Review by Leetdude

"A great non-RPG Squaresoft game! And who's talking about The Bouncer?"

Secret of Mana is a game made by Squaresoft in late 1993, a year before Final Fantasy VI came out. Unlike most Squaresoft games (except for a few notable failures), Secret of Mana wasn't an RPG, and instead was an Adventure game, much like the Soul Blazer and Zelda series. It's a wonderful genre, but there were very few games made like them, so Secret of Mana never really got much recognition. To put it simply... it should have. Secret of Mana was, and still is, one of Squaresoft's best games ever. It's one of the elusive true Adventure games, and quite possibly the best one. This alone is almost definitely enough proof to show that Squaresoft can make good games that aren't RPGs. If that isn't enough to convince you to buy this game as soon as possible, keep reading...

Oh, nice and pretty!
Secret of Mana has truly wonderful Graphics. A year before Final Fantasy VI came out, we had Graphics this nice. That's simply amazing. The character models are very large, quite possibly as big as Chrono Trigger's models. They also look wonderful-just like Chrono Trigger's models! What a coincidence-or not, as they were made by the same company! The hero looks EXACTLY like Crono does, and the rest of the characters look very similar as well. What's interesting is that it was made two years before Chrono Trigger. Although the boss models weren't quite as good as the character models, they are still very nice looking, on par with Final Fantasy IV and Final Fantasy VI, which is still pretty awesome.

THIS is why Music and Sound are separated...
Why did Square curse us with some of these songs? I seriously dislike some of the music in Secret of Mana, and I think I'm alone on that matter, but I seriously don't care. Do NOT get me wrong whatsoever. Most of the music in the game is wonderful. You should check out the Forest theme and the Introduction music, in particular. This is some good stuff. Unfortunately, it's not all so good. For example, let's look at the Dwarf Village music. That is DISGUSTING, and every time I go there, I have to listen to it. Mute button, here I come. While this is one of the worse cases of the music, some of it is similarly bad. Even though most of the songs in the game are very nice, I can't give it too high a score in this category.

And the other reason why the Music and Sound are separated...
Don't bash me for bringing down the music a bit. This neutralizes it. The Sound Effects in the game can be absolutely WONDERFUL! The slashing of the sword sounds really nice. Some of the magic sounds interesting. Most of the other weapons you have sound good. Some of the latter spells you use (never mind what they are-they're ''special'') are VERY nice sounding. Fear the sound effects!

Squaresoft works their magic to bring you another fine story of the early SNES era...
Like most Squaresoft games, Secret of Mana has one of the best plots that Squaresoft has ever offered. You play as a boy who was dropped off at a random village by your mother, who disappeared, and was raised by the village elder. While you are exploring out of town, you come up to a sword stuck in a stone. A ghost tells you to remove the sword, which you do-after all, there are bushes blocking the way home. Suddenly, monsters start appearing near your town. After rocking up the worst one, you are kicked out of the village and a scary-looking knight guy tells you that only you can restore the sword's power and stop the Empire, who is also trying to recover its power (no spoilers =P). And that's how it begins. It gets deeper-don't worry.

Should've stopped at two characters...
For the most part, the Play Control in Secret of Mana is wonderful. The B button lets you attack, and the A button lets you run, like you'd expect in an Adventure game. The innovation is in the percent meter. After you attack or run, your percent empties. It recharges fairly fast, but while it's down, you can't run, and your attacks are extremely weak. You can also hold down the B button for a bit, which charges your weapon, depending on how many ''levels'' the weapon is at presently. That's very interesting to pull off. The Y button brings up a menu where you can choose weapons, magic, items, equipment, etc. This can be done during battle, which is the cool thing about Adventure games, in my opinion.
The only problem with the Play Control is how stupid the computer controlled characters are. First of all, the characters can't move with you for crap. They run in the exact direction you are, even if they need to move around to get to you. They run into walls, and they barely ever move in two directions at once, for crying out loud! The other flaw with them is their idiocy in attacking and defending. They barely ever move. They never charge their weapon. They never attack unless their weapon is at 100% (sometimes it's important to do so). This is helped with multiple players, but it's still notable.

So, the game is good in the details. But, can you play it and enjoy yourself? Heck yes!
As you would expect from an Adventure game, Secret of Mana is truly enjoyable to play. The technical details were explained already, but I can safely say that there's true enjoyment behind the deep nitpicking. You can enjoy the game while playing, because of everything else the game has to offer. You have plenty of motivation to keep playing in the story. The enemies are hard enough to keep you interested, but not overly frustrating. The game is good to look at (oh my GOD, this game has wonderful Graphics!). Everything combined? One fun experience.

There's a level to turn off everybody... but they're rare.
Secret of Mana is overall a fairly challenging game, but for the most part, not overly so. It's still enjoyable, but difficult enough to keep you going. The big problem, though, is in some certain levels that are either WAY too easy or WAY too hard. Point in case: The witch's castle. Point in case: Gaia's Navel. These areas are in the exact same area of the game, both in the early stage of the game. Gaia's Navel is way too easy. It's nearly impossible to have problems with it. The witch's castle can be very nasty and frustrating at times. Pandora is... very frustrating, often. Too bad.

Once per decade? Once per century? Once per five years? Yes, but still good.
The biggest problem with Secret of Mana is that the game has nearly no secrets to it. Every time you play through the game is almost exactly the same. Even though each time is enjoyable, it does get old. Once you play through a single time, it starts collecting dust for at least a year before you dig it out again. It happens to the best of games, but it's more notable here.

Overall Ratings
Graphics: 10/10
Music: 3/5
Sound: 5/5
Story: 19/20
Play Control: 16/20
Game Play: 28/30
Challenge: 12/15
Replay Value: 10/15
Overall: 103/120, 86%, 9/10

Secret of Mana is a wonderful game that will keep you interested the entire way through until you finish the game. Even if you do let it collect dust for a little while after you finish the game, you will eventually pick it up again and enjoy it. You should buy Secret of Mana, for a true Squaresoft experience that isn't even a Role Playing Game.

Reviewer's Rating:   4.5 - Outstanding

Originally Posted: 05/25/01, Updated 05/25/01

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