Review by sega31098
"I don't care what anyone else says. This is the best home console RPG ever made."
In October 1993, Squaresoft (now Square-Enix since it's merger with Enix) released a role-playing game (RPG) called Secret of Mana (Seiken Densetsu 2 in Japan) for the Super Nintendo Entertainment System (SNES). Secret of Mana is the second installment in the Mana series, the first being Final Fantasy Adventure. To be frank, I honestly am not a big fan of the Mana series, but Secret of Mana is an exception to it, and I truely enjoyed playing it start to finish. This game, comparing to those standards in the 90's, is outstanding, and to this day, is still very enjoyable and entertaining, and I truly cannot stress how amazing this game is. While the game did sell reasonably well (around 1.8 million worldwide), this game was sadly overshadowed by other games such as Chrono Trigger and Final Fantasy IV, both deserving of excellent scores. It's too bad many people missed out on a classic like this.
These graphics are top-notch for a SNES at the time of it's release, and even after the game industry (including Square's Mana series) moved on to 3D-graphics, these graphics still look beautiful to the present day. The graphics are extremely colorful and even have amazing pseudo-3D effects thanks to Mode 7, scaling and rotating of sprites and background, for example, when you're flying around the world on a white fluffy beast. Many parts of the game glimmer with color and rich diversity of art. In fact, the graphics were so advanced at the time of development that the programmers had to cut down on enemies and reuse and recolor some characters and enemies to make it fit onto the original SNES cartridge. Sometimes, the animation is so smooth and fluid that you'll barely even notice you've been playing a 16-bit game, and you can see how much the graphic artists tried to pull these off properly. The graphics are truly deserving of a perfect 10, both artistically and technically, and I must commend the graphic artists on their work. Hey, I'm a modern gamer, and I really liked the graphics art style of the game.
The world used magic to create a fortress called the Mana Fortress, which was draining the world of mana. Wars rampaged the world, making it barren. When all hope of Mana returning seemed lost, a hero smashed the fortress with a legendary sword.
Many years have passed. You start off with a boy (named Randi in the original Japanese version) sneeks away from his village with a couple of friends. When they come across a bridge at a waterfall, Randi slips and falls off the bridge and lands in a shallow creek. After examining the area, he finds that he needs to cut down a few weeds to get back to his village and starts searching for something that can cut through them. Randi walks around for awhile and hears a mysterious voice calling him. After looking, he discovers a sword and that mysterious voice tells him to pull it out. When he finally cuts through the plants, he finds a monster in the what used to be harmless path back to the village. After getting through the path, the villagers are afraid of him because he has a sword. The village is surrounded by monsters and the village guard tells Randi to stay inside the village. The leader of the village scolds Randi and his friends for sneaking out of the village. When Randi shows the leader and his friends, the leader is worried because it was said that sword brings a bad omen to the world if pulled out. After hearing the story, one of Randi's friends gets angry and blames him, pushing and harassing Randi for pulling out the sword. Just then, a hole opens up in the middle of the village and both of them fall in. His friend is injured by the fall and a gigantic monster appears. Using the sword, he defeats the monster and climbs out of the hole. After that, the villagers are terrified of what he had caused from pulling out the sword and persuade the leader to banish out from the village, refusing to let him in anymore. Nobody in the village respects Randi anymore and constantly blames him. Randi is silent about this and leaves the village. And this is where the whole story begins...
Well, I have to admit, the very beginning is not 100% original, but believe me, the story quality only goes uphill as you go along in this game and finishes flawless. You will get new characters, face new enemies, and even more. There are quirky and bizzare elements thrown into the game, such as being shot up in a cannon, talking mushrooms, a talking cat and even Square's mascot, the Moogle! Each character has their own unique development that overlap each other, but don't circle around continously. Each character development has a unique story to be told that move along with the main story. The story is something not to be missed.
Secret of Mana is an action-RPG, meaning that the battle system is not about choosing commands from a menu, but is instead about pressing buttons to attack. You control the game with the SNES controller.
As for the core gameplay, the game is like a mix of Legend of Zelda and Chrono Trigger. You play the game from an overhead perspective and explore the vast region of Secret of Mana.
Here's the basic controls. You move around with the D-Pad, dash with the A button, open up the menu and options of the character you are controlling with the Y button (the X button switches the options of one character to another). The B button serves as the attack, examine and confirm button. If you don't like these controls, you can change them anytime using the options to suit your hand's needs. There's even an option for you to play the game with the controller upside down! You can move diagonally, unlike many other previous RPGs on the SNES RPG selection. The game breaks from the classic overworld exploration technique, and instead, the maps flow directly into each other. You start out with a wide array of maps you can explore, and as you continue through the game, the game reveals many more maps that you can explore. Each region has a unique feel, so exploring vast regions will never get boring at all.
The battle system breaks from another one of Square's old traditional (menu-based and random encounter style), and instead, gives way to a system that allows you to see your enemies on the screen where you attack them upfront and you can move around during combat. Magic can be used in exchange for using MP (Mana Points) by opening a menu, selecting a spell and selecting the targeted enemy. When you attack an enemy, the number of damage done appears on the enemy. The enemy can attack you as well (OBVIOUSLY), and if they deplete all your HP (health points), you become a ghost that just follows the other characters around, then you instantly switch control to another character. If all your characters are killed, the result is a game over. When attacking, there is a meter at the bottom screen and when you attack, the meter activates. It starts from 0% and recharges to 100% rather quickly, and when it reaches 100%, you can attack at full force. You can still attack when the meter is charging, but the damage the enemy takes is lower. Once you beat the monster, a quirky death animation plays. Each type of enemies have a certain type of death animation, such as exploding in to liquid, disintegrating into bones, exploding into a mushroom cloud, etc.
As you continue through the game, you will meet 2 more playable characters. When you do get new characters, they will follow you, but unlike most other RPGs, they can even attack for you! You may be thinking "Oh great, this is going to screw up the game", but believe me, Square implemented a tight CPU control that will be much more of an aid than a nuisance. On top of that, you can change the aggression level of the CPU character using the options. If that's not all, you can even play as them and alternate between characters by pressing SELECT. And if that's not all, if you have an extra controller, you can get a friend to play with you as another character. Just connect the extra controller and press START. Up to three (3) friends can play simultaneously with you but you need to purchase the Multitap to play 3 players. You are not allowed to move more than a certain range away from another character, and unfortunately, the CPU can run into a corner or attack an enemy when you just want to rush to another area. But this is VERY rare any you'll probably almost never run into this situation, and if you do, the option of switching playable characters will come to the rescue.
Exploring and battling is not all to the game. There are rest stops in the form of villages and towns in between areas, where you can rest in inns, talk to the people in houses and outside and shop in, well, shops. Inns heal you to full health, restoring you from any status (including death) at a price depending on where you are. They also act as save points completely free of charge. There are two types of shops: One for medical needs and another for battling needs. The two are sometimes joined together in one shop. In shops, you can also sell your unused items for a certain price with the exception of key items. Unfortunately, you won't be able to know what effects the items will be on you until you use/equip them and you will have to experiment with them. But you can always reset the game.
As with almost all RPGs, there is a level system. Experience is gained through defeating enemies. After you gain a certain amount of experience, you gain a level. As an addition in this game, your health and mana points are fully restored, along with your health capacity going up, which is a great aid when you're going through a long path with no towns nearby. Your experience is shared with your characters unless they have been defeated. Grinding is not really a problem in this game as there is an adequate amount of enemies between areas that you can level up in a reasonable amount of time and you can dodge enemies simply by moving away from them. Plus all enemies are on-screen and reappear when you leave.
Overall, the gameplay quite extraordinary for a game of it's time, and as I stated before, is still extraordinary, even if the game is more than 16 years old.
When you beat the game, there's not much else you can do. You can continue to play from the point you last saved, and that's all. Sure, there are a few extra things you can do, but they're not too important. Even after saying that, you can have endless quantities of fun re-exploring the game and replaying the game over and over again.
Difficulty: Just Right
The game, for the most part, has a challenging aspect. Occasionally, you might find yourself in a tough situation, but you'll eventually find yourself out of trouble using skills.
I don't have too much to say about the sound effects other than that they are pretty good. There are some nice sound effects, for example when you heal using an item, you get an ambient and high quality sound. Each weapon has a unique sound when used, for example, slashing with a sword makes a "psst" sound and using the bow-and-arrow will make a "bow-wak" sound. There are also menu sound effects, playing everytime you select something, choose something or cancel something and so. Some sound effects are very memorable, some are not. The sound effects don't get irritating even after listening to them for a long time, but you'll probably just ignore them after a few minutes to a few hours of gameplay. The sound effects aren't that great altogether, but good enough.
Now, the music is a whole new story, and an excellent one. The music is truly a masterpiece and I cannot stress how outstanding it is. The soundtrack is EXTREMELY ambient, catchy and amazing (not trying to act like a fanboy, but it's that amazing). The soundtrack has a diverse array of music, from rock and roll, to tribal, to ambient, to classical, and more. I've listened to the entire soundtrack through the game, and I've got to say, there are no bad tracks in the game AT ALL. With the wide array music, you will never get bored of it throughout the game. The sound quality is also excellent, and at some points sounds like you're listening to a true audio CD or MP3, but in reality, you're only listening to an array of electronic MIDI sound effects placed together, which is technically impressive. Whether there's a happy, sad, adventurous, or any other emotion or ambiance to a scene or map, Secret of Mana's soundtrack has it all. Sometimes when I'm playing Secret of Mana, I just want to leave the game on in some area to listen to the music and feel the ambiance of the soundtrack. The music is truly deserving of a perfect 10, and anything lower than that would be absolutely criminal.
The game should probably take you about 10-30 hours to complete. Good time for an RPG in general.
Should you buy this?
Absolutely! A masterpiece of a game like this deserves your purchase!
Now let's recap the review:
Difficulty: Just Right.
Secret of Mana is, without question , one of the few games that reach the summit of quality. If you need to choose just ONE RPG to add to your SNES collection, choose Secret of Mana. This game is of of best games on the SNES selection, let alone Nintendo's home console RPGs altogether. You might think I am just being a fanboy who can't think straight, but what I am stating is the truth about this game. I do not really like to hand out 10/10s to every game I like, but Secret of Mana deserves one. Please do yourself a favor and go purchase this game by any means possible when you can. A game like this doesn't get much better than this, if ever.
Reviewer's Score: 10/10 | Originally Posted: 08/17/09
Game Release: Secret of Mana (US, 10/31/93)
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