(Square, Summer 1993)

Here's a underrated game! Secret of Mana was quietly released by Square Soft in the third year of the SNES and the North American market was still a little unsure about RPG's at that moment so it didn't get a lot of attention over here, unfortunately. "So what is this quiet but large 16 meg game about anyways?" Secret of Mana wasn't your typical RPG by the masters at Square though because this game tries to be a more action oriented game kind of like a Zelda or a Soul Blazer plus it's one of the few three player RPG's with the complete package of awesome music and good fantasy-like graphics. The Secret of Mana sure deserves a look.

This game is actually the sequel to the somewhat hard to find Final Fantasy Adventure on Game boy by the way. The real Japanese name of Secret of Mana is actually Seiken Densetsu 2, so yes, this is really a sequel.

The story begins as our hero (he is even simply called the Hero in the instruction booklet but I just call him Ryan for obvious reasons) is fooling' around with his so called friends near some dangerous cliffs. After Ryan suddenly falls into a pond than he soon finds a strange sword with a magical aura around it, not too far away. The new sword though gives Ryan a really bad rap after monsters invade his once peaceful village and our hero is given all the blame and is force to leave his home and never ever come back. Ryan's only hope now is to discover why the sword was called to him and defeat the real evil behind the monsters; a great wizard that's wants to conquer the world. Ryan is not alone though because will find a tough as nails princess and a hard on his luck little sprite to help him on his dangerous mission. "What is the Secret of Mana?" You'll find out.

What makes Secret of Mana so special is its brilliant mixture of Action/Adventure plus what's Square is most famous for; Role Playing! You'll find a good deal of slashing and dashing here like in the Legend of Zelda a Link to the Past but as the heroes kill more and more enemies like Robbits and Heck hounds than you might just get some experience on the way. The game is also unique for it's many weapons available like axes, swords, whips, spears, and more at the player's command and who could forget the awesome three player mode, eh? Rare for a RPG but don't worry because it's still a awesome single player despite the cool multi-player option.

The control are easy to manage as the characters can run, attack, use items, and more. The menu system can get a little annoying at times though especially if there are three of the fighters switches and searching through your separate inventories, thus slowing down the heart pounding action a little but it's no big deal. The characters can even move while they're charging a powerful strike so you're not a sitting duck for the enemies. Square did a good job with the controls.

Moving on to the graphics who could forget that awesome opening intro with the three characters behind the giant green tree? Secret of Mana really shows off a great game in a lust fantasy based universe. The colours are very bright and sometimes there is nice bit of detail but in it's age the graphics are a little dated thanks to the small characters and repetitive backgrounds especially compared to the later Secret of Evermore (this game actually uses some rendered graphics) and Chrono Trigger (that game actually uses some artwork from the head Dragon BallZ artist). The game still looks way above average with some cool animations and each new different land looks unique too.

Conclusion: Video:
I really love the music here in the game but it's highly fantasy based so don't except a lot of hardcore heavy metal or loud techno sound tracks in here for example. The sound gets such a high score from me because Square is so serious in creating the best music in their games and there are over 15 outstanding tracks of their professional work here alone. It's hard to explain the music here in a written review, but trust me, it fits the game perfectly. Even the sound effects which are great especially when you wrack away at your enemies.

The Secret of Mana can still be found on eBay sometimes but it should cost about anywhere from $15 to 70 bucks because it's not really the rarest SNES game out there like a Super Turrican 2 or a Aero Fighters but it still won such rave reviews and high praise that more people are willing to pay the big bucks for this great game. Well worth the price though because it's maybe the best example of a Action/RPG ever produced. Forget about the disappointing so called sequel Legend of Mana for Playstation, Secret of Mana is far more action oriented and that's the main draw of this game. I was really angry when Square canceled the North American release of the Japan only Seiken Densetsu 3, it looks like the perfect sequel to this game, but I guess this makes Secret of Mana truly one of kind. I could not stop playing it till I seen every new land, hear every rich sound track, got every 8 charging strikes, and learned the secret of mana itself. Secret of Mana is very addictive and it's just a blast to play.



*Battery back up game

overall rating: 88/100
Find Secret of Mana on eBay here!

For 1 to 3 players
graphics: 7/10
sound: 10/10
gameplay: 9/10
replay: 7/10

(Ryan Genno) 2003

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