Secret of Evermore (SNES) review
"The video game market today is moving into science fiction plots with the advance of FPS’s, making fantasy plots not so common. Despite the former being rare in RPGs compared to the latter, I still have a fond love for science-fiction RPGs. Those who have played Xenosaga might say that for a science-fiction RPG to be successful, it would require as many movies as Xenosaga had. For me, though, Secret of Evermore for the SNES is a video game that quenches all the desires of an..."
The video game market today is moving into science fiction plots with the advance of FPS’s, making fantasy plots not so common. Despite the former being rare in RPGs compared to the latter, I still have a fond love for science-fiction RPGs. Those who have played Xenosaga might say that for a science-fiction RPG to be successful, it would require as many movies as Xenosaga had. For me, though, Secret of Evermore for the SNES is a video game that quenches all the desires of an RPG fan looking for a game with a science-fiction plot.
Secret of Mana was a big success in America, but unfortunately for English gamers, Squaresoft decided not to release it’s sequel in America. Instead, Squaresoft opted to release an English-only game made by Squaresoft of America that would come to be known as Secret of Evermore. For the sole reason that it stopped Secret of Mana’s direct sequel from coming to America, many gamers abhorred it impulsively. But that didn’t stop the game from having a cult following.
In the year 1965, Podunk is a small unknown town in the USA. The only thing really of notice is the wacky mad scientist living up in a mansion on the hill. One day, he invites the local librarian and museum curator to look at his latest experiment with his granddaughter…but something goes wrong.
Fast-forward 30 years to Podunk, 1995. Although Podunk is a somewhat larger town, it still has the same quiet feeling. Exit the hero from Podunk’s movie theater, obsessing over unusual flicks, taking a stroll down the street with his dog. Suddenly, a cat comes out of nowhere, and the boy’s dog runs after it. Having no choice but to pursue his dog, the boy comes to the mad scientist’s mansion, abandoned 30 years ago. However, his dog begins chewing on some wires, and a machine freaks out, zapping the boy and his dog to somewhere else…somewhere unfamiliar.
You then are escorted by a strange butler to an escape hatch, where you fight two robots. The boy and his dog then fall down to the planet of Evermore below. It is here that they learn that they have come to a prehistoric place. Rescuing a prehistoric era villager, they learn from a girl who turns out to be the scientist’s granddaughter the fate of the experiment 30 years ago; a machine able to create worlds of your imagination to live in went awry, causing everyone to be permanently stuck in their worlds (And surprisingly, not age). But not all is lost, as our boy and his loyal companion journey through the prehistoric world, a Roman-era world, a Dark Ages world, and a futuristic world. Eventually, they find out what caused the experiment to go wrong, and fix it. It’s an adventure no less than what a boy and his dog could ask for.
Squaresoft added insult to injury into the faces of those abashed by no English release of Secret of Mana 2 by ripping off the Secret of Mana engine, and adding a few modifications to it. The basic fighting relies on an energy engine, where you strike at an opponent, and wait for the counter to rise to 100% before you can strike again with full force. You can also level up weapons after a certain number of kills, and for each new level, you can charge the weapon up even higher, making for a higher variety of attacks such as throwing a spear instead of just hitting with it.
Items remain unchanged from the Secret of Mana, but that doesn’t mean that Secret of Evermore doesn’t have its own special items. Call beads allow you to draw upon the unique powers of the four Podunkers who are prisoners of Evermore, causing major damage to your foes or other effects.
Also, you can obtain special items, which can grant the boy special effects. The Jaguar Ring will allow you to dash while costing you some of your energy, the Jade Disk raises your Hit Rate, and the Chocobo Egg permanently increases both characters HP. Of course, this doesn’t mean that these items, referred to as Amulets and Charms, are easy to find. On the contrary, you’ll have to put in hours upon hours of work to get all that you can.
The most major change in gameplay from Secret of Mana is the addition of Alchemy. Alchemy is the art of changing metals into gold. Suffice to say, it is unable to work, but in Secret of Evermore, Alchemy takes on a whole new meaning. Throughout the game, you’ll be able to find or buy Parts from alchemists, which includes Oil, Water, Wax, Limestone, and Root. You’ll learn alchemy formulas from alchemists and other people, and by using the necessary parts, you can create devastating effects out of them, whether they are offensive or defensive. But that’s not all. Use an attack enough, and it’ll level up. A boss might laugh at your level 1 Acid Rain, but going up against a Level 99 Acid Rain is not pretty at all.
The boss designs are one word - awe-inspiring. The first real boss that you face off against is a giant spider with a humoungus heart protected by a thrashing open skeleton. Later on, you'll face a giant squid in the well of Iron Keep, really bringing a meaning to the term "tentacle rape". Other astounding bosses include an armored raptor able to heal itself in fire, a gladiator, six shadow clones of the boy, and, the boss that sets the game in it's own category of creativity, a king and queen chess piece.
Multiplayer was, unfortunately, butchered. Although two players can play at the same time, your forces aren’t evenly divided. You have on one side, the boy, with his dozen weapons, items, and plethora of spells. You have on the other side the dog, with only his brute force. Also, the boy and his dog will get separated throughout the game, eliminating multiplayer possibility in some parts.
What was really fun though was the marketplace wandering. In the game, there are two marketplaces where you can buy things such as Rice, Fish, or Tapestries. The genius of the idea, though, is that not all things can be bought with the local currency. Somebody might want 3 beads for a tapestry instead of 50 Gold, or 50 Rice for an Amulet. Not only that, but you can sell some items back for currency, and since different items can be bought and sold for different prices, you can make a fortune quickly. Not just a boy and his dog, but a future tycoon too!
When going through a science fiction plot with lots of foreshadowing and twists that could only be had in a science fiction game, one can easily reject the colorful graphics. Secret of Evermore abandoned the colorful graphics of Secret of Mana and brought more realistic graphics to the table. This suits the story well, because tromping through the deserts and swamps of Prehistoria would be much more atmospheric when the aesthetical abilities of the SNES are used to produce vivid realistic graphics, rather than colorful details. Additionally, Squaresoft used backgrounds that looked like they had solid walls, but if you looked hard enough, you could find a secret passage that might lead to some treasure chests or a wandering alchemist.
Unfortunately, the sound isn’t anything special. You have all your sound effects in battle, such as swords hitting and the stuff, but some of the spells are downright annoying. Although the songs are catchy and are atmospheric of the era they’re in, they’re not memorable, and can sometimes actually get repetitive.
Secret of Evermore had that American touch, and the science-fiction plot was what appealed to me. On the way, I fell in love with the alchemy system, and the plot turned out to be very good. Make no doubts, Secret of Evermore is a cult game. Either you’re a raving mad fan who would do anything for a sequel or remake, or you’re not a fan at all.
Community review by yamishuryou (October 09, 2004)
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