‘Secret of Mana’ Review

This game has not been an easy one for me to review.  I have so many memories of this game growing up that it’s hard to separate my true feelings for this remake from cherished childhood memories.  The one question I come back to though, is why.  Why did this game get a remake?  Is it simply a cash grab or was this a game that deserved a second opportunity to shine?  Let’s go through this game together and see if we can answer that question.

Now, I am going to assume that if you’re reading this review, you’ve probably played Secret of Mana or at least seen it played at some point.  The remake starts out the very same way as the original.  You’re with some friends in a forbidden area and you fall off a log.  You find a magical sword that allows you to get back to town but, monsters are now attacking the village.  After defeating a large monster, you’re blamed for the attacks and are kicked out of the village.  From there, you’re left to go on an adventure to restore the sword you found to its original power.

The story of the game still holds up.  What starts out as a simple adventure to fix a sword turns into a massive odyssey through the world to quell evil.  The story is interesting and can easily turn a short playthrough into an all-nighter.  

One area where I have a tough time calling it a win or a loss is the graphics.  They’re different.  It’s nice to see the graphics updated to 3D but, if I am being honest, the game didn’t really need this face lift.  The original designs were vibrant, colorful, and still hold up today as quality artwork.  The graphics in the remake are nice but I do feel like you lose some of the magic the original had when you turn everything into 3D CGI.  This is one area where it’s going to come down to personal opinion; do you prefer the original animated artwork, or do you prefer the updated CGI.  

An interesting decision made by the creators of this remake was to have voice acting but, to not have mouth movements.  You get used to it fairly quickly but at first it’s quite odd.  I enjoyed the voice acting portion but it was a little jarring to hear the characters talk but the mouths to just stay agape.  I get the reason behind this decision though; doing this allowed the game to be localized into lots of languages without much change to the overall experience.  It’s still a little weird though.  

A place where the game stands out is the music.  You have the option at the beginning of the game to use the original music or listen to updated remixes of the original songs.  Either option is fine but I chose to listen to the updated tracks and they were great.  It reminded me how much I love the music of this game and they are definitely tracks that I will listen to on my own, outside of the gaming experience. 

One gripe I have is the change to the action grid.  For those of you that don’t know, in the original game you had an action grid where you could determine what your allies do when you aren’t controlling them.  It was a really cool way of setting up your allies’ actions.  In this remake though, you are only given very simple commands on what they can do.  It really takes away some of the customization the original game had.

If I were to put myself all in, I’d say this game didn’t need a remake.  The original still holds up and is very enjoyable to play through even to this day.  That being said, the original is not the easiest game to get a hold of and it’s on a system less and less people have.  The nice thing about the remake is it’s a chance for new players to experience this amazing game on current gen hardware.  If you own the original game and an SNES to play it on, I’d say stick with that as it holds up and is still enjoyable today.  If you’re a new player though looking to get into the game for the first time, the remake is a perfect place to start.  Get it today on PS4 or PC.