PAX West 2017: Secret of Mana

Sunday, September 10th, 2017

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Secret of Mana 2018 2

I never had the chance to play the original Secret of Mana. It’s somewhat before my time, and not one of the games I’ve ever gone back and played despite having heard good things about it. It seemed to me that getting to demo the remake on PS4 at PAX was as good a chance as any to change that. The demo I played was roughly 15 minutes in length, going up to the cut-scene following the first boss fight.

The game was still clearly in an early state. There’s an obvious lack of optimization, with the game slowing down and stuttering frequently and a clear delay between attacking and enemies taking damage. As a result, combined with the slowdown and stuttering, combat has an awkward feel to it, with a disconnect between attacking and enemies actually feeling the effect of that attack. The 3D graphics are fairly standard fare for this type of game, but something rather off-putting is that, at least in the build I played, characters’ mouths don’t move when they speak.

Secret of Mana 2018 1

Once you get used to the technical problems, Secret of Mana plays fairly well. Combat is action-based, with a meter that builds up over time and is drained fully when you attack, with the power of the attack determined by how full the meter was. It’s quite straightforward, especially when your party has only one member, but unfortunately the demo didn’t include parts with multiple members to show off the system in more detail. From what I understand, it’s largely the same as the original, so those who played that will likely be in familiar territory with the remake. I assume that the ring menus, which mostly just confused me in the demo, will make more sense when I have more time to figure it out in the full game.

Secret of Mana 2018 3

An interesting touch about the game is that there’s a display in the corner of the screen that shows the immediate area around the player as it looked in the original version of the game as a minimap of sorts. The visuals are clean, and somewhat similar to those in other recent Square Enix games such as I am Setsuna or the Bravely Default games. Not the most overwhelmingly beautiful game ever, but the art style works well with the relative lack of detail.

Assuming the game gets properly optimized and finished, Secret of Mana looks promising. It may be a good choice for those like me who missed out on the game, or for people who are looking to play through it again when it releases on PS4, PS Vita and Steam next February.

About Chris Melchin

Chris is a computer science student who has been gaming ever since he knew what to do with a Super Nintendo controller. Since then, he's owned every Nintendo console to be released. His favourite games include Xenoblade Chronicles, Persona 4 Golden, and Little Busters. He started watching anime in high school, and his favourite series is Fullmetal Alchemist Brotherhood. He also writes Vocaloid music for his personal YouTube channel, and has a (slight) obsession with Megurine Luka.




  • Vanadise

    > There’s an obvious lack of optimization, with the game slowing down and stuttering frequently and a clear delay between attacking and enemies taking damage.

    I haven’t played the remake, but I have a strong suspicion that what you’re seeing isn’t a lack of optimization or a technical issues — that’s the way the game originally worked, and all indications seem to be that this remake is being slavishly true to the original.

    Kind of disappointing, really; SoM was a great game at the time, but its gameplay had a number of rough edges that were purely due to limitations of the SNES, and there’s no reason they couldn’t tweak it a bit for the remake.

  • Panpopo

    I played this at pax as well, and played the snes version decades ago so thought to add to this. From what I’ve played so far you are essentially playing a one-to-one remake of the snes game, only with polygons instead of sprites. When you attack, see the percentage bar for strength. Pause between attacks to recharge strength.

    There was a retro mini map in the upper-righthand corner which was nice, and another nice feature was full change of text to other languages like French and Japanese. Not how many games do that but thought it was a nice touch.

  • MusouTensei

    I don’t see why many people hate on it, it’s basically how I’d want the FF7 remake to be.