But Time Flows Like A River… And History Repeats……
It is finally here! One of my favorite games of all time gets a nice makeover. And with this releasing, you will have people split into different camps about this remake. I go back and play the SNES game at least once a year, and have recently played it on the SNES Classic, so it is fresh on my mind. This remake has some ups and downs, so let’s grab that Flammie Drum and get going!
I truly want to get this out of the way here. With Secret of Mana(Seiken Densetsu 2 in Japan) being regarded as one of the greatest rpgs of all time, many(myself included), hoped that one day it would be remade. Now that we see the final product of this remake, there are more or less two camps that I just spoke of. On one hand, there are people that wanted a faithful remake, the same top down style gameplay with practically nothing changed or added that alters the original, outside of graphics and maybe a remastered soundtrack(more on that later). On the other hand, there are people that wanted an entirely different game built around the core elements here. The characters, lore, locations, and just all around freedom to create a new game based on the original. An easy example would be the Final Fantasy VII Remake. It is an entirely different game taken from the original. It is now completely 3D, and looks to have some real time action instead of the original turn based combat in FFVII. So in turn, there are people that welcome it, and people that already hate it because it is not a faithful remake. You get the exact same thing with Secret of Mana, but this game being a faithful remake, and not a different game entirely.
I am okay with a faithful remake, and was really quite pleased with the entire game. You still get to see the game unfold, from Randi pulling out the Mana sword, which leads to him picking up two unlikely allies, and eventually saving the world so to speak. Depending on which way you go, and who you speak with, you will get the other two characters at different times here. I always went with picking up Primm, who is on a quest to save a certain soldier with whom she has fallen in love with. Dyluck is his name, and he has a role to play. But not long after, you will find yourself traveling to Gaia’s Navel, and eventually to the land of the Dwarfs. For some reason, there is a sprite there, by the name of Popoi, who can’t remember a thing. The Sprite joins you in the hopes of regaining its memory. So you now go from a lonely orphan who pulled out a rusty old sword, banished from his village for doing so, to a party of three. Which leads to one of the reasons this game is so unique. The game goes from being a single player experience to a three player action rpg! It was so fun to attach that multi-tap on the SNES and play this game with two friends. And you can play this game in three player mode as well on the PS4. With my heart racing, I wondered how amazing it would be to take this game online, and play it nonstop with people around the world! My heart then sinks. Because in the year 2018, SquareEnix decides not to take this remake online, but instead remain a couch co op game. I couldn’t believe it. Even SNES emulators have added online play, so why couldn’t Square? This was a huge letdown for me. I have read that you can do the PS4 shareplay for two player action, but I have yet to try it out. It just doesn’t cut it for me. As most of the people excited for this game have grown up and moved away, it would have been great to get back in touch and play this game once again, wherever they may be at the moment.
On to a different beat, let’s discuss a man by the name of Hiroki Kikuta, who brilliantly composed the original soundtrack to the game. I loved this soundtrack so much, that I hunted down an import years ago to own it. And it was very hard to find when I was younger, but I had to have it, just like my Final Fantasy soundtracks. With Secret of Mana originally designed for the SNES cd add on, there was plenty of memory to have an expanded soundtrack outside of what the SNES was capable of. Sadly, when the disc drive add on fell through(becoming the PS1), the soundtrack had to be cut down for the SNES cartridge. But the soundtrack still shined, becoming one of my favorites of all time. What I was hoping for in this remake was the possibility of getting to hear these tracks remastered with the sound intended for us to hear it as it should be. This leads to my other complaint, possibly my biggest one. The soundtrack that we get is just hideous. You do have the option to switch the soundtrack back to the original, which I highly recommend if you have never played this game. Seriously, please play with the original soundtrack. I am begging you here. You will be missing out on something so special. This remade soundtrack takes all of the spirit out of the original, and really takes away from the game. There were only like two tracks that were tolerable, and that really hurts. I made myself play through it with the remade one so you don’t have to. Change it, I promise you will thank me for it.
So, no online co op(blah), and a terrible remade soundtrack(barf). Now that those are out of the way, how does this remake stand up to the original? Well, in my opinion, it does an amazing job. When the original was cut down for cartridge size, a ton of the game was cut, including a lot of dialogue. This remake decides to add in some extra dialogue, and I welcome it. With the addition of voice actors(along with the option to use English or Japanese voices), it got even better. What’s that? The voice acting is subpar? Yes and no. By today’s standards, yes, the voice acting is a little lacking. But I think their direction was to keep it in line with the original game we see remade here today. And it works completely. Almost like an older cartoon that you still watch today. Some will say that the pixel art is better than the remake. While that art will always be special to me, you can tell the goal from the start was to keep it close to? You guessed it, the word I have used a hundred times already, the original. But wait, couldn’t you only attack in certain directions in the SNES version? Yes, but now you and the enemies can attack in all directions. Honestly, this made the game much easier for me. The only time it is a hindrance is those pesky Chobin Hoods and their bows. I grinded the Dark Palace for Vambraces, grinded magic levels for most elements, had all weapon orbs up to grinding the Mana Fortress(which I passed up due to the time it took so I could review this game), and clocked in just over 19 hours when I beat it. It is definitely easier. The grind is still there though, if you want all those weapon orbs, magic levels, and pieces of armor, so there is still plenty to do.
With so many weapons to choose from, it really made this game fun just trying each one out. Some have a useful purpose, such as the ax chopping down otherwise unbreakable objects that blocked your way, or using the whip to help get you across gaps that you couldn’t traverse without it. I mainly used the Mana Sword with Randi, the spear with Primm, and the boomerang with Popoi, switching them out occasionally. Each weapon had their own charge levels, and the more you used it the higher it got, as long as your weapon orb level was just as high. This lead to using charged attacks causing massive damage. Unless you missed, which does happen a lot. Plenty of action with plenty of variety lead for fun times here. Usually when you stay at an inn, new little cutscenes are shown between our three characters. I really enjoyed most of them, and felt it was a nice addition that didn’t change the core game at all.
What is the core game? That would be Randi and his trusty- I mean rusty sword going to each of the eight Mana palaces and restoring the Mana seed that resides in each one. Some palaces are guarded by monsters, some have had their Mana seed swiped for nefarious uses. And all of this will have you discovering a world full of forests, caves, deserts, mountains, a city of gold, talking mushrooms, and a chilly frozen land with a certain red-nosed reindeer looking for his master. This game has it all! What more could you ask for? I mean, its not like you get to fly around on the back of a giant beast and discover new locations. Wait a minute… That is in this game! Want crashes? Sadly, it has those too. The game will crash for no apparent reason, which could be a bit frustrating. That is where the autosave feature kicks in, saving when you go into a new room. Usually you only lose about a minute or so of gameplay. And this has already been addressed by SquareEnix, and a patch will be releasing soon, so it really only matters to the people playing now. It is annoying, but isn’t a deal breaker here. So what are the roles of Primm and Popoi? Well, when you meet the elementals of each palace, Primm and Popoi will gain the ability to summon them and use magic. Randi, being the wielder of the Mana sword, cannot use magic. Primm has healing and assist magic, while Popoi gets all the offensive magic. The more you use them, the more they level up, and trust me, you will want these leveled up. So, like I said earlier, there is plenty to do without rushing through the game.
So here we are. At the end of the day, one could discuss what could have been or should have been, but the end result is a very faithful remake here. Was it enough for you to skip over the original and play this one? That is up for you to decide, but as I go back and play this game once a year, I can say I will be playing this one. With the original soundtrack of course! And as you have managed to read through all my excitement, in case you don’t know, there are quite a few Mana games, this one being the second in the series. They are really worth looking into, especially if you like what you play here.
Faithful remake, you will experience the original with this game
You can change the soundtrack to the original
An all around great time, with plenty of vibrant locations to visit
The remade soundtrack is just plain awful
The game crashes occasionally, leading to time lost