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Title: Secret of Mana (2nd review)
Rom Player: ZNES
Reviewer: Tawna Evans

Synopsis: Remember the days when most arcades included a Gauntlet game? If anybody else wished to join in, all they had to do was stick in a quarter, and start playing with whichever character they chose. You can do something similar to that in the Secret of Mana. The game starts as a one-player game in which you control a boy, but once you get companions to join him, a friend can play the game with you pressing "start" on the second controller. Your friend will play whichever character you are not playing. In addition, you can switch characters by pressing "select". When your friend is done playing, he or she can leave the game by pressing "start" a second time. When Gauntlet was made into a console game, I sure wished it had the same capabilities as Secret of Mana.

This game is smacking with innovation. In addition to having the multiplayer-at-any-time option, this game introduces a circular menu screen. Different symbols appear in a circular pattern around the character that the menu pertains to. Pressing “left” or “right” can rotate the menu. There are separate menus for weapons, items, spells, and options. To pull up a different menu, you press "up" or "down" on the control pad while a menu appears around a character. This sort of menu sure is great, because it covers only a small portion of the screen. Whoever thought of this is a genius!

To top that off, a character develops more talent at using a particular spell or weapon with each use. A spell's grow is limited by the number of Mana seeds in your possession. The skill you can gain with a weapon is limited by the power it is forged at. New weapons of the same type become created by obtaining orbs for the weapons you own, then having the weapon smith forge them. As a result of this, the Mana sword changes its name and special effects each time it's forged. The beautiful introduction to the game speaks about this magical blade.

The graphics and music in Secret of Mana are attractive, especially those in the introductory scene with the giant Mana tree. The melodies change with the mood, which helps tell the story while it progresses. The graphics uses a lot of the effects offered by the SNES capabilities. At some points, the characters frown, cry, laugh, and move around, depending on what's going on in the game. Unfortunately, you have pay attention to more than the text box in order to view those facial expressions, because the faces of the characters appear real tiny on the screen. They do not stand out too well. Many elements of the game feel pretty juvenile. For example, characters recover their health by eating candy. The enemies look too darn cute! Imagine vicious bunny rabbits and walking toadstools... Get the picture? The music itself can also seem pretty juvenile, which can serve as a major drawback to the game. It would've been best for the game to focus on players of all ages. Even kids would like stuff that seems a little more mature than what you see in this game.

The game-play is reminiscent of adventure games, such as Zelda. A character attacks enemies by pressing an attack button. You also move around in all directions with a map-like view in which you dodge attacks, land blows against enemies, and explore numerous places. After pressing the attack button, the character recovers from launching the attack. A menu at the bottom of the screen indicates the power level of the next attack. The numbers count upwards from 0% to 100%. Before launching the next attack, it's best to wait until the power level is up the 100%. You can determine this by listening for a "beep" sound that indicates that the character has recharged the attack level. This adds some complexity to the game play. Should you rapidly press attack, many of the blows might miss their target. This places more emphasis on carefully aimed attacks against opponents.

The story line in this game is more of an imitation of the Gameboy game known as Final Fantasy Adventure. In the land exists magic known as Mana. Evil beings seek to hoard the power of Mana to themselves, causing destruction to the world. Members of the Mana tribe protect Mana. The knights take on a human form and fight against evil. The guardians become the Mana tree. Seeking power, the emperor hires a magician to take control of Mana. However, the magician becomes so power hungry, that he destroys the emperor, and keeps all of the power of Mana to himself. In this sense, the story in the Secret of Mana is no different from Final Fantasy Adventure. Both games also include a Mana fortress, but the fortress plays a bigger role in the Secret of Mana. Aside from that, the stories in the games vary, because they involve different characters, and different events occur. In addition, the graphics in the Secret of Mana are way better than the graphics of Final Fantasy Adventure, as well as the game-control. However, the basic gist of the two games are pretty much the same.

Best Cheats: Nothing Entered

Game Play: 9
Graphics: 8
Music/Sound: 7
Originality: 9
Overall Rating: 8


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