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Review: Secret of Mana - The Slice Heard Around The World

Review: Secret of Mana - The Slice Heard Around The World

February 1, 2011


Secret of Mana is an oOS port of the classic, much beloved 1993 SNES game of the same name.


SoM features slightly improved graphics and a few minor gameplay changes, but is otherwise a straight port of the original, with no added features.

The Good

The original SoM is one of yesteryear's most beloved games and for many it is considered among the best action RPGs of all time. Now, for a cheaper price than the original, you can get SoM on your mobile device to play anywhere you choose. Secret of Mana is an action RPG where you play as a boy who unwittingly pulls a ancient sword out of a rock, removing  a seal that prevented monsters from roaming the world. Having been banished from his village for this transgression, the lad must set out on a great journey with his friends in a desperate attempt to restore the Mana Swords' power before an evil empire revives a legendary weapon of their own. Along the way you'll fight hundreds of monsters, discover new weapons and upgrade them, learn magic and play though a very long story that will take upwards of 20 hours to complete. This version of SoM has a few changes for the better. The graphics are slightly redone. Water looks shiny, some enemies have redone sprites, there is character artwork in menus and everything looks less pixelated. The new sprites are well done; smooth enough to add to the look of the game, but subtle enough to not look out of place. Sound is just as you remember and features all the classic music from the original game, which sounds exactly the same as the original version.

The Bad

SoM has a few highly annoying quirks that really take the shine off this mobile retro treat. First, enemies are invulnerable far too often and you are not. When you hit an enemy, there is a period of 2-3 seconds afterwards where you can’t hit it, which slows down the gameplay to an absolute crawl, as you wait for every enemy to get up, before hitting it again. If you’re hit however, you aren’t invincible during your stun animation and you can be hit again right away. This is extremely irritating, as you are forced to watch your character get hit again and again, until you are finally knocked far enough away that you have time to regain control. This is compounded by the fact that SoM “stores” animations. If you hit something while its being hit, or if you are attacked while stunned, it will finish that animation, then get hit again. This delayed system doesn’t always happen to the enemies, so you routinely swing at an enemy and inexplicably miss, so you have to wait for your attack % to charge back up to 100% again. SoM also has horrible friendly AI. In the original SoM, there was a problem with pathfinding; often your cohorts would get stuck on the scenery and get left behind. This would force you to go back and “unhook” them, as the game only allows you to get a certain distance away from your friends. In what is almost an admission of guilt, Square has removed this restriction and you can run as far away from your allies as you like. The AI still does a fantastic job of sabotaging your game or forcing you to chew though your items, as AI characters routinely perform the stupidest tactics in battle, such as running right into enemies, standing totally still while being hit by projectiles or ignoring enemies until they get hit, even if they are armed with a  distance weapon, like a bow. They are especially useless vs bosses and inside a minute they will usually be dead, as they make no attempts to avoid enemies or even attack them quickly. SoM’s controls feel slightly clunky. Occasionally the stick won’t respond to input and it can feel quite imprecise when you perform fine movements, such as lining up a shot with a bow. The game’s ring inventory system is also needlessly annoying in this version, as rotating the rings feels awkward. Another nail in the much hammered SoM is that it is so expensive for an idevice game its laughable. It’s $9 ( was $12) which, is an obscene price for a slightly tweaked port of an 18 year old game. Try about 1/3 of that Square and maybe it will be reasonable.

The Verdict

SoM is a lousy port of a great game. a  portable Secret of Mana will likely be too much for old school gamers to resist, but the game’s slew of problems means it’s probably better to wait and see if updates are released to fix the game’s appalling AI and bad control.

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