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Hands-on review: Is Secret of Mana a good remake of the SNES classic?

Secret of Mana came out in the early '90s on the Super Nintendo (SNES) and was one of the best beloved RPGs of all time. Now the game has been remade on PC, PS4 (tested) and PS Vita for a new generation to experience. That being said, does this remake hold up in 2018?

Secret of Mana was released in 1993 and its style of gameplay is similar to the older The Legend of Zelda games. Both have a top down viewpoint as well as a simplistic action-RPG style of combat where you just press one button to attack.

However unlike The Legend of Zelda, this game has a party of three members and all of them are playable. You can either swap characters if you are playing solo or co-op with other friends if you have two extra controllers lying around.

Before I talk about the game itself, the story of Secret of Mana is easy to understand and is no different to any other RPG narrative out there. The story revolves around a young boy named Randi who mistakenly pulls out a sword from a stone.

Little does Randi know is that he wasn't allowed to pull the sword from its pedestal because he now causes monsters to attack the village. Randi gets banished from his home village and has to stop the mess he caused in the first place.

For the first hour or so, Randi is the only playable character. It's not until the one hour and two hour marks that he is joined by two others in his party named Primm and Popoi. Each member of the party is playable and as aforementioned, local co-op is also available. Sadly though, no online co-op of any kind is doable.  Since this is a remake, the biggest change is obviously the new 3D visuals. Despite being a game released in 2018, the Secret of Mana remake sadly does not have graphics that belong on the PS4. The overall graphical quality looks like a late generation PS2 game instead.

In my opinion, the remake should have adopted a more anime 2D visual style similar to that of Dragon Ball FighterZ. The simplistic 3D character models just look very outdated even though the game is colourful as a whole.

Not to mention characters do not even move their mouths when they are talking. It looks very off-putting hearing the voice actors speak when the characters aren't even moving their lips or mouths to talk!

This flaw is more apparent because the original game just had speech bubbles for you to read. In the remake, they feature cutscenes and they look weird thanks to the lack of animation on their faces.

The lack of animation does not stop there because the combat system is very basic and un-engaging. You can only attack using one button and there's no blocking or combos that you can execute as well.

The game also has an annoying gimmick where you can only attack once until you have to recharge and attack again. If you don't recharge, your attacks will be weaker therefore making it longer to kill off enemies.  I hated this recharge system as it made the combat unnecessarily slower than it should be. I understand this gameplay style worked in 1993, but the system just doesn't hold well here in 2018.

I also felt the gameplay as a whole to be very boring and repetitive after a while. Even when I was playing the game with my brother, the basic combat system isn't engaging enough to keep you excited for very long.

The only thing that somewhat makes the game more exciting is when you are facing bosses. Normal enemies are just monotonous to grind through even if you have different weapons and party members at your disposal.

Even if you are good at the original game, there are some slight changes in the remake that will make long time fans unhappy. The rearranged soundtrack sounds messy so it's best for gamers just to change the music back to the original arrangement instead.

Also, some cool visual aspects are gone thanks to the change in 3D. In the older game, you could see a cool animation of Randi shooting up into the sky when he fast travelled by getting shot out of a cannon. Sadly, that sequence is no longer there in the remake as the screen just fades to black instead.

Overall, the Secret of Mana remake is very disappointing and is an outdated mess. The graphics are PS2-like and the combat is even worse. There are some bright elements to the game, but they are too few and far between. You are probably better off just playing the original game if you're a fan of old school action RPGs...

Verdict: 5.0/10

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