Secret of Mana

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Secret of Mana
Secret of Mana Box.jpg
Developer(s) Square (SNES)
Square Enix (iOS)
Publisher(s) Square (SNES)
Square Enix (iOS)
Director(s) Koichi Ishii
Producer(s) Hiromichi Tanaka
Designer(s) Koichi Ishii
Hiromichi Tanaka
Programmer(s) Nasir Gebelli
Artist(s) Hiroo Isono
Writer(s) Hiromichi Tanaka
Composer(s) Hiroki Kikuta
Series Mana
Platform(s) SNES, FOMA 903i/703i mobile phones, iOS
Release date(s) SNES
JP 19930806August 6, 1993

NA 19931003October 3, 1993
PAL 19941124November 24, 1994
Virtual Console
JP September 9, 2008 (Wii)
NA 20081013October 13, 2008
PAL 20081226December 26, 2008

JP June 26, 2013 (Wii U)
FOMA 903i/703i phones
  • JP October 26, 2009
iOS
December 21, 2010
Genre(s) Action role-playing
Mode(s) Single-player, multiplayer

Secret of Mana, originally released in Japan as Seiken Densetsu 2 (聖剣伝説2?, lit. "Legend of the Sacred Sword 2"), is a 1993 action role-playing game developed and published by Square (now Square Enix) for the SNES. It is the sequel to the 1991 game Seiken Densetsu, released in North America as Final Fantasy Adventure and Europe as Mystic Quest, and its release marked the transition of the Seiken Densetsu series's marketing from a thinly-related spinoff of the Final Fantasy series to the wholly separate Mana series. Set in a fantasy world, the game follows three heroes as they attempt first to restore the legendary Mana Sword, then to prevent the Empire from releasing the Mana Fortress, and finally to prevent the ancient sorcerer Thanatos from destroying the Mana Tree and taking control of the world's magic.

Rather than using a turn-based battle system like contemporary role-playing games, Secret of Mana features real-time battles alongside role-playing elements and a unique Ring Command menu system, which pauses the action, and allows a variety of actions to be performed without needing to switch screens. The game was directed and designed by Koichi Ishii, programmed primarily by Nasir Gebelli, and produced by veteran Square designer Hiromichi Tanaka. The initial English release was translated in 30 days, resulting in large sections of the text being cut out. These cuts were restored in the enhanced iOS port, released in 2010; an additional release for mobile phones in Japan was produced in 2009, and the original version was re-released for the Wii's Virtual Console in 2008.

The game received considerable acclaim for its brightly colored graphics, expansive plot, Ring Command menu system, innovative real-time battle system, its innovative cooperative multiplayer gameplay whereby the second or third players could drop in and out of the game at any time, the customizable AI settings for computer-controlled allies, and the acclaimed soundtrack by Hiroki Kikuta. Secret of Mana was an influential game in its time, and has remained influential through to the present day, with elements such as its ring menu system still used in modern games like The Temple of Elemental Evil and its cooperative multiplayer mentioned as an influence on games as recent as Dungeon Siege III.

Gameplay[edit]

The standard overhead view. The party's attack strength and remaining health is shown in the gauges at the bottom.

Like many other role-playing games of the 16-bit era, Secret of Mana displays a top-down perspective, in which the three player characters—the hero, the girl, and the sprite—navigate the terrain and fight off hostile creatures. Control may be passed between each of the characters at any time; whichever character is currently selected, the other two companions are controlled via artificial intelligence. The game may be played simultaneously by up to three players.[1][2] In order to support three players, a Super Multitap accessory must be plugged into the second controller port of the Super Nintendo console.[3] The Virtual Console version of the game supports three-player gameplay with the use of additional GameCube controllers or Classic Controllers.[4]

Each character possesses individual strengths and weaknesses. The hero, while unable to use magic, excels at fighting and masters weapons at a quicker rate; the girl functions as healer, able to cast restorative and support spells but with less physical attack power than the hero; and the sprite's magic is almost entirely offensive, but he is physically the weakest.[4] Upon collecting enough experience points in battle, each character can increase in level to gain improved stats such as strength and evasion. The trio can find refuge in a town, where they can regain hit points or purchase restorative items and equipment. Options such as changing equipment, casting spells, or checking status are performed by cycling through the game's Ring Commands, a circular menu which hovers over the currently controlled party member.[2][3][4] The game is momentarily paused whenever the Ring Commands appear.[5]

Combat takes place in real-time.[2] Located below each character's hit points at the bottom of the screen is a gauge that determines the amount of damage done to an enemy when attacking. Swinging a weapon causes the gauge to empty and then quickly recharge, allowing that character to attack at full strength. The party wields eight different styles of weapons throughout the game: sword, spear, bow, axe, boomerang, glove, whip, and javelin. All weapons can be upgraded eight times through the game, and repeated use increases their Skill Levels to a maximum of eight, unlocking a new charged attack with each level. Weapons are upgraded through the use of Weapon Orbs, generally obtained after defeating a boss or found as a treasure in dungeons.[2] Once an Orb is collected, the weapon can be brought to a blacksmith, located in most towns, to be reforged.[1][6]

Magic in Secret of Mana operates in much the same way as weapon skill progression, with the exception that magic points are consumed each time a spell is cast. In order to learn magic, the party must rescue spirits known as Elementals. The eight Elementals represent different elements—water, earth, wind, fire, dark, light, moon, and life—and each provides the player with specific spells. Magic skill can only be as high as the party's current Mana Power, up to eight levels, which is directly tied to the amount of Mana Seeds that have been sealed at that point in the game.[1]

Flammie flying and demonstrating Mode 7

At the start of the game, players must traverse an enemy-infested countryside in order to reach their next destination. Travel may be expedited through use of Cannon Travel Centers, where non-player characters offer to launch the party to far-away destinations via a giant cannon. Cannon Travel usually requires a fee, but is mandatory to visit other continents later on.[3] Later, the party is given access to Flammie, a miniature dragon which is controlled by the player and able to fly freely across the world, represented by an overworld map.[7] These sequences make use of the Super Nintendo's Mode 7 capability to create a rotatable background, giving the illusion that the ground beneath Flammie is rendered in three dimensions. While riding Flammie, the player may access either the "rotated map", which presents the world as a globe, or the "world map", a two-dimensional view of the overworld.[8]

Plot[edit]

Setting[edit]

The story takes place in a fictional world where mana represents an ethereal, but finite, energy source. In an unspecified time period in the past, a civilization exploited mana to construct the "Mana Fortress", a flying warship. The gods were angered by this and sent their beasts to war with the civilization. The conflict was globally destructive and nearly exhausted all signs of mana in the world until a hero used the power of the Mana Sword to destroy the fortress and the civilization. The world began to recover in peace.

The three main characters do not have names in the original SNES release, though the Japanese version stated their names in the manual; their names were added into the game in the iOS port worldwide. The hero (ランディ Randi?),[9] a young boy, is adopted by the Elder of Potos before the start of the game after his mother disappears. The girl (プリム Primm?)[9] is in love with a warrior named Dyluck, who was ordered by the King to attack Elinee's Castle, which is considered a virtual suicide mission. Angry with the king for this, as well as with her father for setting her up for an arranged marriage, she rebels and leaves the castle to join the hero in his quest, hoping to save Dyluck as well. The two meet the sprite child (ポポイ Popoi?)[9] at the Dwarf Village. The sprite makes a living by scamming people at the dwarves' freak show. He does not remember anything about his past, so he joins the team to try to recover his memories.

Story[edit]

Disobeying their Elder's instructions, three boys from the small Potos village trespass into a local waterfall where a treasure is said to be kept. One of the boys, Randi, stumbles and falls into the lake, where he finds a rusty sword embedded in a stone. Guided by a disembodied voice, he pulls the sword free, inadvertently unleashing monsters in the surrounding countryside of the village. The villagers interpret the sword's removal as a bad omen and banish the boy from Potos forever. An elderly knight named Jema recognizes the blade as the legendary Mana Sword, and encourages the hero to re-energize it by visiting the eight Mana Temples.

During his journey, the hero is joined by an amnesiac sprite child, Popoi, and the daughter of a nobleman from Pandora, Primm. The sprite initially tries to con the hero out of his money, but later accompanies him in hope of recovering his lost memory. The girl joins the party in search of her lost love, Dyluck, an officer in Pandora's army who has gone missing. Throughout their travels, the trio is pursued by the Empire, which seeks to unseal the eight Mana Seeds and revive the Mana Fortress. Unbeknownst to the Emperor or his subordinates, they are being manipulated by Thanatos, an ancient sorcerer who has designs on creating a "new, peaceful world".[10] Due to his own body's deterioration, Thanatos is in need of a suitable body to possess. After placing the entire kingdom of Pandora under a trance, he abducts two candidates: Dyluck, now enslaved, and a young Pandoran girl named Phanna (Pamela in the Japanese version). Over time, however, Thanatos narrows his selection to Dyluck.[11]

The Empire succeeds in unsealing all eight Mana Seeds. However, Thanatos betrays the Emperor and his henchmen, killing them and seizing control of the Mana Fortress for himself. The hero and his party journey to the Pure Land to locate the Mana Tree, the focal point of the world's life energy. Anticipating their arrival, Thanatos positions the Mana Fortress over the Tree and destroys it. The charred remains of the Tree speak to the heroes, explaining that a giant creature called the Mana Beast will soon be summoned to combat the Fortress. However, the Beast has little control over its rage and will likely destroy the world as well.[12] The Mana Tree also reveals that it was once the human wife of Serin, the original Mana Knight and Randi's father. The voice heard at Potos' waterfall was that of Serin's ghost.[13]

The trio flies to the Mana Fortress and confronts Thanatos, who is preparing to transfer his mind into Dyluck. With the last of his strength, Dyluck warns that Thanatos has sold his soul to the underworld and must not be allowed to have the Fortress.[14] Dyluck kills himself, forcing Thanatos to revert to a skeletal lich form which is defeated in battle. The Mana Beast finally reveals itself and attacks the Fortress. Randi expresses reluctance to kill the Beast, fearing that with the dispersal of Mana from the world, Popoi will vanish.[15] With Popoi's encouragement, Randi uses the fully energized Mana Sword to slay the Beast, causing it to explode and transform into snow. At the conclusion of the game, Randi is seen returning the Mana Sword to its place beneath the Potos waterfall.

Development[edit]

Secret of Mana producer Hiromichi Tanaka

Secret of Mana was directed and designed by Koichi Ishii. The game was programmed primarily by Nasir Gebelli and produced by veteran Square designer Hiromichi Tanaka. The real-time battle system used in Secret of Mana is described by its creators as an extension of the battle system used in the first three flagship Final Fantasy titles. The data tables for experience points and leveling up were taken from Final Fantasy III.[16] Secret of Mana was originally going to be a launch title for the SNES CD add-on. After the project was dropped, the game had to be altered to fit onto a standard game cartridge.[17]

The English translation for Secret of Mana was completed in only 30 days, mere weeks after the Japanese release,[18] and was initially advertised as Final Fantasy Adventure 2.[19] The speed at which the translation was done was presumably so that the game could be released in North America for the 1993 holiday season.[17] According to translator Ted Woolsey, a large portion of the game's script was cut out in the English localization due to space limitations and a lack of sequential text.[20] The English translation of Secret of Mana uses a fixed-width font to display text on the main gameplay screen. However, the choice of this font limits the amount of space available to display text, and as a result conversations are trimmed to their bare essentials, leaving a good portion of the game lost in translation. Woolsey expressed dissatisfaction with the way he was forced to "nuke" a lot of the game's script to fit the space limitations, commenting that the translation "nearly killed me".[21] Other Western localizations were done to German and French. The Japanese release referred to the three protagonists as Randi, Primm and Popoi in the manual,[22] while the Western versions omitted the default names and first acknowledged them with the enhanced port on the iOS.[23][24]

Music[edit]

Secret of Mana composer Hiroki Kikuta
Secret of Mana Original Soundtrack
Soundtrack album by Hiroki Kikuta
Released August 6, 1993
August 25, 1995
October 1, 2004
Genre Ambient, Breakbeat, Classical, Electronic, Ethereal, Folk, Video game soundtrack
Length 1:06:01
Label NTT Publishing/Square
NTT Publishing (reprints)

The score for Secret of Mana was composed by Hiroki Kikuta. Kikuta was originally chosen for Secret of Mana after Kenji Ito, who has composed the soundtrack for Final Fantasy Adventure and was originally slated for the project, was forced to drop it due to other demands on his time such as the soundtrack to Romancing SaGa. It was Kikuta's first video game score.[25] Despite difficulties in dealing with the hardware limitations of the SNES, Kikuta tried to express in the music two "contrasting styles", namely himself and the game. The purpose of this was to create an original score which would be neither pop music nor standard game music.[26] Kikuta worked on the music for the game mostly by himself, spending nearly 24 hours a day in his office, alternating between composing and editing to create an immersive three-dimensional sound.[27] Rather than use premade MIDI samples of instruments like most game music composers of the time, Kikuta made his own MIDI samples that matched the hardware capabilities of the Super Nintendo so that he would know exactly how the pieces would sound on the system's hardware instead of having to deal with audio hardware differences between the original MIDI sampler and the SNES.[28] Kikuta considers the score for Secret of Mana his favorite creation.[29] His compositions for the game were partly inspired by natural landscapes, as well as music from Bali.[30][31]

The soundtrack's music covers both "ominous" and "light-hearted" tracks, and is noted for its use of bells and "dark, solemn pianos".[32] The title track to the game, "Fear of the Heavens", was designed by Kikuta to sync up with the title screen as it slowly faded in due to hardware limitations; at the time trying to match the audio and visual effects in a game was rare. Kikuta also started the track off with a "whale noise", rather than a traditional "ping", in order to try to "more deeply connect" the player with the game from the moment it started up; getting the sound to work with the memory limitations of the Super Nintendo system was a difficult technical challenge.[28]

Secret of Mana Original Soundtrack is a soundtrack album of music from Secret of Mana, released as Seiken Densetsu 2 Original Sound Version in Japan; the releases are identical aside from the packaging and localized English song titles. Secret of Mana was one of the first soundtrack releases in North America for the North American version of a game.[32] The album covers 44 tracks and has a duration of 1:06:01. It was published by NTT Publishing/Square on August 6, 1993 with the catalog number N25D-019, and reprinted by NTT Publishing on August 25, 1995 and October 1, 2004 with the catalog numbers PSCN-5030 and NTCP-5030.[33] In addition to the original soundtrack album, an arranged album of music from Secret of Mana and Seiken Densetsu 3 titled Secret of Mana+ was produced. The music was all composed and arranged by Kikuta. The album is composed of a single track titled "Secret of Mana" that has a duration of 49:28. This track incorporates themes from the music of Secret of Mana as well as a few themes from Seiken Densetsu 3, which was still under development at the time.[34] The style of the album is described as "experimental", using "strange sounds" such as waterfalls, bird calls, cell phone sounds, and "typing" sounds.[35] The music has also been described as covering many different musical styles, such as "Debussian impressionist styles, his own heavy electronic and synth ideas, and even ideas of popular musicians".[34] It was published by NTT Publishing/Square on October 29, 1993 with the catalog number N30D-021, and reprinted by NTT Publishing on August 25, 1995 and October 1, 2004 with the catalog numbers PSCN-5031 and NTCP-5031.[35] An arranged album titled Secret of Mana Genesis / Seiken Densetsu 2 Arrange Album was released on August 8, 2012 by Square Enix. The tracks are upgraded versions of the original Super Nintendo tracks, and Kikuta has said that they are "how he wanted the music to sound when he wrote it", without the limitations of the Super Nintendo hardware. It contains 16 tracks with a duration of 57:22 and the catalog number SQEX-10321.[36]

Reception and legacy[edit]

Reception
Aggregate scores
Aggregator Score
GameRankings 87% (7 reviews)[43]
Review scores
Publication Score
Allgame 5/5 stars[37]
Dragon (magazine) 5/5 stars[38]
Edge 9 / 10[39]
Electronic Gaming Monthly 8.75 / 10[40]
Eurogamer 9 / 10[41]
Famitsu 33 / 40[45]
IGN 9.0 / 10[42]
Nintendo Power 3.65 / 5[43]
RPGFan 90%[1]
Slide to Play 4/4 stars (iOS)[44]

As of February 2004, Secret of Mana shipped 1.83 million copies worldwide, with 1.5 million of those copies being shipped in Japan and 330,000 abroad.[46] Edge noted in November 1993 that the game was "the most widely covered game of the year in Japan", "selling to avid gameplayers by the truckload," but was released in North America "completely un-hyped and mostly unheard of."[39]

The game was well-received at the time of its release. Secret of Mana was awarded Game of the Month in December 1993 and Best Role-Playing Game of 1993 by Electronic Gaming Monthly.[40][47] In their 1993 review of the game, the reviewers for Electronic Gaming Monthly heavily praised the graphics, music, and multiplayer, saying that it had "some of the best music I've ever heard from a cartridge", and wishing that other companies would take the game's lead in adding multiplayer to role-playing games.[40] In 1994, Edge magazine said that it was "better than Ys I & II on the PC Engine. Better than Zelda on the SNES. And yes, better than Landstalker on the Mega Drive." The magazine stated that Secret of Mana "includes some of the best game design and features ever seen: simultaneous threeplayer action, the best combat system ever designed, the best player interface ever designed, a superb control system, and yes, some of the most engrossing and rewarding gameplay yet. It really is in a class of its own as far as action RPGs or adventures go."[39] In 1994, game designer Sandy Petersen reviewed the game in Dragon, awarding Secret of Mana a perfect score of 5 out of 5 stars. He described the game as "exceedingly Zelda-like" but with "many features of conventional role-playing games," and stated that "Squaresoft has what may be a classic here." He concluded that the game was "one of the very best role-playing games available for the Super Nintendo," and that it was "a much larger game than Zelda, with many more types of monsters, character options, and fortresses to explore."[38]

Later versions of the game were also highly reviewed. In 2008, IGN awarded the Virtual Console port of Secret of Mana a score of 9 out of 10, stating that it is "still recognized today as one of the best games ever made."[42] Eurogamer also recommended the port, terming the game "essential" and describing it as the formative game of the Mana series.[41] The iOS port of the game was praised by Slide to Play for its improved graphics and computer-controlled characters, as well as for the quality of the touch controls relative to other role-playing game phone versions, though they disliked that the multiplayer aspect had been removed.[44]

Secret of Mana has been on numerous all-time "best games" lists. Super Play ranked the game eighth on its list of the best 100 SNES games of all time in 1996.[48] It was listed at number 42 on Nintendo Power magazine's 2006 Top 200 Nintendo Games Of All Time list, as well as the 86th best game made on a Nintendo System.[49] It was also rated number 48 on IGN's "Top 100 Games" list in 2005,[50] number 49 in 2006,[51] and number 79 in 2007.[52] In 2006, Secret of Mana was voted the 97th best game of all time by the readers of the Japanese magazine Famitsu.[53] Edge ranked the game at #39 in its Top 100 Games of All Time list in 2007.[54] In 2009, Official Nintendo Magazine listed the game at number 82 on its "100 Best Nintendo Games" feature.[55] GameSpy included the game in its Hall of Fame list in 2004.[56] Secret of Mana was an influential game in its time, and has remained influential through to the present day, with elements such as its ring menu system still used in modern games like The Temple of Elemental Evil[57] and its cooperative multiplayer mentioned as an influence on games as recent as Dungeon Siege III.[58]

Re-releases[edit]

In 1999, as part of their planned nine-game lineup, Square announced they would be porting Secret of Mana to Bandai's handheld system WonderSwan Color.[59] Similarly to the planned remake of Final Fantasy III, no news of the port ever surfaced outside the announcement. A mobile phone port of Secret of Mana was released on October 26, 2009.[60] A port of the game for iOS was revealed at E3 2010, and released on Apple's App Store on December 21, 2010.[61] The port fixed several bugs, and the English script was both edited and retranslated from the original Japanese.[44]

References[edit]

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