Secret of Mana cover
by Azoloth in
Classic Gamer Corner Review

Your adventure in Secret of Mana begins when you are separated from your so called friends and find yourself lost and alone. Finding an ancient rusty sword stuck in a rock you pull it to clear the path back home. This fateful decision catapults your character into an epic struggle against an evil empire. Along the way you must forge alliances, gain allies, and face the greatest threat the world has ever known.

Secret of Mana made the number 5 spot on my Top 10 Favorite Games list. However, unusual as it is, my ranking is not for the new remastered version. It is for the original Nintendo game. It also makes an appearance at number 3 on my Top 10 Favorite Game Soundtrack List.

This is one of the rare game that I recommend buying an old SNES and the actual game to play, or downloading an emulator and a ROM for it. The remastered version is very well done… I just am not a fan of the new style.

Sargon’s Rating: 3.8 out of 5 stars (3.8 / 5)

Secret of Mana cover

Game Play:5 out of 5 stars (5.0 / 5)
Story:5 out of 5 stars (5.0 / 5)
Visuals:2 out of 5 stars (2.0 / 5)
Audio:2 out of 5 stars (2.0 / 5)
User Interface:5 out of 5 stars (5.0 / 5)

Buy on Humble Bundle

Buy the Soundtrack on Amazon

Secret of Mana Rating 3.8

I have never beat Secret of Mana. While I have been able to get to the last boss and then failed to beat him because I was to low on magic. I got stuck in an area where I did not have enough gold to buy the items I needed and had no way to get extra gold. While I have revisited the game several times I have never played through enough to get to the end again. Yet the game still brings back a feeling of child-like delight every time I play it.

I was hoping the remastered version would be more like The Bard’s Tale Trilogy or Chrono Trigger and I would feel the need to jump into it and play to completion again. Sadly this was not the case as I will go into further detail later.

Game Play 5.0

I find the game play in Secret of Mana very pleasing. I love how some games such as The Fallout Classic Collection handle turn by turn combat, however, I have never been a fan of the JRPG style of Chrono Trigger. Secret of Mana brings the JRPG style video game real time combat which is very refreshing. Having to dodge your enemies, charge your attacks, and deliver blows all in real time is exciting. I feel like this takes much more skill than some of the other games where it is all based on random numbers.

Traveling around the map can be as boring as walking, or as exciting as being fired from a cannon… literally. Also once you unlock the dragon and get to fly around the map it is even more fun. You have a sense of an open world you can explore to your hearts content later on in the game. Even early on the map is very open, you are forced into linear paths through various plot mechanisms. That fact has never bothered me though.

Story 5.0

The story in Secret of Mana is deep and rich. You are continuing a battle from thousands of years in the past. Now you must rise up and become the hero the mana sword needs in order to prevent the evil empire from destroying the world.

Along the way you will have many branching side quests you have to solve. The world feels very vibrant and alive as you venture through it. Nothing ever felt forced in the plot to me, it felt like a naturally evolved world which helps with my immersion within it.

As you make friends who join you along the way you also have to help them out with their quests, in fact if you don’t they may leave and try to do their quest on their own. Don’t worry though you will all meet up again. This is just an example of having to decide what is important to you as you move through the game. Do you keep your party together and do what your companion wants, or do you head out on your own hoping you will meet up again soon. This type of interaction makes worlds feel alive and characters feel real. When it feels like NPC’s have their own agency and can make decisions based on their own wants and desires you stop treating them like lines of code and start treating them as valued friends. At least that is my opinion on the subject.

I really wish I had gotten to see the ending to the story. I refuse to go to youtube and watch it, one of these days I need to sit down and finish playing the game. If I do I plan to do a live stream of my playthrough as I feel it will be entertaining for all involved. I will likely do it on the SNES version just because I like the graphics and audio so much more than the remastered version.

Visuals 2.0

This is one of the areas of the remastered game that I feel really let me down. In The Bard’s Tale Trilogy or Chrono Trigger they kept must of the original feel of the game. In Secret of Mana they have decided to go with a more 3D look. I am more a fan of 2D and 2.5D art. The original game was 2.5D and you can tell they tried to keep some of that aspect to the game. However, the entire game feels more 3D than 2.5D. Maybe I am being to picky here, yet I just can’t get as into the game.

It would have been much more enjoyable if they could have added their enhancements but stuck with a more pixel art style of graphics.

The graphics for what they are in this new version are very beautiful I cannot deny that. The only justification I can give for giving them a 2 is because I personally don’t like them. I imagine some gamers will feel right at home with them. I know not everyone shares my love of pixel art.

Secret of Mana Remastered
Secret of Mana Remastered
Secrete of Mana Original
Secrete of Mana Original

I feel the path they should have taken, instead of doing whole new 3D graphics for this game, is just touch up the existing ones. That is how many of the other remastered games I have played have felt. Instead of reinventing the wheel, just touch them up and make them look better. Even today the original graphics do not look that bad. I have even seen some very good indie games with worse graphics than the original version of Secret of Mana (undertale anyone?).

Audio 2.0

The audio in the remastered version just doesn’t feel as good as the audio in the original. The music while beautifully done just doesn’t have the same feel to it that the SNES version had. This mag just be my nostalgia at work. Yet I am taking a point away because I feel the SNES music fit into the game much better.

The same goes with the sound effects, they are different enough that they just don’t sit right with me.

When I play the original game the music still fills me with a sense of wonder. The fact they were able to make such an awesome soundtrack with so little space to work with is astonishing to me.

User Interface 5.0

The user interface in Secret of Mana has always been very good. I feel the remastered version made it better with the inclusion of a minimap that shows where you are. They have also cleaned up the interfaces and made them more modern and user friendly. I feel over all they could not have done a better job in this regards.

The game makes it easy to tell when you should attack enemies with the power bar filling up with each attack.

I really wish I could play a version of the game with the old graphics and the new enhanced use

Final Thoughts

I love Secret of Mana and really wish I could recommend buying this game. However, I cannot even bring myself to play it through. In my opinion, when a company remasters a game it should stick to the original as much as possible and just bring it up to date. This is always a carefully balancing act. I would have rated this higher had I not already played through some remastered games from the same era that were done right.

If you want to enjoy this game I would go to your local DiscTraders, DiscReplay, or Megaplay and pick up an old SNES and a copy of this game if you can find it. If you are unable to find it I would seriously look at an emulation site to find it instead.

That said, the game is not that expensive if you want to try the remastered version. In fact if you have already played through the SNES version I would say give the new version a try. Just because it is not my cup of tea does not mean you will not love it. Some of you may even think the remastered version is an improvement!

Remember, we can all have different points of view about a game we love and no one has to be wrong.


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