Secret of Mana is an iconic game. It is responsible for setting a style and building a world which people love to this day. The original Super Nintendo game is just so distinctive and beautiful, even now. Which means the Secret of Mana remake had a lot to live up to when it launched. While there are some areas in which it does not always reach the same heights as the original, such as the soundtrack that can be hit or miss depending on the track, many of the other changes feel like they are designed to honor what people loved about the original and perhaps add a little more character and distinction to these virtual people we know and love.
The world’s new look is one of the biggest things to point to. The original Secret of Mana has some incredible spritework. Party members, NPCs, enemies and environments look really good. The remake does its best to cite this at every opportunity. I feel like, of the main characters, Flammie is the one who most benefits from this change. The extra details in this version are extraordinary. We can actually see how fluffy Flammie is and appreciate the gradation used in its feathers. But, it also does wonders for Randi, Primm and Popoi. With Randi and Primm, we have a better look at their outfits at all times. (Well, provided you do not change them with DLC.) It helps give us a better idea of the culture and designs used in the world. The stripes on Primm’s parachute pants are great, and I love the pattern on Randi’s armband, waistband and neckpiece. Not to mention, Popoi’s completely different style, with its use of gems, patterns, more crudely stitched materials and feathers, really emphasizes how they are more in touch with nature.
This benefits the rest of Secret of Mana’s world. Especially since we have the running commentary in the upper right corner showing the original game’s map. The remake is always directly referencing the original. In some ways, I prefer the old maps. I felt like it was easier to navigate through areas in the Super Nintendo release. But the remake does offer more details. When we see the monsters roaming around, I felt like they were more part of an actual ecosystem, with their designs and coloring fitting in perfectly in these bright and fanciful locations.
The voice acting too seems designed to provide more character. Now, the casting is not 100% amazing. There are some hit-and-miss decisions here. But the important people, like Randi, Primm, Popoi, Dyluck, Gemma and Luka, all sound rather good. Having the tones and inflections there allow us to better understand the nature of exchanges. For example, some of Primm’s more sarcastic comments come across as more obvious jokes when they’re voiced, as otherwise she might sound a bit critical or condescending in text. It makes it easier to connect to the characters.
The AI changes could be seen as another way to give characters more character. Now, the original AI grid is gone. Which is a shame, because it was actually rather complex and allowed you to dictate positioning. The Secret of Mana remake scales things back to four command settings when you are playing alone, letting you choose to support a certain character, attack specific monsters or charge abilities. While I did miss those extra options and still felt like the AI is not perfect, it does help streamline things a bit and being able to choose to have certain people support one another could make it seem like there are friendships between them.
Whether or not someone will love the Secret of Mana remake is up to you. There are many things changed, which could be considered better or worse from person to person. Some may prefer the original’s spritework. Others may like the 3D models better. The A.I. options may work better for those who like things rather well explained, and some might prefer the slightly more complex original’s. Both games have their merits and each one has something to love about it. The one good thing is, regardless of how you feel about each changes, the alterations do feel like they are designed to provide players with more information about the characters.
Secret of Mana is available for the PlayStation 4, PlayStation Vita and PC.