Secret Of Mana
Platform: iPod (Reviewed), iPad, iPod Touch (Super Nintendo Port)
Publisher: Square Enix
Developer: Square Enix
Release Date: December 21, 2010
Price: $8.99 – Buy
In 1993 a developer known as Square (now Square Enix) released an action/Rpg game for the Super Nintendo known as Secret of Mana which gained high critical acclaim and still to this day is considered by many as one of the greatest and most memorable games on a Nintendo console of all time. As a kid with a Super Nintendo, I always wanted to play this game, but I never got a chance. I did hear great things however about its unique gameplay, it’s epic soundtrack, its intriguing storyline and impressive graphics. Since 1993 it’s been ported and re-lived on numours consoles including the Nintendo Wii’s Virtual Console, various Japanese mobile phones, emulated on computers via snes roms and now its been ported to the iPhone. Now, 17 years later I got the chance to experience what I had missed out on, but one powerful question was on my mind which Im sure many fans of the game were thinking as well: “Does Secret of Mana stand the test of time?” Lets find out!
Hey guys, look! Princess Peach makes a cameo, and for once is NOT the damsel in distress!
Like most, if not all games by Square Enix, this game is presented beautifully. There isn’t really much to say about it other than it’s done really well and looks great. There are loading screens between sections of the game that are just black screens with a gold ‘now loading’ text that usually last less than 2 seconds, but before the beginning of the game there is an insanely long start-up sequence to load the game which is annoying as hell. It’s a fair trade off though because once that’s out of the way, the longest you’ll ever have to wait is a few seconds which keeps the game fast-paced. The impressive ‘Ring Command’ system is presented and set out well with the selected characters’ face centred in the middle with options surrounding him or her, and a nice iPhone exclusive ability to slide between options. There is a slight, time-consuming annoyance as to get to a certain menu you may have to go through another one or two to access it, but it’s not too bad. Everything about the game itself is presented well and for the most part you’ll feel just like your playing an old-school snes game, which is awesome. It just a shame that they didn’t add any in game tutorials for the iPhone, or clear up a few things for the port to keep things in place, but it’s not that much big of a deal.
Managing and switching between three warriors involves alot of strategic planning and quick judgement, and is really fun to do.
The storyline can make or break an role-playing game as in order to play the role with enjoyment you must actually enjoy the role your playing. It’s with great pleasure to fill the shoes of Randi, Pimm and Popoi or whatever you decide to name them as. As the game begins you see Randi and a few random friends remove the Mana Sword which destroyed a flying evil warship known as The Mana Fortress a long time ago. The removal of this weapon unleashes hordes of monsters which leads to Randi getting banished from his own village. The game begins with the protagonist attempting to re-energise the Mana Sword by visiting the eight Mana Temples to save his village and restore peace. I won’t ruin anything, but the beauty of the games storyline is that it does not stop there, and that this game is pretty damn long. You will NOT finnish this title in one sitting, which is nice to see in a iPhone title, and the whole time this plot is weaving it all together. The storyline is also a little different from the cliché ‘hero with the world on his shoulders, better go save it and fall in love’ plot we always see in games like this, so its nice for something not so obvious. There is alot of background story going on with all three of the main characters and for a game that was on the snes this game gets pretty emotional. The character design is done with some amazing talent and their backstories are intriguing so it is easy to fall in love with these heroes. Dialogue can be a bit rough around the edges at times, but the message does get across.
There is no in-game tutorial but there is a 76 page manual you can find on the opening page, but seriously who has the patience for that when we can be slaying monsters, giant bees and possessed flying chairs? Not me!
The easiest way to describe the gameplay of Secret of Mana is that it plays like an old school Zelda game, with a few RPG twists. It’s a top down view with a run button (which is pretty much useless unless your trying not to fight enemies) and an attack button. Unlike Zelda however, you have an attack bar at the bottom that needs to be constantly refilled. Everytime you use your weapon, it empties and begins to recover. While you can constantly attack your enemies, the game rewards the player for their patience by dealing maximum damage once the bar is filled, so often waiting those extra few seconds is helpful. This can lead to a few on-the-spot, quick judgement call strategies which make the game more fun. There are many flavours like this which make this real-time RPG feel like a turn based one. For example, hit points gained or lost for each character appear above the player or NPC, as well as information such as missed attacks and poisoned players. This can really intensify combat, and is alot of fun. Also all three members of the party are constantly always on the screen, and the player can switch between controlling each one with a simple touch of the screen. This is required as the AI is pretty much terrible, and they will often do the most stupidest things you can think off, alot of the time it will seem as if your team mates may have a death wish. However you can program their style of combat which would’ve been awesome if they actually did what you want them to do half the time. It isn’t always the case, but in some areas such as dungeons it can be a nightmare. Also the difficulty is unforgiving, so in order to advance and play the game, you will be required to train up your party alot, and that’s where most of your hours will be spent-fighting the same losers over and over again to level up so you can have a chance of making through an area or to defeat the boss. This unfortunately can take away from the storyline’s intensity. On the plus side though, as it is all real time you can easily avoid opponents by walking around them and leaving an area to avoid combat is easy, so at least you have that option of incase you just want to hurry up and get to the next level. The ring command system is a unique delight to use, with the pause function allowing players to select items and status in an easy-to-use menu via touch screen that is just presented with great elegance.
17 years ago, one of Secret of Mana’s biggest selling points was its amazing graphics due to scenes like this one. We’ve come along way since this.
While the combat is a pleasure however, there are just one to many faults with the exploration aspect of the game. These are ruined by two main factors-one is the dialogue of many locals in villages who will simply say random, useless things that are plain and uncreative, eg: “This village is called x” or “My dad owns the x shop” and thats it. While this is a normal thing for RPGS, there are some really pointless lines here. Most importantly though, is just walking. Walking around towns is not very fun at all. The control stick is very unresponsive and very awkward. Often animations will show for example your character walking sideways while he or she will walk upwards. It just feels wrong. It can sometimes even interfere in combat, which can ruin the game’s awesome fighting system at times. To make things worse there are many collision issues in the game, in the sense you are able to move NPC’s around and it just feels unnatural. I understand this was in the original game, but this could’ve easily been improved on. This also wouldn’t be a proper Secret of Mana review without the mention of the awesome multiplayer. Wait! Oops! I meant lack of multiplayer. This is truly a major disappointment. The major selling point of the original game besides its unique (at the time) combat system was its multiplayer. Yeah that’s right! A multiplayer real-time RPG similar to Zelda made by the dudes who made Final Fantasy from 1993. Recipe for a perfect game much? But thats gone. So the adventure must be shared alone with the terribly stupid, suicidal AI. No Game Centre or Bluetooth options, nothing. This doesn’t ruin the game, its just major disappointment for anyone who was a fan like this. This could’ve easily been done for the iPhone, and it would’ve been amazing, its such a shame this feature didn’t make the final product.
The Monsters you fight in this game are evil, but none are as evil as the control stick! You will suffer under it’s demonic wrath!
Back in the day, one of the many reasons to love Secret of Mana was its graphics, and its easy to see why. There are so many different, impressive aspects to admire about it. Backgrounds are incredibly detailed for a 16-bit console. Textures are sharp and a pleasure to observe. Character design is always an important aspect in games like these as it helps players to fall in love with them, and in this title they are done very nicely. It’s very anime, and done in a very stylish and impressive manner. Colours are sharp and work well together, and animation is smooth for the most part. Occasionally there will be a few issues when multiple characters appear on the screen and the frame rate may seem to drop and animation may appear slightly choppy, but it is most likely to do with the porting rather than the actual game itself. The graphics arn’t always as clear as the original and unfortunately can be a little fuzzy, but its really not that bad. The main highlight of the graphics in the original however was how Square took advantage of the Mode 7 graphics code which helped create depth via rotating backgrounds, creating a 3D effect in some cases. While it doesn’t look terribly out dated on the iPhone when used, some certain moments of the game will feel like it’s almost 20 years old, but it won’t ruin the experience. If anything, you’ll feel a retro vibe coming along. The graphics really look untouched since the original game, which is a double-edged sword. On one hand its great they have stayed true to the original, but on the other hand it would’ve been nice to see a few new things added as the iPhone is capable of much more the Super Nintendo was able to. Even small things like updated high definition graphics or even small things like reflections, or footprints or day/night cycles. It’s not terrible these ideas arn’t there, but it would’ve been nice for a little bit of an update to compete with current games.
The ability to program attack patterns is pretty cool, it just sucks that they don’t do what you want them too half the time.
The soundtrack of Secret of Mana was composed by Hiroki Kikuta, and has gained a massive fan base over the years. These tracks have been featured on cds and preformed live numerous times over the years, so it goes without saying there are a few tracks on this game that you’ll most likely dig. Personally I believe some are better than others and it isn’t flawless, but while all arn’t perfect, there are some really nice tunes on here. However don’t expect massive orchestral pieces here, its a snes port remember! Do expect alot of piano and woodwind instruments, but fear not as they are arranged with great excellence. Unfortunately the sound effects arn’t as great as the soundtrack, some are decent and some are terrible, but you’ll easily look past them and loose yourself in Secret of Mana’s beautiful score. Again, like the graphics, these are untouched from the original. So don’t expect voice acting-hope you like to read!
The Ring Command System has been given iPhone touch screen accessibility, so its easy to scroll through and drag items onto characters. It’s not that necessary, but its a neat iPhone exclusive feature to have thrown in.
Alot of fanboys and role-playing lovers will cry and complain over many things in the iPhone port of Secret of Mana. Sure the graphics arn’t at 100% quality as the original, but they are close. Sure there’s no multiplayer, but it doesn’t ruin the single player experience, and the control stick sucks, but….ok they can have that one! But underneath it all the magic of mana is still there. The Super Nintendo version may be an all time classic, but Square Enix have done a decent job emulating its beauty onto the iPhone. It’s not perfect but the plot is still intriguing, the combat system is still awesome, the soundtrack is still epic and Randi, Primm and Popoi are still as loveable as ever. It’s lengthy as hell and while it’s not as perfect the original was, there still arn’t that many RPG’s on the iPhone of this quality, which is a testament to the classic’s legacy. Most importantly though is one solid fact: Secret of Mana is pretty close to being 20 years old, and it is still a delight to play. It still has relevance and enjoyment today and has stood the test of time. A must have for any retro-loving gamer, and must-have for any real-time RPG fan with an iPhone.
Even in the heat of battle, a fight to the death, your party can easily be distracted and ‘spaced out’ by a pretty balloon. But hey, who can blame them? I mean, look at it! It’s red! IT’S SOOO RED!!!
- A classic game that is still a delight to play 17 years after it’s original release
- Great soundtrack
- Wonderful combat system
- No seriously, the combat system is pretty damn good!
- Great character design
- Good storyline
- Interesting ‘touch’ and ‘slide’ movements for menus
- Annoyingly long loading screen at the beginning of the game, but after that loading is quick
- The control stick is often unresponsive and just straight-up bad
- Some dialogue is a little uncreative
- Come on! Where’s the multiplayer?!
- Unforgiving difficulty will force you to spend way to long levelling up your party
- Frame rate can get choppy on seldom occasions