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Secret of Mana Review

Secret of Mana…such a good game. Most people have played this throughout their glory days on the SNES when they were younger. Or if you’re like me, you play it and beat it once a year. The fact that this game utilizes so many different features and peripherals of the SNES makes it quite unique. But, let’s review it, shall we?

North American Box Art

Secret of Mana(Seiken Densetsu 2 in Japan) was first introduced to the US on October 3rd, 1993 and was created by Square. The game was re-released for the Wii’s Virtual Console in 2008, and was ported to Japanese mobile phones in 2009. Secret of Mana is the sequel to Final Fantasy Adventure for the Game Boy and the second installment in the Mana video game series. Rather than using the traditional turn-based battle system of games like Final Fantasy, Secret of Mana utilizes real-time battles akin to the Legend of Zelda series, also employing typical RPG elements and a unique “Ring Command” menu system. With its brightly-colored graphics, expansive plot, innovative cooperative multi-player game play,the game is simply amazing…and I’ll tell you why.

The story takes place in a fictional world, during an unspecified period following a war between a civilization and god-like beasts concerning the use of mana to fuel the “Mana Fortress”, a flying warship. During this war, a hero used the power of the Mana Sword to destroy the fortress and appease the angered gods, returning peace to the world. That’s where you come in! You take control of not one, not two, but THREE characters AT THE SAME TIME!…unless of course you have friends over to help you dominate. Or if you’re like me, can dominate by myself with no problem. Why? BECAUSE I’M THE BEAU AND I’M….AWWWWWWWWWWWESOOOOME!!!!!!! *ahem* Let me tell you some interesting stuff and whatnot…*ahem*…

Like a lot of RPGs from the SNES era, it was mostly a top-down perspective(Like Zelda) and it involved you navigating your heroes through enemy infested areas. Now, when I say infested I freakin’ mean they are EVERYWHERE! Not to mention, they are constantly re-spawning, so it works perfectly for gamers who love to level grind! The enemies get much harder as the game progresses, so you may think you’re fighting the same monster you fought in a previous dungeon/area(Palette swap, anyone?), but this different colored Rabbite might cast a spell or two and possibly whoop your ass.

Rabites are common everywhere in the game and series.

Boss fights are nothing to underestimate. If you are severely under-leveled, prepare to be raped. I’m not kidding…the bosses in this game can and will sodomize(The means butt-sex to anyone who doesn’t understand the term)you and your party quite quickly if you don’t know what you’re doing. Not to mention, there is A LOT of bosses in this game, so level-up whenever possible!

Yes...there are giant walls as bosses.

Now, the multi-player is quite cool. It’s “drop-in/drop-out” co-op(Simply press Start on your controller) and it supports 3 players! Now, I know what you’re thinking…“Beau, you incredibly hot man-beast, how can an SNES support 3 players when there is only 2 ports!?” Well, the SNES had a Super Multitap accessory that allowed another player to join into the action. Which, once again, proves how advanced the SNES was for it’s time.

Naki brand Multi-tap for SNES

Now, the mechanics of the game were different as well. Instead of turn-based battles like Final Fantasy and whatnot, the mechanics were very similar to The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past. However, there was a slight catch: You have a meter at the bottom of the screen that determined the strength and accuracy of your physical attack. Upon swinging your weapon(There are 8 of them, by the way), the gauge would drop to 0% and you would have to wait for it to fill all the way back up to 100% in order to land a more successful and powerful blow. The gauge itself refills quite fast, so all you impatient gamers can relax.

The guages on the bottom tell you your "power level" when attacking.

The party wields eight different styles of weapons throughout the game: Sword, Spear, Bow, Axe, Boomerang, Glove, Whip, and Javelin. With the exception of the sword, all weapons can be upgraded eight times, and repeated use increases their Skill Levels to a maximum of 8, unlocking a new charged attack with each level. Weapons are upgraded through the use of Weapon Orbs, generally obtained after defeating a boss or found as a treasure in dungeons(Some enemies in the game drop Orbs as treasures as well!). On top of that, the name and look of the weapon that gets changed every time you upgrade! Once an Orb is collected, the weapon must be taken to a Dwarven blacksmith named Watts to be reforged.

Watts plays a vital role in upgrading your weapons.

Magic in Secret of Mana operates in much the same way as weapon skill progression, with the exception that magic points are consumed each time a spell is cast. In order to learn magic, the party must rescue spirits known as Elementals. The eight Elementals represent different elements (Fire, Water, Earth, etc.), and each provides the player with specific spells. Magic skill can only be as high as the party’s current Mana Power, which increases automatically over the course of the game. The Elementals in the game are listed thus far:

 

-Undine(Water)

 

-Gnome(Earth)

 

-Sylphid(Wind)

 

-Salamando(Fire)

 

-Shadow(Dark)

 

-Lumina(Light)

 

-Luna(Moon)

 

-Dryad(Life)

Now, depending on the character, Magic will have a different effect…oh right…I haven’t introduced the characters in the game yet. Well shit…my bad! Here we go!

The Hero or The Boy

Randi

 

The Boy is adopted by the Elder of Potos after his mother disappears. After pulling the Mana Sword free, the monsters invaded Potos and the villagers persuade the Elder to banish him. Seeking to restore the sword, the Boy then embarks on a quest to re-energize the sword.

The Girl

Purim

 

The Girl meets the Boy briefly when he’s ambushed by Goblins. After helping him escape, she disappears, only to appear again outside Elinee’s Castle.The girl is in love with a warrior named Dyluck, who was ordered by the King to attack Elinee’s Castle, which is considered a virtual suicide mission. Angry with her father, the king for this, as well as setting her up for an arranged marriage, she rebels and leaves the castle to join the Boy in his quest, hoping to save Dyluck as well. She is capable of casting defensive and healing spells.

The Sprite

Popoi

 

The Heroes meet the sprite at the Dwarf Village. The Sprite makes a living by scamming people at the dwarves’ Freak Show. He doesn’t remember anything about his past, so he joins the team to try to recover his memories. The Sprite comes from a village in the Upper Land. He was washed away by a flood to Gaia’s Navel, where the Dwarf Elder found him. The flood caused The Sprite to suffer from amnesia; the Sprite can’t remember anything of his past. While the sprite may seem childish at times, he has courage equal to that of the other two heroes. As an orphan, he understands how the boy feels not growing up with his parents.

The primary protagonist of Secret of Mana is the Boy, who is supported by the spell-casting Girl and Sprite child. While the three released versions of the game do not have a default name for each of the characters, the Japanese instruction manual refers to the boy, girl and sprite respectively as Randi, Purim and Popoi (or variants thereof). But, you CAN name the characters whatever you want at the start of game and throughout, so it’s your call.

At the start of the game, you kind of have to hoof it through an enemy-infested countryside in order to reach the next area you got to go to. Travel may be expedited through use of Cannon Travel Centers, where two nut-jobs offer to launch the party to far-away destinations via a giant cannon. Cannon Travel usually requires a fee, but is mandatory to visit other continents early on. Honestly though…who the hell would want to get shot out of a cannon just to go to the other side of the of the world? Not me! Didn’t they have goddamn boats? Well, whatever…moving on. Later, the party is given access to Flammie, a miniature dragon which is controlled by the player and able to fly freely across the world, represented by an over-world map. These sequences make use of the Super Nintendo’s Mode 7 capability(Which a lot of SNES games used, like Super Castlevania IV) to create a rotatable background, giving the illusion that the ground beneath Flammie is rendered in three dimensions. While riding Flammie, the player may access either the “rotated map”, which presents the world as a globe, or the “world map,” a two-dimensional view of the over-world.

Riding Flammie shows off the SNES's Mode 7 animation.

Overall, the game is epic. The series itself is really good, but a lot of the later games don’t hold a candle to this one. The fact that it’s a 3-player RPG makes it unique in itself and it’s one of those games that you can play over and over again…and it’s the only RPG my brother thoroughly enjoys and we dominate on co-op!

Until next episode…

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