Ads are gone. We're using Patreon to raise funds so we can grow. Please pledge support today!
Google+   Facebook button  Twitter button 
3DS | DS | PS3 | PS4 | PSP | VITA | WII | WIIU | X360 | XB1 | All
Secret of Mana (SNES) artwork

Secret of Mana (SNES) review


"Most people do not realize it, but the now-hallowed Mana series did not begin with the seminal title which this review describes. It far started as Seiken Dentetsu - or as we here in the western hemisphere better know it, Final Fantasy Adventure. This landmark Gasmeboy title had its title altered to bank off Final Fantasy's recent success on the Nintendo Entertainment System. It was the first, but not the last time that Mana would play second fiddle to the more recognized Final Fantasy brand...."



Most people do not realize it, but the now-hallowed Mana series did not begin with the seminal title which this review describes. It far started as Seiken Dentetsu - or as we here in the western hemisphere better know it, Final Fantasy Adventure. This landmark Gasmeboy title had its title altered to bank off Final Fantasy's recent success on the Nintendo Entertainment System. It was the first, but not the last time that Mana would play second fiddle to the more recognized Final Fantasy brand.

Seken Dentetsu's sequel, Seiken Dentetsu 2, was released in Japan to rabid success. So great was the word-of-mouth, that players state-side could scarce wait to get their hands on this "new Final Fantasy," unaware that they had already been exposed to the brand several years prior. The title was released in the US some time later, this time not relabeled as a Final Fantasy aberration. But, as the title which would spawn a small but rabid cult fanbase: Secret of Mana.

As one of the earliest RPG franchises to dabble in the odd concept of "real time" (which, interestingly, can probably be attributed not to innovation, but the Gameboy's limited hardware), Secret of Mana is singificant in that regard. Another pioneering innovation, relevant to Secret of Mana in particular, is the inclusion of three separate experience systems. In addition to actual character experience levels, characters also gain levels in the weapons and magic that they use. Secret of Mana was not the first title to experiment with this concept, however. A previous Final Fantasty title had tooled with the concept. It's safe to say, however, that Secret of Mana was the first RPG title to achieve true success with the idea.

Players accumulate an impressive armory over the course of the game. Unlike in more traditional RPG titles, these weapons are not used briefly, and then discarded when something better comes along. As the player explores Secret of Mana's extensive world, they stumble across Weapon Orbs. These orbs can be taken to a Blacksmith, and used to upgrade the weapon. It's a simple, but clvever twist on traditional RPG inventory systems.

In addition to increasing attack power, upgrading your weapons also raises their maximum potential level. The more a character uses a weapon, the higher their skill level with that particular weapon becomes. The higher a character's skill level, the more powerful Charge Attacks they can unleash with the weapon. Magic can be levelled in a similar manner, though it only increases the power and duration of the spell.

It's not all perfect, however. There are so many weapons available that keeping all of your characters sufficiently leveled in them is no mean feat. The result is that you either spend hours leveling characters in every available weapon, or else pick-and-choose which characters will use which weapons. But, it get worse. Training your characters with the wrong weapons WILL make life hard later. Here's a quick tip, learned from experience: Keep the Boy on the Sword for most of the game. I know the Spear is stronger! Just do it. You'll thank me in the final boss fight.

Leveling magic suffers from a similar, though less complicated conundrum. There are two kinds of magic: Supportive (used by the Girl) and offensive (used by the Sprite). Their extremely limited mana pools basically forces the player to go on periodic magic grinds in the vicinity of an inn, for the sole purpose of keeping your magic levels up to scratch. Leveling magic is an expensive and tedious process.

The story of Secret of Mana takes place in a fictional, fantasy world, centuries after a war dhtat ended a technologically advanced civilization. This was was ended by a great hero bearing the Mana Sword. The story's hero (who is nameless until the player names him) stumbles across the sword at the bottom of a waterfall. Drawing it from its stone, the Boy accidentally unseals the magic holding an army of monsters at bay. Promptly exiled from his hoometown for ushering in Armageddon, the Boy sets out to renew the seal and prevent the second coming of Evil.

The Boy is joined on his quest by a Girl and a Sprite. Standing in his way is an evil empire and an evil sorceress. While not overly creative, the story is emotionally fulfilling. Also as a plus, its ending has one of the great sacrifices of Square's storied stories. It's not Chrono Trigger-sacrifice or Final Fantasy VII-sacrifice, but it's up there.

The game is a graphic masterpiece, with vibrant colors and storybook character models which have become the trademark of the series. The title screen is alone is one of the greatest title screens ever, only enhanced by its great soundtrack. Did someone say "Best theme music ever?" Secret of Mana was made smack in the middle of Square's golden age, and the production values for the game reflect as much.

Gameplay: 9 out of 10
Story: 4 out of 5
Controls: 8 out of 10
Graphics: 5 out of 5
Sound and Music: 5 out of 5
Extras: 3 out of 5
Game Length, Difficulty and Replay Value: 8 out of 10
Overall Score: 8.4 out of 10

Every cult following has its trifecta of Godliness. Hard Rock fans can extol the virtues of Led Zeppelin IV, Machine Head and Paranoid. Trekkies get Kirk, McCoy and Spock. Those lucky enough to have lived in the day of the SNES, in the day of the RPG, will always have Final Fantasy VI, Chrono Trigger, and Secret of Mana. It's easily the bottom of the three, but being the bottom of the top isn't anything to complain about.

Rating: 8/10

mrshotgun's avatar
Community review by mrshotgun (March 21, 2007)

A bio for this contributor is currently unavailable, but check back soon to see if that changes. If you are the author of this review, you can update your bio from the Settings page.

More Reviews by mrshotgun
Gauntlet: Dark Legacy (GameCube) artwork
Gauntlet: Dark Legacy (GameCube)

Let me begin this review with a heart-rending performance of that most famous of arcade theme songs: Gauntlet.
Beyond Good & Evil (PlayStation 2) artwork
Beyond Good & Evil (PlayStation 2)

In recent years, storytelling in our video games has grown somewhat stagnant. Some of the best selling titles of the previous generation of consoles were the products of ego-driven artists, producing shoddy action titles to fulfill their action hero wet-dreams. Am I the only one surprised by the fact that people who ...
Zombies Ate My Neighbors (SNES) artwork
Zombies Ate My Neighbors (SNES)

As has been so aptly put, genius comes only rarely and unexpectedly, like a bolt of lightning out of a clear sky. It's rare that a game comes along which is so original, so creative, and so bizarre, that only the word "genius" can be sufficiently applied. Zombies Ate My Neighbors is one of those rare, unexpected work...

Feedback

If you enjoyed this Secret of Mana review, you're encouraged to discuss it with the author and with other members of the site's community. If you don't already have an HonestGamers account, you can sign up for one in a snap. Thank you for reading!

board icon
zippdementia posted June 04, 2012:

GASP! Another Mr. Shotgun review where he didn't change the default scoring.
board icon
Nightmare posted June 04, 2012:

And what the hell is a "Gasmeboy"?
board icon
JoeTheDestroyer posted June 04, 2012:

HOHMYGAAAH.

EDIT:
Gasmeboy sounds like the adult version of Game Boy.
board icon
overdrive posted June 04, 2012:

Gasmeboy is the Nazi GameBoy.
board icon
zippdementia posted June 05, 2012:

HA HA HA HA HA

Gasmboy is amazing. It's Nintendo's answer to Wonderbook.

You must be signed into an HonestGamers user account to leave feedback on this review.

Site Policies & Ethics | Contact | Links

eXTReMe Tracker
© 1998-2014 HonestGamers
None of the material contained within this site may be reproduced in any conceivable fashion without permission from the author(s) of said material. This site is not sponsored or endorsed by Nintendo, Sega, Sony, Microsoft, or any other such party. Secret of Mana is a registered trademark of its copyright holder. This site makes no claim to Secret of Mana, its characters, screenshots, artwork, music, or any intellectual property contained within. Opinions expressed on this site do not necessarily represent the opinion of site staff or sponsors. Staff and freelance reviews are typically written based on time spent with a retail review copy or review key for the game that is provided by its publisher.