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Secret of Mana – Super Nintendo

Secret of Mana – Super Nintendo

Secret of Mana_00012Platform: Super Nintendo

Developer: Squaresoft

Publisher: Square Enix

Release Date (NA): October 3rd, 1993

Genre: Action Role-Playing

Nerd Rating: 8/10

Reviewed by Jitszu

Secret of Mana was originally released in Japan as Seiken Densetsu 2 (Legend of the Sacred Sword 2) and is the sequel to Seiken Densetsu (duh), A.K.A Final Fantasy Adventure. I know what you’re thinking, and you’re right, this game (and its predecessor) were originally Final Fantasy spin-offs, before branching away to become the Mana series.

So Secret of Mana is admittedly a pretty awesome game. Though a great start to a spin-off series, the game can stand alone just fine. It’s one of the most critically acclaimed titles in the series and considered one of the best games of all time. In 1994, Edge magazine said that Secret of Mana “includes some of the best game design and features ever seen: simultaneous three-player action, the best combat system ever designed, the best player interface ever designed, a superb control system, and yes, some of the most engrossing and rewarding gameplay yet. It really is in a class of its own as far as action RPGs or adventures go.”

The praise is high, but did the game hold up to expectation? Well for starters, the score by Hiroki Kikuta is pretty fantastic, dark and brooding when necessity demands it but light and epic as well. It adds nice depth to go along with whatever situation our Nameless Hero (and party) finds himself in at the time.

Secret of Mana_00009

The first (real) boss battle of the game

Before the Secret of Mana, very few of Square’s RPGs featured anything but turn-based fighting styles. But, as you can imagine, they went a different route with Secret of Mana, and did so surprisingly well. To clarify, the game’s combat is real-time. Your party can wield eight different types of weapons: sword, spear, axe, bow, glove, boomerang, whip, and javelin. These weapons can be upgraded eight times each, and each weapon levels up separately from the player based on usage.

What really makes this games combat system shine, (in my opinion) is the (let’s call it the) stamina bar. To explain, when you attack with your weapon and your “stamina bar” is at 100%, your weapon does full damage. Once you’ve attacked, however, if you don’t wait for the bar to fully recover, your next attack’s damage will be mediocre at best, ranging anywhere from half to a twelfth (by my closest estimation.)

This simple mechanic separates this game from simple hack-and-slashers and adds quite a bit of complexity to the combat system by providing a strategy and timing element, along with an increase in difficulty. This feature becomes crucial to fighting style by the time you’ve reached some of the stronger monster’s and bosses and it just really ties the combat together.

The game also rocks a very exceptional multiplayer function, allowing you to grab two other players to jump in on the action along with you. When first released, multiplayer was all but unheard of for an RPG, and to date, many fans count it as the game’s best asset.

I’d be forever ashamed if I failed to mention that the game’s look is something to talk about. The beautifully vibrant color scheme gives it a recognizably exclusive look. Not to mention the color schemes throughout the world are just downright impressive, especially considering the time of the game’s release.

Secret of Mana_00011

Now THAT’S what I call 16-bit sexiness

The sprites are all very well animated along with the enemies, the grass sway is realistic enough to where I wouldn’t complain, and the detail put in to the background scenery is excellent. From my experience (and in my opinion) Secret of Mana is one of the strongest RPGs of its time visually.

All in all, this game is totally worth a playthrough, whether it be on re-release or through an emulator. Enticing gameplay coupled with gorgeous scenery and a captivating plot make this game a winner!


Written by Nerd Bacon

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