Secret of Mana
Secret of Mana is an action adventure role-playing game by Square released on the SNES on 1993-08-06. It was later ported to Android and iOS and emulated on several platforms. The game was also remade in 2018 for modern platforms. It is the second game in the Mana series. In the game, you play a group of children whose world is being torn apart by the strange disappearance of mana. It is your destiny to figure out why and stop it. The game allows for up to 3 players to play simultaneously.
I first saw Secret of Mana at the house of a middle school friend. He had rented the game and already played through a lot of the intro, so he already had the girl and the sprite. I played with him as the second player and, together, we made it through almost the entire game. He even kept the game a couple days later in an attempt to beat it, but he eventually had to return it. Not too long after, another friend of mine bought the game, and he and I played it together. I watched him beat the final boss, but I never beat it myself. Years later, bought a used copy at FuncoLand and played it all the way to the end, but I wanted to max out my characters before beating the end boss. I ended up getting bored, and didn't bother to finish the game. Several years later, I finally beat the end boss and beat the game.
This is, by far, my favorite title in the Mana series, but also one of my favorite SNES games, and one of my favorite video games over all.
I own this game, have beaten it, and have leveled my characters well-beyond what is necessary to finish the game.
Best Version: 96%
— This section contains spoilers! —
- The game is enormous. There are dozens of maps, monsters, NPCs, spells, items, etc., and most of them are highly detailed and unique. Often from a single screenshot, even an inexperience player can identify the area of the game.
- The game art is phenomenal, some of the best for the entire platform. The backgrounds by Yasuhiko Kamata are gorgeously drawn and detailed, and very colorful. All of the characters by Shinichi Kameoka and monsters by Hiroyuki Narushima are beautifully animated, especially the bosses, and some even have extra funny animations. The item and spell effects by Shintaro Takai are enjoyable to watch (especially the high level ones), as are the weapon power-ups. Those graphics originally designed by Kazuko Shibuya for Final Fantasy Adventure look even better in bright colors and higher resolution.
- The art style is really wonderful; the entire game has a lovely cuteness to it that appeals to me. Monsters, NPCs, and even the players look silly and adorable. The towns all have a nice comforting hominess to them. Even the bulk of the story is sweet and charming. You don't have critical hits, instead, enemies are "whacked," a hold spell puts a mouse balloon over your head, etc.
- I adore Hiroki Kikuta's soundtrack. There are a nice variety of catchy happy songs, sad emotional songs, and upbeat action songs.
- The monsters have a lot of complexity. Most of the have fully-animated special attacks and require different ways to fight them effectively. It's nice how more monsters react differently to different amounts of damage, and how they die with different animations.
- Unlike most RPGs, there isn't just a variety of weapons in name only, but each weapon has a different attack form, animation, and special ability.
- The game's story is pretty good. A lot of the game's characters are fleshed-out, even the enemy bosses have their own motives.
- The programming team led by Nasir Gebelli really put together a solid game and included a lot of SNES tricks that work great. The game uses mode 7 for the over world map and mode 5 or 6 for the character menus. Backgrounds use translucency. A lot of monsters employ a layered object system where they're made up from multiple sprites. Many sprites use palette filters to change their color on the fly.
- The icon-based ring inventory system is efficient, attractive, and inventive.
- I like how pretty much everything in the game can be leveled up. The characters, their ability with weapons, the weapons themselves, and spell abilities all gradually progress during the game which always gives you a sense of growth.
- The funny names given to the monsters are wonderful. Some are clever, others make me chuckle, and some are just make me smile.
- I like that you can adjust the AI when your party is computer controlled by choosing how close they should get to enemies, how aggressive they should attack, and to what level they should charge up their attacks.
- At least early in the game there are various ways to proceed. You can change which order you get the girl and sprite which leads to alternate scenes. This is a nice touch.
- The game comes with a fantastic manual and map.
- Although I like the weapon power-ups, I never really found them to be useful in the game. They're so slow to charge up, the amount of damage you can do with ordinary attacks is generally greater than the charged attack. They really only seem useful on bosses, and then, only early in the game before you can chain spell them into oblivion.
- A lot the girl's spells aren't very useful like the sabres, the stat buffs (speed up, defender, etc.), and such. I usually just use her for Cure Water, Analyzer, and occasionally her attack magic when the sprite is tapped out of mana.
- Some of the weapons are objectively superior to the others making the inferior ones rather pointless. Also, while I like that the weapons have special abilities (like poison or strong against insects), they usually only keep the ability for a single short-lived upgrade. With the amount of weapons and upgrade levels, you will often never even notice the special ability at work or even bother taking advantage of it.
- Although Square originally intended the game to be much larger, the switch from CD-ROM to cartridge ROM caused them to cut out portions of the game. This meant losing some of the later game elements (causing the last half to feel rushed), and also caused the game to be more linear, which hurts replay value. Still, the game is so expansive, that there is a lot to see.
- There are a couple graphic glitches throughout the game. You often open a chest that you're not even touching, the whip frequently doesn't even touch the poles when crossing a gap, some weapons are not properly adjusted to a character's movement and hover in the air for a frame of walking, and other minor issues.
- The chest traps are cute at first, but become really annoying over time. Once you're aware of which monsters drop trapped chests, you usually just skip them altogether rather than bother with the chance of a trap.
- The game has a few minor bugs, but none of them are game breaking or even that problematic.
- There is a serious exploit where you can chain spells together to effectively shut down an enemy, even a boss, until you run out of mana. And, even then, a faerie walnut will let you continue. It's not uncommon to stumble upon this tactic during a boss fight, and then, most bosses become as easy as simple to defeat as an ordinary monster. This is a shame because so many of the bosses have really great battle tactics. A simple magic cool down would have solved this problem.
The Japanese box uses a gorgeous painting by Hiroo Isono which depicts the game's three heroes standing at the foot of the massive mana tree. This is my favorite box. My only complaint is the rather boring title text.
- spriters-resource.com/snes/secretofmanaseikendensetsu2 - Sprite sheets.
- youtube.com/watch?v=_TVU4al3Apc - Longplay (1/8).
- youtube.com/watch?v=gUd00h36l-s - Level 9 spell animations.
|Executive Producers||Rich Silveira, Toshiyuki Horii, Junichi Yanagihara, Douglas E. Smith, Tetsuo Mizuno|
|Producer, Concept, System Design, Scenario Message Data||Hiromichi Tanaka|
|Chief Director of Game Design, Animation, and Monster Design||Koichi Ishii|
|Battle System Design, Monster Logistics||Goro Ohashi|
|Map Data System Design and Data||Yasushi Matsumura|
|Map Data Design||Toshiyuki Inoue|
|Lead Programmer||Nasir Gebelli|
|Monster Control Programmer||Satoru Yoshieda|
|Boss Monster Programmer||Taku Murata|
|Message Programmer||Masaaki Saito|
|Ring Menu Programmer||Ryo Muto|
|Calculation Programmer||Yoshiyuki Miyagawa|
|Sound Programmer||Minoru Akao|
|Demo Programmer||Fumiaki Fukaya|
|Chief Map Graphic Design||Yasuhiko Kamata|
|Map Graphic Design||Tetsuya Takahashi, Manabu Daishima, Misako Tsutsui|
|World Map Graphic Design||Akira Ueda|
|Map Design||Hidetoshi Kezuka|
|Player Character Design||Shinichi Kameoka|
|Monster Character Design||Hiroyuki Narushima|
|Character Design||Shinichiro Okaniwa|
|Magic Animation||Shintaro Takai|
|Monster Animation||Noriko Sasaki|
|Music Composer||Hiroki Kikuta|
|Sound Effects Design||Yasunori Mitsuda, Kenji Ito|
|Main Visual Artwork||Hiroo Isono|
|Network Management||Keitarou Adachi|
|Debug Support||Tsukasa Fujita|
|English Direction||Kaoru Moriyama|
|English Translation||Ted Woolsey|
|English Support||Li Weimin|
|English||Secret of Mana|
|Japanese||聖剣伝説2||Seiken Densetsu 2||The Legend of the Sacred Sword 2|
- thealmightyguru.com/Reviews/SecretOfMana/Index.html - My old site.
- flyingomelette.com/oddities/oddities25.html - Flying Omelette - Secret of Mana Oddities.