Secret of Mana is a remake of one of the SNES’ best loved JRPGs. It was widely praised at the time for its fun hack-'n'-slash combat, beautiful music, and vibrant graphics. However this 2018 remake feels like its stripped away some of the magic of the original and instead made its shortcomings much more obvious.
The first big change you’re likely to notice is the art style and character models. The beautiful sprite-based graphics have been replaced with 3D polygonal models and have unfortunately lost some of their charm along the way. There’s also the inclusion of some rather amateur sounding voice acting which means that the cast not only look a bit odd but sound it as well. When characters are talking their lips don’t move; this is particularly off-putting in the opening scenes of the game where one of your childhood friends seems to have his face frozen into an angry grimace regardless of what he’s actually saying.
The game begins with all the typical tropes from this era of gaming. A young boy wanders outside of his village, finds a magical sword, and is soon swept off on a grand adventure, making friends with a gutsy lady and amnesiac sprite along the way. It’s a simple enough tale but it’s sweet and tugs on the heart strings in all the right places.
Combat feels mostly the same as the original but the 3D style now means you can attack in all directions. The action feels a little slow as after attacking you’ll need to wait for a gauge to recharge before attacking again. You can attack before it reaches max but your chances of successfully hitting an enemy and the amount of damage you can dish out will be reduced. Add to that your lack of any ability to dodge or parry and this means that Secret of Mana’s battle system is less of a fluid hack-'n'-slash and more of a hack-'n'-run-around-in-circles-until-fully-recharged.
After playing through the opening parts of the game you’ll be given access to three different party members. You control one while the other two are controlled by AI. The AI controlling your companions isn’t very aggressive and won’t attack an enemy until you do; they also won’t use magic unless you direct them to. Not only will you end up micromanaging them in battle but also while wandering through dungeons. They’ll frequently get stuck round corners or up against rocks. One way around this is by recruiting a couple of real life friends and using the game's local co-op mode, although it’s a pity that Square Enix didn’t include an online co-op mode as well.
There are a handful of improvements and new additions to this remaster but also some puzzling steps backwards. Being able to hold more than four of each item in your inventory and a new mini-map which uses the original SNES pixel art are very welcome changes. There are also new scenes which take place between your party members whenever you stay at an inn; these offer delightful little interactions between your party and helps you fall in love with them all over again (or in love for the first time if you’ve never played the original). Probably one of the most helpful modern updates to the game is the new auto-save feature and trust us when we say that you’re going be grateful for it. During our playthrough the game seemed to crash once every couple of hours, and the auto-save managed to take a bit of the frustration out of this.
One bizarre step backwards involves the menus. Whenever you back out of any screen in the menu, unlike in the original, the game no longer remembers where you last were. This means that you need to slowly navigate through all of the ring menus whenever you need anything. It just feels needlessly slow and clunky.
The remake also doesn’t include some pretty basic quality-of-life improvements. The most obvious example of this is while shopping. There’s no way to see if you already own an armour or accessory piece or even to see if it’s weaker or stronger than anything you’ve already got equipped.
The remixed soundtrack can also be a bit hit and miss. Some of the tracks really improve on the already awesome SNES version but others just sound a bit lousy, in particular the town theme just sounds too over the top and brash when compared to the original. Thankfully you can switch between the classic and new soundtrack whenever you like.
This Secret of Mana remake feels like a missed opportunity. It could have been a chance to tweak a few systems, strip away any outdated elements, and add in a few basic improvements. Overall the game is good but only because the original Secret of Mana was good; this remaster doesn’t add as much as it could and, if anything, removes some of the magic of the original.
It just looks so bad. A real shame that such a classic has been treated in this way.
Thanks for the review, Jenny.
The original's one of the very best RPGs on SNES so this seems a bit disappointing. I would have rathered an HD pixel art style like Octopath Traveller and I do feel that this style of polygons strips anyway part of the magic.
As a fan of the original I have to say this one hits that nostalgia factor perfectly. I guess people were expecting a full blown remake like SoTC. If you are a fan of the original though this one hits the right spots it was made for people who grew up on the original nothing more.
Hopefully this means they will bring the other games in the series westward now.
i still like it, is it perfect NO but it's still invokes the feelings i got from the original game
@Tasuki wasn't one also released on the PSVita?
This is why I'm glad Square are going full on remake with FF7. Not to say this is really a bad version of the game, but I think it might have been better to just bring forward the original in all it's pixelated glory for PS4, much like Square did with FF7 HD.
I think only RAndi ( spelling ? ) looks bad, love the rest of the art style, also it is great that it gives the option for the original music
@Tasuki @FullbringIchigo I think Legend of Mana was released on PSVita
Glad I bought a SNES Mini. It's... ugly.
Gah! Shame on you Square...
@Kidfried I am right with you. I’ve been back and forth on this and even watched some online gameplay to see if I was wrong about it and maybe it was better in motion, but it’s like they stayed too faithful in certain ways and not enough in others. Not a fan of the graphics, but almost more I’m not a fan of the graphics + the animations, which feel like they weren’t changed at all to fit the new style. A good example of this is when you talk to a shop keeper and they all hover in the same place, then divide into 3. I feel like it just doesn’t look good in this graphics engine.
@tasuki: Glad to hear your impressions on it. I bought the physical copy at Gamestop but it is still sealed and I have been debating about keeping it. I probably will though. It will be a perfect game to play with my two boys someday.
@Kidfried I own a snes mini all the games are ugly on the little beast.
Such a shame. It's obvious they've put some work into this, but not enough in the right places to justify a $40 price tag with the same glaring problems almost every review seems to point out. I'll stick with the classic for now.
Secret of Mana was over reviewed. Its was good but never great. FF6 and Shining Force 2 absolutely obliterate it.
@FullbringIchigo Secret of Mana belongs to a series called Seiken Densetsu or something like my Japanese is not that good. The first game in the series was released several times here in NA (not sure about Europe as I live in NA). The first game was released on the original Gameboy under the name Final Fantasy Adventure and then on GBA Sword of Mana and finally on PSP as Adventure of Mana. Secret of Mana is the second game in the series and the third was never released here officially. However if your savy enough you can find a translated version someone where.
@Jenny_Jones Legend of Mana was released on the PSone and is available on the PSN store for PS3 and Vita but is a spin-off of the original Three game series. Just like Children of Mana on the DS.
@Flaming_Kaiser You might have a different machine. Mine has some of the best looking games ever on it.
@Ryno My son and I having a blast with it and we both have played through the SNES original. I feel.that alot of the bad reviews are coming from people who were expecting too much, i.e. a full blown remake like SoTC for example or didn't grow up with the origianl. Now if it was $60 maybe I would say it isn't worth it but for $40 you cant go wrong.
shame. i'm just gonna replay the classic one
It looks so dull, sticking to the Snes version
@Tasuki They've killed the art, though. I honestly think people would have appreciated less effort. The original looks vastly superior to whatever this is supposed to be.
Glad you're enjoying it, though.
@get2sammyb I don't know I don't mind it as much as others seem to. I am not sure what people expected.
@get2sammyb just noticed a typo on the info on the right side it says it says it's 1 player but in fact it's 1 to 3 players.
Personally I think this would have been great on switch. If they port it over I would definitely consider buying!
I prefer the original sprites myself, they were more charming than this for sure. I'll stick with my SNES Classic, and hope the collection on Switch gets localized.
There is also a Vita version of this game as well, surprised at no cross-buy though.
I think I'll stick to my SNES mini version of the game. Sad, though, I had a friend lined-up for online play, we played the original together and now we live in different countries.
Off topic, but will you guys being doing a review on Fe?
@Tasuki Final Fantasy Adventure was remade on the Vita and released as Adventure of Mana at least in the UK i don't know about anywhere else
I've only played a tiny bit of the original game a few years ago and can't remember much, so I think I'll enjoy the remake since I won't have any nostalgia for it.
@FullbringIchigo Thanks for the correction, I thought it was PSP.
@themcnoisy 'shining force' now that brings back great memories!! Awesome series
@themcnoisy @get2sammyb @Tasuki I agree that it might be a bit overrated, but a 6/10 is a joke of a score. There are doggy dung quality games that score higher then that on this website and Secret of Mana is at the very least a 7/10. It seems the reviewer thought the game was going to built from the ground up like the upcoming Final Fantasy remake which it was obvious based on the developer's updates during the game's development that wasn't going to be the case. Also I hear that the game runs smoothly as long as you have around 2-3 GB of your Vita memory card space free.
@FullbringIchigo It was also renamed Adventure of Mana here in the US as well.
I can forgive the remastered soundtrack, especially as the original is still in there.
I can just about forgive the new art style. Just. Once I've finished vomiting.
I can maybe forgive the voice acting. Or put the Japanese voices on. Or mute it.
I can forgive the loading screens between areas of dungeons. Just.
But what I absolutely cannot forgive at all, ever, no matter what their excuse, is that they removed the cannon travel animation sequence from the world map after being shot out of the cannon!! Unforgivable!!
@ReanSchwarzer7 6/10 is above average and means "not bad" according to Push Square's scoring policy. I played it on PS4, have plenty of space on my HD and it still crashed a lot
@GravyThief you know what, while i was playing through this remake/remaster, i thought to myself - this cannon travel feels off...there's something missing...and your post totally reminded me how awesome the animation sequence was...now i'm sad its not there...i'm now travelling via dragon and the animation sequence for that is still very cool...
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