Secret of Mana: A Good Game With The Great Cut Out

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Secret of Mana: A Good Game With The Great Cut Out

You never forget your first. In this case, we are talking RPG, people.

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Great article!

People might get pissed you have any criticism of Secret of Mana, but it's fun to debate video games for themselves.

In this case I'm reminded of the disappoint I had when I learned Fallout New Vegas had a significant amount of content cut from it due to time (Cesear's Legion was supposed to have much more detail for example), and I'm surprised that this remained the case even in older games such as Secret of Mana.

Wow I never realized so much was left out... Great article but now I am sad...

did i miss a bit or did i just read a whole SoM thing where you didn't mention it was multiplayer...because the game might have had issues but the fact it was (innovatively) multiplayer is a big part of why many people have such a strong attachment to it.

anyway a nice read but kinda sad (even in so far as "NO SD3 4 U") :(

Eh, I really enjoyed the game as one of the best SNES RPGs (Qualifier: for me) even though I can't argue against the criticisms levied against it here. I liked Evermore as well, though not as much as Secret of Mana.

Side note/Silly question: What's a food truck? Is that like a hot dog stand?

Sleekit:
did i miss a bit or did i just read a whole SoM thing where you didn't mention it was multiplayer...because the game might have had issues but the fact it was (innovatively) multiplayer is a big part of why many people have such a strong attachment to it.

anyway a nice read but kinda sad (even in so far as "NO SD3 4 U") :(

it may have been multiplayer, but that doesn't really seem like an adequate qualifier given some of the issues with it and that if you wanted to play 3 player you needed the multitap. for me, the story and the overall gameplay in and of itself was the main draw, and especially flammie, the coolest dragon-esque creature in gaming because 4 wings and fluff XD

as for no seiken 3, nowadays you can get Repro carts with the translated version, so you can play on original hardware (or a retron 5) and still get an awesome game =)

Honestly, I always kind of thought Secret of Mana was over rated. Good game, but it is not exactly the classic people remember it as. And Secret of Evermore is better anyway.

As much as I love Secret Of Mana you are pretty much spot on. The soundtrack is incredible and co-op is great if you have the people to play it with, but everything else borders on mediocre. Its good that you mentioned all the cut content because that's the biggest problem story wise and you're right it's really obvious where most of the content was cut. I always dreamed of a Directors Cut someday so we can see Secret Of Mana's full potential, but we don't even know if Square Enix has all that cut stuff archived or even if they did have it, are they willing to remake it. It's kinda a shame really. I will always remember it for its soundtrack though because it's easily top 5 on the SNES in that regard.

Really good article Liz.

EDIT: fixed typos

I always dreamed of a Directors Cut someday so we can see Secret Of Mana full potential, but we don't even know if Square Enix has all that cut stuff archived or even if they did have it are they willing to remake it

The most frustrating thing about it is that they keep rereleasing it, updating the graphics along the way, but never address the missing content problem.

I played Secret of Mana again on the Wii console and personally thought it held up really well. Considering it's far from the first JRPG I played, I'm used to the lack of plot/characterization that earlier JRPG's had. If you look at Square's release timeline:

1991 - FFIV
1992 - FFV
1993 - Secret of Mana
1994 - FFVI
1995 - Chrono Trigger

It falls in a an a natural line of evolution. You can't really criticize it for not being very 'Square' when the company was still figuring out how to implement stronger characterization and narrative. FFV was close to FFIV than it was to FFVI, and that was where Square really started stepping up their game in story telling. Ironically while it's what they're known for they weren't the pioneers, I'd give that credit to Sega with Lunar: The Silver Star on the Sega CD, released in 92. Back to Secret of Mana I view it as Squares their last hurrah for that older 8-bit/early 16-bit 'keep it simple and leave things up to your imagination' style of JRPG.

Though to be honest I never knew or even realized when I last played it that a lot of content was cut. That's rather unfortunate.

Great article but "Chrono Trigger" and "cult classic" are two words that never belong in the same sentence.

shadowmagus:
Great article but "Chrono Trigger" and "cult classic" are two words that never belong in the same sentence.

Well, not anymore in any case. At the very least it was cult classic for European gamers for the longest time: the game wasn't released there until 2009.

Anyway, I've had Secret of Mana on VC for years now, but never really had the urge to replay. This article is one of the many reminders that's probably for the best. the one thing I remember vividly about Secret of Mana is the soundtrack. The opening music starts off so hauntingly fragile and then confidently leaps to something stronger and more hopeful. It sounded so magical to my young ears. Still does.

shadowmagus:
Great article but "Chrono Trigger" and "cult classic" are two words that never belong in the same sentence.

I agree; how on Earth could arguably the best RPG ever made be a "cult classic"? That's like calling "The Godfather" a cult classic or calling Shakespeare a pretty decent playwright.

Only JRPG I've ever liked, probably because of the realtime element and the ability to play with 2 other people. I also had no concept of grinding to level up prior to this, I got to the Spiky Tiger boss and it destroyed me time after time. So much rage.

No time to read atm, but daaaamn! Also my first RPG. So fucking awesome!!!!!
Gotta replay it now :P

Seiken Densetsu 3 never came to the west because it had (back in that time) unsolvable problems:

It was a horribly buggy mess

It pushed the SNES to its limits when it came to memory space on the cardrige, wich made translation very difficult since when you translate a japanese sentence you will end up with a longer english sentence and there allready where tons of prolems fitting all the text into the game to begin with.

Secret of mana is one of my all time favourites. It wasnt my first RPG... that was mystic quest aka the first game in the mana series (wich even had a chocobo you could ride!) for the game boy.. wich also was a very very sad story.

Thats also what was so unique about the secret of mana games. They where colorfull, had humor, but on the other hand where very melancholy and dark, especialy seiken densetsu 3 was very mature for its admittedly candy color palette and most often cutyfied enemies.

All in all thought i can say:

They just dont make em like they used to anymore...

One thing I want to say about Secret of Mana is that it's a technical feat. It's not perfect, but as an action RPG it achieved a level of fluidity that many modern ARPG's still strive to meet. Multiple Weapons, Smooth attack transitions, charge attacks, spells, all of it done in real time with glitches that are no more noticeable than most modern games on the PC or consoles. It really wasn't until later in the Playstation era that comparable ARPG's started coming out.

The tragedy was all the cut content from the botched SNES-CD deal. It would be nice if Square-Enix would go back and make a restored, perfected version with all that planned content intact.

Wow, I am almost crying right now. I had no idea that almost half a game was left out. Secret of Mana was my second rpg (after ff 2) and it is the one I remember the most. Playing it 2 player with my brother, fighting over getting to fly the dragon. Did you know you can glitch out many of the spells by spamming them and sometimes it will fire of a super version of the spell with whole new animations. Also you can get an extra hidden level on most of your weapons in the final area. Oh man the memories, hunting for that key to get to the golden city. I have played it multiple times over the years and for me the game still holds up. It may not have as much story as we are used to with our modern day rpg's but the still feels so alive and has such a wonderful art style and music that I cannot hate it even at its worst moments.

Oh wow, never knew this game was cut back. Explains a lot about the sparse story. Very interesting.

Back in the day I think I rented this game 4-5 times just to keep playing through it again and again. Also converted a few "I Hate RPGs" friends via the co-op gameplay.

secret of evermore was what secret of mana wanted to be.

evermore had superior story, superior combat, superior setting... maybe the writer has also played secret of evermore and will compare the 2 in an article.

I'd always heard the hatchet job being blamed on translation problems. Five Japanese characters can say a lot more than five English letters and the result was a heavily stilted script - they did what they could to patch it together but simply ran out of space, hence the cuts.

Still a damn good game though. But, like you say, not quite great.

RandV80:

It falls in a an a natural line of evolution. You can't really criticize it for not being very 'Square' when the company was still figuring out how to implement stronger characterization and narrative. FFV was close to FFIV than it was to FFVI, and that was where Square really started stepping up their game in story telling. Ironically while it's what they're known for they weren't the pioneers, I'd give that credit to Sega with Lunar: The Silver Star on the Sega CD, released in 92. Back to Secret of Mana I view it as Squares their last hurrah for that older 8-bit/early 16-bit 'keep it simple and leave things up to your imagination' style of JRPG.

Though to be honest I never knew or even realized when I last played it that a lot of content was cut. That's rather unfortunate.

Eh, FF4 was pretty dense in its storytelling and characters. Possibly on par with FF6 in terms of core cast (6 obviously had more characters, and better villains then FF4's)

I always kind of had the impression that Secret of Mana had some sort of issues, though I've never gone back and fully revisited it. I do distinctly remember as a completionist type in my youth that several of the weapons were missing their ultimate upgrade orb, and levelling up the late game magic was excessively grind-ridden (due to how jammed in it was).

The mana series is one where I will say Yarr there be some might fine booty on the internet. If nintendo/square don't want to release it properly (and seiken densest 3) then I think people should feel justified in playing them other way. And also live-a-live, bahamut lagoon and rudora no hiou (sigh square what happened).

That's amazing, I never knew all the stuff that was left out. Although I guess in hindsight it worked out since it helped make Chronotrigger a great game. I'm also glad to see I wasn't the only one who enjoyed Secret of Evermore, I enjoyed collecting/hunting ingredients for my alchemy in that game.

Well damn... Where can I find out about the cuts for this game? I never even knew...

valium:
secret of evermore was what secret of mana wanted to be.

evermore had superior story, superior combat, superior setting... maybe the writer has also played secret of evermore and will compare the 2 in an article.

Disagree strongly... the alchemy system was shite, you spent way to much time following your dog and grab random ingredients.

secret of evermore was a cashgrab with less variety in weapons, it was a shorter game with allmost no musical score and what was there was bad in comparison to secret of manas memorable and epic score, less character diversity, a bad magic system that had you constantly spend time spamming a button while hugging walls and other objects to find ingredients and the story had you stumble from one area to another with short term goals that never seemed to impact the world at all with no emotional attachment to any of the characters that you met along the way. Name me 3 memorable characters in that game that had unique sprites? Not that any of the characters had so much as a background story or did much anyways.

It was a copy of a much better game, trying to cash in on manas success.

Terranigma was a far better game.

Disagree strongly... the alchemy system was shite, you spent way to much time following your dog and grab random ingredients.

That's the thing: Evermore's the superior game by virtue of making you the Dog's sidekick.

Karadalis:

It was a copy of a much better game, trying to cash in on manas success.

Hey, a lot of work went into that 'copy'. It was a big project not only because it was one of the first big console RPGs being developed in the US, but also because they didn't actually reuse any of Secret of Mana's assets. While both games uses similar systems they were actually rewritten for Secret of Evermore.

You can read more here:
http://www.nintendolife.com/news/2009/04/interview_with_brian_fehdrau_secret_of_evermore
http://tay.kotaku.com/the-story-behind-the-only-square-rpg-developed-in-north-1640340675

Karadalis:
Name me 3 memorable characters in that game that had unique sprites?

Fire Eyes, Horace, and Carltron. I wouldn't fault the lack of back story for the "real" characters, though. It was unimportant to the story. What and why they were where they were--and what was going wrong--were all revealed during the game, and the only background information needed was included in that.

I liked the alchemy system, to a point. It's biggest flaw was that leveled alchemy became powerful to the point of taking the time to grind later spells was pointless. Grab Flash, Crush, and a few healing and buff spells and ignore everything else that isn't required for progressing at whatever point you're at. Unless you specifically set out to grind out the higher-level spells to at least half the level your previous tier one was at, it did less damage. That was too small a boost. Finding ingredients wasn't a problem. Most of them were the standard RPG search, but instead of looking in every pot you just did a quick check of every little alcove in the path that wouldn't have a purpose except to have a loot. You could even save time by making the dog take a quick sniff--if he moved right away there was something to grab, and if he didn't it was pretty safe to move on.

I likewise have no problems with the weapon selection. So what if there weren't a dozen different types. They weren't needed in this game, and any gate mechanics were taken care of with alchemy. (On that line, what was the point of the later whip-posts in Mana? I mean, it was a gate earlier. Afterwards it's just an annoyance to make you switch weapons if you didn't have the whip on someone, cross, and switch back...) Besides... FEMUR OF FURY. I still get a kick out of that description.

Above all, though, I owe Evermore a great debt. It might not be up to snuff compared to Japanese Square releases, but if not for using the similar naming (which I agree was a little cash-grabby) I never would have played Mana. It was in looking to buy Evermore after playing my grandmother's copy that I was only able to find SoM and bought it anyway since I figured it was a sequel or prequel.

It was obvious enough to anyone who played the US release that so much was cut. There were locations on the map that had sad empty buildings that did nothing. Remember the lighthouse? Then, as the author pointed out, the interesting bits of story just called it quits a short ways into the game. There was a band of Team Rocket style villains who showed up to provide some entertainment. They just vanished without resolution.

Still, I loved the game, warts and all. To this day I cannot forgive Square for not bringing Mana 2/ SD3 to the states. Playing it later on an emulator only reinforced my belief that it would have been my all time favorite SNES game.

Man, I didn't know about all the cut content. All in all I have to agree with the article. SoM was my second SNES-RPG (the first was Illusion of Gaia) and I loved it. Its story and charcters however are kinds lackluster. Still, if you can find some friends to play it in co-op, it's a blast.
Oh, and the opening music still send chills down my spine. Awesome!

Great article :D

Gorrath:

shadowmagus:
Great article but "Chrono Trigger" and "cult classic" are two words that never belong in the same sentence.

I agree; how on Earth could arguably the best RPG ever made be a "cult classic"? That's like calling "The Godfather" a cult classic or calling Shakespeare a pretty decent playwright.

Because RPGs in and of themselves are fairly niche. Even today, a household name like Skyrim is more of the exception than the rule, and even that's a game that RPG fans would argue only borderlines on RPG territory. Before Skyrim, the last time an RPG could said to be of "household name" status was Final Fantasy 7. So... yeah, when a genre is itself a bit of a "cult" genre, then any game that's popular in the genre is also going to be of cult status.

I know pretty much every game has cut content, but those kinds of cuts make me sad. It's never fun when a vision has to be butchered because of any kind of restraint. Xenogears suffered the same fate (as did Xenosaga, if what I've heard is true).

Still, I have fond memories of Secret of Mana and, as a child, the story seemed quite dark to me. Random trivia: I often, to this day, catch myself beatboxing the song "Steel and Snare" (which is far from my favorite SoM song) when I'm doing "busy work" in games. The most recent example is when I'm farming echoes/vials/bullets in Bloodborne.

Great article , it makes you wonder which other games get butchered , I remember reading Bioware cut ALOT of stuff from DI.

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