REVIEW – Remaking a Super Nintendo JRPG for modern platforms is not always the best idea. Secret of Mana proves this thought, but it looks decent on one platform – and perhaps this is why it’s held back elsewhere. My feelings are mixed regarding the game. It’s just not what it was in the 90s…
Initially, the game launched in 1993 in Japan under the name Seiken Densetsu 2 on the SFC (SNES), although we had to wait for the European launch until late 1994. It was an excellent JRPG, offering THREE (!!!) players to play an action-packed game with fine audiovisuals (and Mode 7 was just the icing on the game), and superb production values of the era. Its only major issue would be the artificial intelligence being somewhat… bad. Where’s the first game, you ask? Good question, let me explain that.
Square fooled us: the FIRST Seiken Densetsu game (called Seiken Densetsu: Final Fantasy Gaiden) launched as Final Fantasy Adventure on the Game Boy in the United States, and the European release two years later in ’93 just throws everything in the garbage can with the title Mystic Quest. The franchise’s history is more complicated than a Mexican soap opera, and its present is… well, let’s say that the remake could have been better than what we got.
Updating an old game by offering it 3D graphics is not always the best solution. Sure, Secret of Mana looks better than before, but it’s not always more AESTHETIC. If you played the 16-bit original, you might not get used to the updated visuals altogether, maybe except how the monsters look, as the style is somewhat kept here and there. The voice acting adds fuel to the fire – the developers should have taken their time to make the characters’ mouths move. The result is outdated.
It’s like a PlayStation 1 game, not something I would expect from a title in 2018 on a PlayStation 4. Let’s add those close-ups, as well as the somewhat questionable voice quality, and you’ll immediately ask: couldn’t the remake get a bit more love than what it got? The characters were not crossing the line on the SNES original, and if Square Enix kept the original approach, Secret of Mana would have been better with its base story of a boy finding a sword, then saving the world.
The game profited a bit by the past two and a half decades: although the menu system is just as complex as in the past (which WILL scare away a few players without a doubt), the gameplay can benefit a bit by mapping some of the items/weapons/magic to just one button, allowing easy access. Of course, there’s not enough space for every required thing, which means that you’ll eventually nosedive right into the menus. There’s one thing that I just cannot comprehend: for the love of God, why on earth do the quick access buttons stop functioning when I use local multiplayer? (Because nope, of course, there’s no such thing as online multiplayer!) These stupid issues ruin the rating of the game, which would easily have been a 7.5/10.
The artificial intelligence is just as awkward as in the SNES original, so if you play alone, you have to keep an eye on your teammates, because if one of them dies, you might have to revive or even load the previous save as you can’t progress. Not a good thing to do.
Are you entertained?
And still, you can have a lot of fun with the game. Thankfully, you can replace the remade soundtrack with the classic one (YES!), so I’m not going to diss this option. Getting rid of those mushrooms (?) with the hearts on them, the typical, classical, grindy JRPG gameplay, and the ambiance are all in its place. The visuals are unusual, but it’s not an extreme derivation of the SNES sprite artwork.
The combat is also the same: you have to fill a bar to have the most accurate and powerful attack – it’s not Chrono Trigger, but it’s close to that. It felt a little like Vagrant Story on the PS1, which, dear Square Enix, should get remade: it had a Risk bar – the higher it was, the higher the chance was to screw up the attack. However, you can move freely here, as it’s not a turn-based system.
Only for retro fans!
I said that the game is out on several platforms. PlayStation Vita, PlayStation 4 (Pro), PC (and on the Nintendo Switch, too, in Japan as part of the Seiken Densetsu Collection). On the PS Vita, in my opinion, it’s a GREAT game, quickly earning a 7.5 out of 10 on it. On PlayStation 4, it falls short of a 7/10 as it has no online multiplayer, and there’s more of a focus on the weird, and somewhat unnecessary voice acting. It’s a 6.5/10, but it doesn’t mean that the game sucks. The REMAKE is not the best.
+ Old soundtrack included
+ Available on the PlayStation Vita, too!
+ Quick access to a few items
– …but the quick access disappears with multiplayer
– WHERE is the online multiplayer?!
– Its audiovisuals are… not charming
Publisher: Square Enix
Developer: Square Enix
Release date: February 15, 2018