Secret of Evermore
|Secret of Evermore|
North American box art
|Genre(s)||Action role-playing game|
Secret of Evermore is a role-playing video game for the Super Nintendo Entertainment System. It was released by Square in North America on October 1, 1995. In February 1996, it saw release in the PAL territories of Europe and Australia. The story of Secret of Evermore follows a boy and his pet dog as they are inadvertently transported to a fantasy world created by an eccentric inventor. The player guides both the boy and his shapeshifting dog through Evermore, a world that is composed of separate realms, each resembling a different period of real-world history. The gameplay shares many similarities with Secret of Mana, such as real-time battles, a ring-shaped menu system, and the ability to switch control between the two characters. Despite similar game mechanics and a similar title, it is not an entry in the Mana Series. 
Secret of Evermore is unique in that it is the only game developed by Square designers in North America. The game received positive reviews upon its release due to its graphics and gameplay, but was criticized for not being up to the standards of what many reviewers were used to by its developer.
Secret of Evermore takes many of its interface and gameplay aspects from Secret of Mana. The game mostly consists of an aerial view setting, in which the boy and his dog negotiate the terrain and fend off hostile creatures. If the boy is currently selected as the player character, his dog will be controlled by the artificial intelligence, and vice-versa. Both characters can find refuge in caves or a town, where they can regain their hit points or purchase restorative items and equipment. Upon collecting enough experience points in battle, either character can increase in level with improved stats such as strength and evasion. Options including changing equipment, casting alchemy spells, or checking status can be quickly performed by rotating through the game's Action Ring system. Combat takes place in real-time. Located below the players hit points is a percentage gauge that determines the amount of damage done to an enemy, as well as how far the player can run. Swinging a weapon or running causes the gauge to fall to 0% and then quickly recharges, allowing the character to attack at full strength or to run at full sprint once it is full. The gauge may also fill up to allowing the player to use charged attacks with equipped weapons.
The protagonist wields four different styles of weapons throughout the game: sword, spear, axe, and bazooka. Almost all swords, axes, and spears have four versions, and repeated use of them can increase their skill levels to a maximum of three, unlocking a new charged attack with each level. The range and power of each type of weapon increased the more it is used; for instance, spears at a high enough level may be thrown at an enemy across the screen, while the swords and axes can cut swathes of destruction around the boy's vicinity. With the exception of the Bone Crusher, all swords, axes, and spears can cut through vegetation; some weapons are required to break rocks and other barriers.
In each of the four worlds of Secret of Evermore, the in-game currency will change. The shopkeepers in Prehistoria exchange talons; in Antiqua, gemstones; in Gothica, gold coins; and in Omnitopia, credits. There are individuals in each region who offer to convert the player's money to the local currency. In either of the game's two marketplaces (located in Antiqua and Gothica, respectively), the storekeepers offer to trade in goods instead of money. Certain goods, such as rice, spices, and tapestries, can be bought using the local currency, but others must be exchanged for other goods. Most vendors only specialize in one type of good, and some rare items require an extensive amount of trading to obtain.
A unique element to Secret of Evermore is its system of magic. In order to cast magic, the boy must be given an "Alchemic Formula" by one of many non-playable characters called "Alchemists". Some Alchemists make their home in out-of-the-way areas and will dispense rare formulas if the player manages to seek them out. Unlike some role-playing games, there are no magic points needed to cast spells. Alchemy Formulas require pairs of ingredients in order to be used; Some are available throughout the game, and others are only native to certain environments. In the primitive realms, ingredients appear as such items as wax, limestone, clay, and gunpowder. In the advanced realms, however, the ingredients become more complex, such as ethanol and dry ice.
A secondary function of the dog is to "sniff out" ingredients by putting his nose to the ground and smelling for items. The player can command the dog to search the ground at any time, including in huts and cities. If all goes well, the dog will lead his human companion to a certain spot on the map, where the player can uncover the unseen ingredients. With repeated use, Alchemy Formulas will increase in level, enhancing their curative, offensive, or support effectiveness. Although there are dozens of Formulas available to be found within the game, only nine can be equipped at a time. To overcome this, there are several Alchemists scattered throughout the game who offer to manage the boy's current Alchemy list; any formula that has already been learned can be stored by the Alchemist for later use.
The plot revolves around a teenage boy and his dog, to whom the player must assign names. Most of the game takes place in the fictional world of Evermore. The player explores four main areas within this world, many corresponding to different historical eras: Prehistoria is rather self-explanatory, with cavemen and dinosaurs; Antiqua boasts a Colosseum and pyramid theme; Gothica contains medieval castles and is populated by dragons; and Omnitopia is a futuristic space station.
Throughout their travels, the boy, at the company of his dog, often quotes or mentions fictional B movies that relate to their current situation. For example, he compares himself to "Dandy" Don Carlisle in the film Sink, Boat, Sink after washing ashore at Crustacia. (For legal reasons, all references to movies and actors were fictional.) In addition, the dog's body transforms in a manner that corresponds to the theme of the area in which players find themselves. In the world of Prehistoria, the small dog is transformed into a feral wolf, in the Antiqua region he becomes a greyhound, in Gothica he takes the form of a fancy poodle, and in Omnitopia he becomes a robotic toaster-dog capable of shooting lasers.
The story of Secret of Evermore begins with a black and white flashback to 1965, in a small town called Podunk, USA. In a laboratory situated on the roof of a mansion, a malfunction occurs which floods the area with white flash of light. Thirty years later, the game's young protagonist is leaving a theater when his pet dog chases after a cat in the street. The boy hurriedly follows after him, eventually reaching a large, abandoned mansion. He discovers the hidden laboratory with a large machine built in the center. When the dog begins to chew on some wires, the pair find themselves transported to the surreal world of Evermore, beginning in the space station Omnitopia. A butler dressed in a white tuxedo greets the boy when he appears, only to lock him in a room with several attack robots. The boy manages to escape in a shuttle pod, where he finds his dog holed up in the cockpit.
The shuttle crash-lands in a dense jungle on top of a plateau. When the boy emerges, he finds a ferocious-looking beast has replaced his dog. He decides to perform a test to see if the wolf and his pet dog are one and the same; he tosses a stick for the wolf to fetch, only to receive a giant bone instead. The boy shrugs this off and assumes that it is the same dog.
In each of the four realms, the boy encounters a citizen of Podunk involved in the original experiment gone awry 30 years ago. Professor Sidney Ruffleberg and his three companions were transported to Evermore, but are unable to leave. The boy quickly learns that the regions are manifestations of those citizens' personal utopias. Each of the three companions act as the ruler of his or her world: Elizabeth, the Professor's niece, is the tribal chief of Prehistoria; Horace Highwater, curator of the Podunk Museum, oversees Antiqua; Camellia Bluegarden, a portly librarian, is the Queen of Gothica; and Professor Ruffleberg monitors everything from Omnitopia, with his android butler, Carltron, alongside him. Within Prehistoria, Antiqua, and Gothica, the boy and his canine companion aid Elizabeth, Horace, and Camellia in thwarting attempts by robotic clones of the Podunk citizens from ruling their respective areas.
The duo finally returns to Omnitopia and finds Ruffleberg, who explains everything. He and his butler Carltron once engaged in chess matches. Ruffleberg outfitted him with an intelligence chip to make him a more challenging opponent, but the upgrade backfired by making Carltron more malevolent. He sabotaged the transporter to Evermore and designed the hostile beasts roaming the game. With Ruffleberg's help, the boy and his canine companion break into Carltron's room. The area is guarded by android clones of the boy and his dog, along with a giant mecha version of Carltron. At the last moment, Ruffleberg appears and deactivates Carltron, who promptly freezes in place.
With Carltron's defeat, the monsters plaguing Evermore disappear, but the world itself grows unstable. The boy returns to each of the worlds to collect Ruffleberg's companions, taking them back to the real world. In doing so, Evermore's destruction is averted and it continues to exist without them. After the credits roll, a final scene shows Professor Ruffleberg returning Carltron to his old task of cleaning the lab. Carltron grins and rubs his hands together, implying that he is not as docile as the professor believes.
Development on Secret of Evermore began in early 1994 at Square Soft, the Redmond, Washington office of the Japanese parent company Square. The concept of a boy traveling with his dog through a world based on cheesy B movies was dictated from overseas, whereupon Square Soft began work on the detailed storyline. This resulted in popular culture references and dialog that are distinctly American for a mainstream console RPG. The game's associate producer and writer, George Sinfield, decided that making such references would be familiar to American players.
Many of Secret of Evermore's elements were copied from Secret of Mana because they had been proven to be effective. The size of the game was an early issue. It was decided that the game would be single-player to preserve memory because it was originally planned to be only 12-megabits. However, the game would double to 24-megabits near the end of development. Various pieces of concept art were designed by Daniel Dociu. Using computer software, including SGI Indy II and Alias workstations, the game's artwork and design were mapped out by three animators, four background artists, and a 3D rendering artist. It was put together using the company's SAGE (Square's Amazing Graphical Editor) program, led by programmer Brian Fehdrau. Rather than having to hand off their work to the programmers, the artists and designers were able to test their ideas directly using the SAGE program. Using another company program, SIGIL (Square Interpreted Game Intelligence Language), Secret of Evermore was made into a final product.
There is a persistent misconception that the game is, or was released in lieu of, a follow-up to Secret of Mana. Other Square titles such as Final Fantasy VI and Chrono Trigger were being localized simultaneously with the production of Secret of Evermore. Fehdrau explained in an interview that Secret of Evermore was not created in place of Seiken Densetsu 3 and that the team that developed Secret of Evermore was assembled from newly hired staff, and would otherwise never have been assembled. Several of the team members joined Humongous Entertainment, which spawned Cavedog Entertainment, while the rest of the team spread to other Seattle-area game studios like Electronic Arts, Boss Game Studios, Microsoft Game Studios, and Gas Powered Games, among others.
Secret of Evermore was released on October 1, 1995, in North America. In 1996, it was translated into German, French and Spanish for the non-English-speaking market in some PAL territories, including Australia and New Zealand. Some PAL versions were packaged in a large box and included a strategy guide.
The score for Secret of Evermore was composed by Jeremy Soule as his first video game project. While still in high school Soule was a large fan of video games and he felt that the scores in most games "lacked drama and intensity." After completing high school, Soule created an experimental demo showcasing what he felt video game scores should sound like. Soule was hired by Square Soft after reviewing the demo and was promptly given the task to score Secret of Evermore. The score is described by Soule as a mix of ambient sounds and low-key music. The soundtrack was released on a CD containing 29 tracks, the first eight of which are arranged versions of the original sound. The disc was published by Square and was only initially available to those who pre-ordered Secret of Evermore.
Secret of Evermore received positive reviews from most media outlets. Most publications praised its graphics. For instance, RPGFan called the game a "wonderful visual experience," applauding its use of color, animation, and background. Zachary Lewis of RPGamer noted that the locales found in Secret of Evermore were detailed in a much more realistic way than other games of the genre. GamePro was complimentary of its American art-style, but longed for the Japanese art found in other Square titles. Another highlight for many critics was gameplay, particularly aspects also found in Secret of Mana such as the ring menu.
Reviewers were more critical concerning the game's sound. Although the musical score was appreciated for its overall quality, both RPGFan and RPGamer found that there were too few adequately long tracks, with mediocre ambient sound effects to fill the dead time. Critics were mixed on the issue of Secret of Evermore being the first game developed by Square in the United States. Super Play found that the game was not up to the standards held by other Square games. Others noted that Secret of Evermore was a decent first attempt by the American team. GamePro dubbed the game "worthy of a sequel," while Game Players anticipated another game from the same development team.
- Kalata, Kurt. "Hardcore Gaming 101: Secret of Evermore". Hardcore Gaming 101. Retrieved 2010-02-04.
- "Epic Center: Secret of Evermore". Nintendo Power (Nintendo of America) (77): pp. 60–61. October 1995.
- Secret of Evermore instruction manual. Square Soft, Inc. 1995. p. 10. U/SNS-AEOE-USA.
- "Secret of Evermore (Now Playing)". Nintendo Power (Nintendo of America) (78): pp. 54–63, 107. November 1995.
- Secret of Evermore instruction manual. Square Soft, Inc. 1995. p. 26. U/SNS-AEOE-USA.
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- Secret of Evermore instruction manual. Square Soft, Inc. 1995. pp. 9, 32–33. U/SNS-AEOE-USA.
- Secret of Evermore instruction manual. Square Soft, Inc. 1995. p. 37. U/SNS-AEOE-USA.
- Secret of Evermore instruction manual. Square Soft, Inc. 1995. p. 32. U/SNS-AEOE-USA.
- Secret of Evermore instruction manual. Square Soft, Inc. 1995. pp. 20–23. U/SNS-AEOE-USA.
- Secret of Evermore instruction manual. Square Soft, Inc. 1995. pp. 18–26. U/SNS-AEOE-USA.
- Secret of Evermore instruction manual. Square Soft, Inc. 1995. pp. 22, 24. U/SNS-AEOE-USA.
- Lewis, Zachary. "Secret of Evermore - Retroview". RPGamer. Retrieved 2008-06-28.
- Square Soft, Inc. (1995-10-01). Secret of Evermore. Super Nintendo Entertainment System. Square Soft, Inc. "Protagonist: Wow! This is like what happens in The Pale People of Planet V. It's about a bunch of astronauts who get stuck on an exact replica of Earth... only it's populated by zombies, vampires and... Well, actually, this isn't like that at all."
- Square Soft, Inc. (1995-10-01). Secret of Evermore. Super Nintendo Entertainment System. Square Soft, Inc. "Protagonist: Well, it's good to know the crowd is on my side. This is like the big fight scene in Dirt, Swords, Sweat and Togas. I think the hero got pummeled in that picture. Oh, well. Here goes nothing!"
- "Epic Center: Secret of Evermore". Nintendo Power (Nintendo of America) (79): p. 56. December 1995.
- Square Soft, Inc (1995-10-01). Secret of Evermore. Super Nintendo Entertainment System. Square Soft, Inc. "Protagonist: Wow! Is that really you? You've changed! Hmmm... If you're really my dog, you'll fetch this stick. OK! Go get it! Well, this isn't the stick. But it'll do! C'mon, buddy, let's look around."
- Square Soft, Inc (1995-10-01). Secret of Evermore. Super Nintendo Entertainment System. Square Soft, Inc. "Elizabeth: You see I'm originally from Podunk, too. My Grandpa is an inventor who lives in the mansion on the hill! He made a machine that could send people to worlds of their own design. Since I enjoy all things prehistoric, I dreamed up this world of cave people and dinosaurs. I was supposed to be here for a couple of hours, but it's been a couple of decades."
- Square Soft, Inc (1995-10-01). Secret of Evermore. Super Nintendo Entertainment System. Square Soft, Inc. "Horace: It's a pleasure to meet you. I'm Horace Highwater. I, too, am from Podunk. I figured that it would just be a matter of time before another Podunker arrived. You see, this ancient world is a product of my imagination. I was the curator of the Natural Museum of Podunk."
- Square Soft, Inc. (1995-10-01). Secret of Evermore. Super Nintendo Entertainment System. Square Soft, Inc. "Horace: There was another guest at that party, too. Miss Bluegarden, the librarian."
- Secret of Evermore instruction manual. Square Soft, Inc. 1995. p. 4. U/SNS-AEOE-USA.
- Square Soft, Inc (1995-10-01). Secret of Evermore. Super Nintendo Entertainment System. Square Soft, Inc. "Professor: I constructed Carltron in order to do the household chores. You know-- tidy up, greet guests, pay the bills, let the cat out, clean the gutters. And I made him smart so that he could play chess and give me a run for my money! But, as the years wore on... Carltron got tired of being a servant. He decided to turn the tables and take over."
- Square Soft, Inc (1995-10-01). Secret of Evermore. Super Nintendo Entertainment System. Square Soft, Inc. "Professor: It was Carltron's influence that created the evil elements on Evermore... Now that he's unplugged, I would suspect that those elements should be going away."
- Square Soft, Inc (1995-10-01). Secret of Evermore. Super Nintendo Entertainment System. Square Soft, Inc. "Professor: I believe that Evermore is on a collision course for destruction. With Carltron's influence gone, the balance of the world is completely offset. The only way to reverse the problem is to remove our own influence on the world. We have to leave now, and take our friends with us... Or Evermore will be nevermore for ever more!"
- "Mana in the U.S.A.". Nintendo Power (Nintendo of America) (68 – Bonus Issue '95: "Super Power Club"): 11. January 1995.
- Dillard, Corbie (2008). "Interview with Brian Fehdrau (Secret of Evermore)". Super-NES.com. Retrieved 2008-06-22.
- "Epic Center: Secret of Evermore". Nintendo Power (Nintendo of America) (71): pp. 45–47. April 1995.
- "Episode 16: Lost in Translation". Player One. February 12, 2007. Retrieved 2009-11-26.
- "Release Information for Secret of Evermore". MobyGames. Retrieved 2008-07-29.
- "Secret of Evermore - SNES Cover Art". MobyGames. Retrieved 2008-06-28.
- Mr. Nash. "Interview With Jeremy Soule". Armchair Empire. Retrieved 2007-08-19.
- Semel, Paul. "World Of Musicraft: Jeremy Soule". GameSpy. Retrieved 2008-06-28.
- Dragon God. "The Secret of Evermore Complete Soundtrack". Chudah's Corner. Retrieved 2008-06-28.
- "Secret of Evermore". GameRankings. Retrieved 3 April 2012.
- "Secret of Evermore (review)". Electronic Gaming Monthly (Sendai Publishing) (77). December 1995.
- "Secret of Evermore (review)". Game Players (Imagine Media) (58). December 1995.
- "Secret of Evermore (review)". GamePro (IDG) (76). November 1995.
- "Secret of Evermore (review)". Super Play (Future Publishing) (39). January 1996.
- Secret of Evermore at GameFAQs
- Hardcore Gaming 101 section
- Significant Bits section
- Secret of Evermore Shrine at RPGclassics.com
- Secret of Evermore at SecretOfEvermore.org
- Secret of Evermore at MusicBrainz (list of releases)
- "Secret of Evermore" at MusicBrainz (information & list of recordings)
- Informal interview with Brian Fehdrau, the game's lead programmer
- Secret of Evermore American TV commercial