A playthrough of Square's 1993 action-RPG for the Super Nintendo, Secret of Mana.
Secret of Mana, or Seiken Densetsu 2 as it was called in Japan, is the direct sequel to Square's 1991 Game Boy game Final Fantasy Adventure. It's a top-down RPG that was hailed for it's graphics, music, and its multitap-driven three-player co-op game play, and is still regarded as one of the SNES's best action-oriented role-playing games.
Since the remake was just released yesterday (2/15/18), I figured it was about time to upload my video of this classic.
While at first glance it looks a lot like a stylized Zelda-style game, Secret of Mana does several things to differentiate itself. The first (and among the most remembered) of the game's unique features is the multitap support. Using the attachment that was originally packed in with Super Bomberman, three players, can all jump in and play at the same time once the entire party has been assembled. It was a massive amount of fun to play it this way - coordinating and attacking with a couple of buddies really gave the game a unique feel, especially when you compare it to the (even still today) isolated single-player experiences that RPGs typically offer. Of course you can play it solo or with one friend - the remaining characters will be taken care of by the AI. It's not always intelligent - there is a tendency for the computer-controlled ones to get stuck behind walls and trees, or to stand gormlessly as they get whacked by monsters - but usually it works fairly well. Better than you'd expect for a game from 1993.
Even though the story takes some pretty dark turns later on, Secret of Mana manages to maintain a cheerful, upbeat presentation throughout the majority of the game. The graphics are impressively detailed, and there are a lot of little background animations that make the world come alive - just check out the wind blowing around the flowers and grass in the first few areas. It might not seem like much now, but such attention to detail was something that you didn't see often in the first half of the 16-bit generation's games. The enemies are extremely memorable, imaginative, and often quite goofy - I always like the waddling "mushbooms" that spray spores at you and little teddy bears that dress up like Robin Hood to shoot arrows at the party. The bosses are usually impressive and huge, and the spell effects get fairly impressive later on in the game.
The music is one of my favorite things about Secret of Mana. The soundtrack has been praised time-and-time again over the years, and it has held up extremely well. Though it's usually orchestral in nature, the sound is markedly different than what you usually get with Uematsu's Final Fantasy scores. It changes its tone on a dime to match the action, swinging between frantic, electronic dance-style tracks to subdued, emotive piano melodies in an instant. The range of styles is amazing - the fact that Hiroki Kikuta (the composer) could hit each of them is impressive, but that each and every track succeeds so well is an incredible achievement. Apparently he sampled the instruments himself while composing so that the final in-game tracks would sound as he intended them to, and it was a worthwhile effort. Not only is it well-composed, but the quality of the samples is a substantial jump over what you'll find in most cart-based titles, and makes the music feel richer and fuller than you'd expect out of a mere eight channels.
The gameplay holds up well, too. Granted, the game was always a bit glitchy, but once you figure out the game's few quirks, it usually works just fine. The battle system is an interested hybrid of old and new - though it's all played out in real-time, the accuracy and power of your hits relies more on your stats than it does on making sure that you're character's weapon visibly makes contact with the enemy. It can lead to a few annoying whiffs, but it does make sense once you've acclimated to it.
I absolutely love Secret of Mana. I always have, and it's hard to imagine that I'd ever feel otherwise about it. From the story to the gameplay to the aesthetics, this sequel improves in just about every way humanly possible over Final Fantasy Adventure.
It might not be perfect, nor is it even among Square's best on the SNES - seriously, how can any game compete against their hulking juggernaut of a 16-bit line-up? But Secret of Mana is an amazing adventure, and it's one that you'll never forget once you've played it. There's a good reason that Nintendo included it with the SNES Classic. It is a classic.
*Please note that there are few cuts when I level-up - you'll notice a stat jump when these happen. Those points were super boring, so I axed them to keep the video moving along.
No cheats were used during the recording of this video.
NintendoComplete (http://www.nintendocomplete.com/) punches you in the face with in-depth reviews, screenshot archives, and music from classic 8-bit NES games!