In this day and age of gaming where having the latest graphics and gameplay is not all its cracked up to be, sometimes it’s good to take a trip back to a simpler time in gaming. A time where 16-bit sprites ruled and taking swords out of stones set you on a quest to save the world from an evil once thought dead. To an age where Square-Enix was still Squaresoft and made games other than Final Fantasy. In between Final Fantasy V (1992) and VI 1994, came out the Action-RPG Secret of Mana for the SNES in 1993. Back then, Secret of Mana was doing things that were revolutionary for the genre that are common now in most games, such as its on-screen menu system, innovative real time battle system and drop in/out multiplayer. Now 18 years later, does Secret of Mana still hold up after all this time, as it finds a new home in iOS devices?
SECRET OF GOODNESS
Enhanced Port of Original - Secret of Mana is an enhanced port of the original, not just some half-assed port. Time and care was taken to port the game to iOS devices, adding in touchscreen features, an auto-save function, and the sprites were even redrawn to fit the widescreen aspect of iOS devices.
Original Text and Dialogue Restored - On the original SNES cart, a lot of the game text was lost in translation during the localization, which took 30 days. Names were left out and sections of dialogue were cut and shortened. Now all of the original text and dialogue has been put in place, letting gamers enjoy the story.
Ring Command Menu Works Great With Touch Screen - The Ring Command menu gets an update. A simple slide up or down on the screen cycles through actions, weapons, armor and usable items without leaving the gameplay screen. As magic users become available, spells can be equipped and casted as well.
LOST ITS MANA TOUCH
Virtual Analog Stick - While the touchscreen works great with navigating the Ring Command menus, it doesn’t work for controlling characters. Controlling Randi or any other of the party members feels weird and awkward without the tactile feel of a d-pad.
No Multiplayer - The major hook besides the engrossing story and innovative controls and menu system was the drop in/drop out multiplayer aspect of Secret of Mana. Unfortunately this feature is missing from this port of the game. This was an unnecessary omission. After all, iOS devices have both wi-fi and Bluetooth functions and multiplayer would have been a great addition.
Music Pause - Secret of Mana’s soundtrack is considered to be one of the best Square soundtracks that does not involve Nobuo Uematsu, but some of the music loops have a noticeable delay before playing again.
Slowdown - The frame rate slows down during some of the more intense boss battles. While this is not enough to affect the gameplay (and may in fact make it a little easier) it is noticeable.
Secret of Mana is a welcome addition to Square-Enix’s library of iOS games. There are a few minor things that make the port a bit flawed. Getting to play this game again with its all of the added features, the enhanced graphics, and the inclusion of missing text and dialogue make it a must buy for fans of the original and those wanting to see what gaming was like back in the SNES era.
- Mike V.
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