Secret of Mana is a HD remake of a Super Nintendo title which originated for a Japanese audience, but also made it to the west through Europe and America. It became a very popular RPG title worldwide, which gave it the acclaim to receive the HD treatment. I must admit. I’d have been happier if Squaresoft brought us a HD Chrono Trigger instead, and I’m sure I’m not alone here, but all in all, Secret of Mana was still a great title… but does it still hold up?
The world has been ravaged by a war between Mana and Machinery. When civilization exploited mana to construct the “Mana Fortress”, a flying warship Monsters appeared and brought the world to turmoil and destruction until a Hero appeared… who defeated the monsters by using the power of the Mana Sword. After the world came to peace, the Hero left the Mana sword behind, which kept the monsters at bay, but the time has come for a new hero to rise and take care of the world against the monsters who, once again, roam free.
I forgot how basic the story to this game was, especially for a JRPG game developed by Square: very straight-forward save the world from evil scenario, which I found to be very dated, even for the time of release. I’d expect this more from an 8-bit title.
The gameplay uses real-time fighting as opposed to Squaresoft’s usual (for the time) turn-based fighting engine, as seen in games like the Final Fantasy series. The gameplay is fun, using a stamina mechanic which you need to let charge while avoiding attacks, so your sword can give the maximum damage to possible critical damage.
The world is portrayed in a top-down view like most classic RPG types. You assemble a team of characters which you’ll name on your journey. They don’t have names in the western versions; that only happened in the Japanese original.
Overall, there’s no changes added to the gameplay in the new HD version. Some may like this way, keeping to the games roots, but I feel a little variation would have been acceptable, at least.
For the graphics, the original’s pixel look and colour palette were absolutely beautiful. The map on the screen represents this style, while the game keeps to a very 2.5D-looking approach. The game is still quite beautiful with smooth, cute graphics and bright, vibrant colours which gives a sense of tone the original did so many years ago. It would have been nice if, much like the HD Monkey Island games, that it gave you an option to see the original pixelated graphics, but that is just a nit-pick of mine.
There’s also the cute and colourful characters and backgrounds, lending very well in the HD style, even if overall, it feels a bit dated. Sorry, guys.
For the audio, this is also much like the original, and has beautiful, enjoyable, fun and – I must say – colourful music. It’s this which can put a smile on your face while you play; completely enjoyable.
Sadly, the same cannot be said about the voice acting. The voices are bland and uncaring. It’s as if the actors took the money, read a few pages aloud and went to pay off their debts with their not-so-well-earned bucks. Sound effects are standard and do the job as intended, with some 16-bit nostalgic throwbacks thrown in the mix.
The game gives you as much content as before, and it’s all within the game itself and not anywhere else. Enjoy it for what it is.
Final thoughts: I feel this game, as much as I enjoyed it, was a cheap cash in on a nostalgic game, I would say the same if this was Chrono Trigger done in HD, but I would have enjoyed seeing that make a comeback more as I find it a more deserving title which should be given more recognition. Secret of Mana is a fun game with enjoyable music, but that’s all you get… but sometimes thats enough. We often forget this, due to the content we see in a lot of modern games (thos that are done right by good developers, of course).
This is an enjoyable nostalgia trip but a dated one, difficult to recommend unless found on sale or if you are a big fan of the original title and wish a revisit.
Secret Of Mana is out now on PS4, and click on the packshot for the full-size version.
- Publisher: Square Enix
- Developer: Square Enix
- Players: single-player, multiplayer
Retro game fan, comic book reader, board game lover and film fanatic. I have loved videogames since I was 5 years old after visiting my first arcade, I have grown up with gaming since having my Atari 2600 then Commodore 64. I ended up building my own career crafting pixelised characters and have had the pleasure of meeting many of my retro gaming heroes who developed some of my absolute favourite games.