Secret of Mana (2018) REVIEW

Though I would eventually play nearly every single Super Nintendo game through the use of emulators, handheld re-issues, and collections over the years few games were left untouched as long as Secret of Mana. Sure, there wasn’t any reasonable need for a remake of the game as they’d iterated on it several times over with Legend of Mana for the Playstation, countless remakes and sequels on Game Boy iterations (Sword of Mana, Children of Mana, etc.), as well as some outright failures on the Playstation 2 and even a free-to-play game on iOS/Android. In fact when the 3D high definition remake of Secret of Mana was first teased it seemed to take graphics directly from Rise of Mana. Whether or not you believe Secret of Mana needed to be remade I think it’s strict adherence to the feeling of the SNES classic’s gameplay was a smart choice.

Just over 15 hours total and I might have replayed one section that took about a half hour extra. The yellow save is an auto-save right as I began fighting the Mana Beast. Roughly 2 hours of this playthrough was spent grinding gold, EXP, and leveling up magic by casting spells.

I don’t remember if I finished Secret of Mana before Illusion of Gaia but between those two games I became a fanatic from action RPG games of the era. Secret of Mana in particular remedied all of the issues I had with the The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past. It had a fast travel system that made extended playthroughs much easier, it had an impressive and unique soundtrack, and it’s JRPG-like integration of leveling spells, weapons and characters was addictive at the time. I had to squeeze all of the life out of my video games at the time as I’d switched from Sega Genesis to SNES on my own dime at eleven years old and Secret of Mana was a very expensive game. I had a deep knowledge of the game’s systems and quirks and because it was a somewhat simple and linear storyline I had most of the game’s item locations, boss weaknesses, and minor puzzles memorized. I have great nostalgia for this game but I realize that the true gem in the series is Seiken Densetsu 3, a more ambitious Super Famicom-only sequel that has yet to be released officially in English.

This is a horrible way to live your life. Do not base your happiness on making other people happy, you will end up a drained husk used and abused by opportunists and psychopaths!

Where I differ from many fans who have deep, fervent nostalgia for Secret of Mana is that I have no true obsession over where they’ve taken the intellectual property. I honestly stopped giving a shit about the series after Legend of Mana‘s cutesy, femenine artbook style stopped me dead in my tracks. The remake of Final Fantasy Adventure (aka Sieken Densetsu) on Game Boy Advance, Sword of Mana, is a likewise excellent game that was likewise remade in 3D high definition and I’d felt like they’d sucked the soul out of it with 3D graphics. Not true for the Secret of Mana remake as they’ve actually done a fantastic crystal clear job of recreating the art style of the SNES game in relatively simple polygonal art. I saw so much uproar online about how this game looked but as soon as I booted it up and played it was fine. I’m constantly reminded how other video game idiots always make me feel like an outsider looking in as I cringe at thier group-thinking knee-jerk reactions to everything. The game looks great and if you think it’s too cutesy now, then your nostalgia must have blinded you from the yellowed, pink-and-purple pastel glow of the original SNES game’s color palette.

In terms of structure, level design, and gameplay mechanics Secret of Mana is untouched in this remake. Rare item drops in the late game are still impossibly rare. Those stupid archers can still stun-lock you to death. Even the AI for your two other teammates is still just as fucking dumb and likely to get stuck on everything as they were back in 1993. The major differences here are actually gigantic improvements: Eight way direction attacks are possible with all weapons. Fully voiced dialogue throughout the entire game in both Japanese and English. Including extensive contextual banter and character development when you stay at the Inn. You can actually repeatedly stay at Inns after each story beat and there will be additional dialogue or corny jokes with each stay.

My only complaints after spending about 15 hours replaying Secret of Mana in 4K, with full voice acting, come from the treatment of the soundtrack. Yes, you can switch to the old soundtrack and mute all the voices in the game but before I ultimately did that, I played the first four hours with the new soundtrack. It isn’t that it is a bad treatment of the original songs, which are actually very repetitive and abrasive by today’s standards, but their orchestration really took the spirit of the original soundtrack and defiled it. Granted if you wanted an improved take on the Secret of Mana soundtrack, go play Seiken Densetsu 3 on an emulator. The other gripe is that the ring system doesn’t have the original’s system where it’d remember what you did last. So if the boss is weak to fire spells you don’t have to re-select Salamander and then his spell every time you cast it. A minor issue that really only comes into play if you’re doing repetitive shit like spam spells to increase your magic level.

The final boss is the Mana Beast. Even at level 57-58 and all magic above level 6 this fight took about 10 minutes. The ending wasn’t as cool as the fight.

I really took my time with this one and even though I’d replayed the SNES version on my SNES Classic around Christmas time it was a lot of fun to see everything re-imagined in full and crisp 3D. For all of the idiots making clickbait on YouTube and writing up savage mockery for this remake, I thought I’d spent $40 on a pile of ultra-shit but it turns out a lot of those early game industry reactions were ultimately subversive drivel. It is an excellent remake of one of my personal favorite games from when I was a child that respectfully retains the familiar aspects of Secret of Mana while making very slight modern updates.  If you’re furious about how cute and Japanese this remake is in 2018, pull up your training pants and go play Bloodborne (free on PS+ in March), you man-baby.

Title: Secret of Mana
Genre Action RPG
Released February 15, 2018 | Q Studios [Square Enix]
Platform(s) Playstation 4 Pro
Score 3.5/5.0

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