Review: Secret of Mana (SNES)

By Drew Wilson

The Secret of Mana is an action RPG game that takes players on a wild adventure after the featured protagonist manages to pull the holy sword from the rock. We take a look at this game to see if the praise it earned was well deserved.

Released in 1993, the Secret of Mana would be the second game released in the Mana series. What drew most of the praise was the innovative ring menu system and the action RPG elements that were thrown in so players needed to do more than just level up to do well in the game.

Players begin with the protagonist running around with friends. When the protagonist falls into a body of water, the only way out seemed to be to pull a sword from a rock and slice their way out. Eventually, the player is cast out because a legend suggested that bad things would happen if someone pulls the sword from the stone. From there, players work their way around the various lands as an outcast, ultimately trying to save the world from certain doom.

Along the way, players will eventually obtain two partners, forming a party of three. If the player is playing without another human player, the other two characters will be controlled by the computer AI. Players can adjust how aggressive they should be when encountering enemies and get them to cast spells whenever the need arises.

Along the way, players will obtain more weapons like a whip and a spear. All of the weapons have their own strengths and weaknesses, but are constantly being improved by either simply using them and, thus, leveling them up, or by obtaining orbs and forging the weapons with those orbs via the blacksmith which increases the overall power of the weapons.

Also along the way, players obtain new powers from the seeds in a number of palaces that must be explored. These palaces typically have a boss that must be defeated in order to allow the magic to be released.

Eventually, players gain access to Flammie, a flying dragon that allows them to go anywhere on the world map.

Graphically, this game was well done. Some of the menu’s have an animated background, the icons were easy to make out, and the overall playing field was nicely done. There’s really very little to complain about in this game with two ecxceptions. After a while, some of the textures (like the palace walls) become a little repetitive after a while. Some of the monsters, like the walking mushroom and the flying rabbit-like monster, typically end up being a simple recolouring throughout the game. Even some of the bosses make re-appearances after a while.

The music was decent, though after a while, the songs get repetitive like the theme songs of the palaces. The sound effects, however, were nicely done.

In the end, I found that this game starts off as though I could award another perfect score, then gradually tapers off to the point of being completely unplayable for me. The first few levels were, overall, really good and challenging. When I got Flammie, I, at first thought, “Cool! Now I can see what’s left in this game!” The novelty, however, wore off when I quickly realized that it’s next to impossible to navigate to wherever the next location is. There is a particular order you have to visit locations, but clues range from being vague to non-existent. Oh, and did I mention there was no map or no real way to indicate where you are headed outside of a few visual cues? Not only is it difficult to discern where you are headed next at times, but half the time, you don’t really know exactly where you are once you land. The only navigational aid is the N, E, S, W that rolls along the top of the screen as you travel along the sky. Sometimes, I would land in places where recoloured enemies will kill you in 2 hits. Other times, I found myself saying, “Oh darn, already been here earlier in the game!” I’ve seen a lot of scores rating this as a top quality game, but I can’t help but think that only the first portion of this game was ever checked out by these reviewers. I couldn’t finish this game because the lack of direction really wore on me to the point of simply saying, “I’ve had enough of this game.” If I rated this game based on the first portions, I would have no problem rating it in the high 90’s. If I was rating this game based on the last portion of the game, I would easily rate it something well below the 30’s. Ultimately, this is one of those games I found myself never completing and, frankly, this game is, while enjoyable, highly overrated.


Furthest point in game: Raised the island and made the skies turn to thunder and lightening, but didn’t really know what to do from there and gave up trying after aimlessly flying around trying to find the next target destination.

General gameplay: 15/25
Replay value: 3/10
Graphics: 8/10
Audio: 4/5

Overall rating: 60%

Drew Wilson on Twitter: @icecube85

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