In another world, with a different audience, and five years' head-start on the competition, Secret of Evermore might have been such a game. Alas, for all our tax-paying and war-mongering, we get nothing more than a half-bastardized rip-off of a coaster inbred by Square's apparent low opinion of its American audience, in the superlative degree of comparison only. At its heart, Secret of Evermore is a mediocre Action-RPG with a sub par story and a moderately fun experience riding on the coattails of its Seiken Densetsu (Secret of Mana
landed itself a square (ph33r the bad pun) two years after Secret of Mana, so while the graphics engine is essentially the same, the animation and art has been slightly upgraded to feature more detailed sprites and environments. Even so, these backdrops are detailed and capture the distinct look of Evermore. Prehistorics looks prehistoric and futuristics: futuristic, but despite the bright character art the backgrounds have a contrasting dim and dark feel that gives the game a sullen mood. The result is a mildly pleasing look that does a fair job of getting across Evermore's
jab at pseudo-time travel.
Omnitopia: Orwell would be proud.
Story-wise, the lore relates: The year is 1965. Mad scientist Sidney Ruffleberg unveils his newest creation, which malfunctions (as such things often do) with unknown results. Years later, a young boy and his dog emerge from a torn-up movie theater having just viewed an exciting thirty-year-old matinee. His dog hones in on a cat, which he chases till the pair find themselves in a dilapidated manor, and come across, undoubtedly, the same machine as previously mentioned. Reminding us yet again of the facets of animal genius, the dog begins to chew on the power cables, which flings him and his owner into Evermore, a land of adjacent anachronisms and villains whose means and ends sum to being really, really evil. Now the boy must find his way out of Evermore, but not before he travels through each time period, in order, as increasingly stronger enemies attempt to keep him from succeeding and every situation suddenly becomes analogous to a '50s monster film. No, seriously.
Characters are also static, at best. Your main character (whom I will reference as "Boy"), along with his mounds of B-movie allusions, shows absolutely no growth at all during the course of the spectacular events he undergoes, almost as if to insult the player with his ?clearly? superior ability to tackle monsters and fend off evil on a daily basis. That, combined with a grand total of ten to twelve characters with actual feasible personalities (which is not to say every last one isn't stereotyped), makes for stale discussion. Party interaction is also non-existent, seeing as how the rest of your party is comprised of, well, a dog. If there is any redeeming factor, it is that the Final Fantasy VI cast can be made out in the Coliseum crowd.
It stops being cute after the fifth time.
Even so, the game trudges along a fair pace of trekking through dungeons and solving some fairly interesting puzzles, and even features the infamous trading bazaar minigame which has you trying to figure out who has what and giving it to them in reverse order. Sheer brilliance. Of course, you're moving through several time periods, which also means that, in a surprisingly realistic move, whenever you have progressed into a new world, all of your previous funds become utterly useless
. Have fun.
Still, there's enough variety to keep your attention, but don't expect anything you might call especially "new", or "innovative", or "better than ____?". Mediocrity is the name of the game. Gameplay isn't horrendous, but considering who developed this thing, that's not saying much.
The battle system, ripped straight from Secret of Mana
, features a bar at the bottom left of the screen which at all times contains your HP standings. Combat is real-time, and all battles are performed on the area maps themselves. See a monster: take a swing. Once you have, a percentage counts up to 100% on your HP bar, so that spacing attacks is required for maximum damage. As weapon skill levels up with usage, however, Boy is able to slowly power up a stronger attack and release it, inflicting damage relative to time spent charging. It all boils down to some fun action that has always been the core of the Seiken Densetsu
's "Alchemy" system of magic can be rather cumbersome at times, however. You can cast spells as you learn alchemy recipes, but only if you meet the required item ratio per spell, per casting. This means that you need to constantly stock items for every spell you may or may not intend to cast in the future; a significant step backwards from the more straightforward MP system and a quick stay at the inn.
Controls here are also just slightly more responsive in comparison to Secret of Mana
, and the menus open up with more speed so you can keep the action going. Other than that, all of these essentially retain the same structure as Mana
and are very easy to operate.
An interesting part of Evermore
, however, is how little music is actually used compared to other titles of the same class. Instead, ambient sound effects are utilized in its stead, such as the jungle noises in the world of "Prehistoria" or the roar of a chatting mob at the market at "Antiqua". After several minutes, though, this makes for little more than background noise, and I felt compelled to see the volume shoot to rock bottom. Whatever music is used is hardly memorable, but would've been a welcome replacement next to three hours of parrot squawking. As an alternative, I found that playing the Secret of Mana
soundtrack fit the bill quite well; sad, really.
All water under the broken bridge, now.
Ultimately, Secret of Evermore
was created for the US market where in its stead might have been shipped Seiken Densetsu 3
; a game often hailed as Square?s greatest achievement on the SNES. Unfortunately, the choice to formulate Evermore
has been criticized since, and although what we have now is a fun play and a great time-killer as any, one must wonder what really could have been.
There are some games that just make you want to smile. The kind of games that bring you so much thought-provoking joy, the dread of the power switch is fiercer than the stench emanating from your body in the wake of shower-less hours of bliss.