Today’s announcement of a Secret of Mana remake (out February 15, 2018 for PS4, Vita, and Steam) was welcome news to at least two of us here at Kotaku. To explain why Square’s classic action-role-playing game is so special, we had an impromptu VGCHAT.
Jason Schreier: This morning Square Enix announced a brand new, pipin’ hot remake of Secret of Mana, and while I’ve seen some people griping about the graphics, I cannot wait for this thing. I know you are also a Mana superfan, so I’m curious to hear your take: Why is Secret of Mana so great?
Chris Kohler: Short answer: The music.
Long answer: It’s one of the all-time greats of the golden age of 16-bit RPGs that showed what the Super Nintendo could do technologically and artistically. Beautiful, colorful visual aesthetic, a clever combination of Final Fantasy RPG elements and sword-swingin’ action, an extraordinary soundtrack that really sounded like nothing else at the time.
And just barely enough plot to string it all together.
Jason Schreier: These are good reasons. I think what I like most about Secret of Mana is how eclectic it is. I’ll avoid getting too spoilery because I’m sure people who haven’t played the game will be reading this, but this is a game where you meet Santa Claus. It’s a game where every shopkeeper dances while selling you armor. It’s a game where your main method of transportation is hiring a caveman to insert you into a cannon and quite literally fire you across the world. It’s quirky, charming, and full of smart ideas.
Chris Kohler: Yeah, it’s full of that sort of freewheeling imagination and weird shit that was possible in the old days, and since it wasn’t a Final Fantasy it could be a little more playful and ridiculous.
It was also a very clearly unfinished project, although as a 13-year-old I didn’t exactly see that. But playing it now, and knowing its backstory - it was originally conceived as a CD-ROM game but they had to chop out a lot of stuff when it moved to cartridge - you can tell they sort of hastily put a bow on it, at the end, to just get it out there and move on.
As much as I love Secret of Mana, I can admit that all of the complaints people have about it, including the busted-ass magic system and the many bugs, are legitimate. I have to imagine they’re going to clean that up for this release. What do you hope they fix?
Jason Schreier: Number one has to be the hit detection, which was astonishingly broken in the SNES (and subsequent iOS) release. Not only was the game very bad at recognizing when your sword would actually make contact with enemies, it would refuse to properly interpret hits unless you waited a few seconds for the enemy’s “I am damaged!” animation to finish. You could abuse this system by finding the right cycles to do as much damage as possible — and by doing that with magic, as you mentioned, you could just kill enemies without even letting them move — so it was all just kind of a mess.
And yeah, my least favorite part of Secret of Mana was having to grind magic to make it effective. Your characters’ spells would only become more powerful if you used them over and over again, and practically, you’d have to repetitively kill monsters for a while (those wolves in the ice area were particularly popular) in order to make your magic strong enough to defeat the most powerful bosses. Hopefully they’ve found some way to fix that, though I’m not optimistic.
What about you? What kind of changes do you want to see in this version? And what do you hope DOESN’T change?
Chris Kohler: Yeah, I would love it if they could just balance out the magic system and figure out a way so the most convenient way of playing it isn’t just sitting there setting fire to wolves for hours.
Also, I’d like a map screen that actually makes sense. When I’m flying around with Flammie I’d like some indication of where the hot spots are that I can land in and do stuff. That was not particularly great in the original.
Other than that, I just want a happy little action RPG that I can blast through while enjoying some sweet, sweet tunes. And I think that’s what we’re gonna get! I’m excited. I play Secret of Mana a lot.
I don’t perceive the hit-detection issues anymore, which I totally agree exist, because I’m so used to it. But I do want Square Enix to make improvements even if that means the game feels different than the original. Make it its own thing. If you want the original, you can always just buy a SNES Classic. Haha, of course I am kidding, you can’t buy one.
Jason Schreier: Too soon, man.
So yeah, Secret of Mana is a special game, and this is really cool news. Square hasn’t said anything about changes they’re making, other than: 1) voice acting for everyone; 2) a re-arranged soundtrack; and 3) Local multiplayer. That last one is the coolest part. I had a blast playing multiplayer on the SNES version with friends back in the day, and I’m stoked to force my fiancée to put down Breath of the Wild and play some Secret of Mana on PS4 with me. In fact, that was one of the first things I was going to do if I got an SNES Classic. Since that might never happen, this will be a decent substitute.
Chris Kohler: After the remake of the first game in the series, Adventures of Mana, and now this, I’m holding out hope that this means that Seiken Densetsu 3, the sequel to Secret Of Mana, will finally leave Japan in this form, even if that means a 3D remake versus and not the Super Famicom original. I bet it does.
And then they can stop making Mana remakes because there will be no more good Mana games to remake, sorry everyone.
Jason Schreier: That’s a good place to wrap up, now that you’ve pissed off all the tens of Legend of Mana devotees out there. We’re looking forward to this one in February!