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: SNES
— 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 monsters react differently to different amounts of damage. They step back when you fail to hurt them, are stunned when you do minor damage, and fall down when hurt really bad. I also like the various death 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 an impressive game engine which took advantage of a lot of SNES tricks. 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 constant 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.
- The chest system is a lot of fun at first. Each monster has a common and rare drop, there are a bunch of traps with funny animation, there are animations if you attack them or leave them alone for too long, and even a mimic shows up later in the game. Unfortunately, they rarely ever yield anything important.
- 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 ability to charge up weapons, I never really found them to be useful in the game. They're so slow to charge that the amount of damage you can do with ordinary attacks in the interim is generally greater than the charged attack. They're really only useful on bosses where you can only get the occasional hit in, but because of the slower animation, it's much harder to get them to land. Also, once you get magic, you can just chain spell everything into oblivion.
- A lot the girl's spells aren't very useful like the sabres, the stat buffs (speed up, defender, lunar boost, etc.), and such. I usually just use her for Cure Water, Analyzer, and occasionally her attack magic when the sprite's mana is tapped out.
- 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 only keep those abilities for a single short-lived upgrade. With the large assortment of weapons, and the many levels of upgrades, you will often never even notice the special ability at work, let alone find a way to take advantage of it.
- As is typical in JRPGs, the bulk of the NPCs don't say anything important.
- Although Square originally intended the game to be much larger, the switch from SNES CD-ROM to cartridge ROM caused them to cut out portions of the game. This meant losing large portions of the later game elements and causing the game to be more linear, which hurts replay value. Still, the game is so expansive, that there is a lot to see. In particular, the first three fetch quests of Jock earn you three new elementals and about a dozen weapon orbs in about an hour of game play. The Light Temple is incredibly short, and the Moon Temple is one room and it doesn't even have a boss. This doesn't leave you enough time to become comfortable with the spells or weapon upgrades.
- If you miss a not-very-obvious Neko on the sunken continent before going to Pure Land, you will get obliterated by the enemies there. This problem was included in a lot of FAQs at the time, and I missed it on my first play-through which caused a great deal of frustration.
- There are a couple graphic glitches throughout the game. Several spells cause the screen to flash black, the player's don't line up properly when opening chests, talking to NPCs, and using the whip, some weapons are not properly adjusted to a character's movement and hover in the air for a frame of walking, and various other minor issues.
- The contents of chests dropped from enemies are usually not worth opening. It's usually a tiny amount of gold or an cheap item, but there is a large risk of traps. The traps are cute the first time you encounter them, but become really annoying over time.
- There is a serious exploit where you can chain spells together to effectively shut down bosses. Even if you expend your mana and are unable to kill the boss, a faerie walnut lets you continue. It's not uncommon to stumble upon this tactic during a boss fight, and, once you do, most bosses become as trivial to defeat as an ordinary monster. This is a shame because so many of the bosses have really interesting battle tactics. Had the developers added a magic cool down similar to the attack cool down, they could have solved this exploit.
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.
|1||Whip||Longest range of all weapons, very fast attack speed, hits multiple targets, spans gaps, often tangles.|
|2||Spear||Medium distance, lots of damage.|
|3||Sword||Average distance, lots of damage.|
|4||Axe||Short distance, but necessary for barriers.|
|5||Glove||Very short distance, but has really cool animations.|
|6||Boomerang||Slow attack speed and very slow animation, but can attack over different terrain levels.|
|7||Javelin||Slow attack speed and slow animation, very difficult to aim, hits single target, but can attack over different terrain levels.|
|8||Bow and Arrow||Very slow initial attack speed and slow animation, difficult to aim, hits single target, but can attack over different terrain levels.|
|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.