Review by EPoetker

"It's...Zelda...but...with...three...players...how can you go wrong?"

WOW! Just the fact that this is an RPG where you control three fighters at once puts this game in a MUCH higher class than most garden-variety Zelda clones(Illusion of Gaia, perchance.) That and the fact that this game also succeeds in pretty much every category I could think of. Let's just say Square's done it again! The deep innovations put into this title make it an absolute classic among RPGs, but one or two major rough spots give it less than a perfect score. Let's review:

GRAPHICS: Bright, colorful, and AWESOMELY animated! The SOM world is a lush feast for the eyes, especially in areas like the Pure land and the Rabite forest. Enemies are all done with a cartoon-like flair that will positively make you laugh in some cases(like when you see the ducks with army helmets.) The bosses are just AWESOME! Big, very well animated, and with nice death scenes to boot, SOM's bosses are definitely the highlight of the game. SOM also made great and extensive use of the Mode 7 capabilities of the SNES, especially during the scenes where you have to ride on Flammie, possibly the cutest dragon that ever went bad. In a nod to Super Mario World, the last boss advances and retreats through Mode 7 scrolling. And finally, the spell effects are not especially flashy, but the fact that they are pulled off in real time(sort of) make up for this. One little thing you may notice is that no more than 3 enemies will ever be onscreen at a time, because the graphics processor can only handle up to 6(and since you're controlling three heroes, the math of it isn't that hard.) To end it, graphics are REALLY good, but not nearly as good as the...

MUSIC!!! Most DEFINITELY the best in the Secret of Mana series and among the best heard on the Super Nintendo. You want inspired tunes? They're ALL here. Much of it is good enough to make you weep at times(Mountain of Sage Joch, Ice Palace, Mana seed altars, and MANY others)and ALL are beautifully composed. It's really the simplicity of the compositions which makes them so good. Though arranged with the best a synthesizer can come up with, you can often whistle(if you can hold the tune)a few of them and still elicit remarks to the effect of:''That's beautiful, where did it come from?'' But, to prove that the composers knew more than just pretty sounding stuff, the boss music goes to a rock/techno beat. (C'mon, just TRY to find a better endboss composition than the one for Dark Lich!)Excellent, EXCELLENT job!

Story: Here's where we descend from ''great'' to ''good.'' The story is rather interesting, what with the Mana tree and all, but it becomes gradually less so when you realize that A)Square already did this exact same story for Seiken Densetsu(Final Fantasy Adventure for Game Boy) and B)It's just a teensy bit too easy to identify the good and evil characters(your guys=good, the guy with a skull for a face=BAD.)There are no major plot twists except for a surprising revelation toward the end. But the story itself is advanced pretty well, and you'll be enjoying the...

GAMEPLAY too much to care. LOTS OF GOOD THINGS HERE! Besides the normal ''leveling up,'' each character may use 8 different weapons(some with other uses-the sword can cut down bushes, for example.)and as they use it, their weapon skill goes up, meaning they can charge the weapon up to 8 levels for a more powerful attack. All items, armor, and spells are accessed through the very cool rotating menu system, possibly the most intuitive idea in RPGs since...the random battle. Again, I really can't harp enough on how cool it is to be able to have THREE PLAYERS on your team at once, not only is it a whole lot of fun switching between them, but you can have a friend control one as well! The AI for the uncontrolled player is reasonably intelligent, and you can set how aggressively it attacks on the menu screen. This game is reasonably challenging, until you realize that most of the bosses can be killed easily by the ''Chain spell effect''(the FAQs have plenty of details on that.) This is one of the few factors(besides weird hit detection sometimes and story that's only slightly above average) that bumps the game down to a 9 from a 10.

Nevertheless, this game is one that should definitely be in your emulated library! And if there's ANY way you can get the cart if you have an SNES, do so immediately! The money's WORTH it, as this game can be a heck of a lot more fun than many Playstation and N64 games...

Nintendo Logic: Sorta weird putting this at the very end, but here goes. Everybody knows that in RPGs, mushrooms talk and walk upright, zombies will say a friendly ''.....'' to anybody who runs into them, and people keep their respective home and castle doors unlocked for you to run around in their domicile stealing things and bumping into people. SOM wouldn't get a very high score in the Nintendo logic rating but for the fact that you can be shot out of a cannon about a thousand feet in the air and land completely uninjured, but run into a cute, squishy little Rabite, and all of a sudden you're lying on the ground with a bloody lip. Maybe you're allergic to their fur, but...


Reviewer's Score: 9/10 | Originally Posted: 03/01/00, Updated 03/01/00


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