Secret of Mana is an action role-playing video game developed by Square (known as Square Enix now). It was released in 1993 and was one of the top video game hits of the era. It was originally released in Japan as Seiken Densetsu 2 and it’s the sequel to the infamous Seiken Densetsu released back in 1991, known as Final Fantasy Adventure in the United States and Mystic Quest in Europe. Secret of Mana was the first game of the series marketed under the Mana name.
The campaign of the Secret of Mana takes place in a high fantasy world. The story revolves around an ethereal power source called the “mana”. An ancient civilization that happens to be very technologically advanced, builds a flying warship called the “Mana Fortress”. This angers the world’s Gods and to war the civilization, they send giant beasts to the world. The war goes globally destructive and nearly all signs of mana vanish from the world. That’s until a hero uses the power of the Mana Sword to destroy the mana fortress and civilization. As the game opens, an empire seeks to restore the 8 Mana Seeds, which have the power to restore Mana to the world. This, ultimately, would grant the empire the power to restore the Mana Fortress.
The empire is manipulated by Thanatos who has evil plans of creating a new and peaceful world. After the empire successfully restores Mana to the world, Thanatos betrays them, kills the emperor and his people, and seizes the Mana Fortress for himself. The heroes’ trio goes on to stop Thanatos in his plans by visiting and taking advice from the Mana Tree. In the end, the trio ends up defeating Thanatos and the world is restored to its peaceful state.
The gameplay of the Secret of Mana comprises a top-down view just like the majority of role-playing games of the 16-bit era. In this top-down perspective, the player can navigate the heroes’ trio, i.e., a boy, a girl, and a sprite. The player navigates through the terrain and fights hostile creatures by controlling any one of the three characters. When the control is passed to one specific character, the other two characters are controlled by artificial intelligence. However, two or three players can also play the game simultaneously, controlling two or three characters at the same time. The players can take refuge in towns where they can regain their hit points (HP) and can also purchase equipment and restoration items.
Each of the three characters has their unique strengths and weaknesses. The boy is not able to do magic but is great at fighting. He’s also able to master weapons at a much quicker rate. The girl has average combat skills but is very useful for supportive
purposes. She can cast restorative spells and can heal her fellows during the battle. Last but not the least, the sprite has incredibly offensive magic skills but isn’t good for melee combats. After collecting enough experience points, the characters can level up and achieve improved abilities like strength and evasion. The trio can use a total of 8 weapons throughout the campaign. Except for the sword, all other weapons can be upgraded for a total of 8 times. Alongside that, each character can have a skill level for each weapon, ranging up to 8. Magic works pretty much the same way, with the exception that magic points are reset every time a spell is cast.
In 2018, Square Enix released a 3D remake of the game. It was a food for thought but as reviewed by many of the reviewers, it lacks many of the classic elements and vibes of the original version.