February 28, 2021
The Empire is home to Vandole and his subjects. The game only presents a tiny fraction of the concept with its capital, Northtown, and a small city called Southtown. The cities are clean and orderly with more deliberate architecture than other locations in the game. They almost have a suburban feel, in contrast to an industrial Imperial town like Vector in Final Fantasy VI. There are no roads or even a Cannon Travel route between them, so the only way to get from one to the other is via a sewer system. Northtown also has a Ruins which is more or less a rearrangement of Pandora’s with a palette change.
Let’s take a look at how the Empire progressed during development. This is likely the Empire on World Map I (thanks to Queue for helping out):
By the time of Map IIa, the Empire had broken from the Ice Country and become its own continent:
The grass had been cleared for content that was placed on Map IIb:
You’ll note that this is more intricate than what we end up with on Map III:
Both Northtown and Southtown were substantially reduced, and some islands were removed. The one in the sea between Northtown and Southtown is here:
The Northtown palace, which was larger in IIb, is joined in the east by a large area that has been completely deleted from the final game (III). Southtown was much larger and the cannon travel was far away. We can see it here:
Note how the river runs through the city. It appears that the mysterious spinning object (which we’ll explore below) was here in Southtown too. In-game dialogue notes that Southtown is “much lauded”…but I believe they were referring to the prerelease city as this is the mighty Empire’s Southtown in the final game:
This is the open area at the southern part of town leading to the Cannon Travel. Not much had been added here yet, and probably never was:
The developers were so feverish in deleting Southtown that they left pieces of roads behind. Anywhere you land in the cleared space will still take you into town.
For the 2018 remake (Map IV), more dummy locations and roads were added, giving the Empire a larger scope, at least visually.
At the exterior of Northtown, you’ll see a spinning…something. Make sure you’re in the overhead view to see it clearly.
Despite its prominence, it’s nowhere to be found in the actual town. Furthermore, the overhead view of Northtown has sixteen houses but there’s only nine on the ground. This is my best attempt at lining things up (thanks to Michele di Fronzo for this image):
Whatever our animated object was, it was likely just south of house #4. Looking at the active view, it does seem like something is missing from the lower right corner.
Speaking of Northtown anomalies, we can’t forget the inaccessible door in the Resistance base.
Flying Omelette, among others, investigated this years ago. You can get to the bottom level if you use a no clipping code:
You can return to the stairway by walking around the wall…but you can’t go back again. The door itself has no code attached to it, so it’s just part of the background as it stands. There are no extra Northtown maps in the ROM, nor unused doors. Here’s the nonsensical layout of the house:
A few shots exist of an Empire-like town with more intricate scenery. It’s possibly the lost Southtown. The text box in the first image says, “Did you know? In the ruins on the edge of the desert, there’s an enormous treasure, I hear! It’s surely diamonds…”, which is likely placeholder text until they figured out what was going to happen.
This shot is from the same area. Note the early versions of game items. The highlighted item is the candy drop:
More lost areas of the city: