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Secret of Mana

Action RPG
Seiken Densetsu
  • October, 1993
  • 6 August, 1993
A- 79 total ratings
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Everyone loves Thanatos

A Secret of Mana review Author: Wiegraf Published: September 14, 2004
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The major qualm against RPG's--lack of multiplayer--gets its answer in this classic. Secret of Mana is a game that not only enthralls one person, it can even take another along for the ride, adding to the already polished gaming experience that Square is known to deliver.
Secret of Mana follows the path of a boy simply called "the hero." A mistake near his hometown finds him falling to the bottom of a waterfall, where he happens upon a sword buried in a stone. Like King Arthur of old, the young one grasps and removes the sword. In doing so, however, he tips the balance of mana, causing evil creatures to suddenly return to the normally peaceful lands he inhabits. And so begins the tale, and what a tale it is.
The game is not really as much about the story as it is about gameplay, which is a diversion from the normal Square protocol (especially on the SNES RPG's), which valued plot, however slightly, over action. The use of a real-time battle system definitely aids that. You control three characters in the game, each with their own usefulness and abilities. The game is set apart with two great innovations: 2-player support that allows a friend to take the reins of one of the characters, and the famous "ring" menu system. This system may look even more complex than the menus of FF or Chrono Trigger, but I simply like it because it looks damn spiffy, and it is very easy to control all three characters on the fly, even by yourself.
Now let's look at atmosphere. The game's graphics are colorful and lush, a nice contrast to the drab textures that are found in FFVI. It appears just as you may imagine it--a vibrant, beautiful world. The sound is well picked as well--you'll go between upbeat, casual themes that seem like they belong in a easy listening CD compilation to powerful "gloomy" songs like the famous Dark Lich theme.
So, gameplay's great. Check. Atmosphere? Awesome. Check. So why am I giving it a B? Well, I'm a big sucker for a plot that can draw me in, keep me there, make me not want to leave, hug me, etc etc. I never really got this feeling from SoM. Sure, I knew what I was doing had SOME bearing on the world, but in a "I just saw a cinema where half-the-world exploded" way. The plot is really not delivered with much subtlety--what you see is what you get. This also lends itself to the title being rather linear--there are few alternatives to a straight beeline for the Mana Fortress.
Still, I had a good time with Secret of Mana, and I would recommend it to anyone who is just getting to RPG's from action or adventure games, or craves something a little more exciting than ATB. To those who need some more plot, though, I'd suggest either trudging through it or finding another place to go.
Editor's Grade
dotted line "Secret of Mana is not the most original story on earth (the hero with the sword kills the bad thing, oh my). However, its addictive gameplay sets it apart from the more "static" RPG's of the SNES era."
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