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Secret of Mana

Publisher: Square Developer: Squaresoft
Reviewer: Twin Islands Released: 1993
Gameplay: 94% Control: 89%
Graphics: 90% Sound/Music: 95%
Story: 91% Overall: 92%

Secret of Mana was the greatest RPG released on the Super Nintendo in PAL territories, but considering that we got so few it wasn't hard (although if more had come out this would still be one of the best). This is one of the few games that can be called a masterpiece. Invite a couple of RPG loving mates over, hook up three controllers, order a pizza, and you have pure 16-bit RPG heaven. My most memorable moment on the SNES was three player Secret of Mana.

This game is a joy to play, with the only annoyance being that sometimes the computer controlled characters can get stuck and prevent you from moving forward. The battles are fantastic, a big factor of this being that they are not random. Battles are great fun and flow very smoothly with a somewhat modified ATB system, where you can attack at any time, but unless the ATB meter is 100%, you won't damage the enemy much.

It's also worth mentioning that, unlike the Final Fantasy series any character can use any weapon. This can be very useful at some parts of the game, for example, when you first get Porom (the girl), she is relatively weak, and giving her a stronger weapon like the sword or the spear will balance the team better. Another fantastic addition to the gameplay is that you need certain weapons to do certain things. Only swords can cut grass, only axes can chop wood, and only whips can hook onto things.

Graphics are pretty good for RPG standards. The characters, and to a lesser extent, the enemies are large and well detailed, unlike some games (like Final Fantasy IV and Romancing SaGa, where the overworld characters are obscurely minute). Square could have taken the easy way and made all the towns similar, but they are all very different, with different inhabitants. My personal favorites would be Pandora and Matango. The most annoying thing with the graphics is that some bosses are just earlier bosses that are coloured differently.

Square really exceeded themselves in the music department, as this is the most complex musical score on any Super Nintendo game. The music utilised all of the SNES's sound channels, and unfortunately this shows, as when there is a lot of foreground sound effects going on, the music breaks down and looses some of its quality and depth. The opening theme is superb, almost magical. It is second only to the Final Fantasy prelude.

The story is slightly unbalanced; while sometimes it is exciting, sometimes (okay, once or twice) there are massive plot twists and sometimes periods of boredom. Randi (the hero) has absolutely no background story, apart from that he was abandoned by his mother at Potos village (not a spoiler). He only went on the quest by accident. Porom and Popoe (the sprite), on the other hand, have reasonably interesting reasons for wanting to join the party.

The dialogue/translation is pretty good, somewhere between the quality of Final Fantasy VII and Final Fantasy VIII. If you think that FFVII was good then just remember all the little glitches (for example "This guy are sick.")

Overall, a fantastic game with only a few minimal annoyances. Find two RPG lovers to share the experience with, and welcome to RPG nirvana. Note: Add an extra 2% to the overall score with each additional player, so two player is 94%, and three player is 96%.


Allowing 3 players to play at once was Secret of Mana's brightest point.

2d in all its glory, simply golden!

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