Review by Guilty_Gearhead
"If time flows like a river, and history repeats, then why are there not more games like this?!?"
I first played Secret of Mana way back when it was first released in 1993. I was about 5, and had no clue what I was doing. I watched my dad play it and had him teach me how to read the guide he had bought for it so I could beat it. I took it to school and read the book for reading time and yet.... I got nowhere, and eight years later, I still hadn't beaten it. Then when I was fifteen, I got together with one of my friends, and played it consistently for about two weeks and FINALLY beat it. Usually, I'd be kind of pissed that it took me that long to beat a game. But with Secret of Mana, each time I restarted the game, was still fresh and exciting to me after all of those years. No other game that I have played (except Chrono Trigger) has made me more proud and happy to play video games. Now, I shall share with you why Secret of Mana is so near and dear to my heart.
Story 9/10 - Okay, by now many of the elements of Secret of Mana's story have been overused in tons of RPGs (For example, an evil empire, a sunken continent under the ocean, and a headstrong princess). But back in 1993, Secret of Mana's story introduced several new elements that would be used in future RPG stories. You must go on a journey to eight elemental mana shrines to strengthen a seal on a giant instrument of war.. The mana fortress. It had been sealed away by the gods long ago when it became apparent that humans were becoming too strong and using mana for nothing but war, and the evil empire wants to resurrect it for it's use in global domination. So the fortress was sent to the depths of the ocean by a hero who wheedled the great Mana sword given to him by the gods and destroyed the mighty fortress, then used it's power to seal it away. The story is simple, yet intriguing. Instead of using boats, or airships to travel, you use a cannon that blasts you into the sky in snazzy mode 7 fashion. Later on in the game, you get a never-ending story style dragon to use, also in mode 7 graphics. Plus, you even get to meet Santa, Rudolph, and there are Moogles you meet on your journey too! Who doesn't like that??
Graphics 10/10 - Simply put, this was the best game graphically for the SNES in it's early years. Secret of Mana had several bright and colorful landscapes that simply looked amazing. Ice looked icy, the desert had those little shimmering waves beading off of the hot surface of the sand, and the forests looked colorful, detailed, and all around great , no matter what season they were in. The characters are detailed and well animated, as are the enemies you face. But one aspect of the graphic truly stands out above the rest: Mode 7. You may not know what Mode 7 is, but basically, it allowed unprecedented scaling and rotating of 2-d environments to create some neat graphical effects while you were traveling, be it either via cannon, or dragon (A good example of Mode 7 would be to check out the racing in F-Zero, or Super Mario Kart for SNES. All of the track surfaces and backgrounds are in mode 7). The only 2-d games that surpass Secret of Mana in this department are Chrono Trigger, and Seiken Densetsu 3 (Secret of Mana 3).
Controls 10/10 - The controls in Secret of mana are easy to learn and use. One button handles attacks, another opens your currently controlled character's menu, another opens your CPU controlled allies menus, and another switches between the three playable characters. As you level up with any one of the eight weapons, you are able to hold down the attack button and charge your attack into a super attack. The max level of charge corresponds with the current level of that weapon for that character, which can go as high as eight. Also, in the menu for the Sprite and princess characters, you can easily cast magic spells that strengthen over time with more use. The best part about the menus is that they are easy to navigate and use. Plus, if you want, you can have a friend grab a second controller and play as one of the two remaining characters. Or, if you are one of the few and fortunate people to own a SNES multi tap, you can have three, yes THREE people playing at one time. Three player fighting truly is an experience to behold. My only complaint is that you can only hold four of any kind of item at any given time. However, it should be noted that this complaint becomes of little concers once you obtain healing spells later in the game.
Game play 10/10 - The easiest way to describe the game play in Secret of Mana is three player Zelda, but with more of an RPG format to it than Zelda. You level up, as in standard RPGs, but you also level up magic and weapons, not just characters. Combat is fun and simple. Each character has a meter that goes from 100%, to 0% when they attack. Now you can attack before the meter quickly refills to 100% to get quicker attacks and stay on top of an enemy, or you can wait till the meter reaches max and have a better chance at hitting the enemy, as well as doing more damage to it. There are also puzzles and riddles to solve, just like in Zelda. An especially clever one has you walking the seasons in the North Country in reverse order to open a blocked path.
Overall 10/10 - I know I gave a 9 in the story category, but Secret of Mana wowed me so much that I'm going to give it a 10. If you like action RPGs like Zelda, and traditional RPGs like Final Fantasy, you owe it to yourself to find a copy of Secret of Mana.
Reviewer's Score: 10/10 | Originally Posted: 07/22/05
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