Written: 11.11.11 Acquired: 6.9.06 Status: Cart only Price: $29
Pub: Square Soft
Dev: Square Soft
Growing up I did not care for the role playing game genre whatsoever. My brother on the other hand was crazy about it. I was never able to understand, as a 10 year old child, how anyone would be interested in plodding combat and boring chats with random townsfolk. My brother adoredSecret of Mana in '93 and played it endlessly. Now, nearly 20 years later, I've at long last beaten it for myself. So, is MANA worth all the hype? As a kid I always wondered... what IS the Secret of Mana?
I had gone from hating RPGs without cause to loving the genre without abandon! Talk about a major switch. I guess you could say as I grew older I matured [Yeah, right -Ed.], or at least, my gaming tastes did. Right around 2003 was when my heart changed on the genre. I came to appreciate the "story telling" aspect of these games, as well as their ability to sweep you away to another land far far away. Last December I trekked my way through Terranigma, and loved every second of it. There's nothing like playing an (action) RPG during the cold chilly winter months. There's just something magical about those early darkening afternoons and bitter cold nights that's conducive to playing these adventures by a cozy fire. No other genre in my book is better to play than the (action) RPG during this precious season. So after finishing Terranigma and being completely blown away by what a magnificent journey it had been, I knew my next game had to be the one and only Secret of Mana. It's a game that my brother played to death back in the day as I would walk in and out of the room, wondering when he would be done so I could fire up Street Fighter II or Super Mario Kart. It always seemed like it would never ever end, though. Coming back to the Super Nintendo in early 2006 (January 17, 2006) allowed me an opportunity at gaming redemption. There are so many awesome SNES games I missed out on. One of the biggest names I had yet to play was Secret of Mana, so I couldn't think of a better game to play after Terranigma than this. The stage was set, then, for one mega epic video gaming adventure...
Glad they went with the name Secret of Mana!
THE STORY GOES...
There must be something about THAT tree...
You must succeed... or we are all surely lost...
You know it, you love it... you know you love it...
It was time to right a 17 year wrong... gaming redemption FTW!
SOME IN'S AND OUT'S
The infamous ring menu in action. Access is quick and easy ^_^
Learn magic as ya go; using the right one makes all the difference
8 weapons in all with 8 of each kind. Gotta reforge them all...
Watts sure is, and he sure does! Get used to seeing him a lot
This unique feature made Mana stood out back in the day for sure
All around good bloke, if not a little cheeky. Named him Steve...
What a fashion statement with those pink parachute pants!
They're better than the 3 Stooges and the 3 Musketeers...
Mode 7 never looked better in '93. Secret of Mana shows it off well
[Under their breath]
Timothy: Oh great, it's that Steve idiot again...
Elliott: I wish he would just fall over this makeshift bridge...
Timothy: Quiet now, he's coming our way...
Elliott: YO STEVE! We were just talking about ya, buddy...
Timothy: Oh wow, you got your wish, Elliott!
Steve: A little help here!
Steve's weak feeble arms give way and down he sails!
Timothy: WUH OH!
Elliott: I didn't see that...
Timothy: Neither did I...
Elliott: LET'S GET OUTTA HERE!
Look at Toejam and Earl run there... the bloody scamps
Steve, fortunately enough [or not -Ed.], lands safely in a body of water. He yells for help from up above but oddly enough, no sign of either Elliott or little Timothy. Imagine that. Dazed and confused, Steve dusts himself off and crawls for land in the life-threatening thigh-high water
He's really lucky he didn't land on that rock there! Then there would have been no Secret of Mana, and what a massive shame that would be [OK, now that one, that one I can agree with -Ed.]
Always look for the silver lining in the bad...
With friends like these, who needs enemies?
"Gee, if only I had... like... A LEGENDARY SWORD..."
Our hero turns around and there it is... like a shining beacon of light in the dark...
"Wow God, thanks! You sure DO work fast sometimes..."
"Want the sword, do ya? OVER MY DEAD BODY...."
"Hmmm, pulling this sword out could have severe repercussions. On the other hand, I do need to get back home. It is a risk worth taking... after all, I don't wanna dare miss In Living Color tonight!"
Steve yanks out the sword, causing a huge domino effect...
This is no friendly forest. It's littered with various critters that just want to take a bite out of ya. The good news is, your sword is the great equalizer. The bad news is, unlike the combat in most other action RPGs, you can't attack repeatedly without suffering the ill effects. A meter at the bottom keeps you honest. After swinging, it'll charge back up to 100%. Any blow delivered before it's back at 100% results in minimal damage. So you have to pick your spots in Secret of Mana. It's not just a mindless hack 'n slash. Note, there seems to be something mishandled with this system. Even attacks at 95% aren't much different from attacks made at 50%. If only the ratio damage was handled better...
Treasure chests are scattered about. This might be the longest treasure opening animation sequence in ARPG history... I guess our hero Steve likes to flex his muscles whenever he can. Clearly he has some kind of inferiority complex... but hey, who am I to be judging others...
Just a few of the many different items you can pick up along the way
The sword not only cuts down enemies, but overly long grass blades as well. Shame they never hid any treasures under all those long grass blades, though. A missed opportunity, if you ask me. Still, it's a fun mindless side activity to engage in. So while it serves no real in-game purpose, it's simply fun to destroy the landscape. Only in video games though... of course. Goes without saying, right...
Like the summer I cut grass for that game...
"Ha, my darling, you always assume the worst... why is that?"
"Because you have a proven track record, that's why, YOU FOOL!"
"Sup Pradeep. Got anything new for me?"
"Nevermind that Steve, I heard the Elder is looking for you! Better see him ASAP!"
"Oh, that's no biggie. The old man isn't upset or anything. Relax"
"That's not what I heard... you better go see him for yourself..."
"Eventually. I'm a rebel, ya know. And can you please stop dancing so much, I get motion sickness everytime talking with ya"
"Sorry not my fault. It's the DAMN tourettes, man!"
Steve is clearly in no rush to see the Elder...
"KID?! How dare you call me that, GRAMPS!"
"Ooooh Steve, I heard you in big trouble!"
"Silly Prudence, uh, where did you hear that from?"
"Some old lady walking these parts. She's probably still here wandering somewhere..."
"You shouldn't listen to strangers. And I'm not in trouble, you little pop-fart"
"LIAR, LIAR! STEVE'S PANTS ON FIRE!"
Elliott: Well, if it isn't our lovely town hero himself! Mister Big Shot himself
Steve: Hey guys, what was the deal back there?
Timothy: What are you talking about? The bridge thing? We have no clue what you're speaking of...
Steve: Elder, what's going on here?
Elder: My apologies, Steve. There's nothing I can do...
Steve: Whadaya mean?
Elliott: He means, your goose is cooked! Done, finito!
Timothy: Yeah! Hit the bricks, pal! We never needed ya
Elliott: Go on, get outta here!
Steve: Hey, watch where you be sticking that thing!
Elliott: Yeah, and don't you ever come back 'round here, ya hear!?
Steve: So much for our Thanksgiving plans...
Prudence: Haha, I knew it Steve! I told 'cha you were in big trouble...
Our hero quickly discovers he isn't alone. He's in bad company with Elliott, but in even worse with the 1st boss, the Mantis Ant!
Heroes are never made... HEROES ARE BORN!
At least ya can't blame him for not giving it the old college try eh
This is the first boss of many that you'll fight. In fact, over 40. Some would say it's overkill. And perhaps that's so when considering that many of them are just palette swaps. Shame we didn't get 40+ unique bosses, but hey, wha'cha gonna do? At least the sequel patched this up
The boss battle music totally ROCKS
After a long and hard-fought battle the Mantis Ant implodes much to our hero's relief. But he can't rest for long, for he knows there's over 40 more waiting to put him down where the sun sure don't shine...
"Hey, I did warn him, didn't I??"
The infamous pixy dust fist-pump celebration!
Steve and Elliott crawl themselves back up to the surface...
Jema: What happened down there? I heard all manner of noise -- like some bloody war...
Steve: Well --
Elliott: Man, it was awesome! See, this HUGE mantis monster was about to eat Steve over here, but that's when I came swooping in for the rescue. The monster had to be 200, maybe 250 feet tall. But he was no match for the resolve of moi!
Elliott: Yeah, you know, I surprise myself sometimes with my own abilities. A normal man would have perished, but not Elliott!
Jema: Right... Elliott: What would this village do without me!
Elliott: Well, I gotsa gets back now and share with the others what happened! Hey, you do the same, too, OK, mister? Let everyone know the LEGEND of Elliott! How he saved the village from a horrible gigantic mantis monster and a most terrible plight!
Steve: What a joke...
Jema: What's your name, kid?
Steve: Uh, it's Steve
Jema: My apologies to you, Steve, for the way I treated you there back in the bar earlier
Steve: 'Scuse me?
Jema: I know you were the one who pulled the sword out, and I also know you were the one who defeated the great beast down below. Come see me and Luka in the Water Palace later. But first, go on, take care of your business here. We'll be waiting for ya, Steve Steve: Mister, about that drink now...
Sadly for our hero, back at the Elder's house he discovers his entire world has been turned upside down....
"Say guys, how 'bout me, do I get a vote-say in all this?"
Ever have one of these moments yourself? Yeah... not fun
Abigail: Oh my gosh, a visitor! I haven't had one in AGES!
Steve: Er, who the heck are you?
Abigail: I've been locked in this bloody basement like some witch for years now! But I can assure you that I am not....
Steve: Ahh, that would explain all the noises I've heard down here...
Abigail: Wish they never saw People Under The Stairs!
"Oh crap is right, Steve. Hope you'll be able to find your mom..."
Hey, can't blame the guy for giving it one last shot...
How quickly they forget all the great times they shared with you, tsk
"Alright alright, take a chill pill, Ned Flanders"
Early on the preferred method of traveling long distances is, naturally, to be launched out of this cannon. It makes too much perfect sense. I'm sure glad bout the advent of trains, planes & cars. Besides, that freaky little troll dude there doesn't exactly look like the most trustworthy guy around
"Why, in MY day...."
You gotta be pretty darn tough to do this. I love this. Reminds me of the time I went skydiving, and how crazy that whole experience was. If you have never gone skydiving before, I very much highly recommend doing it once before you die. And do it with your friends. Instant memories for life :)
Secret of Mana and Super Nintendo showing off that Mode 7!
Dyluck: Let's go, men!
Soldier 1: *I'm scared...*
Soldier 2: *Why didn't I listen to the old lady and become a doctor??*
Soldier 3: *Fake an injury, fake an injury...*
Soldier 4: Get outta here, kid, while you still can!
Jema: Here he is, Luka, THE ONE
Luka: That's it?
Steve: Whadaya mean, "that's it?"
Luka: I mean as in, where's the rest of ya?!
Steve: Very funny
Jema: Luka, I assure you. He is the one, as hard as it is to believe, I know...
Steve: Hey man, whose side are you on?
Luka: Only one way to truly find out. If the Mana Seed reacts to him then we'll know for certain he is the one...
*Steve steps up to the shrine and a blue glow suddenly bursts forth, shining brightly from pillar to post*
Jema: You see now? He is the chosen one!
Luka: As hard as it is to believe, the Mana Seed never lies. Sound the horns at once! Our unlikely hero has come to bring back our land and save untold thousands!
Jema: No pressure or anything, kid
Steve: *GULP* Y-y-yeah...
Luka: Well, I guess he does have a certain kind of charm to him, doesn't he
Jema: Yeah, at first I thought he was just another punk ham-n-egger, but he grows on you... sort of like a moldy fungus
Steve: Uhh, thanks guys... but hey listen, this has been a whole lot for just one day. You know, with the whole being banished business, earthquake swallowing you underground where you're forced to fight tooth and nail with a mantis monster, and being chosen to save the whole world...
Jema and Luka: Hmmm, I guess it's been a pretty tough day for ya, eh...
Steve: Y-yeah. So, if you don't mind, I think I'll head over to Neko's Inn for a good night's rest...
Neko's Inn -- the place for weary travelers, or misbehavin' boys!
Steve, a caring soul, always takes the time to hear people's needs
"See, there was that one time they experimented with my brain..."
"And then there was the time they all played NEKO JAM..."
"But probably the most cruelest, heinous act of all was when they gave me Ms. Neko. It took me a whole two weeks before I figured out she was just a blown up farce! Oh those Super Play boys I tells ya, a sordid lot.... especially that Tony Mott fellow, very dodgy 'n shady, that one!"
The Super Play-Neko subscription ads each month were a HOOT!
As Steve prepares to retire for the night, heavy 10-ton thoughts weigh down our hero. Thoughts of saving the world, his lost mom, his "family" banishing him from Potos, and for some reason he keeps thinking about a girl he's never EVER seen before... Neko, meanwhile, has his own thoughts heavy on his heart. All those tortuous Super Play heathens, who clearly were advocates of a little Schadenfreude (especially that dodgy Tony Mott fella, well, not to pick on him of course but I'm just saying) and juvenile hi-jinx. As the waning light gives way to dusk, there's an unspoken but inexplicable burden that has befallen the land. Suddenly, things as we know it, would never be the same again. Boys would become men. And men would become warriors. The innocence of childhood has passed, like sand slipping through the hourglass...
That night as Steve slept and snored... a lucid dream swept his senses... but it would end up being, ultimately, a freaky nightmare...
Was Steve's dream a prophetic sign of things to come?
It was a recurring dream our hero has had for some time now. Every night in his dreams he was haunted with the same visions over and over again. He couldn't make sense of it, but he knew something big was going to happen. A great paradigm shift had occurred. These harrowing images were only the precursor of great and horrifying events to come...
The dreams always started with a vision of a fair young lady by our hero's side. Big ring earrings, a certain grace and beauty wrapped inside a spunky package. Red parachute pants and long flowing golden locks. Steve had never seen this girl in real life before, but every night she infiltrated his dreams and thoughts, bewitching and mystifying his very being to the core. Although he had no clue who she was, or even if she existed or not, he had a sneaky suspicion that if they ever met, together they would form an unstoppable team and save the world from calamity and terror
We all have*THAT ONE* girl. This is Steve's...
After the striking image of the girl standing back to back with him, the next image would always be the two of them gazing high up at something truly magnificent... making them realize how grand the universe is, and what but a small speck they are in the Creator's hand...
What could they be admiring with such great awe and majesty?
It was a tree. But no ordinary tree. It was the sacred Tree of Mana. A majestic sight, one of the eight wonders of the world. It never failed to take away Steve's breath, even in his dreams. Standing beside the tree was some strange robotic creature, but it was a simple mix-up and he would later appear in Chrono Trigger...
The Tree of Mana was the source of hope and truth to all the land
Then suddenly, the dream switched to a 3rd person perspective. In the robot's place was a little sprite critter. Flamingoes flew by overhead. There was a sense of wonder in the air
Who are these allies, and why am I so fixated on the Mana Tree?
Yet again, the dream switches seamlessly to another perspective of the three travelers gazing at the tree. Only this time, there seems to be an element of grave danger looming over the horizon...
What significance does the Tree of Mana hold?
Steve: Huh?! NEKO!??! What are you doing in my dream?
Neko: Hey, you're in MY dream, buddy!
Girl: Stop bickering like two little girls, gosh...
Sprite: Haha, Steve and Neko sitting in a tree...
Steve: *gasp*THE TREE!
Somehow, the three of them would always end up at Neko's Inn...
And as just as quickly the dream switches to show a strange image of the sprite befriending a cuddly white dragon. Steve had heard the stories and legend growing up... but surely dragons were just a myth?
Could the legend of the Mana Dragons actually be... REAL?!?!
Then, the dream would always inevitably turn into a NIGHTMARE
What's this? Some strange goblins are doing some kind of dance ritual. Steve hasn't dreamed of this before; this one is new. The pig-like goblins are all chanting some demonic kind of language, working themselves up into a frenzy, worshiping their idol...
Much to his horror, he realizes he's no longer dreaming!
Goblin 1: Let's kill him!
Goblin 2: Let's eat him!
Steve: Let's free him!
Goblin 1: Yeah, let's free him!
Goblin 2: Errr, wait-a-sec here...
Hey, it ALMOST worked. Praying for a divine intervention!
Goblin 1: Let's go check on the Rabite burgers
Goblin 2: Alright, after all... he ain't goin' nowheres! HAHAHA
Steve: God, you know I don't ask for much. 76,000 sq. ft. mansion, 20 different kinds of cars, and a woman who isn't too emotional, or insane... so... I ask you humbly now, PROVIDE ME A WAY OUT!
Girl: Pssst! Hey! You!
Girl: Over here, ya git!
Steve: Wow, Lord, you sure work fast! THANK YA JESUS!
Steve: Who are you?
Girl: Does that really matter RIGHT NOW? I'm here to save your scrawny little butt, now c'mon, let's get you outta there!
Steve: Thanks! Hey wait, you look familiar... *gasps* You're the woman of my dreams! I mean, the woman IN my dreams
Girl: *nodding* Yeah, I get that a lot
Steve: Oh wow, the destiny and foretold legend is coming true! We're the ones who will rescue the land and bring peace back!
Girl: Uhhh, yeah. Well, I'm off to see my dad. Nice savin' ya! Maybe we'll run into each other again some day...
Steve: I hope so! I mean, yeah, you know, whatever, heh
Girl: Boy, are you a weird-o...
As you can see, Steve is a natural hit with the ladies
You're about to witness a colossal failure on how to woo a lady
Our hero may save the world but he can't save his own love life
Together, the girl and Steve makes one heck of a duo, killing monsters by the dozens with the greatest of ease. Soon they will encounter the sprite creature and the 'dream team' will be complete. They are the chosen ones!
2 or 3-player Secret of Mana is where it's at
Secret of Mana is a considerably huge quest. You will traverse many different villages, caves and fortresses. Here's a peek at a few of them...
Remember leveling up here early on? Yeah, you know you do
The battles become a little more heated here... be well prepared!
Neko: My man, Steve-O! Welcome back. Oh, and you've brought with ya some new friends!
Steve: Sup Neko. Yeah I have... hey wait a second here... MAJOR déjà vu...
Girl: Hey Neko, nice little place you got here
Sprite: Yeah, I dig it too
Steve: I've seen this before somewhere...
Neko: Mi casa su casa!
Steve: *gasp* This is my dream come true -- it is!
Neko: Oh come on Steve, it's a nice inn and all but not THAT nice
Steve: Oh my bad, Neko. I was just going on about something else... but nevermind. Hey color me shocked to see you here! I thought this is the season where your cousin takes over and you head over to the Super Play offices for your monthly "assignment"
Neko: Yeah about that, Steve. I been doing some meditation exercises, you know, on top of my therapy... and my therapist and I agreed that it just wasn't a healthy working environment for me over there at Super Play Magazine Headquarters. So... I QUIT!
Girl: Hey good for you!
Sprite: Hi-5 with the guy with 9 lives!
Steve: About time! Been telling you for YEARS to get outta there
Neko: Yeah, left them a note and all. Those bastards. That's the last time they beat Neko up!
A letter of inspiration to all who have ever been oppressed before
You'll go from cold to hot and all sorts in-between!
Not only will you travel all over the world but you will also travel through all four seasons as well. Now how many SNES games could you say that about? Well okay, maybe it's not quite as elaborate as one might think if they haven't played Mana yet, I mean this isn't SHENMUE we are talking about here, but this part is still pretty groovy. By the way, I've said it before and I'll say it once again. I just love playing (action) RPGs during the Winter season. No time quite like the cold Winter period to be playin' these adventure games; there's none better. Something about those early darkening afternoons and frosty nights that go along really well with a cup of hot cocoa, slashing up bad guys to level up, and chatting with all manner of townsfolk, from the wise to the wicked, to the wacky and the whimsical. I always make it a point to play some sort of RPG during the Winter season. For me they just go together, like Super Nintendo and greatness, Sonny and Cher, the Lone Ranger and Tonto. You get the idea. Speaking of this season, check out my Christmas Memoirs if you want to read more about my Christmas-SNES memories. I wrote that article earlier this January and I cannot believe how fast we're coming up to the final month of 2011. And speaking of Christmas...
SANTA OF MANA: yup, even the big jolly fella makes a cameo!
Yeah, what is the secret anyway? Ah, I won't say
There's much more to the adventure to see and do, but I'll leave it up to you to discover the rest on your own!
Not the crazy 70-hour adventure they claim but still packs a punch
WHAT THE CRITICS SAID
Not surprisingly, Secret of Mana graced quite a few magazine covers as well as earned the accolades of mostly everyone who played it. Combining elements from both the RPG and action genre as well as providing a huge world to explore and a unique 3-player option, Mana won the hearts of many without question, and arguably the hearts of most, for that matter. It's easily one of the most beloved Super Nintendo games of all time, topping many folks' favorite list. EGM granted it Game of the Month honors with scores of 8, 9, 9 and 9. GameFan promoted it, giving it marks of 86, 90, 91 and 96. Last but not least, the boys at Super Play Magazine awarded Secret of Mana with a high mark of 94%. They also ranked the game as 8th best SNES game on their Top 100 Super Nintendo games list (February '96)
To say "Super Play adored Secret of Mana" is an understatement!
Back in the day EGM was king. My brother was a subscriber in '94 and I always looked forward to that glorious day where the latest EGM issue was sitting pretty in our mailbox, waiting to be explored. If there was one thing that my brother loved more than EGM it was definitely Secret of Mana. From the day he read the reviews of it he became obsessed. I can remember watching him play this game for hours on end, and even though there was a chance for me to jump in, I never did. As I said before, growing up I simply didn't care for the genre. Looking back now, I wished on one of my bro's binge sessions that I had jumped in. It'd surely have been a fond brother-game memory I'd have carried with me to this day
Well, it's funny how life works. When I finally played Secret of Mana 17+ years later last December, my brother stopped by one time and we had a little Mana session. We were no longer kids now, but for two hours anyway, we sure felt like it. And as much as it brought back fond memories for him I'm sure, it gave me new memories to walk away with as well. Afterward I introduced my bro to BS Out of Bounds Golf which he absolutely fell in love with. He and I had some serious competition; cutthroat battles that came down to the last stroke. It was a glorious gaming afternoon. Super NES: bringing brothers together and reminding us of the innocence of childhood :)
Love EGM, their review style & game coverage!
I love EGM's old "The Good, The Bad and The Ugly" boxes ^_^
Super Play seriously had a huge you know what for Mana!
After hearing all the hype about this game it was nice to finally sit down and quell a 17 year folly. That's the nice thing about being older and having your own disposable income. The past five plus years has seen me replaying old childhood favorites while discovering new gems to finally playing all those "old classics" I never got around to playing as a kid, whether it was because I never had a chance, or didn't care. Everything about Secret of Mana screams quality, from the visuals to the sound to the gameplay. Sure, the CPU-controlled allies are not too smart but the game's easy enough, so their lack of AI never does become a huge problem. It is a treat playing this with a friend or two. It's not everyday that an action RPG affords you that chance. It is no doubt a Super NES classic, but that leaves one question... Secret of Mana's artwork sets the mood proper like no other ^_^
Did the game live up to the massive hype for me? Not quite, actually. While I do like Secret of Manaa lot, I was expecting a lot more than just that, from all the hoop-la I've heard about it. Super Play, in particular, was obsessed with this game, and they made it seem like it was the Holy Grail. The combat system didn't totally work for me. Attacking at 90% simply didn't have much damage difference from 11%. Also, there wasn't enough NPC interaction for my tastes. The game had interesting dialogue early on, but in the middle of the game it seemed to go away completely. There weren't as many plot developments or happenings as I'd expected. For a long while there I felt like I was just hacking and slashing, leveling up but with no big story breakthroughs. It has been confirmed that the game is incomplete; it was originally intended to be released with the ill-fated SNES CD add-on. English game translator Ted Woolsey admitted so; that's why some areas, in addition to dialogue, seem to be missing. Such a shame, because as great as I thought Mana was, another part of me felt like it was still missing something. I guess it didn't help that I played this following the almighty Terranigma, which very nearly leaves no stone unturned. Don't get me wrong, Secret of Mana is a great SNES classic, but greatest ARPG ever? Try the sequel Seiken Densetsu 3...
Graphics: 8.5 Sound: 9 Gameplay: 9 Longevity: 9
We certainly are... and to be continued... have a good night y'all!