Review: Secret Of Evermore (SNES)

By Drew Wilson

Secret of Evermore is often compared to Secret of Mana due to it’s very similar action RPG style. We take a look and see if this game still manages to stand out as it’s own game.

Secret of Evermore was produced in 1995 and is cited as one of several games that really needed a sequel by some critics. This game is sometimes seen as what a non-anime/non-JRPG game is capable of.

The game centres around a boy and his dog. It starts off with the human protagonist leaving a theatre with his dog and talking about the movie. A cat scurries accross at some point and the dog gives chase. Eventually, both the dog and the hero wind up in this large abandoned building. Little did they know, this building would ultimately send them to the land of Evermore which consists of many different eras of time.

After being transported to this sci-fi lab, the protagonist realizes he has been separated from his dog. Ultimately, he is ejected into this prehistoric world filled with raptors, killer plants, and people that live in mud huts. By the time he lands on the ground, he is reunited with his dog, but his dog had been transformed into a different kind of dog that fits with the environment.

The quest, ultimately, is to find the four people that have also been transported into this land in four major areas. Each person has an evil entity that is wreaking havock in the lands.

One feature of this game is a very familiar one for those that played the Secret of Mana – that is, a ring menu system. Players can also either let the dog be a computer player or have a friend play with them as the dog. Either way, the whole game conssits of two characters. If the other player is a computer player, players can set the AI behaviour to how aggressive or defensive the character will be when fighting enemies.

Players can cast magic spells (well, alchemy in this case), but they must first learn the recipe of that alchemy and have the necessary ingredients to cast that spell. If a player runs out of that ingredient, they can no longer cast that spell. Still, the more the player casts a particular spell, the stronger it gets via “training” (simply casting that spell multiple times). Every successive level earned on that spell means the spell gets more powerful.

Players can find ingredients in one of two ways. One way is to get the dog to sniff around. If the dog catches the scent of an ingredient, the dog will simply go towards that ingredient and stop at that location. Frequently, the dog (as a computer player of course) will start sniffing on its own. Sometimes its a false positive (in which case, the dog will just scratch it’s neck after a moment), or, if there’s no ingredients in the area, the dog will just sniff in place and not do anything. the other way is to buy from merchants. In one case, the only way to get a particular ingredient is to buy from a merchant.

Like the Secret of Mana, players can obtain new weapons. Some weapons are necessary to hit far away switches, other weapons are necessary to traverse small gaps in certain areas. Either way, players can power up these weapons by holding down the weapon if their weapon skills are high enough. When the player lets go of that button, the character wil executre a more powerful and different attack – often dealing more damage in the process.

As players travel to different areas, the transforms to something else. When in the pre-historic area, the dog is some sort of wilderbeast. When in the renaissance area, the dog is a poodle. The dog makes other transformations. I thought that was an innovative idea in that not only is the environment different, but the character also changes in a mysterious manner.

In the entire game, I thought there was maybe two negatives to this. The first was one of the mazes in the castle. When you play as the dog and are forced to find a way to rejoin the human protagonist, there is an entrance to a hallway that is very well hidden (behind a bookshelf. I thought that this hidden passage would serve well as a well hidden place to some treasure, but as the only way to get out of the maze? No, that was a little unfairly difficult to find. I spent hours going through the same paths trying to find the exit before finding that on my own. It was complex enough, but to throw that in there on top of that all was a little excessive on the difficulty.

The second negative was that, while the storyline was decent all the way through, the storyline fell apart at the very end and became unappealing. Still, this is at the absolute last moment where you had already defeated the last boss. So, the ending was a bit of a letdown as far as story goes, but that was it.

I thought that this game took the good concepts of Secret of Mana and stripped out virtually every element that made the previous game a letdown and not only kept the good elements, but improved on the concepts and adding a few innovative features in the process. Two examples of what I thought was innovative was the alchemy ingredients system and some of the subtle minigames throughout like the trading of otherwise worthless goods in an effort to get some really good items in the end in the second world (the market). I thought it was nicely challenging working the system to get at those items (some vendors use flashy slogans to sell more expensive fish while the more mundane stall shopkeeper sold it for very cheap). It stayed in one area and wasn’t like some games where you had to spend hours shopping around to find decent equipement. This simply was a subtle trading minigame that was optional for the player for the most part.

Graphically, I thought this game did well. Well done menus, everything looked nicely done. Very few retextured or recoloured enemies and the environments were very distinct. Well done there.

Musically, I’ve read about some of the music being short and repetitive, but I found that this really only applied to the areas where I got stuck and, maybe, the boss fights, but the repetitive nature of the boss fight music didn’t really bother me that much partially because boss fights were very rarely clustered in this game. For the most part, they were nicely spaced out with a lot of things to do between them. Some of the music was actually background ambience such as some of the areas in the prehistoric areas. Either way, the music didn’t bother me. In fact, I thought the Fire Eyes music was well done, so some of the music was even quite memorable. The ambience sections worked well as it broke up the whole “every place in the game must have it’s own jingle”. So, this game broke away from some of the conventions of video games and did something different that really worked well. Very few games have simply wind as the background music, for instance. The sound effects, I thought, were nicely done. If you are low on health, you can hear a subtle dinging noise to indicate that you need to heal up or retreat or else you’re going to die. I thought that was a nice touch to the game.

Overall, while this game took a lot of ideas from Secret of Mana, it actually improved on those ideas rather than taking those ideas and making what amounts to a rip off. This, for me, can make for a great gaming experience. It was fun to play through this and, even though it takes some time to get through the whole game, it’s time well spent. It is totally worth it to play this game. Thumbs up from me.

Overall

Furthest point in game: Beat the game.

General gameplay: 22/25
Replay value: 9/10
Graphics: 8/10
Audio: 4/5

Overall rating: 84%



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