[SECRET OF MANA LOGO]
[GAIA'S NAVEL]
Console: Super NES

Company: Squaresoft

Release Date: November 1993

Genre: Adventure/RPG

Number of Players: 1-3

Save Feature? Yes



Secret of Mana has to be the most underrated game that Squaresoft has released. While it's no Final Fantasy 3 or Chrono Trigger, Secret of Mana is still a very impressive game. With beautiful graphics, a moving soundtrack, and an action battle system that can't be beat, Secret of Mana is truly something special.

Overview: Secret of Mana is a gem of a game that mixes adventure and RPG elements together beautifully. While the game contains many classic RPG elements such as buying and equipping weapons and using magic to fight foes, the battle system is real-time! Instead of using commands to fight, you must fight like in a classic action game! Each time you swing your weapon at an enemy, it takes a second to recharge to 100%. You can attack before the bar reaches 100% but the big blows come when you fight with a fully recharged weapon. There are eight different weapons that you will acquire and orbs that allow your weapons to become more powerful. The thing that I really like about Secret of Mana is that your weapon and magic strength increases with each use. It's important to fight enemies until your weapons and magic are powered up. In addition to the neat battle system of Secret of Mana, the world in which the adventure takes place is huge! There are so many things to do!


[A WINTER WONDERLAND] [NEARING THE MANA TREE]

Graphics: It's been a long time since I've enjoyed looking at a game's graphics like Secret of Mana. There's just something about a lush green forest surrounded by trees and covered with beautiful plants and flowers. Add in a gorgeous waterfall and you've got some pretty tantalizing graphics! Some of the Mode 7 effects with Cannon Travel and Flammie are very impressive as well. The eye candy in Secret of Mana is bright and vibrant for the most part; the towns and enemies have a much more lighthearted feel than other RPGs like FF3. Many of the enemies such as the rabites are actually on the cute side! Sorry, there are no Atma Weapons in Secret of Mana. :P One thing that I noticed is that there are a lot of trees in Secret of Mana. The forest is filled to the brim with trees, the Ice Country contains beautiful frozen trees that change color, and even the Empire's Gold Isle would be amiss without trees made of gold. What really impresses me about the game's graphics is not just the trees but the superb animation. I was blown away by the amount of animation in this great game. On one screen, you might have enemies such as the Rabites hopping around playfully while the gentle wind causes the grass and flowers to move around. In addition to this, there might be a waterfall nearby and your character might use the Sword of Mana to perform several different moves in one sweeping motion. While the game does have some slowdown, it's very minimal when you consider the amount of animation that takes place.

Music: The music in Secret of Mana is a mixed bag. While some of the music in the game is terrific (Overworld Theme, Ice Palace, Manafort), some tunes are pretty average (Matango, Dwarf Village) and one tune in particular (Ruins Theme) is actually annoying! However, the good far outweighs the bad. Most of the music in Secret of Mana does a great job of creating feeling. I absolutely love the Overworld Theme; it's so friendly and relaxing and you hear it a lot in the game. The various town themes are well done! They sound either happy or mysterious (the latter if there's something evil going on). The sound effects in Secret of Mana are excellent as well. Some of the background sounds (water moving) are very nice while the sound of whacking a baddie is pretty good as well. Overall, it's pretty safe to say that the music in Secret of Mana gets the job done.

Play Control: Secret of Mana is a big winner when it comes to play control. It's not so much the fighting that impresses me but the innovative use of Ring Commands. By using the control pad to move through each ring and by learning to use the X and Y buttons to open and close rings, you'll be able use items and magic attacks in no time! There's the Item Ring (Candy, Medical Herb, etc...), Weapon Ring (Sword, Axe, etc...), Magic Ring (Salamando, Shade, etc...), and the all-important Misc. Ring. It does take a little while to learn how to use the Ring Commands but once you figure them out, they're a lot of fun. The gameplay itself is smooth and easy to learn. You'll move around and use your weapons to fight like in Zelda. There's a nice twist though. Instead of relentlessly hitting an enemy, you'll need to be accurate. After each stroke , the weapon will take a second or two to recharge. Once it reaches 100 percent, you can unleash a powerful hit! The play control in SOM is both tried and true and innovative; a very tough combination.

Challenge: For some reason, I just didn't find Secret of Mana a terribly difficult game to beat. Maybe it's because I have the tendency in games like this to build up more than enough experience and to keep large amounts of key items (e.g. royal jam and faerie walnuts) in tow. Ironically, some of the earliest enemies in the game gave me the most trouble! It took me three tries to defeat the dreaded Wall Face (because of the spikes) and even that was because of my lack of common sense (DON'T try to absorb hit points from it!) What's strange is that I breezed through the rest of the game and was never defeated after that point. The final two bosses made me sweat though! While Secret of Mana is challenging in certain places, it isn't nearly as tough as Final Fantasy 3.

Storyline: Secret of Mana has a neat plot with several surprises along the way. The game begins with the hero (you) pulling a mysterious sword out of a stone. It turns out that the sword is the legendary Sword of Mana and that it was used to protect your home village. Now that you've taken the sword, monsters are appearing everywhere. Sadly, you are banished from your home village and the journey begins. The hero meets up with two friends along the way and the threesome have incredible adventures! They learn over time that the Empire (controlling with an iron fist as Empires usually do) is trying to take all of the world's mana seeds. There are eight mana seeds in all and your goal is to locate the seeds first and use their powers for good. However, there are many enemies that want the seeds' powers for themselves; they want to rule the world. Many different events occur throughout the game and there are several subplots as well. You'll meet up with a certain reindeer and his master in Ice Country; I thought that this was a very nice touch. While Secret of Mana is a more lighthearted game, it does contain a serious plot.

Funfactor: While Secret of Mana does have some small flaws, it's still a blast to play! The game's atmosphere is simply wonderful and there are so many places to go. It's a lot of fun upgrading your weapons and elemental powers; you can make your characters super strong this way. The beautiful graphics and impressive music give Secret of Mana a feel that few games have. I have to say that Secret of Mana greatly surpassed my expectations. It's too bad that there aren't more games like this.

Negatives: As I mentioned already, I felt that Secret of Mana wasn't challenging enough. While it's certainly no cakewalk, it's not exactly Battletoads material either. Of course, I'd rather a game be too easy than too hard. As I mentioned earlier, some of the music in Secret of Mana was pretty average. I felt that the Boss theme wasn't quite up to Squaresoft standards and the Ruins theme was very annoying as well.

[FLIGHT TO THE FINAL BATTLE]

Ratings: Graphics: 4.5 Music: 4.0 Play Control: 4.2 Challenge: 4.0 Storyline: 4.2 Funfactor: 4.7 Overall Score: 25.6 out of 30.0 Overall Rating: Bronze Bravo

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