Secret of Mana review - Super Nintendo

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First the rainforests and now this - the fate of entire civilisation residing on the welfare of an all-powerful tree! And with David Bellamy contracted out to rare television appearances only it appears the solution lies with an unknown, wholly inexperienced horticultural hero to save the epoch.

The Mana Tree stands as the guardian of peace in a far off magical land. Recently the powers it represents are waning as the eight seeds that contribute to the sustenance of Mana within this land have fallen into the cold clutches of evil. Fortunately for all concerned the seeds are protected by powerful seal. However should these seals crack under the pressure exerted by the evil forces to claim them, the world is destined to become a twisted and terrible place where only the wretched survive!

This most intricate role-playing title caused a riot upon its release in Japan. Now westerners face the exciting prospect of discovering the reasons why and these factors are readily apparent. Secret of Mana is the first game of its type to utilise the multi-player adapter, allowing three players to journey together; offer 16 meg of sumptious graphical locations to explore and harnesses a beautiful plot stacked full of surprises. Allow NMS to introduce you...

What the Mean Machines staff thought


" Behold and other such pompous terms that are best ascribed to enthusing about this triumphant achievement. The Super NES is once again transported to the dizzy heights of graphical perfection as the second installment of the Legend of the Holy Sword - as it is known in Japan - spectacularly unfolds before hungry eyes. Seeing is believing and playing is a dream, even the magnificence of Zelda III seems stale in comparison to the incredible features found within this refreshing, exhilarating adventure. In fact it is wise to reserve a week off work, college or whatever else takes up the majority of your time just to play it. Nothing seems important when Secret of Mana is at stake. The control of all three characters is wholly intuitive leaving players to explore, to their joy, the magnificent worlds contained within these 16 megs of phenomenal programming. Speaking personally I haven't experienced a game with such depth and feeling ever. Though I haven't completed the game yet - apparently there are around seventy hours of gameplay involved - I am determined to see this quest through to the end. An experience that I recommend to anybody who owns a Super NES. Something truly special has arrived. "

" Zelda is one of my all time favourite games, and until now I thought nothing could touch its complete and utter brilliance. Secret of Mana comes the cloest yet, but in my Zelda still reigns supreme - and if you'll spare a few moments of your time I'll explain why. First off, be under no illusions - this is one of the greatest graphical RPGs in the history of the world, featuring an absolutely massive conquest guaranteed to dominate your life until you finally master its mysteries. Plasying the game is an absolute joy, and it passes the true test of greatness as well: you jabber on about it endlessly with other addicts and nobody ever gets bored talking about it. Having said that, there's just one tiny ingredient missing: the sheer genius behind Zelda. Remember the fiendish gameplay which had you tearing your hair out trying to find the chest which was in fact hidden in the very next room? Remember the brilliantly laid out dungeons which seemed impossible to conquer? There are elements of all this in Secret of Mana, but not quite as cleverly done. There's something very slightly missing which, if it was there, could even push Zelda into the background. If you enjoyed Zelda, buy this now. And if you're one of those unbearably lucky people who have never played either Zelda or Mana, buy them both right now. You'll pay, what, eight quid for an experience beyond price. Enjoy! "


Overall Score93%

Retrospective comments


After the joys of Zelda: Link to the Past, I honestly didn't think it could get any better. Then Secret of Mana came along. I experienced this amazing game just as the Playstation was about to be released, and in that respect it serves as a fitting swansong to the 16-bit era in my eyes. Everything about it simply drips class - the graphics are stunning, with gorgeous pastel tones and loads of detail - it really does put Zelda to shame in that regard. The gameplay is fast a furious too, with real time combat and the excellent 'ring' menu system (which has been copied by many games since). The music is some of the best you are likely to hear ANYWHERE, let along on the SNES.

However, as good as it is, there are several factors which stop this game from beating Zelda. Firstly, the quest isn't quite as engaging, and although there's a nice variety of locations it's a shame that you can't revisit many of them, as you can in Zelda. As good as the combat system is, the 'buddy AI' is unpredictable and often you will be put into tight spots because of the stupidity of your fellow adventurers. The game is also lacking in secrets and additional quests - something that Zelda excelled in.

All in all, this still remains one of the finest RPGs ever made and for a system to have both this AND Zelda just shows how good SNES RPG-fans had it back in the day!

Michael Buchanan - 10 Sep 2008, 09:16 GMT

what a game!

Edd Haddon - 08 Feb 2010, 12:59 GMT

Pure class in a 16-bit glass. One of the best RPG's of all time. Love love love it. So much effort has been put into this game. It also boasts one of my all time fave soundtracks too. Beyond ace.

Jaz's Sheep - 02 Jun 2010, 14:28 GMT

Always thought this game was overated, but still great none the less. It just felt a bit to linear and easy, even back then. Still fun, but not in Zelda's league no way.

I'm a sapz.

Chris - 26 Oct 2010, 12:59 GMT

Secret of Mana was essentially the first great rpg SNES had to offer and was the beginning of Squaresofts early wave of great games. I disagree with it being compared to Zelda. Zelda was designed to be a puzzle based action adventure, The reasons why Mana did not offer the same puzzle based system Zelda did was also the same reason why you could not level in Zelda. Either way. Of course they are both legends in their own field.

david - 22 May 2015, 15:53 GMT

no. sorry it didn't happen for me. Back when i bought this from virgin megastore I was delighted with the beautiful artwork, though slightly puzzled by the whale sounds at the start (where's the whale?). Gameplay was faster than Zelda- cool, but it all got boring very quick, frustrating attack system and the music was childish. It can't touch Zelda.

Andreas Ã…kermark Wernlund - 25 May 2015, 11:15 GMT

Secret of mana is one overated game indeed. Dont belive all the hype. Gameplay is slow. I belive the game most been made for girls only because the graphics is ridiculously cute. But the biggest flaw is when you are joined by another character, they end up stuck all the time! Secret of mana is just so overated! Overall score: 50%

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