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Secret of Mana

Platform:
snes
Developer:
Square
Genre:
Action RPG
Series:
Seiken Densetsu
  • October, 1993
  • 6 August, 1993
A- 79 total ratings
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Amazing Gameplay and a Classic Story

A Secret of Mana review Author: stardust462 Published: August 08, 2004
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The story of Secret of Mana sounds very simplistic. Boy accidentally finds legendary sword, meets up with a girl and a sprite, and they must travel the world together in order to save it. They must save it from an evil power that is taking all the Mana from the world. The story may not have the extremely memorable moments of many other Square RPGs, but the game play is what sets this one apart from the others.
One of my favorite themes of RPG?s is the use of different elements, which is used in this game. What is different about Secret of Mana is they have eight instead of the usual four: Water, Earth, Wind, Fire, Light, Darkness, Moon, and Nature. These must be found by traveling the world in order to go to the temples where the spirits of these elements can be found. Also at these temples are Mana Seeds, which must be tapped to release the power of the legendary sword the boy found.
The world you explore in this game is huge. There are so many cities and towns it is hard to remember them all. At first you travel by the innovative Cannon Travel Center, which would not be practical in real life because it sends you hurdling through the skies towards your destination, without a parachute. You do get a much better method of travel, which I will not spoil for you. Throughout the game you will meet dwarves, mushroom people, witches, humans, and a group of bad guys who want to take over the world.
The music and graphics of this game are great for its time. The character sprites are a lot larger than in other SNES RPGs, similar to those in Chrono Trigger. The music is wonderful and all the tracks fit well with their respective scenes. The scenery from the towns to the deep forests is full of detail and wonderful color. In one part of the game you are in a forest where each of four areas is a different season, and there is great difference in the design for each one, illustrating the great visual design of this game.
As I said before, the game play of Secret of Mana is what makes it different from other RPGs. The typical full-page menu is replaces by circles of icons surrounding one of the three heroes at a time. From this menu you can change weapons, use an item, change configuration, or cast a spell.
Early in the game you collect eight different weapons which each character can wield, although only one at a time. There is a sword, a spear, gloves, a boomerang, an axe, bow and arrows, a whip, and a pole dart. When a character uses a weapon a lot it grows in level for them. This means by holding the attack button for a certain amount of time they can release a strong attack, and also have more power in regular attacks.
Weapons also gain their own levels, but this is done by finding orbs, usually from defeating bosses, and having Watts the blacksmith forge them for you. A character can only gain levels on a weapon if the weapon itself is up to that level. For example if the axe is only at level 3, then a character cannot go up to level 4 on it. Every time a weapon is forged to the next level it takes on a trendy new look and name. The price for forging is higher as the levels go up as well.
Items can be purchased at the obligatory item shop in every town, or from an animal named Neko, who can be found deep in the dungeons you must conquer, for twice the price. Players must ration out their healing items well because you can only hold onto four of each item at a time. Although annoying, that creates another level of strategy in the game.
Armor, hats, armbands, and body armor, can also be purchased from the same places. However it follows the annoying clich? of almost always being newer, and of course more expensive, armor at the next town. The shop owners must have met together before your journey and plotting this against you.
Magic is divided into eight elements and it grows stronger through levels as well. When you use enough spells from a certain element, it will advance to the next level allowing for more damage or more support, depending on the spell. The girl and the sprite can use magic, the girl has recovery and support magic, while the sprite has attack magic.
The amount of MP they have is not great though, and the item used to restore MP is expensive. Plus the only time I really use it is against bosses, but that leads to low magic levels. So, to increase the levels of magic I would go use the sprite's magic on enemies near an inn, the cheapest one possible, until he runs out of MP. Then I would go back, have the girl use recovery magic until she runs out, rest, and then repeat. It is all part of leveling up, but it would be better if I could just use magic more often in normal battles and not worry about how I'm going to restore it in time for a boss.
The leveling up system in this game is similar to that of Final Fantasy II. I thought that in Final Fantasy II it was interesting and innovative, although very flawed. But that's another review. In this game, it fits this real-time battle system much better, unlike in a turn based, random encounter game like Final Fantasy II. However, magic is still not used enough in normal battles so that it will level up easily like weapons.
A rather unique aspect of this game is up to three people can play at one time on each of the characters. If you are only by yourself you can switch between characters and control a different one if you want. The other two characters are off on their own, but you can configure how close they can get to enemies. Sometimes the other characters get stuck places when you are trying to go ahead, which is really annoying, or they get too close to enemies and die.
Secret of Mana is a great game that has many differences from other RPGs of its time such as Chrono Trigger, Final Fantasy VI, or Earthbound. Because of those differences Secret of Mana is a great game that all RPG fans, especially Square Enix fans, should experience. Even though the story is simple and somewhat clich?, it works for this game and it is a part of what makes it great.

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Editor's Grade
A-
dotted line "The story may not have the a memorable and standout plot like Chrono Trigger or Final Fantasy VI did, but the unique gameplay allows Secret of Mana to rank among games such as those."
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Author
Stardust462
Vapid Buttmunch
Member since March 29, 2004
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