secret of mana




Before I start, I'd like to mention that this review was from last year, long before I decided on a format to review games in, so it has been slightly modified. Just take this all at face value, and know that it's probably not a completely accurate score, but I'm quite certain that it's an accurate critique of the game in general. Anyway-

We dig through our personal belongings when we want to get nostalgic. I did this recently. Somehow I found an old '93 cartridge of "Secret of Mana." This completely *wink* and legally allowed me *wink wink* to obtain a ROM as my *wink* Super Nintendo is in *snort* disrepair. Because we all know it's very wrong to illegally use such things... Wouldn't want to rob those lovely people of profits from about 10 years ago, do we?

So anyway, with the music "I copied from CDs I own into MP3 format legally for backup reasons," *snerk* blaring, I activated Secret of Mana. This is where the review begins. Sorry if it's a little erratic; logic barely registers when judging a game.

Taking everything at face value, Secret of Mana is a variant on the classic Final Fantasy/Phantasy Star console hack and slash RPG. If I had to liken it to a newer game in the way it handles, Silver comes to mind as the most impactual concept in any of these games is combat. Many people may sneer about this, but let me assure you - you'd better like combat, because you'll be hard pressed to find any kind of character dev/plot/goddamn point of playing such a bland game. Even with a heavy reliance on combat, combat falls short of a nice medium of difficulty. A battle will mostly be too simple, or too damn difficult, relying on if you managed to find all the little bits in the poorly architectured and abysmally timed sections of the game. In short; if you're after a game that increases gameplay by making areas vague and wishy-washy, and combat that will give you RSI, then this is the game for you.


So here's- HEY! Is   
that a
Luck Dragon?! 


And Bastian has the  
   Moogle bel
t (or Oren) 


That makes the girl the Childlike Empress... 

So the little guy is Mr. Coriander or Ingiwook   

This broken image is  
The Nothing...    

 The Neverending End. 

You, as the everyday peasant hero happen across a rusty sword in a hunk of rock that you happen upon by being pathetic and falling off a bridge. You meet a Knight that you blindly listen to because you're pathetic and get kicked out of your hometown. Drudgery. You meet another pathetic weaning character who's beloved has been stolen away from her. Division in plot. Keep not meeting the guy and blindly following orders. Find a amnesiac sprite (not the good drinking kind,) that once more forces you to yet more locations. Link seeds. Find magic powers and orbs. Manage to root up and not stop the badguy. Win in the end. Bad end too. Awful.
Not much more different than every static and boring plotline normally put into games such as these. But normally they at least give you some nice dialogue and character building. All you get in this is a few words of recognition, and a boot up the arse to your next locale. Very impersonal and abrasive.

One of my pet hates in games such as these are when they make the game so small that they have to use repeat animation to add filler to a game. Photocopied enemies of different colours is something I expect of high bandwidth and braincell murdering games like Dark Age of Camelot and the like. But no-o... they have to make only 30 enemies or so and copy the damn things. Worse still, they do the same with the plethora of bosses you have to fight! I really hate it when they do that! The way areas are designed gives the player only a rough idea of where they are. Many areas all look so damn similar it's likely that you'll end up walking around for a good deal of time, fighting enemies over and over again as they respawn when you leave and enter each area. More than likely when you do find where you're going you just fall into it. Puzzles to unlock new areas are sometimes invisible; which is a real pain if you don't step in the exact trigger area.
Another problem is the world itself. Once you finally trudge to a certain spot and can explore the world by flight, the world map is poorly rendered and no locations are labeled. Stress add infinite. Other than that, the graphics were fine for their time; as I find it hard to discriminate when we're supposedly in a 'new visual age.' Sure. Tell that to the guy with glasses... Then again a few cameos can soothe the ire. One more thing... Playing this game was a rather... emasculating experience. If you peruse the images I've linked you to, an odd pattern appears. Main characters... weapons... enemies... everything is of what are normally called 'female' colours. Maybe I'm taking my Sociology study a little too seriously, but I really feel as if the game was marketed towards girls... if not, I'd really like to have a few words with the developers.

This is something I detest in most older games, (other than Atari/Commodore 64 era). I drowned it out with an endless amount of MP3's. But if I had listened, I can tell you the sound bank would be minuscule, the background music seems to go on forever on a handful of repeating notes, and every damn thing seems to make the same aggravating squeak. May not be the case; just you prove me wrong.

The most interesting part of gameplay is the way combat works. You have control of only one of the character's movements and physical attacks - this being the Luke Skywalker peasant hero guy. Battles are real time, ala scrolling platforms like Double Dragon or it's kindred. With an arsenal of weapons that barely vary, (Close quarters, Missile and ranged Close quarters), you get to use one of two attacks physically. You can either use a basic swipe, or you can hold down your attack button, and depending on what level your skill is, utilize a stronger and potentially deadly attack. To compensate for a time bar that activates your character like FF/PS; it uses a percentage bar. If you don't attack at 100% power, your attack barely registers. A little fault in this is the stand up time. When a creature/character is struck, the attack bar of either will reach 100% before the quarry is ready to counterattack. You can effectively kick a dog until it dies. Not a good thing. So that your other AI characters can use a charge-up attack, there's a simple config section that also allows you to choose their attitude in battle. All while this is happening, you can halt combat at any time to cast spells, mostly offensive for the sprite, and mostly defensive for the girl (Elf?). It really takes the edge off the percentage bar, and gives the end user far too much power.
Spellcasting is vital in the game; being the primary way I deal with most enemies in the game, especially the continuous boss battles. In short; the main character is probably the worst character in the game; outclassed by AI fighting and the ability to cast spells. Spells are under different 'spheres' in a sense, and that sphere levels just like the weapons do. What normally evens up combat for the enemy is the trademark 'follow the leader' style of movement. Your character can easily dodge physical attacks, but you are effectively 5 people long. Now can you say 'broad side of a barn'? My other gripe with combat is it's too extreme. You either die in 3 hits, or the enemy doesn't even have time to attack. Moving through the world is a little more irritating. Finding these Cannon points, where you can fly to a limited amount of places from each, aren't the easiest things to find, and once you can fly anywhere, the map, as I said, isn't that clear. If anything, gaining the ability to fly just makes it harder because the static messages can tell you to go somewhere completely remote without expanding much, as is the dialogue usually. A few more minor annoyances are the whip and axe; two items that have to be used to traverse some regions of the game. Not that difficult to do, just another little pain to add to many.

A Classic, but not one of the Classics of the genre. It's not a drama that makes you empathize with anyone in particular. It's not an action that grips you from start to finish. It's a vague struggle to save the world... plus Moogles. Kupi kupopo. And with that, I leave.

And there's the first review I did. Hmm... after reading along with the review, I can see why it scored how it did. Hell: after reading this I can see why I wouldn't want to have ever played it if I valued my opinion.

 secret of mana

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