When Secret of Mana came out in 1993, it was rightfully praised as one of the Super Nintendo’s best action games thanks to a lovely soundtrack, beautiful spritework, and fun hack-n-slash gameplay. The 2018 remake has ruined all three of these things.
I’ve played a couple of hours of the PlayStation 4 version of this Secret of Mana remake, which comes out today for PS4 and Vita. I can’t remember the last time I’ve been this disappointed by a remake.
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The soundtrack has received an overhaul that ruins some of the SNES game’s best tracks, adding dissonant melodies and irritating screeches to what was once a beautiful piece of work. Fortunately, you can switch to the original soundtrack.
Go to 1:20 in this video if you want to see just how badly this soundtrack was mangled:
The sprites are gone, replaced by ugly polygonal models that don’t have the charm of the originals. The real shame is that Square Enix had nailed it with Adventures of Mana, the polygon-based remake of the Game Boy predecessor to Secret of Mana.
This new version of Secret of Mana is full of animated cutscenes and voice acting, but the characters’ lips don’t move when they talk, which is unsettling.
The gameplay somehow takes several steps back from 1993. In most ways it’s identical to the original Secret of Mana, maintaining quirks that haven’t aged well, like the way enemies will temporarily become invulnerable every time you attack them, dragging out each encounter just a few seconds longer than it needs to be. This was more tolerable with the SNES version’s lovely (and often hilarious) animations. With polygons, it’s just frustrating.
Correction (11:53am): I originally wrote here that in the 1993 version, shops would indicate whether armor was an improvement before you bought it, but I was wrong. It’s a shame that the Secret of Mana remake doesn’t add those sort of quality-of-life improvements—and in fact, it takes steps backward in other small ways, like no longer remembering where your cursor last was when you open up the menu—but regardless, that was a mistake and I apologize for the error.
One of the original Secret of Mana’s biggest strengths was the fact that you could play it with another player (or even two other players, if you had a Multi-Tap controller port). The remake brings that local co-op to modern platforms, so I recruited my fiancee to play with me earlier this week. After a few minutes of hacking through enemies in the early Haunted Forest area, she turned to me and said, “This is boring.” I realized, to my dismay, that she was right.