SummaryAnother Square gem, but with tons of glitches and stupid details
The GoodThere is a lot of thing to say here. The game really has nice flavors in it. It's graphics are a lot repetitive, but a lot detailed too. However, the animation of the characters and monsters are really well done for a SNES game, and all the work of art they made about the monsters and so on is really good.
The soundtrack is really great, if not the greatest of the SNES platform. It's both so beautiful that it make me cry and so descriptive. I like myself hear the soundtrack of videogames with an SPC player (without playing to the game), and I can't hear this music without remembering all the landscapes and flavors of the game. It's really one of the most perfect soundtrack out there. There is not a single song that isn't great. Yeah, the boss music is a confusing a lot, but back in the action, it's really a great work of art. Oh, yes, the song you'll hear on the menu while loading a game/beginning a new game is stupid, but it's the only one and you won't hear it for a long time anyway.
Well, the sound effect are, too, the best I even hear on the SNES. Some game have just recorded samples as sound effects, but dues to the limited memory into the sound chip, they'll be recorded at an very low frequency and sound very poor. Personally, this is not my style at all. Secret of Mana have digital sound effects, they're not recorded, but they're made with an extremely high precision. All samples in the game are recorded with a high quality, and all weapons, all attacks, have different sounds, and there is a LOT of them !! I liked a lot the fact that all enemies dies with a different animation and different sound effects, you can even hear the noise of the bones of your enemy fell on the ground. I learned that the guy that made those sound effects is the same guy that made most of the music into Chrono Trigger (Yasunori Mitsuda), and that IS something. Well, he did really excellent job twice.
I liked pretty much the game play system. You basically have 8 different weapon types, and 8 different magic types. You start with nothing, and get all of them during your adventure. That's really good. You have a "level", that start with 1 and grow up to 8 to each weapon and magic type, and each time you use it you'll become stronger at it. For the weapons, you also have to collect spheres in order to "reforge" them, to make yourself stronger. In battle, you have the attack button that uses you weapon, and you can do different attack and combos a bit like in a beat 'em up. Once you did an attack, you'll have to wait some amount of time before to be able to do another efficient attack. You can still attack, but you'll do very poor damage.
The BadThere is also a lot of thing to say here. The problem, is that you have to open the famous "ring menu" to cast a magic, and you haven't a time to reload yourself after casting a spell, so the boss battles are -> Open the "ring menu", select the boss' weakness, target if, watch the damage, open the menu, select the spell again, etc... Of course, you'll also have to cure and recover MP, but I'd like to have bosses with more action like in a Megaman game.
The other BIG problem is the glitches. When you attack a monsters, there is a delay before it actually take its damage. If all your 3 characters attack the same monsters at the same time, it is supposed, to take 3 times damages, but not all of them at the same time, so when the first animation due to the first damage has ended, the second will begins and so on. Actually *everything* seems to be buffered in this game. This is good for when you heal yourself, so even if you select a healing item, you'll fist take all your "pending" damage before the actual healing, so it adds challenge. This works fairly bad in practice, when all monsters attack you at the same time, your character do only take damage and you can't open the "ring menu" to heal yourself when taking damage, so you'll sometimes get hurt, get hurt, get hurt, and die without be able to do anything. The game's buffering systems seems to get weird sometimes, so it'll happen that you use an healing item and you'll never be healed but the item will still be wasted, or you'll cast a magic, and the spell will never happen but your MP have still decreased. This also happen to enemies, so you will also be able to take advantage of this, but still, this is mid-decent for a such action-RPG, and such thing happen fairly often. Also, the SNES have it's 32 sprites per line limit, that is just similar to the much more know that the NES' 8 sprites per line limit, and Secret of Mana often have sprites that flickers, disappears, and such glitches.
Also, the font was hard to read, and the language was really poorly translated. I played the french version, and that's a good thing that it was one of the few great Square RPG that came out translated in Europe with various language (it's prequel, Final Fantasy Adventure was already released in Europe in french and German, and it's even more poorly translated). I simply don't understand a word about the story. It sure is something with a giant tree, called mana tree, but I really understood nothing else. I believe I saved the world, but I'm not sure. By the way, the ending was plain and boring, the music was good with cool effect on the bass guitar, but nothing else was interesting once the final boss is defeated. I'm sure that the game was greatly designed and had a great story, but I didn't get it exactly.
Also I hated the *pink* banada the "hero" of the game have on his head. Really. The game sometimes gets too much childish, but still, they exaggerated.
The Bottom LineSecret of Mana is the second title in the "__ of Mana" series, know in japan under the title of "Seiken Densetsu". The first one was one of the best RPG for the original GameBoy, but scince only few was released for this platform as far I know, and it had a very small popularity, even if it was the *first* squaresoft game released in Europe apart of Rad Racer, that was a racing game made before that Square were making RPGs. So Secret of Mana was one of the first very popular work of Squaresoft and is a game that build all their success on the SNES platform, especially because they decided to export it, it was poorly translated but exported. This is a great game, for sure, but there is a lot of stuff that should have been better, and the game has both great aspects and "mid-decent" aspects. Well, it's still a great game overall and it has the best music and best sound effects of the SNES.