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Secret of Mana Preview: Can’t Go Home

/ Nov 6th, 2017 No Comments

Secret of Mana Preview

For many, Secret of Mana holds a special place in their hearts. Unfortunately, unlike a lot of its SNES-era contemporaries, it was a bit overlooked. However, its visuals, gameplay and story resonated strongly with ardent fans.

When Square Enix announced a full 3D remake of Secret of Mana, it was a huge surprise. Finally, this cult classic would get one more chance at the attention it sorely deserves. The only caveat is whether the quality of the remake can live up to the big shoes of the original. At PAX West, I got a chance to find out by spending a bit of time playing through the opening of the Secret of Mana remake.

Reimagining a Classic

Obviously, the biggest change from the original Secret of Mana to this new remake is the full 3D graphics. It reimagines Randi’s adventure and his world in a significant way.

In the opening scenes, Randi and two village friends go off exploring. The remake has a lot more drama and tension in the beginning stages of the game.

As the three children search the waterfall for the truth about a village myth, Randi ends up falling down into a ravine, prompting the other boys to run away scared.

Secret of Mana Preview

There is a lot more dramatic tension with the shift to full 3D.

When Randi recovers, he happens upon the sword of myth. It is stuck deep into the Earth, rusted and dull. Randi persists at trying to remove the sword from the ground. Without too much effort, he pulls the sword out from the earth and learns what he must do with it.

Randi is tasked with bringing back the magical power of Mana. Armed with the Mana Sword, he must become the hero who overcomes many great challenges in the battle of Mana.

Secret of Mana Preview

Randi is able to bring back the Mana Sword to glory, but his destiny is just beginning.

Aesthetically, the 3D reimagining of Secret of Mana works well. It pops with color and the characters have a lot of personality, even if some of the models look like melted candles. The shift from the classic sprites to the 3D look is great, but other aspects of the original game don’t translate so well to modern gaming.

Rough Edges

Voice acting is especially rough. In the parts of the game that I was able to play, the voice acting was super grating. The lip sync for the voices is far off.

The early gameplay is standard hack-n-slash, which is very much in line with the original game. Much of the new gameplay improvements don’t come into play during the opening sequence.

Secret of Mana Preview

Combat in this preview build was rough around the edges.

While the combat felt mostly fine, there was a distressing issue of noticeable lag between hitting low level mobs and the damage inflicted showing up. This made what should be a satisfying, visceral reaction to swinging a sword into an exercise in pressing a button to see numbers pop up. There just didn’t seemed to be any danger or immediacy to combat.

Secret of Mana Preview

Hopefully given time the issues can be worked out by the game’s February 25, 2018 release.

The boss fight concluding the demo helped add to the tension to the combat. Facing down, this giant mantis as an unskilled swordsman helped provide a good sense of danger and stakes to fighting.

Silver Linings

Most of these problems wouldn’t be worrisome if it weren’t for the fact that Secret of Mana comes out early next year. There is still time to fix these issues, but cautious optimism with the final product is probably best.

Hopefully by Secret of Mana’s Feb. 25, 2018 release on PlayStation 4, PS Vita and Steam, all these issues will be hammered out. Fans deserve a truly special remake for such a beloved game.


Kalvin Martinez

Kalvin Martinez

Senior Editor at Gaming Illustrated
Kalvin Martinez studied Creative Writing at the University of California, Santa Cruz. He writes reviews, prose and filthy limericks. While he is Orange County born, he now resides in Portland, OR. He is still wondering what it would be like to work at a real police department. Follow Kalvin on Twitter @freepartysubs

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