Secret of Mana (2018) Review

Secret of Mana (2018) Review
Developed by Square Enix
Published by Square Enix
Reviewed on PlayStation 4 (also available on PlayStation Vita and Steam)


Secret of Mana is the remake of the esteemed Super Nintendo action role-playing game. The original title captivated players with its multiplayer capabilities, memorable characters, and engrossing tunes and visuals. Although its mechanics were slightly haphazard and even clunky at times, the game was nonetheless a fun adventure that players could enjoy solo or with friends. The remake largely sticks to the original game’s conventions while adding a few extra audiovisual elements that enhance the experience. Even though it feels unnecessarily entrenched in the original game’s conventions, the remake is still an enjoyable experience with its added features, 3D visuals, and arranged songs.

Secret of Mana

Secret of Mana follows the exact same setting and plot as the original game. Randi accompanies his friends during a mischievous treasure hunt that goes wrong. By inadvertently unearthing the legendary Mana Sword, he is quickly thrown into a worldwide conflict. The Empire strives to harness the power of Mana, and it is up to Randi to restore the sword and fulfill his destiny to save the world. He befriends the rebellious Purim and the whimsical sprite Popoi, and they must travel across the entire world in order to gather allies and synchronize with the power of Mana.

The game closely recreates the original’s action role-playing mechanics in which one to three local players can traverse areas and battle together. All combat takes place in real-time, and players utilize a variety of weapons in order to defeat foes and bypass obstacles. Waiting for the percentage meter to build to 100% and then pressing the attack button delivers a standard attack. Once players level up their weapon skill, they can hold the button down to execute a charged attack. These mechanics can initially seem obtuse, and it is up to the player to learn how to attack. As Secret of Mana progresses, players can acquire a slew of elemental-based spells, which still feel satisfying to deploy in combat.

Secret of Mana

One of the remake’s most prominent features is how it presents all new 3D visuals. Everything is textured in a vibrant colorful way, which is appropriate given the Mana series’ whimsical pedigree. The characters and monsters also look fantastic, and the new 3D models’ cartoony shapes capture the spirit of the original game’s designs. For the most part, the environments also recreate the originals’ charm, and certain surfaces such as grass and water look quite lively. However, the low geometry and occasional texture stretching feel dated and can look disorienting. The remake also follows the original’s tendency to regularly use palette swapped monsters and environments, which is somewhat underwhelming. Defeating monsters, acquiring weapons, and encountering characters adds entries to a brand new encyclopedia that allows players to rotate models at their leisure.

With a new arranged soundtrack, the remake provides a musical journey that can be surprising yet engrossing. The soundtrack utilizes different instrumentation across the board, which is fascinating but will undoubtedly catch players off guard. Old favorites like the boss theme “Danger” stick to the original medley with experimental instruments that still feel appropriate. Others like “Monarch on the Shore” feature outright bizarre instrumentation that is enjoyable nonetheless. Some songs such as “Did You See the Ocean?” feature new sections altogether, which is also entertaining. While the overall softer percussion feels a little strange, the arrangements lead to a fresh take on Secret of Mana’s cherished soundtrack. Players can also opt to switch back and forth between the arranged soundtrack and the original’s on the fly.

Secret of Mana

Secret of Mana adds a handful of tweaks that enhance the overall playability. For example, players run in any desired direction with gradually depleting stamina. This starkly contrasts with the original game in which pressing A depletes all stamina in order to dash in a straight line. Solo players can also run anywhere with computer-controlled teammates off screen, which facilitates dungeon navigation. Close range weapons such as swords and spears also have a wide arc. Whereas the spear was a piercing weapon in the original game, some strikes now have an arc. Players can also map an item or spell to L1 or R1, which is convenient in the heat of battle. However, given the sheer number of important spells in Secret of Mana, it may have been beneficial to have access to other buttons as well. Players can also modify the game’s item storage caps, which can lower the difficulty.

Secret of Mana

A substantial new feature is how party members have conversations whenever they stay at the inn. These conversations are full of fun banter as the party members discuss their current circumstances, argue about their aspirations, and even reflect upon each other’s growth throughout their journey. These conversations can range from serious discussion to off-the-wall interactions with non-playable characters. Experiencing non-playable characters’ new lines is amusing and refreshing. While Secret of Mana’s rewritten script is certainly appropriate and welcome, these new conversations truly set the game apart from the original.

Secret of Mana

Another notable feature is the fact that every single line of dialogue is voiced in both English and Japanese. While the English voices sometimes feel flatly delivered, the casting is mostly appropriate. Some non-playable characters’ accents seem arbitrary chosen. Conversely, the Japanese voices feature exuberant delivery but the casting occasionally feels off. Nonetheless, it is actually rather staggering having so much voiced dialogue. It is also fascinating how multiple non-playable characters saying the exact same line have unique voice samples. Some of the antagonists will even spout additional taunts mid battle, which is a nice touch even if the lines themselves are a bit cheesy.

Unfortunately, the remake is marred by a handful of minor quirks that hamper the overall playability of Secret of Mana. The game can randomly crash, which fortunately only happened a handful of times throughout my playthrough. Frequent auto saves ensure that players hardly lose much progress. The game reverses the original game’s left and right scrolling in item ring menus, which feels a bit arbitrary. These item ring menus also appear in the center of the screen rather than around the respective character. It can initially be strange to recognize character menus through the cursor color. It also does not memorize cursor positions in item ring menus, which can feel a little clunky. Furthermore, the user interface generally feels sparse, and a few extra labels may have helped newcomers become accustomed to navigating through the item ring menus.


Secret of Mana


As with the original game, the journey can take approximately fifteen hours. This length depends on how extensively players level up their weapons, boost their spells, and hunt for items. Should players seek some PlayStation trophies, they should be prepared to spend additional hours hunting for rare drops and casting spells over and over. While trouncing Griffin Hands for a rare missable drop might not be everyone’s cup of tea, it is nonetheless part of the game’s older generation charm. Even though the remake adheres to the original game’s formula a little too closely, the new audiovisual elements are respectably crafted and worth checking out.


Vincent Lai

Vincent Lai

I'm a gaming enthusiast who enjoys a variety of platforms! I also love wisps, rainbows, and gardens!

15out of 5
16out of 5
12out of 5
15out of 5


While largely entrenched in the past with few mechanical changes, the Secret of Mana remake contains new audiovisual elements that are inconsistent yet enjoyable. With its added dialogue, new voices, and arranged music, the remake is a serviceable if somewhat dated take on a classic title.


3.63 out of 5

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