Secret Of Mana (Seiken Densetsu 2) - Retroview

Time Flows Like A River...


Review Breakdown
   Battle System 8
   Interface 9
   Music/Sound 7
   Originality 8
   Plot 7
   Localization 6
   Replay Value 8
   Visuals 7
   Difficulty Very Easy
   Time to Complete

20-40 hours


Title Screen

   Of the SNES SquareSoft lineup, there are five major players. Final Fantasy VI, Chrono Trigger, Final Fantasy IV, Breath Of Fire (they published it!), and Secret Of Mana. Secret Of Mana is the long awaited sequel to Final Fantasy Adventure, a sort-of-spinoff of Final Fantasy for the gameboy (in name just like Final Fantasy Mystic Quest, or Final Fantasy Legend). Although in a good portion of the world they are known as the 'Mana' series, the actual title of the saga is Seiken Densetsu, literally 'sword power legend' or 'heavenly power legend'. Now, if you hear of this game being referred to as Seiken Densetsu 2, you'll know what the person means.

   The battle system of SOM is virtually identical to the Legend of Zelda, Illusion Of Gaia, and Legend of Mana. It directly revolves around your movements and navigation on the field and the abilities of your weapons and magic. Move within range of your foe and strike. Dodge, parry, run, charge for a power hit! This type of battle system is the most intuitive possible sort. Just by moving the characters around and pressing buttons you can learn the basics... Combat with magic can be a bit more complicated but the submenus explain everything in a much more concise manner than I ever could.

   Having mentioned the menu system, I'll elaborate. It consists of a series of inter-related rings of choices that you can move around with the directional pad. All the icons are pretty obvious and most are even labelled. If you have any kind of trouble using them it would come from the magic rings because of their multiple layered settings. Basically... You select the 'Magic Ring' - which shows a list of all available elements of magic. You choose your element and then you see a list of all the magic available to you in that element. Select the spell, select the target(s) and you're the up and coming Merlin. Presto-change-o-meenie-mo-magico! Oops... Wrong game.

A Scene From Disney's 'Sword In The Stone'
A Scene From Disney's 'Sword In The Stone' 

   The music is a fair collage of everything that SquareSoft had done to that point. This is not to say that it steals tracks from other games but it does mean that it uses a lot of the same sounds and tempos that go hand in hand with the SNES. Some of the most brilliant of all the SNES music comes toward the end of the game. The 'Pure Land' and 'Mana Fortress' themes are stupendous. Sound effects are sorta weak but they get the point across which is really their only function. I'll just forewarn you now... If you really love the soundtrack and want to buy it... Refrain from buying the orchestrated version. It's very difficult to tell what song is what and the CD is a single 50 minute track, which makes skipping things hard.

   I personally think that SOM started a fair number of trends in the RPG world. It's the first game - to my knowledge - that really emphasized the powers of nature. I don't count the elemental crystals because rather than the powers of nature, they represent forces of nature by their magnitude. The essence of Mana lies along the lines of Final Fantasy VII in some ways. The mystical energy that creates life and allows the planets to maintain their harmonious balance are reaped upon by Humanity for their own gain. The struggle between good and evil can come to no more definite field than that shown in SOM... With the possible exception of Chaos and ExDeath (FF and FFV, respectively), you will find no more loathesome a villain than Thanatos... Actually... Now that my mind wanders, Thanatos and Lavos have much in common, too. But you'll have to draw the parallels yourself after playing SOM and Chrono Trigger. The other cool thing about SOM is that it's multi-player. Each person (up to three) controls a different character and performs for that person. That's pretty innovative as far as and RPG goes.

   Many ages ago the Mana tree created the world and bestowed life to its' shores. With the rise of Humanity came a civilization that coexisted peacefully with the flow of Mana and helped nature to reach its' peak level of efficiency... But as time progressed, forces within the society began to usurp the powers of Mana and use them to fight battles against the more peaceful races in a vain attempt to subjugate them. This angered the Gods of Mana and they sent forth their beasts of destruction to destroy the civilization of upstart mortals who tried to take power from the planet. But... Having anticipated this eventuality, the Humans had built a weapon so awesome in power that it was referred to only as the 'Mana Fortress'. The battle between the Gods and Humans lasted but a brief time and in the end, Mana seemed to utterly disappear from the world... But... History repeats itself and the Mana Sword that was used to subdue the Mana Fortress and defeat the Beasts of Mana - thus saving the remnants of the shattered world from oblivion - is calling out for a new hero... One that might finally bring the powers of Mana back to the world.

An Inside Look At The Sprite's REAL Circus Life
An Inside Look At The Sprite's REAL Circus Life 

   There is very little text dialogue in the game by today's standards. Hence, I'd have to say that the localization is fairly good. It's much the same quality level as everything else released on the SNES because of Nintendo's quality controls.

   Secret Of Mana has such an incredibly high replay value merely because it's a game that never becomes 'unfun'. I myself have a game that everyone and everything is utterly maxed out on. That kind of effort takes hours and hours of game play (and usually the help of a second player). But... Compared to traditional ATB battle system RPGs, action oriented game seem to - in general - have a higher replay simply because they're less time consuming.

   The game graphics are similar in quality to Chrono Trigger and Final Fantasy VI. They trend toward the pastels and neons that you might see in a Sonic the Hedgehog game but that's hardly a reason not to play it. Although this might seem like I'm 'Devil's Advocating' myself between SOM and Legend of Mana I appreciate the computerized graphics of SOM a great deal more than the hand-drawn, cartoony feeling that I got from LOM. That opinion is mine, and mine alone so you'll really have to play the game to decide what you think.

   I'm sorry to announce that the hardest battle in the game can be easily won so long as you have Shade magic on level 5 or up when you get there. Aegagropilan is a nasty demoniod thing summoned by one of the messengers of the empire (Sheex, I believe...). If you can beat it (which there is a fairly good chance of even if you're only level 20) you can beat the game. Just level up your magic and purchase the most recent equipment and you're in like a dirty shirt.

What A Sinister Looking Fortress Of Destruction!
What A Sinister Looking Fortress Of Destruction! 

   Because the game is so easy, and because it's merely a 16-bit SNES cartridge in length you should have absolutely no difficulty beating the final boss in 40 hours. If you can't, then you're probably doing something wrong.

   With this review I complete my SquareSoft SNES pack. I'll be back with more Mana goodness if those dirty, hopeless, ::insert Chevy Chase cursing here:: people at SquareSoft ever decide to translate and port Seiken Densetsu 3 to the GBA...

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