"Not in the same league as Final Fantasy, but don't dismiss it. It's still an excellent game!"

For years I'd heard some of my friends talk about Secret of Mana, and what a good game they thought it was. They even suggested I play it, and I planned on it but could never find a copy. I was fortunate enough to find an earlier game in that series (Final Fantasy Adventure), and then about a year ago I finally found a copy of SOM. Now, here's what I think of it.
Gameplay 10-10. It's an action/RPG, and one of those that actually try to make the Gameplay work for the player. Like turn-based RPG's, this game allows you to have allies. Final Fantasy Adventure did this also, but that game didn't allow you to have more than one ally, nor did it allow you to take physical control of your companion. This game not only lets you have two allies (well you need 'em in order to win), but at any time you can assume control of either one of your allies, and you can put your main hero on autopilot so to speak. Also, unlike Interplay's Lord of the Rings, the CPU's control of the two unused characters can vary depending on where you set them on the action grid. On the right they're passive, if they're near you but still on the right of the grid they'll act depending on your situation, and if they're moved to the left side they get aggressive. I'm still very early into the game and haven't gotten my companions, but as this was a used copy I played around with the characters that were in the game before beginning my own adventure. Now with Zelda style gameplay and lots of weapons, armors and magics at your command, let's look at the...
Control 10-10. The button arrangements might confuse you at first, but they're not really that hard to learn. The menu system is divided into rings, each ring having several choices. You can use items and trade them in the item ring, exchange weapons with one of your allies with the weapon ring, etc. The main hero can't use magic, so only his two allies will have a Magic ring in their menu screens. Now let's take a look at the...
SFX 8-10. The SFX are somewhat of a mixed bag. On one hand you've got the cool sounds like the sounds of enemies taking damage and dying, but on the other you've got some not so cool sounds. For instance, I doubt that if you were to swing a sword in real life you'd hear a sound like someone playing with a pair of sandblocks. You'd hear a nice swishing sound like in Super Punchout when you'd take a swing at an opponent and miss. Still, they tried, and nothing's openly annoying as far as I'm concerned, and if it's not annoying then who cares? Not me, that's for sure.
Music 10-10. I've seen reviews (not necessarily just here on Gamefaqs but on other sites as well), and I've heard people complain about this department. Some say the music's two upbeat. That's true, the music is for the most part very upbeat, but I think it's fitting. This is an adventure we're talking about, so there needs to be adventurous music. There are sad moments, sure, and the music will change to a sad theme when such a moment occurs. Boss battles get very tense and fast-paced. When something mysterious happens or you enter a mysterious place the music will reflect that. Then when you are victorious in a boss battle you get a triumphant fanfare. There are even themes for when you acquire weapons and special items, all of which are good. People are entitled to their opinions, so I'm just expressing my own here. I like the music in this game.
Story 10-10. Long ago, the power of Mana held the world in balance. Some people decided to try to seize that power for themselves. To that end they built an ultimate weapon, the Mana Fortress, to act as a conduit for Mana. The gods were angered and sent their beasts to destroy those humans who would rise against them. But before all was lost, one brave warrior took up the Sword of Mana and used its power to destroy the Mana Fortress. Afterward, Mana was sealed into eight seeds and these were placed in the care of eight elementals. The sword itself was lodged in a stone in a river near what would become Potos Village. Now however, evil is again seeking to seize the power of Mana, and the sword summons a hero, you, to release its power. Unfortunately, the Elder of Potos, who has raised you since birth, either doesn't realize or believe this. The Elder blames you for the monsters' return and banishes you from the village. However it soon becomes clear that you were not responsible for unleashing the evil. Instead you were summoned to remove the sword because of that evil. With the help of your two allies, whom you meet on your journey, you set off on a quest to restore balance to the world.
Overall 10-10. I like this game. The story's good, the gameplay's interesting and the music's excellent. If you can find this game, give it a try. If you can't find a physical copy you'll probably have to emulate it.

Reviewer's Rating:   5.0 - Flawless

Originally Posted: 03/19/02, Updated 03/01/03

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