Aah, Secret of Mana, middle game in one of the most confusingly named trilogies in gaming. Known in Japan as Seiken Densetsu 2 and barely known as anything in Europe due to a very small PAL print run. For those who could get it, it’s a fondly remembered if slightly awkward SNES action-RPG that skews a little more heavily towards the RPG side than most.
As of today, it’s back and looking downright fine; Square Enix’s 3D remake (first announced at Gamescom last year) is out today on Steam.
It’s hard not to feel a pang of nostalgia watching that launch trailer. The new voice-acting (obviously not in the original release) isn’t terrible either, although the script is undeniably very 90s JRPG-lite fare. The art has been adapted quite nicely from chunky sprites to nearly-as-chunky polygons, but there does seem to be a certain sense of depth missing to it. Ironic, given its newly three-dimensional nature.
The remake seems to be receiving some rather mixed responses from the Steam review crowd, with many negative reviews attributed to a slew of launch-day bugs. Some also feel its adhering too closely to the SNES original, to the remake’s detriment. They have at least made some quantifiable improvements over the original SNES version: Full co-op is supported, albeit local-only (another source of complaints on Steam), and unlike the original game, casting a spell doesn’t freeze time for all but the casting player, keeping up the pace of the action.
At least one thing everyone seems to agree on is that they’ve done a great job remixing and rearranging the soundtrack. Melodies are immediately recognizable and familiar, but have vastly more instrumental depth. It has the sound of a mid-generation Playstation game now, dense with semi-retro synths but at least up to CD audio quality.
It’s hard to argue that the chosen price is a bit of a turn-off, too. Given that a savvy shopper can put down an order on the jazzed up PC version of Final Fantasy XV for around £30, having the same price on a pleasantly polished-up but otherwise very, very old Super Nintendo game seems a bit of a hard sell.
Personally, I think you’re better off looking up the fan-translated version of Seiken Densetsu 3, the vastly superior sequel. I’m not entirely sure why Square opted to remake the middle game in the series – perhaps the Japan-only release of the sequel made them worry that it wouldn’t sell at all in the west?
Secret Of Mana is available now on Steam for £30/$40. No launch-day discount this time, sorry.