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Sly Botts

Secret of Mana remake review

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I'm going to do a brief review of the recently released remake of Square's (now Square-Enix) 1993 game, Secret of Mana.  I purchased the PC port of the game on Steam.

 

First off, I have not played the game all the way through (it was only released 2 days ago).  So this will be based on just a few hours worth of game play.

 

Some Personal History:
When I was a kid, I rented the original Secret of Mana cartridge from one of the local video stores on more than one occasion.  Since I grew up in a rural Northern Ontario town, there was only one copy available to rent.  Buying games like this wasn't exactly an option for a kid like me, so needless to say, playing this game was a treat. I can remember being a 10 year old kid and marvelling at its beautiful musical score. Unfortunately, the circumstances also made it difficult to play it through to completion.  At the time, I wasn't really into JRPG's anyway, and I didn't really take the time to fully understand the mechanics of this game. One nice thing about renting the game, was that there was always a save file stored on the cartridge from someone else. I had a lot of fun flying around and checking out all the different areas of the game and listening to the music. I was a teenager when I came back to this title through snes emulation, and it wasn't until then, that I really knew what I was doing, and was able to take a good crack at it.

 

The Original Secret of Mana was a 16-bit SNES JRPG.  It was different than other JRPG's at the time which primarily used "turn based combat" systems. (See Final Fantasy IV).  This game was unique in that it was based on more free flowing combat, however it still followed some basic principles to keep it balanced. There was a stamina meter which had to charge after each attack and the Mana consumption for magic spells was easily and quickly depleted. It required expensive magic walnuts to recharge during combat.  Item space was also limited to 4 of each item.  (In the remake you have the option to increase this limitation to 12).

 

Game play:

 

Game play is smooth and sprite movements/actions are fluid. The 60fps is nice too.  However some of the movements are buggy, (such as throwing enemies) and on one occasion after walking over a floor switch, my protagonist's legs stopped moving, giving off the appearance he was hovering instead of running.  This resolved itself after I moved out of the screen into the next room.  Overall though, the game play is not much different from the original 16 bit game, other than the 3D upgrade, voice acting, cut-scenes and combat animations.  You level up your characters in the same manner as the original through combat experience. Your weapons level up when you use them (to a max of 8 levels) which also require orbs won from bosses or found in treasure boxes. The same goes with your magic. (Prepare to spend hours grinding and spamming your spells).  One thing I disliked about the magic in the original game was that no matter how far you progressed, if you learned a new spell, it started at level 0. So the farther you were in the game, the longer it took to get your new spells up to speed.  Nothing changed here.  Controls are pretty much the same, however the option as been added to remap buttons and to to link spells, weapons and items to some of the controller buttons (ie; L1 and R1).  The PC port interface is designed for use with an x-box controller (ie; a, b, x, y, LB, RB etc;) however keyboard and mouse controls are the default, and a controller is not required.  The option to save is unchanged.  It would have been nice for the PC port to add the option of saving anywhere, however there is an auto-save function that runs at specific times so it's not really a big deal. One thing I am wondering, is why they removed the option of changing the party leader.  I distinctly remember being able to switch control of the party between the 3 main characters.  Maybe I'm doing something wrong, but I can't seem to do that here.

 

Graphics:

 

So as mentioned earlier, there has been a major graphic overhaul from 2D to 3D sprites and environments. Realism isn't an issue here since the original game had a cartoonish look.  The remake continues with this tradition.  I am disappointed however that the graphics are not up to today's standards and are more on par with the PS2 or early PS3 era. There are also no facial animations.  The menu's have had significant updates and are easier to navigate than the original. As far as options go, the PC port did not come with any graphic options other than screen resolution and screen type (ie; windowed or full-screen).  An issue for me here, is that the full-screen is just a borderless window and not true full-screen mode.  The game also crashed on me the first time I loaded it, when I tried to change the resolution after switching between full-screen and windowed modes.  I also found it odd that in full-screen mode, it will not let you change the resolution.  One neat thing though, The original 16-bit area map is displayed on the top Right of the screen when you're walking around, which I thought was a nice touch.

 

Music:

 

The music score has been updated in this port using what sounds like synthesized high quality music.  Definitely electronic in origin. The main theme however sounds like it was performed by an orchestra with that unmistakable Japanese orchestra sound common with JRPG's and other Japanese made video games/anime which feature an orchestra.  The in game music definitely sounds out of place when compared to the reverberating  fantastical and haunting melody's of the original 16-bit game.  The instruments used don't seem to fit what is happening and fall short overall.  It's a good thing Square-Enix included the option to switch between the remixed and original musical scores.  I found myself returning to the original score after playing only a short time.  I turn on the remixed music when entering new areas to hear the new versions of songs, but once I've done that, I switch back.

 

Voice Acting:

 

Voice acting has been included in this remake.  It sounds like English voice acting typical of low end JRPG ports and anime's. Nothing special, nothing great, pretty bland and over-exaggerated.  One of the voices sounds similar to kid trunks from DBZ, who knows though, I didn't bother checking this out.  The option to turn on Japanese voice acting is included.  I'm guessing the quality of the Japanese voice acting is probably better since it is a Japanese game, however I don't speak Japanese, so I can only guess.  The audio quality of the voices themselves is good and clear.

 

Conclusion:  This game is a great game with a great story.  Some aspects of this game appear rushed, and there are issues with the game crashing. (It has crashed on me more than once, on random occasions and apparently, this is not just a PC issue but a PS4 issue as well).  I honestly expected more from a company like Square-Enix in this regard, which has a reputation of making good quality games.  If they had spent more time testing, perhaps these random crashes could have been avoided.  This game is a good nostalgia trip and a pretty nice update.  It's fun, which is what matters. I would say it's worth the price, and I discourage people from waiting for a steam sale to purchase this title.  I give this game a score of 3.8/5.  If the random crashing wasn't happening, the graphic options were better, and the musical remix score was more appropriate to the setting, this game would easily be a 4.5/5. 

 

Pro's:

New music

Updated 3D graphics

Smooth game play

Balanced Combat

New Voice Acting

Good story

 

Cons:

 

New music is lacking

New voice acting is lacking

Multiple Crashes

Graphic Settings

Inability to change party leader

 

Score 3.8/5

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Correction:  After playing some more I figured out how to change the lead character.

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