Review by Arlando909
"So What is the Secret of Mana?"
Secret of Mana, the unexpected sequel to Final Fantasy Adventure was Square's answer to The Legend of Zelda with it's unique battle system and way of movement. Not to mention that Secret of Mana was famous for it's interesting and quite large storyline.
Secret of Mana introduced the concept of having up to three players at a time. You have three characters that join you and follow you throughout the adventure. You're given the option to switch between characters at any given time. You can also plug in a multi-tap and play with two other friends. When you switch the characters those that are not controlled are on an A.I. setting. They battle automatically but this can also be a con.
Magic is different as well. When in the heat of the real time combat you must pull up the menu and cast a spell. Spells can't be casted while a character is downed or having a spell casted on them.
While Secret of Mana is by no means a boring game, there are a few things that bring it's gameplay down. The first noteable thing about Secret of Mana is the battle system. The battle system was creative for it's time. First you wander around and when you take a swing at an enemy you have a gauge at the bottom that rapidly counts to 100%. Once you're at 100% ''Full Power'' you take another swing for maximum damage. This is also proportional. If the gauge is at 50% then you'll do 50% of the maximum damage. What's nice is that you're not forced into any battles at all. You're always free to run past those enemies and never engage in any sort of combat.
So while creative it has a problem. One, because you must wait for the gauge to fill up to 100% it causes some combat to be spent waiting for you to ''Recharge''. With the enemies high evasive stats battling sometimes gets frustrating. Second, characters that are being controlled by A.I. will greatly slow progress down. You can set characters to guard but they'll still attack anything that moves. It makes it harder to progress in some dungeons. Also, characters get stuck at certain parts forcing you to backtrack to get them to follow you along first.
Getting weapons is nice. When meandering through a dungeon or after you defeat a boss you may obtain an orb. Each orb upgrades one of the many different weapons in Secret of Mana which increases a weapons level. Leveling up weapons depends on the orbs as well as the skills you can do with them. This applies to each character you are given for your adventure.
Magic levels up too. First you must find the spell and then you must cast it several times before it levels up. It's nothing new but it works fine.
The difficulty of this game is incredible the first time through. While not terribly difficult, there are points that make the game hard. It is very hard to dodge magic spells and bosses can be hard. Bosses make up the difficulty of this game. However, Secret of Mana starts off as a challenge but the game gets easier and easier as you go through. By the time you reach the final dungeon you'll be incredibly strong and the challenge soon fades. The game still remains fun at least.
The story of the game is brilliant. I won't spoil anything but the way the story is told is brilliantly done. Filled with plot twists and turns everywhere, this story will have you gripped. The reason this scores a nine is because the story paces VERY fast at times and is not always explained well. There are moments where the story goes by so fast that you miss a part and don't understand it.
Secret of Mana is visually stunning and colorful. You'll be awed by the graphics and presentation at first until you notice a few key points in the graphic engine. Secret of Mana has nice graphics but very bad graphical glitches that really put these graphics down. At some points in the game you see character hit other characters and they don't connect at all (and them being about five feet away and hitting them from that far doesn't help either). As with other SNES games, there are moments when pixels will fade in and out or flash as well.
This doesn't put a major damper on graphics but can at times affect the gameplay. There are moments where the graphical glitches cause characters to be in the scenery which restricts you from moving forward in certain dungeons. This does not happen all the time, but when it does it's quite annoying.
The music in Secret of Mana is music that takes time to get adjusted to. The music doesn't always suit the mood and the sound effects are a little poor. But as you go further into the game the music gets better and again, its one of the things that the Mana series is famous for. The music in this game is no exception, it's beautiful.
The only major gripe I have with the sound is that the constant swinging of your weapon makes a sound effect that sometimes drowns out the background music.
Replay Value: 9/10
Secret of Mana is by no means a bad game. You'll be happy to play through this game again. Mostly because you may want to equip characters with different weapons and level their magic up in different ways. The adventure is thrilling and while it's gameplay could bring it down, you'll quickly learn how to bypass a few of the moments where party members are busy with other enemies.
Were it not for the graphical glitches and slow battles at times, Secret of Mana would be the perfect RPG. But this doesn't mean that Secret of Mana is a bad game. You'll quickly become interested in the story and while the battle system is flawed you'll still have plenty of fun with it. So let's all find out what the Secret of Mana is and give this game a try. If you don't buy it then it's at least worth the rent.
Reviewer's Score: 8/10 | Originally Posted: 10/08/03
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