Late to the Game: Secret of Mana

A goofy,  fun JRPG

Secret of Mana game box art.
Secret of Mana game box art.

I’ve been meaning to write a game review about this for a while now. Since I’ve been going to college full-time and working on the weekends, I’ve been playing this on-and-off for months and finished this a few months ago.  Now that I have time I’m finally finishing this review.

When my interest for retro video games began this was one of the first games I purchased. My favorite genre of video games are role-playing games and after doing some research I had this on my list. Thus, I decided on a whim to buy Secret of Mana at a local retro video game shop to purchase this game.

After putting in about 35 hours (more or less), I can definitely say it’s a fun game to play.  It’s not a serious game by any means. But if you take it for what it is-a fun, lighthearted game- then you’ll enjoy the adventure.

The storyline is the tried and true formula of saving the world. You play as a boy who is destined to save the world from the evil sorcerer Thanatos, who will unleash The Mana Fortress and destroy the world.

If you want a great story then this game will disappoint. At times the story becomes convoluted and hard to follow as characters are randomly introduced. Many times new characters are introduced quickly after events, which left me wondering the new characters importance in the events. Furthermore the boy and two other characters you play, the girl and sprite, have little character background or growth.

However, this didn’t take away from the game. From the forests to the ice lands, and what looks like a subway it supports the  world in which it’s played.

Santa is in the game and becomes temporarily evil by using the power of the mana seeds. Guess he's on the naughty list this year
Santa is in the game and becomes temporarily evil by using the power of the mana seeds. Guess he’s on the naughty list this year

When first traveling the breathtaking world you get shot out of a cannon. It’s fun at first, then it becomes irritating because each cannon only travels to certain locations. Once you get a flying dragon name Flammie, traveling becomes much easier around the world.

Once you get Flammie traveling the world is a breeze.
Once you get Flammie traveling the world is a breeze.

When you start to battle the creatures in the world is the game’s strength. As an action-jprg it present challenges that you normally don’t get with the traditional turned-based style. An obvious one is the real-time strategy without pause that forces you to decide quickly on your strategy.

The key difference though is the stamina, which determines how powerful your attacks are and if you do any damage at all. I rarely built the meter to level eight because when enemies attack you they disrupt it.  In addition you can’t spam physical attacks since the bar needs to be 100% to do damage.

The enemies are varied who also have silly names. For example, there’s an egg enemy called   “Eggatrice” that does some flimsy magical damage.

Not really. (FYI this is not Eggatrice.)
This is not Eggatrice. However, most enemies are not a challenge afterwhile.

Many of the dungeons and areas are straightforward that don’t require too much puzzle solving. I think only one or two (including the final one) challenged me a bit.

However, the challenge if the game wore off as time went on. Only towards the end did it become more of an inconvenience after I leveled up my characters to around level 70. (This is likely due to me playing it on-and-off that I forgot how to attack enemies).

More show than substance. Good costume for Halloween though.
More show than substance. Good costume for Halloween though.

Multiplayer does work in this game. I only briefly tested it out by myself but it’s great to have a three-person multiplayer game to play on the multi-tap.

Musically the sound track is great. Every time I walked into a town  the music conveyed a sense of enjoyment and cheerfulness, as if the music made a jocular of the game itself (in a good way).

Finally, the graphics on the game are beautiful for this 1993 game.  The 16-bit top-down approach accentuates the world that you are trying to save. The designs have a lot of primary colors and lively designs for the creatures that you fight.

Overall this is a fun game that I’m glad I spent my time on. It’s an easy game that takes you along for an enjoyable ride.

What do you think? Leave your comment below!

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5 thoughts on “Late to the Game: Secret of Mana

      1. It was one of the first RPGs I had ever played, and the story was just amazing. Plus, to this day I still find myself humming that darn Dwarf village music! T-T

        Actually, do you share your writing on any other gaming websites? I work at Now Loading and this is the sort of great content I think our readers would enjoy. If you were open to the idea of posting on our site in addition to your blog, I’d be more than happy to help you get started. My e-mail is paul@nowloading.co🙂

  1. It has the good bones of a game. The real shame is that about 40% of the game had to be scrapped when the SNES-CD did not work out. A lot of story is gone, that is why the story makes no sense at times.

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