle lives here. I'm not leaving." Of course due to plot considerations this turns out to be a lie, but that should not diminish its meaning. In addition the events that take place at Corcobad Hill and Reborn Ark's words after Dark Elle's death also seem to indicate similar feelings.

Where does Dark Elle come from in the Ending? Remember as just discussed Dark Elle makes herself disappear to prevent Dark Yomi from killing Reborn Ark, so why is Dark Elle in Crysta after the defeat of Dark Gaia? The authenticity of this Elle can be questioned because of the events during the game and because when Dark Ark sleeps the Elle vision talks as if she is no longer in Crysta. She understands that Crysta will soon disappear as well for with Dark Gaia gone, the Crysta that now exists is more than likely created by Light Gaia, but Light Gaia probably cannot actively influence Crystal Blue seeing that it is an underworld phenomena. Thus, the Dark Elle that exists in Crysta and states happiness is living free of stress may be a lingering copy of the previous Dark Elle with no real capacity for original thought. She also states that if we are bound by fate then we will meet again someday. This statement could be sad because Dark Ark exists outside of the loop of fate, therefore; the probability that Elle and Ark meet again is not absolute, and probably is not that likely unless a new fate was written for Dark Ark because he fused with "The Golden Child".

How Does Dark Elle Stop Dark Yomi?

This is an interesting question because Dark Elle is more than likely a lot weaker than Dark Yomi at least it initially seems that way. It is true that Dark Elle is created from Crystal Blue and Crystal Blue can be regarded as a form of energy, but there is no indication that Dark Elle can releases her own energy to destroy Dark Yomi, at least not under normal conditions. The game makes no mention that Dark Elle even realizes that she is made from Crystal Blue during her life, let alone that she knows how to manipulate Crystal Blue into that type of an attack. Also Dark Elle is still present after the 'destruction portal' appears below both her and Dark Yomi, so she obviously has not released all of her energy and it stands to reason that it takes a considerable amount of Crystal Blue for her to retain her form. Finally we technically do not know what Dark Yomi really is, but if he is also made of Crystal Blue, smart money says that he should have a better understanding of how to manipulate Crystal Blue and counter Dark Elle's assault. Even if he is not derived from Crystal Blue he should clearly be more powerful and knowledgeable than Dark Elle regarding Crystal Blue. Also Dark Elle does not demonstrate any real power in the game as her only ability appears to be with her embroidering/weaving.

In addition it cannot be concluded that Dark Elle somehow reflects the attack of Dark Yomi because Dark Yomi has yet to launch his attack, he is still considering his options with regards to terminating Reborn Ark when Dark Elle acts. So how does Dark Elle do it? The best option may be a form of emotional power-up. This type of event does seem common in movies, television and video games where an individual reacts to a situation in which one or more people he/she cares about are in danger with a dramatic surge in overall power and ability. One could also argue that she received a soul at this point "Pablo Narudo" style (i.e. one earn a soul versus being simply born with one). With the potential death of Reborn Ark, she has a greater motivation to fight. The attack itself is remarkably similar to the attack utilized by Astarica Elle against Fyla and Roy; is this just the game being lazy or is there some significance to this attack form? Can Dark Elle use this attack only because of her ties to Astarica?

What about Light Elle?

Light Elle seems to be the most tragic figure in the game. Just look at what she had to go through that one can be sure of: 1) her entire village was slaughtered including her parents; 2) she was basically kidnapped and forcefully held, possibly tortured, in effort to discover the location of the Hero's Arms; 3) the potential exists where she would be forced into an arranged marriage, although King Henri would have probably killed both her and the eventual suitor; 4) Such forces herself to become a mute to ensure she does not reveal the location of the Hero’s Arms.

When Dark Ark first meets her, she has no reason to trust anyone and no reason to hope yet she still perseveres on what can only be regarded as her sense of duty to protect the Hero's Arms. Despite everything she went through, she could have easily given up the location of the Hero's Arms, she understood her role just as her parents did and held fast to her duty. Dark Elle never had to go through any of this despair in the time Dark Ark knew her, so it is understandable that she is so introverted when Dark Ark first makes contact with her and he comments on her inner strength, despite her annoyance. One can also forgive her murder of King Henri due to his kidnapping her and orchestrating the murder of Storkholm. Fyda is no help in this regard because she is torn by her loyalties to King Henri and her vow to Light Elle's parents, so she is not a viable candidate to kill King Henri, which Light Elle realizes. So the only way she can gain her freedom back is to remove the obstacle to that freedom.

After all of this Light Elle finally finds someone she can trust and love in Ark (whether it is Dark Ark, "The Golden Child" or Reborn Ark is up for debate) illustrated in her 'I will wait here for you forever' statement and her actions at Dragoon Castle. Unfortunately there is no way of knowing if the Ark she loved even returned to her, thus once again she could end up alone and broken.

Do Crystians Have Souls?

Although not that important to the plot, it may still be worth asking the question of whether or not Crystians who are not Ark or Elle have souls? The fact that Dark Gaia took the form of an old man acting as Elder of Crysta lends credence to the consideration that Crysta citizens are not mere puppets that it can control because it elects to create an artificial human form in order to guide and influence the behavior of those in Crysta. Of course this entire strategy may simply be a show for Dark Ark to further elaborate the 'illusion' of reality in Crysta suppressing any unnecessary questions from Dark Ark. Even if it is more of a ploy than a genuine need to provide direction, it does not detract from the probability that Crysta citizens have some sense of free will and also maybe have a 'soul'.

However, the problem of a soul for the citizens involves the issue of how can Dark Gaia create 'real' souls? Also if one concluded that these citizens have 'real' souls the replicas cannot be modeled off of the citizens of Storkholm because the souls of those citizens have already entered the reincarnation process and came back as wolves (note that after taking the Hero's Arms, the wolves vanish, job done and re-enter the reincarnation process). Overall based on the statements made by certain Crystians they do not appear based on the citizens of Storkholm, the structure and layout of Crysta only appears based on Storkholm. Instead they seem to be internal portions of external citizen scattered throughout the surface world.

If the citizens of Crysta do not have 'real' souls, what exactly happens when Pandora's box is opened? Remember it is alluded to that their souls have been incorporated into monsters, thus how do these events transpire? Two possibilities, the souls could be artificial souls constructed out of Crystal Blue just like their bodies or Dark Gaia is manipulating the whole thing and the “lost” souls are just a lie to persuade Dark Ark to investigate the towers.

Dreams of Crystians:

Dreams seems to play an important role in some of the events in Crysta and offer clues to the origins of these people because at the beginning of the game some of the citizens of Crysta seem to be able to anticipate future events and recall past events in dreams. There are three possibilities to explain these residual memories and dreams. First, each Crystian may have the internal portion of the soul of the same person on the surface world and that connection induces the odd dream about the same person on the surface world. The problem with this explanation is how did Dark Gaia get its hands on the internal portion of the soul unless the person participated in the ceremony in Astarica or some other spiritual rite [See: What the Heck Happened at Astarica]. Is a soul naturally divided between the two worlds i.e. no single person has a complete soul just the light half or dark half of a particular soul?

Second, Crysta exists in some type of Groundhog-Day loop and the citizens are simply having déjà vu type experiences. One advantage to this theory is the girl that predicts in the future that the citizens will turn to ice. One disadvantage to this theory is it is difficult to comprehend why Crysta would be looping in such a way? Maybe Dark Gaia is trying different constructs of Crysta to find a situation where Dark Ark would retrieve the box? Third, the memories stem from the fact that the Crystal Blue utilized to form each replica was the residual energy that formed when the light side person was born [See: What is Crystal Blue]. This explanation better deals with the problem possessed by option one, but forms its own problem with how does this residual energy record events that have yet to happen? Maybe the best answer is a combination of the second and third options.

One interesting question seems to be what nightmare was Dark Ark having at the beginning of the game? Dark Ark's initial dream is a nightmare because he predicts the disappearance of Crysta, but he does not understand the significance of its disappearance. However, his secondary dream is more detailed, corresponding to his role in the events that lead to the disappearance of Crysta and with a better understanding of the destruction of Crysta he can better understand and appreciate his role. Thus, in the finale his nightmare is replaced by a pleasant dream involving him witnessing the future progression of the world as a bird. Another possibility to the dream may be the death of "The Golden Child" and his new existence.

What the Heck is happening at Astarica?

This question is easily one of the most difficult questions in the entire game, which in some sense is also somewhat ironic because of its small role in the game plot, but potential large role in overall unspoken plot. The biggest problem with explaining this scene is the fragmented continuity.

The events in Astarica appear directly related to Dark Gaia and the death of "The Golden Child". One issue that is never addressed is the significance of sealing Dark Gaia in the cycle of time and fate [See: Dark Gaia and Seals]. For instance when Dark Gaia is sealed at the end of the game Light Gaia reports that the underworld will vanish as a result. If the underworld vanishes what really happens to Dark Gaia and how does Dark Gaia return? One would regard the return of Dark Gaia as necessary for the balance of the world. The ceremony at Astarica may play a role in the unsealing/revival of Dark Gaia. For simplicity it is best to divide the events of Astarica into two parts, the interaction between Astarica Elle and Fyla and Roy and the interaction between Astarica Elle and the particular Ark.

Starting from the beginning Meila reports that the ceremony at Astarica occurs annually where the correct goblet creates a deity and the wrong goblet brings death. The methodology of why one has to wait a year if the wrong goblet is selected will not be analyzed because it is of little relevance. The dynamics of the ceremony do not make much sense either as looking at the drink itself, all of the goblets appear to collect night dew, but only one bestows the drinker with divinity. For this situation it appears that there are some outside circumstances that dictate the results of the ceremony. Also Meila also never discusses which god the drinker may become closer to or become altogether. At Astarica are there a limited number of gods or can any number exist? Based on the understanding of how the world operates there are a limited number of gods. If there is a limited number then it stands to reason that for the drinker to become one particular god that god must either be dead or sealed.

Therefore, is divinity randomly assigned if a drinker is worthy or is it assigned based on the character of the drinker and godhood availability? Recall that there is mention of attributes or character involved in the ceremony, initially only the selected goblet matters pertaining to success. Assuming the latter, then it is appropriate to address the role of Astarica Elle. Astarica Elle clearly does not want to participated in the ceremony as Fyla describes how she wailed when Fyla took her to the back of the alter. Thus it seems that the drinker is almost chosen at random seeing how unprepared and emotional Elle was when starting the ceremony. This wailing Astarica Elle later becomes a rather vengeful deity and proceeds to execute Fyla and Roy while espousing about the frailties and meaninglessness of human existence. Therefore, the negativity and anguish that Astarica Elle took into the ceremony seems to have constituted itself in making her a similar type of god. Overall these negative emotions are understandable if the selection is random for on a strict mathematical mindset the odds of become a god versus being killed is only 20%.

Now the real question, is this Astarica Elle just some run of the mill god or Dark Gaia? As foreshadowed in the beginning of this section it seems probable that Astarica Elle is the host for the resurrection of Dark Gaia. Why does this conclusion make sense? First, read [Dark Gaia and Seals] for more information and theories regarding the type and duration of the seal, in essence the beginning portion of Dark Gaia's journey back. Second, when Dark Gaia is sealed the underworld vanishes, thus any creation of a new Dark Gaia or revival of an old one needs to occur on the surface world and Astarica seems to be a prime location for such an event. Third, Meila himself refers to the ceremony as creating a god, now it may be difficult to take this statement at face value because of how ceremonies of this nature are typically characterized, but the fact is that Astarica Elle does gain some form of god-like power as demonstrated when she dispatches Fyla and Roy. Fourth, whether or not Meila and others in Astarica believe in a multitude of gods, in the Terranigma universe there are only three beings that can be considered gods, Kumari, Light Gaia and Dark Gaia and the divinity of Kumari on the god hierarchy is minor and Light Gaia obviously still exists because the surface world still exists, so the only possibility is Dark Gaia. Fifth, as previously mentioned Astarica Elle did not elect to create life, but instead destroy it and claimed that she would destroy all human life, thus if she is indeed a god she is either Dark Gaia or some plot irrelevant god, which makes little sense to include.

What about the appearance of Astarica Ark, how is he relevant? It stands to reason that Astarica Ark is "The Golden Child" after first sealing Dark Gaia. The reason Astarica Ark is "The Golden Child" is that depending on the cycle of the world either Dark Ark has yet to come into existence at all or Dark Ark would already have been reduced to Crystal Blue bubble form after the defeat of Dark Gaia. So, what is the result of "The Golden Child" consuming the contents of the goblet? Overall based on his physical reaction and the Astarica Elle's verbal reaction he probably dies, but how this occurs is unclear because night dew based on the principles of the ritual should not kill instantly because there is no evidence of the dew being toxic. As noted above character or worthiness does not appear to matter and even if it does "The Golden Child" is responsible for sealing at least one Dark Gaia, so to claim he is unworthy of the ceremony based on his deeds or character seems foolhardy… unless of course one must be worthy of becoming Dark Gaia, which “The Golden Child” would be unqualified for. Instead as stated above if there are no available god roles then the drinker will die instead of become divine. Since both Light and Dark Gaia are unsealed at the time (assuming Astarica Elle is Dark Gaia) and Kumari exists when he consumes the dew, the only outcome is death.

Why did he consume the dew (beyond obvious plot reasons)? It appears that "The Golden Child" is in a difficult predicament as one could suspect that this Dark Gaia is more powerful than he is, especially if one believes that only Reborn Ark can seal Dark Gaia, so death through drinking the dew seems to be a better option than being wiped out by Dark Gaia. An interesting theory is the foreknowledge that “The Golden Child” may have regarding the endpoint of his soul when be dies; if he dies “normally” his soul is sealed once again at The Grave at Time's End, but if he is destroyed by Dark Gaia is his soul destroyed as well? Soul destruction at the hands of Dark Gaia seems to draw support from the conversation between Reborn Ark and Dark Gaia at the Gaia Stone.

What can be said of Astarica Elle inviting "The Golden Child" to drink from a goblet? Astarica Elle may not realize the complex nature of "The Golden Child" and simply believes that this Ark will die either way and prefers to do it via the goblet. That interpretation depends on whether or not you believe that Dark Gaia is a single continuous entity (the next one know everything the previous ones knew between the cycles) or if each Dark Gaia is a separate independent entity. The former is probably correct based on Dark Gaia's comments during the final battle and Dark Gaia still views "The Golden Child" as just Light Ark. Another option is that Astarica Elle has spent her powers defeating Fyla and Roy and she needs to bluff Ark in order to defeat him

One problem with this Dark Gaia rebirth theory may come from the very existence of Meila. A women is Lhasa reports that Meihou has studied under the previous Kumari, thus it can be ventured that Meihou is rather old, so what amount of time separates the time from the events at Astarica, the rebirth of Meila as Meihou (assuming Meila is Meihou in a past life), the death of the Kumari that Meihou trained under, the rebirth of Kumari and the surface world being sealed? Of course this timing problem exists for almost all theories involving Astarica, so it may not be a big deal. One possible explanation comes from viewing the events at Astarica as not occurring during the last cycle, but during the end of the very first cycle. Another problem could be the origins of the first Light Elle? Dark Gaia admits that it does not have real form, therefore, its rebirth only involves/requires the internal portion of Light Elle's soul, thus the external portion of Light Elle's soul is displaced and reborn as Light Elle in Storkholm.

The final issue is how could Dark Gaia exist on the surface world or even use its powers? When Dark Gaia is reborn/unsealed its existence in the surface world is ephemeral, similar to Crysta's existence during the Ending, before Dark Gaia is forcibly returned to the underworld. The issue regarding the use of powers may have a proximity solution in that Dark Gaia cannot influence surface world events because it is “bound” to the underworld. However, when it is present in the surface world for this brief moment it can use its power over a short area.

Side Note: Did you know that if you go back to the original room in the vision after Elle kills Roy and Fyla and can obtain the Astarica Starstone before awakening from the vision.

Does Dark Ark Have a Soul?

This question might be the hardest question of the whole lot. A funny thing about this question is that it is not relevant from an actual game play or plot perspective, but very relevant when regarding the fate of Dark Ark and the overall philosophy of the game itself. Initially it seems reasonable to assume that Dark Ark does not have what could be constituted as a 'real' soul because in some context he was never born, but instead Dark Gaia made him out of Crystal Blue. Dark Gaia at the moment when Crysta is constructed does not have the functional capacity to create genuine beings and their souls, assuming that is the one avenue in which souls can arise, because the role of Dark Gaia is that of the destroyer not the creator. Dark Gaia may have the ability to create 'artificial' souls to possibly govern free will (this of course depends on one’s personal viewpoint regarding souls and free will in actual humans), but it is difficult to reason that these 'artificial' souls would allow the citizens of Crysta to enter the process of reincarnation [See: Do Crystians Have Souls].

The answer regarding typical inhabitants of Crysta is easier than Dark Ark and Dark Elle because those individuals do not appear to be cut from the same cloth. Although Dark Ark is made from Crystal Blue, his interaction with the being in the box, who directly intimates Dark Ark has a soul, detracts from the prospect that his soul is artificial [See: What is the Being Inside the Box]. So for the moment assume that Dark Ark does indeed have what can be characterized as a 'real' soul. Where did it come from and why did Pandora’s box not influence it? Addressing the second question first, there are three possible reasons for this turn of events: 1) by claiming the box Dark Ark gains some level of immunity to its effects, thus his soul is not extracted. 2) as discussed in [It is a Box, no it is Pandora's Box] the entire 'soul' draining incident is a ploy perpetrated by Dark Gaia and because Dark Ark is in essence 'the mark' and extracting his soul would not be wise; 3) Pandora’s Box is only able to extract artificial souls, not real souls, thus Ark is not affected by its influence;

Addressing the events leading up to Dark Ark acquiring his 'real' soul. Like most of the somewhat mysterious events in the game, part of the answer can be found in Astarica. Astarica Ark: "For an instant, your face looked like a demon's. A person is said to have two faces, the external and internal [definitely "The Golden Child" because Dark Ark does not know or understand this] selves. Maybe that sacred goblet's water just awakens the internal soul…." "The Golden Child" makes this statement in regards to the apparent transformation of Astarica Elle to Dark Gaia [See: What the Heck is Happening at Astarica]. Interestingly enough this statement may have more significance in the context of the structure and spirituality of "The Golden Child". If this statement is true, when "The Golden Child" drinks the dew from the goblet it could awaken Dark Ark's soul in him. Note there is not reason to believe that the dew does not awaken the internal soul regardless of god ascension or death is the result.

If this is correct then what happens to this internal soul? It is possible that it is transferred to Dark Ark in Crysta. Of course this interpretation depends on the viewpoint regarding the structure and content of the underworld and when Dark Ark exactly was created. One could assume that when the underworld vanishes it is not destroyed, but similar to the surface world simply enters a period of stasis, so when Astarica Elle became Dark Gaia, the underworld was unsealed just as it was before Dark Gaia was originally defeated. Therefore, "The Golden Child" drinking the dew at Astarica had much more to do with planning for the future than anything else because if "The Golden Child" at that point had the entire soul of the hero, would death due to Dark Gaia only allow the external portion to retreat to Antarctica or would the soul be completely destroyed? Although there is little information about "The Golden Child" from a character and personality perspective, Dark Ark, his internal Crystal Blue replica does appear to be somewhat of a standup guy in most situations so awakening his internal soul is not necessarily a bad thing. [See: Who is Ark as a Person].

A final interesting question to the creation of this soul would be is Dark Ark's soul responsible for him belonging to nothing and breaking him from loop of fate? The answer is a resounding yes. For example: Light Ark is born with both an external and internal soul which makes him special and allows him to first seal Dark Gaia. In the confrontation with Astarica Elle Light Ark, now "The Golden Child", realizes that if he is killed there will be no one to stop Dark Gaia in the future and the cycle will be broken, so he drinks the dew separating the 'Hero's' soul into internal and external parts. When Dark Ark meets "The Golden Child" at Antarctica the 'Hero's' soul is fused back into one Dark Ark's internal half and "The Golden Child's" external half recreating the Hero.

What are Magirocks?

Magirock Dealer in Crysta: "Magirock is a stone that seals magic inside. Not just once, but for many times, Magirock stores magic spells. Consider it a bottle for keeping magic sealed." If memory serves that is basically all of the information that you receive about Magirocks in the entire game from the game itself. Therefore, this is a lot to speculate about regarding the structure and origins of the Magirock. First, the Magirock is blue combined with its original name of pure/prime blue one could assume that the Magirock could be a very pure and concentrated form of crystal blue.

What evidence can be used to support this notion? First, in the gem box the Magirock picture is labeled as 'primer'. Also most of the magic in Terranigma is matter based and Crystal Blue can be regarded as an energy source that can be converted to various forms of matter. The pure state of the Crystal Blue can also be regarded in the sense of an undifferentiated stem cell in that it can be converted to various magical matter states, the reason behind why the Magirock dealers can make various types of magic rings and pins out of a single Magirock.

Of course this portion of the analysis could be interpreted differently in that a Magirock is simply a storage vessel that contains multiple forms of magic giving a single generic stone the ability to make multiple types of rings/pins. There is no evidence to indicate that only the same magic type can exist in a single stone. This thought equates the statement "…just once, but for many times…" and its construct is not derived of Crystal Blue. When the stored magic is extracted the Magirock becomes useless because Ark does not know how to 'refill' it with magic, thus it is now just a storage container. Therefore, the first question regarding Magirock: is a Magirock actually converted into the magic ring/pin or is the Magirock simply stores the energy used to create the magic ring/pin?

At the moment it is difficult to believe that Magirock is convertible because it is considered a stone, thus its Crystal Blue energy has already been utilized to form the physical structure of a stone. Thus the energy used to form the stone and the energy used to create the stored magic ring/pin are different, although they may be derived from the same source pool. Think of the Magirock in a similar way to that of the Crystal Spear in that it heals through utilization of Crystal Blue that is not directly associated with its form.

Note: This above conclusion does not support or disprove that this energy is Crystal Blue. Secondary Note: The Magirock dealer does not report that the magic is infinite, which of course makes sense because even Terranigma tries to follow the laws of thermodynamics and the second law of thermodynamics reports that you cannot break even; therefore, the energy utilized to create magic is not utilized at 100% efficiency, so only a limited amount can be stored and the storage duration is also not infinite.

If the above belief is true it does not eliminate the possibility that the stone is made utilizing Crystal Blue. Assume that Magirock is a form of Crystal Blue. If this is true then the existence of Magirocks must 'follow the rules' that seem to exist with Crystal Blue. If Magirock is Crystal Blue, then does that mean that Crystal Blue can exist on the surface world because Magirock is available on the surface world? As previously discussed in [What is Crystal Blue?] the surface world does not have any trace of non-Magirock based Crystal Blue, so how do Magirocks exist? Is this just a plot device, you cannot only allow 11 copies or 100 copies of Magirock to be available in the first Chapter if you want a realistic magic system? Another possibility could be that if Magirock is indeed made from concentrated and pure Crystal Blue perhaps it is enough for it to exist in the surface world where dilute and scattered Crystal Blue (that which is commonly seen in Crysta) cannot exist. This may be another reason why both Dark Ark and Dark Elle can travel to the surface world and still continue to exist.

What is the real nature of Crystal Blue for during the final day that Dark Ark gets to stay in Crysta the Magirock Dealer and his shop no longer exist and a Magirock is unknown to the shop owner. What happened to the Magirock, what changed in the world? The only significant event is Dark Gaia is now sealed. Therefore, the existence of Magirocks must be tied strongly to Dark Gaia. However, the scattered and diluted Crystal Blue is still in the Crysta environment. What does this mean, how can one reconcile one form of Crystal Blue still existing and another form of Crystal Blue no longer existing when faced with only a single significant event? One logical solution is that the ability to form a Magirock involves a tremendous amount of focus and control over Crystal Blue, something that only Dark Gaia can successfully accomplish. Without Dark Gaia no new Magirock can be constructed to store existing magic essence and currently existing Magirock cease to exist. Sealing Dark Gaia can also explain the disappearance of the dealers.

Another solution may be that Magirocks are naturally occurring structures that are derived from the balance between the two Gaias. The available magic can be divided into two classifications, the rings are generally destructive forms of magic (more indicative of Dark Gaia) and the pins tend to be more curative/creationist forms of magic (more indicative of Light Gaia). So the Magirocks act as a symbolic storage medium for energy that can be representative of Dark Gaia or Light Gaia. Magirocks cease to exist in the post-Dark Gaia is sealed world because of the lack of a Dark Gaia, thus the dichotomy of the energy inside of the Magirock is broken.

What is the Role of the Ra Tree and its Brethren?

Basically the Ra Tree seems to have a similar role in the lives of plants as that of a chaperon protein in biochemistry. Chaperon proteins are required in some instances to facilitate certain protein folding, thus some proteins can only be formed properly if these specific chaperons assist during the process. The Ra Tree acts in the same context. Every culture that believes in reincarnation does not believe that the process of reincarnation is capricious, but instead has a reasonable and logical progression based on certain rules or beliefs. If a required rule for becoming a planet does not exist or is not functioning properly then nothing can be resurrected as a plant because there is nothing to 'guide' the entity to become a plant. Any entity that may control reincarnation would understand that creating plants is not possible without the proper conditions, in this case a healthy Ra Tree.

Why do plants still exist in Ra? The best answer to that question could be the fact that deep underground the environment is still able to support the plants that were created before the Ra Tree was poisoned, before the surface world was sealed. Deep underground in the Ra Tree, water and energy sources are still available unlike the current environment on the surface. Therefore, the plants on the surface that died after the Ra Tree was poisoned returned as something else other than a plant and nothing else ever became a plant, but deep inside the Ra Tree some plants have yet to die. Finally the loss of Ra Tree also removes the base level in the hierarchical existence of all other animals (Dark Ark basically says as much when he states in Zue that rain is needed to grow grass so the animals in the savanna can return, the grass would not exist without Ra Tree) possibly explaining why the land is so barren upon Dark Ark emerging in the surface world.

What is the Relationship Between Storkholm and "The Golden Child"?

The immediate reaction is that Storkholm is the hometown of the "The Golden Child". However, this conclusion is heavily based on assumptions around that single, albeit key, point in the game that may not have ever been analyzed. It is natural to assume that because Dark Ark lives in Crysta and because both Dark Ark and Crysta are replicas from the surface world created by Dark Gaia that "The Golden Child" must have lived in Storkholm. However, there are certain expectations if this were true. First, Light Elle does not recognize Dark Ark. If "The Golden Child" lived in Storkholm why does Light Elle not recognize him or at least think that he looks familiar? One answer could be that she is still in shock from the massacre and is confused to why someone that looks like her Ark, it can be assumed that in her eyes her Ark, if he did live there, vanished at some point before the massacre. However, Light Elle never seems to reveal any recognition or familiarity of Dark Ark throughout the entire game. Second, although it may not be expected there are no memory sequences that occur after Reborn Ark, of whom "The Golden Child" is a part of, emerges from the completed fusion process while still in Storkholm.

If "The Golden Child" does not reside in Storkholm, two questions arise. First, where does he live? Overall there is not enough information to draw any meaningful conclusion to answer this question although the best option would be Lhasa. Second, why would Dark Gaia choose to replicate Storkholm if it is not the hometown of "The Golden Child", what is special about Storkholm that it is the selected target. It is not clear if the Hero's Arms are contained within Storkholm before Dark Gaia elects to replicate it. Based on certain game text it appears that Dark Gaia did voluntarily elect to create Crysta to resemble Storkholm, so it was not a memory Crystal Blue creation. This statement leads to the question of how does Dark Gaia even know of Storkholm's existence? Any answer to this question largely depends on when King Henri's expedition to Storkholm occurs before or after the resurrection of the world. Depending on the viewpoint of the cyclic process in the world perhaps Dark Gaia has knowledge of Storkholm from a previous existence or even obtains knowledge of it from "The Golden Child". Unfortunately "The Golden Child" himself at the Gaia Stone does not provide any real information to help find an answer to this question.

Who is the Guardian?

Although the Guardian is a rather mysterious entity with little back story there are certain elements to its role and existence that can be discussed. First, the Guardian is probably a devotee of Dark Gaia. Without a back story it seems better to attack this association from a process of elimination (i.e. who the Guardian is not associated with). It is difficult to associate Light Gaia and the Guardian because it appears that no entities that have association with Light Gaia can exist when Light Gaia is sealed and Dark Ark meets the Guardian while the surface world and for all intensive purposes Light Gaia is sealed.

However, although that fact alone seems to divorce the Guardian from Light Gaia digging deeper, the Guardian's role as the protector of the 5 towers that house the surface world when sealed does not seem to mesh well with Light Gaia. There does not appear to be an initial reason why Light Gaia would protect its sealing grounds when no negative consequences to unsealing the surface world relative to Light Gaia itself. With regards to the towers there only appears to be two options sealing and unsealing, but no means for destruction.

Having a protector relates back to the position of need vs. strength. Does Light Gaia care about the circumstances surrounding its unsealment? If it does then having a Guardian of some sorts may make sense, i.e. the surface world and Light Gaia should only be unsealed under the proper circumstances; however, if it does not then having a Guardian makes no sense. Light Gaia cannot know nor control the intentions of the individual that breaks the seal, so gauging the individual's strength is meaningless and it has no real control over the circumstances if the individual is strong enough to overcome the Guardian's defenses.

With no genuine control it stands to reason that Light Gaia would prefer to be released as much as possible rather than under specific circumstances, so there would be little reason for the Guardian to be an associate of Light Gaia. However, Dark Gaia has more control over the intentions and circumstances of the individual that unseals the surface world because of its influence on entities in the underworld where the towers exist. This is especially true if it had an entity like the Guardian as an ally.

With no allegiance to Light Gaia, assume for a moment that the Guardian is an independent or neutral entity. In its neutral role it exists to keep the surface world sealed until an entity strong enough to unseal and guide the development of the world arises in order to ensure a strong surface world to rival the strength of the underworld. Under these circumstances the Guardian does not work directly with Dark Gaia, but appears to assist Dark Gaia indirectly. The troubling statement with regarding the Guardian as an independent entity is when it states, "Ark. You have done well to overcome your challenges. Your real journey begins today. You shall return to the Elder." What would a neutral entity instruct him to return to the Elder? If the Guardian is a neutral entity it probably has some insight into the true nature of the Elder, so would this not be associating itself with Dark Gaia by default?

The only way to resolve this concern is to assume that the Guardian is a neutral entity on the very top of the Terranigma food chain with some level of omniscience and is basically guiding/manipulating the entire situation. Unfortunately this interpretation runs into the same problem as the one Yomi theory [See: What is the deal with Yomi] as why would a game that cares so much about balance between light and dark have an entity that has no counterbalance.

With the belief that the Guardian is an ally of Dark Gaia its role seems rather straight forward. The Guardian is simply a guide for Dark Ark through the towers measuring and testing his strength and resolve in effort to ensure that he is strong enough to control the evolution of the surface world to accomplish his role in Dark Gaia's plan.

The Ending:

The ending has always been an interesting subject of analysis both for its beauty and ambiguity. One interesting question about the ending is that everyone only talks about Dark Ark's body; Dark Gaia, Light Gaia and the game itself all reference Dark Ark's body disappearing, but not his mind or perhaps his soul. There is no reason to think that Dark Ark's body will not disappear because it is comprised of Crystal Blue and at the Gaia Stone "The Golden Child" states that each Ark is to return to its respective world. So assume that the body does disappear, it is almost impossible to argue that it does not, what happens to the mind and soul? The mind probably dissipates as well for without a physical construct there is little possibility for the mind to survive, but the soul is another question entirely.

Clearly the bird sequence in the ending is a dream as the game literally states that it is, but one key element that needs to be addressed is that Dark Ark is still a Crystian despite everything he has gone through. Crystians seem to have the ability to predict the future on some level in their dreams, so it is not out of the question to rationalize that Dark Ark's final dream is a premonition of the future [See: Dreams of Crystians]. If Dark Ark does indeed have a genuine soul then with his 'death' that soul should be a viable candidate to enter the reincarnation process. At this juncture the analysis picks up regarding what this dream could represent. The primary interpretation, especially if Dark Ark does indeed have a soul, is the bird is future reincarnated Ark. However, as discussed earlier, the reincarnation process is not capricious so why did Dark Ark reincarnate as a bird instead of a human so he could be with Light Elle?

A bird seems to be a rational choice when you look at Dark Ark's wishes throughout the game. Reborn Ark nor Dark Ark never declares his love for Light Elle, possibly because he loves Dark Elle not Light Elle. This attitude is highlighted in the conversation between Light Elle and Reborn Ark after Dark Elle “defeats” Dark Yomi. If he does not love Light Elle there is no reason to come back as a human to foster a relationship with her, even if she is in love with him and promises to wait for him. However, that still leaves the question of why a bird? Dark Ark can be characterized as somewhat of a free spirit [See: Who is Dark Ark as a Person] and strives to live a carefree life something Reborn Ark wishes a return to during the game.

So becoming a bird makes sense for a bird, with its ability to fly, has a vast amount of freedom, it has no real responsibilities giving it a carefree existence and a bird has the ability to form various relationships with other creatures, creatures that humans might otherwise not care for. So a bird appears to fulfill the psychological desires of Dark Ark more than a human. Dark Ark does acknowledge the importance of home and family at the end, but with the destruction of Crysta there is no family or home left for him.

Assuming that Dark Ark is indeed a bird (a.k.a. Ark the bird) and it is the premonition of the future, what is being seen through his eyes? Clearly some level of time has passed as the world has advanced in development and technology since Ark's death and Ark the bird is an adult bird not a baby bird, so he has also advanced in a time as well. Of course these elements are not that interesting, but when Ark finishes his flight he lands in a forest where the conjecture can pickup in earnest. What exactly does Ark the bird see and/or do in the forest if anything?

The first question is are the bird sequence and the Light Elle sequence mutually exclusive or are they connected in some respect? It is difficult to concluded that these elements are mutually exclusive because the very act of Ark the bird physically landing in the forest area, which cannot be confirmed as Norfor forest, but it is difficult to concluded that it is not Norfor forest either, ties the two events together in some way. Basically the transition between the two scenes lends itself to the conclusion that Ark the bird is landing in a forest area near Storkholm where Light Elle waits for Reborn Ark's return.

The second question is what role is Ark the bird playing in the forest? There appear to be two possibilities. The first possibility is that Ark the bird is actually knocking on the door in order to somehow communicate its presence and identity to Light Elle. This is an interesting possibility because before it was stated that Dark Ark does not love Light Elle, hence his reincarnation as a bird over a human, so why visit Light Elle? The best explanation seems to be to somehow communicate to Light Elle that her Ark be it Light or Dark is not coming back and there is no reason for her to continue to wait for an event that will never occur (recall that Light Elle tells Reborn Ark that she will wait for his return) as Dark Ark still has a positive relationship with Light Elle even if there is no romantic love involved. How this could be actually communicated is up for debate. The second possibility is that Ark the bird is simply behaving as an independent observer of the events surrounding Light Elle at this point in time.

One question arises in that if an individual is indeed reincarnated are their memories of past experiences erased? In real life it is difficult to conclude in the positive or the negative because of the existence of charlatans that claim to interpret and uncover memories from past lives in currently living individuals may cloud reality. However, the game seems to try to interpret something with respect to reincarnation. There are some 'echoes', for lack of a better term, experienced by some individuals, for example the mill worker in Crysta claims, "I've been getting this weird feeling like I worked like this a long time ago…" The problem is how specific is this feeling? There is no way to know whether or not this individual only interprets the most general feelings or if there are specific details and people that he recalls which trigger these feelings. Also the individual in this example is Crystian so are these feelings genuine or artificial?

There are two obvious two conclusions that can be drawn from this question. First, memories from past lives can be recalled. Recalling his relationship with Light Elle, Ark the bird seeks her out for the aforementioned reason. Second, when a soul is reincarnated the memories from past lives are wiped. If this is the case then Ark the bird in flight and the Light Elle scene are mutually exclusive because Ark the bird would have no reason to seek out an individual that is now a stranger to him. Of course the biggest problem with this analysis is why would the ending show Ark the bird landing in a forest instead of simply transitioning between the two scenes while Ark the bird was still in flight? The best answer seems to be that Ark the bird is simply a spectator for the events occurring with Light Elle and there is no discernable relationship between Ark the bird and Light Elle. Of course that would mean that for purposes of plot and/or continuity Ark the bird simply happened to arrive at Storkholm to witness the events between Light Elle and another individual. This stance leads into the second possibility for Ark the bird's presence in the forest, to witness this meeting.

So who exactly is knocking on the door if it is not Ark the bird? Only three entities are present when Light Elle declares that she will wait in Storkholm for Reborn Ark's return, Dark Ark, "The Golden Child" and Light Yomi. Assuming that Light Elle is able to fend for herself, not a hard assumption to accept based on her past experiences and psychology, it would be reasonable to concluded that only these three entities would eventually seek her out, not some random individual. Recall that locating Storkholm is probably impossible for someone without the Protect Bell (more than likely lost with Dark Ark) or unless the individual had been there before, it is highly unlikely that one of King Henri's soldiers would return and Fyda and King Henri are dead.

So between these three entities it would be very difficult to conclude that Light Yomi was knocking on the door for it has no reason to seek out Light Elle in addition to how difficult knocking would probably be for it. As previously stated Ark the bird (formally Dark Ark) is not knocking on the door in this scenario, so that leaves the only viable candidate as "The Golden Child". For all the player sees of "The Golden Child" he does not have a body, only existing as a soul. However, clearly "The Golden Child" must have had a body prior to his sealment in Antarctica, especially when considering the events at Astarica [See: What the heck is happening at Astarica]. So it is not irrational to consider after the confrontation at the Gaia Stone "The Golden Child" is somehow given another physical body. This fact is supported by the number of graves in Antarctica which all seem to be associated with "The Golden Child's" existence.

Assuming the above is correct that "The Golden Child" does receive a new body, why would he seek out Light Elle? This question is quite difficult due to the sheer lack of knowledge regarding the past life/lives of "The Golden Child" and his relationships with other individuals. As stated previously, it can be questioned that "The Golden Child" before participating in the original sealing of Dark Gaia might not have even known of Storkholm's existence let alone resided there. Without plummeting into a vast black hole of conjecture there appears to be two rational reasons by "The Golden Child" would seek out Light Elle. Either "The Golden Child" had a past relationship of some unknown nature with Light Elle before becoming "The Golden Child" and wants to rekindle that relationship or "The Golden Child" when a part of Reborn Ark saw the potential for a relationship with Light Elle. So it appears that there can be one of two causes for the mysterious knock, yet no real way to determine who actually is reasonable.