Review by Bobo The Clown

"Why Are All These Games So Secretive!?!?!?!?!? *Furtive Glance Over Shoulder* AHHH!!!"

Secret of Mana is perhaps the best hybrid game ever released. It combines the action and adventure aspects of a Zelda game with the role playing elements of other Square games. The result is a very fun game, among the best on the Super Nintendo.

In Secret of Mana, you play the role of a young boy. One day, you find a sword deep in the forest after falling high from a waterfall. You take it, not knowing the consequences of your action. It opens an ancient seal, and a giant monster attacks the village. You defeat the monster, but afterwards, you are kicked out of the village for breaking the protection.

The story line of Secret of Mana is outstanding, particularly character development. Along your journey, your characters must make hard decisions that personally effect themselves and the ones they love. The actual story is no slouch either, as it has more twist and turns then an episode of ''All My Children.''

The gameplay of Secret of Mana is hard to describe. You control the main character, although you can switch off to your two journeying companions if needed. You can't just slam on a button to defeat an enemy though; you must wait for the Attack Meter at the bottom of the screen to charge up to one hundred percent.

However, there's another wrinkle on the gameplay besides this. There are eight different weapon types, each with ''orbs'' that power up their stats and change their appearance. For each orb a weapon has, it increases the weapon's level, up to nine (the last orbs are hidden, however). Each level for each weapon has a Charge Attack that can be accessed by holding down the attack button after a normal attack.

Magic spells are also present in Secret of Mana. They are cast from a menu that each character has, and are presented to you by the game's eight elemental spirits. Like weapons, they can also be powered up to nine different levels (one hidden); however, mana seeds are needed to energize spells, not orbs. With each level gained, the spells are more impressive and large.

The levels for the weaponry charge skills and general magic spells are not gained automatically though. To gain these levels you must actively use your vast array of weaponry and magic spells. With each usage, your mastery in that particular skill rises, until the maximum level is hit.

The gameplay sounds a lot more difficult than it actually is. After a good half-hour of playing, it becomes second nature, as you're easily ripping through the games many enemies. For the most part, these enemies are not too difficult, excluding the boss characters and the last twenty percent of the game.

The only problem in Secret of Mana is the sometimes downright stupidity of the computer controlled characters. Often, your fellow characters will get ''stuck'' on corners, trying to run straight through them instead of around them. This detracts a bit from the gameplay when it happens so frequently. However, if you have a multitap, than two of your friends can also play the game. Secret of Mana is one of the few multiplayer adventure and role playing game hybrids around for the Super Nintendo.

Graphically, Secret of Mana is extremely bright and colorful. Lucid animations and sprites are abound. The animation is extremely strong throughout the game, as each enemy has distinct attack patterns and motions, along with a separate animation for each weapon charge attack and magic spell level.

Musically, Secret of Mana is also strong. A ''happy'' mood is prevalent throughout most of the game, however, it's balanced by some darker music in certain spots. The music towards the end of the game is some of the best I've heard in a Super Nintendo game, as it features dark, fusion based techno.

Overall, Secret of Mana is an outstanding game, and deserves a spot in any gamer's library. The great story, graphics, gameplay, and sound will keep you coming back for more. It's an experience that can't be found in any other Super Nintendo game.

Reviewer's Rating:   5.0 - Flawless

Originally Posted: 12/27/01, Updated 12/27/01

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