Secret of Mana – Review
Follow Genre: JRPG
Developer: Square Enix
Publisher: Square Enix
Platforms: PS4, PC
Tested on: PC

Secret of Mana – Review

Site Score
7.0
Good: Great story, fun new additions
Bad: Freezes while playing
User Score
7.0
(2 votes)
Click to vote
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Rating: 7.0/10 (2 votes cast)

Sometimes we think about those gems we played in the past and probably a lot of people reminisce about Secret of Mana. This JRPG was one of the games available on the SNES and is nestled in a lot of hearts. When this remake was announced, this made the day of a lot of people, but the question remains if it will bring back memories and happiness or annoyances. Are you ready to dive into a world that is on the verge of yet another disaster?

Secret Of Mana Logo

Story

Secret of Mana takes place in a world where mana is an energy source that is imbued in everything. In a long-past time, there was an advanced civilization with technological knowledge that used this mana for certain tasks. Of course, they started to misuse this power and created a flying warship called the ‘Mana Fortress’. As a reaction on this foolishness, the Gods that watch over this world wanted to stop them and started to send down huge monsters to fight these people.  Not only the Fortress but the whole world felt the wrath of the Gods and the last days of this planet were creeping closer. All seemed lost until there was a hero that used the Mana Sword and its incredible power to stop this madness by destroying both the Fortress as well as the civilisation. Thanks to this act, the world could finally recover in peace. To prevent this from happening again, eight Mana Seeds were created to lock away the mana.

Secret of Mana

So many years later, when this story had just become nothing more than a legacy, our protagonist Randi and two of his friends are defying direct orders from the Elder as they’re looking for treasure around the waterfall. After stumbling down, Randi finds an old sword embedded in a stone. Being persuaded by a spirit, he pulls out this weapon and uses it to get back to town. It seems his actions led to monsters going rampant so the Elder, who adopted young Randi when he was young, is forced to banish him from Protos village. Sword in hand, he starts his journey and together with Primm and Popoi he has to face an incredible enemy to save the world from yet another threat.

There is a lot to take in while you’re tackling this game, sucking you right in to this magical world. The three characters all have their own personality, which means there is quite some quibbling now and then, making the narrative a nice breather from the sometimes dark stories.

Secret of Mana

Graphics

The SNES graphics were updated in this remake and have received a nice top-down 3D version but with some comical notes. Don’t expect life-like graphics, but a more cute, comic style. Everything is clad in bright colors and the protagonists stand out in this new scenery. The key characters in the game have some nice details and look totally different than the other NPCs, as these characters tend to be re-used on several locations. This technique might have been ok in the older version, but it would have been nice if there was a bit more diversity other than different color schemes.

It is fun to see that some skits and cutscenes were added where the protagonists are completely shown on-screen while having their conversation. This really shows the nice details and the several expressions of the characters, although there is one general disadvantage. During conversations, the mouths don’t move at all, which looks weird sometimes. It would have been nice if this was added to this remake.

Secret of Mana

Sound

If you’ve played Secret of Mana on the SNES, you might recognise the tunes that are playing. The developers have chosen to re-use the old melodies but give them a nice modern touch. Some of them are really catchy, while others didn’t blend well with the retro feeling. At any rate, if you want to dive again in that old-school feeling, you can just switch to the original soundtrack at any time. The sound effects give the game a more realistic feeling thanks to the several different weapon noises and grunts of the monsters.

Voice acting wise, it’s fun to see that the developers added both Japanese and English voicing to liven up the game some more. Although the English variant feels forced and unnatural, the Japanese acting matches really well and gives you that anime-like feeling.

Secret of Mana

Gameplay

Secret of Mana is a JRPG where you have to complete your quest in order to save the world. To do so, you’ll need to restore the Mana Sword back to its original state. Don’t expect a walk in the park as monsters are running rampant again. Battles are done in real-time, so it could be you’re already attacked when entering a new location. At the bottom you can see a counter, whenever you swing your weapon this number gets reset to zero and starts to fill again. The higher the number, the more damage you’ll perform. Switching between weapons is also possible during fights thanks to the ring commands. You can check several options here, access the magic menu, switch weapons or use items. You can set two shortcuts, both for magic and items, so be sure to use this. Defeating enemies will give you experience, which means you’re able to level up and increase both your health and mana. Gaining a level will heal you, so keep this in mind when you’re almost dead.

Next to the Mana Sword, you get your hands on a lot of different kinds of weaponry, which helps you to create your own playstyle. Some will be ranged like the boomerang or the bow, while others will get you close to enemies like the knuckles. All of these armaments can be upgraded by the Blacksmith if you have the right orbs, which are found during the story. Magic isn’t available from the start of the game, but you have to find or save elementals which grant you their power. Randi isn’t able to perform magic himself but he can lend power for charged attacks from Popoi, as it mostly gets the attacking spells while Primm is blessed with healing or white magic. Using these spells cost mana, so be sure to keep an eye on your meter.

Secret of Mana

It’s actually a good idea to fight against the monsters you encounter instead of dashing through, as some of the bosses might be quite harder than the ‘normal’ mobs. Even more, there is the slight chance that your opponents drop treasure chests, which might contain a variety of things. If you’re lucky, you can get some cash or items but it’s also possible you get an exploding bomb or fists in your face. If you want to be on the safe side, you can spend money on items in the store. Next to these necessities, you can also buy armor for your three friends. There are three sub-types you can purchase, namely head, chest and arms. Of course, not every character can wear the same armor, so you have to keep this in mind and check the flickering character portraits while selecting a piece. It would have been nice if you could also see if certain armor would increase the stats or not, but it’s just guessing now.

Resting at the inn is one of the few ways of saving the game, next to the autosave function of course. Doing so will also trigger some fun conversations now and then, which is rather enjoyable to watch. After a good night’s rest, you’re good to go to straight back in the story. If you want to share the fun, you’re able to play co-op locally and tackle the foes together. Up to three people can connect and control a character, which might make battling easier in some cases. The AI in single-player isn’t bad though, so don’t fret if you’re going to dive in alone.

Secret of Mana

Upon playing the game the first few days, there was one big issue. At certain times, the whole game would freeze for several seconds, mostly when opening a treasure chest or during some battles. This really influenced gameplay and especially the enjoyment of playing the game, as the monsters could continue the rampage. There was already an update which improved the gameplay and the freezes are occurring less.

Conclusion

Secret of Mana has received a nice remake and it’s a good starting point for players who didn’t tackle this game yet. There has been quite some critique about losing the authenticity of the game by people who played the SNES version, while others embrace this change. The graphics will suck you into a colorful world, guided with some updated tracks. Gameplay wise the game isn’t difficult to master but the frequent freezes or other issues might cast some shadow over this title.

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Rating: 7.0/10 (2 votes cast)
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Secret of Mana - Review, 7.0 out of 10 based on 2 ratings
Chun-Li
Chun-Li


Faster than lightning

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