Review by Kevingcat
"Years later still a epic game"
Secret of Mana, released in 1993 (A year before I was born) is a prodigy among RPG games. Squaresoft took a huge risk on changing the game-style from other RPG's like Chrono Trigger and Final Fantasy, and making an Action RPG. And did it pay off big time. Because it was so different from other RPG's while still retaining a lot of similar elements, this game stood out among all other RPG's of its and our time. So how could a game like this NOT score a perfect 10/10 you are wondering? Well read on my dear viewer and find out.
Gameplay - 8/10
The gameplay of this game is very different from other RPG's of its time, which was a huge risk. Instead of random encounters and turn-based combat, you have a real time combat system that is unique and innovative but frustrating for people who have no patience whatsoever. Unlike Legend of Zelda's combat system where you can attack numerous times and still be as effective as the first attack, attacking causes your character to become spent or tapped for a period of about one and a half seconds. To me this was just fine because in actual combat you wouldn't be flailing around a sword like a madman but attacking and looking for openings to strike, and that's how I viewed this combat to be like. While you can swing your sword wildly in this game you wont cause nearly as much damage as if you were to wait for your character to become untapped.
The game also took things a step further with separating itself from other games by creating a ring style inventory system. By pressing the Y button on the controller, it brings up the ring system and pauses combat, giving you time to think about your strategy or switch a weapon or select a certain magic spell to use on an enemy. Each branch has its own separate ring, so equipping an axe is on a different ring than casting a spell, but each ring is simple to get to just by pressing the up or down buttons. Your partners have their own rings as well so you can control what they do without having to switch to that character. Pressing X brings up their ring.
There are three types of levels in this game: Weapon level, Magic Level, and Character Level. Character Level is pretty self explanatory so I won't go into that one. Weapon level refers to your skill with a certain weapon. Each weapon has 8 levels, however to unlock these levels you have to find orbs from defeating bosses and take them to the blacksmith so he can reforge your weapon into something better. As you level up with the weapon, you gain a power attack. The level of the power attack corresponds to the level of your weapon and is initiated by charging it or holding down the attack button. However cool this sounds, I often found it a waste of time because the charging just takes too damned long, especially in later gameplay. Magic level refers to how skilled you are with a certain elemental magic. Just like with weapons, there are 8 levels of magic, and to access a new level you have to unlock a Mana seed and receive it's power. There are 8 types of magic (or mana) in the world. Water (Undine), Earth (Gnome) Fire (Salamando) Air (Syphlid/Jinn) Darkness (Shade) Light (Wisp) Moon (Luna) and Forest (Dryad). Each element has their perspective strengths and weaknesses that you can exploit if you know how to use it.
And to put the icing on the cake, the game offers a Multiplayer feature so your friends can easily opt in and out of bashing in the skulls of those who stand in your way, allowing you to coordinate attacks with your friend and outright just slaughter. However there are a few things wrong with this. More often than not, you or your partners will find yourself stuck behind and obstacle and trying to regroup with your other two party members, and the game does not like the idea of people being separated from the party AT ALL so it forces you to sit there and try to figure out how to get maneuver your way around so your stuck teammate has enough screen space to join the rest of the party.
Story - 7/10
The story of Secret of Mana I found to be complex, but you really have to know where to look if you want to find any at all. Enough searching and you will find a deep and extensive storyline behind the game, which I thought was ridiculous. Instead of forcing you to look for it, they should give it to you plain and simple. The actual storyline is good at best. Here's a brief summary of the story without spoilers...
Mana is dying, and fading while tyrants take control of the world. Conflicts begin to arise and order seems to shatter. Then a young boy, orphaned in a small village with no recollection of who his parents were, but raised by the village elder as if he were his own, draws the sacred Sword of Mana by accident which causes a surge in Mana reviving monsters into the world once more. Thus he begins a quest to completely restore Mana to the world by sealing 8 Mana seeds within his sword whilst avoiding the clutches of the empire and something even more sinister. Along the way he will meet a young girl who saves his life then when they reunite asks to join forces with him to rescue her love Dyluck, and a mischievous young Sprite who was washed away by a river and lost all his memories from the experience, and is willing to do anything to get them back and go back to his family. And he will meet powerful foes such as Thantos, an evil sorcerer with a thirst for power. Soon it becomes clear that his motives are at one with the empires, to resurrect the Mana Fortress and enslave the world to their whim.
It gets a lot deeper but like I said, you have to talk to nearly every NPC to get the true experience of the story. Character development in this game was pretty decent for the girl and the sprite, but nonexistent for the boy, which bothered me a lot.
Graphics/Sound - 10/10
The graphics for this game were cutting edge at the time. They pretty much pushed the hardware of the SNES to the limit, with fully developed areas and detailed enemies and somewhat interactive environments, This made for a lot of gorgeous scenery and memorable areas especially for a 16 bit game.
The OST's for the game however... they were something else. Most of the games soundtracks were absolutely breathtaking and so fitting for the situation. When a difficult boss battle was here, they promptly put on this epic battle music that let you know that you were about to be thoroughly screwed, or when walking through the Mana Holy Land you get this peaceful soundtrack that relaxes you and makes you forget about all your problems (right up until a Griffon hand kills you...)
Play Time/Replayability - 8/10
This extensive campaign will last you about 30-45 hours of pure fun depending on how deep you get with the plot line, but will leave you hungering for more when it is finished, but will ultimately leave you disappointed with an epic final battle with a disappointing ending.
However sad it is to say it, this game is not something you can immediately pick back up and play all over again. But given a few months to a year and you will be itching to get back into the game and play it again. However with no alternate endings or alterations in the main storyline, things could get rather dull if you are just playing the same game over and over again. (Thank the maker its Successor Secret of Mana 2 fixes that problem :D)
Final Recommendation -
Secret of Mana is a GREAT game and you WILL get your moneys worth over and over and over again especially of you have a couple of friends along for the ride. I highly recommend this to any gamer, either for the Super Nintendo, Virtual Console, or an Emulator.
Reviewer's Score: 8/10 | Originally Posted: 11/27/12
Game Release: Secret of Mana (US, 10/31/93)
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