Developing a remake is a real challenge because, before anything else, you need to have understood the original. It is not enough to slavishly copy every detail to satisfy an alleged idea of nostalgia, but we must also understand where it is necessary to put our hands because even the great masterpieces of the past, updated of their inadequacies, can still tell us something that initially we had missed. That was the case with Wonder Boy: The Dragon's Trap, some time ago, but it's certainly not that of Secret of Mana, a remake for PC, PlayStation Vita and PlayStation 4 that gets it wrong, well, pretty much on every front. We played it with heart in hand, remembering all the affection we feel for a series that is slowly leaving the scene: and while the Japanese enjoy the conversion of the first three, unforgettable chapters on Switch, we have a cold remake.
The sword in the Stone
Mind you, Secret of Mana at the time was simply an extraordinary title, but those who played it on Super Nintendo, many years ago, remember it with even more affection precisely because it manages to frame it in a much broader context. Secret of Mana was Square's answer to Nintendo and The Legend of Zelda and the series, which began a couple of years earlier on Game Boy, represented the first attempt at a spin-off for the Japanese developer of Final Fantasy. The state of the art bitmap graphics and beautiful music by Hiroki Kikuta managed to engage the gamer, transporting him to a colorful fantasy world, full of strange enemies, anthropomorphic animals and magical powers. The remake developed by Square Enix attempts to reproduce, without fully succeeding, that bizarre atmosphere, employing a more modern rearrangement of the soundtrack - which you may like or not - and a polygonal graphics engine that makes the game look like a production for mobile systems. .
It is clear that Secret of Mana is a low-budget title, developed mainly for PlayStation Vita and then converted for its older sister and for PC: the initial glance is remarkable - the game is colorful, detailed and lively - but it stands out well soon several flaws that, absurdly, make it seem more antiquated than its predecessor, when compared to the standards of 2017. The polygonal models are graceful and faithful to the style of Hiro Isono, but as soon as they move you realize the poverty of animations that characterize above all the enemies and supporting actors, but also the new cinematics that should tell the story with greater emphasis. and they succeed until the audio track of the dubbing starts (in English or Japanese) and the characters speak without moving their lips. The absence of expressiveness, in the end, trivializes the most important moments of the adventure. The premise, for example, is resolved in a few and poor dialogues when Randi, our protagonist, carelessly extracts the Sword of Mana from a rock, making himself exiled from his village because he is accused of having attracted the ire of monsters on it. Together with a combative blonde named Prim and an elf named Popoi, Randi must regenerate the powers of the sword and stop the Empire from getting its hands on the deadly Mana Fortress.
PlayStation 4 Trophies
The thirty-eight Secret of Mana trophies (1 platinum, 4 gold, 7 silver and 26 bronze) ask you to defeat all bosses, upgrade all weapons and spells, find every item and of course finish the game. All in all, it is not difficult to unlock them, as you just have to follow the story without neglecting any combat or secondary path.
But if it worked ...
The player commands one of the three protagonists directly, entrusting the others to a mediocre artificial intelligence or to two human players who can take control of them at any time, hoping that they are more aware of the CPU. When playing alone, in fact, our group mates tend to take every single shot without committing to dodging, often forcing us to buy every little defensive accessory to always keep up with the enemies that plague every map. This means often finding yourself broke and learning to micromanage the purchases of equipment and consumables with a minimum of parsimony. On the weapons front, fortunately, just use those that are unlocked by continuing in the game to increase the competence of the characters who wield them and who will thus learn new special attacks or spells in the case of elemental spells. The real-time action combat system is mainly based on the blows that we can unleash by pressing a simple button, by downloading an indicator that regenerates within seconds and decrees the effectiveness of the next attack.
In practice, the player must move and attack with the right timing in order to prevent the actions of the enemies. In this remake, however, the poverty of the animations already underlined and the unprecedented possibility of attacking in any direction, and not only in the cardinal ones, in certain moments contribute to exponentially increase the level of difficulty and not because the game is actually more complex. , but because it is more difficult to gauge the reactions of enemies or to protect our comrades, who are targeted from all angles. In the tightest spaces you end up making an enormous confusion, which contributes to the management of the inventory and secondary menus that allow, for example, to choose which weapons or spells to use during combat. Pressing a key pauses the game and a ring appears in the center of the screen with the various options of the case. This ploy, innovative at the time, becomes clumsy and cumbersome in the remake that clumsily manages both the position of the menu on the screen, and the memorization of the selected options, resetting them every time and making access to the interface much more inconvenient.
Secret of Mana continues like this for the twenty hours it takes to complete it, even less if you know the complex map of the world and know where to go, without risking getting lost due to the scant indications offered by the supporting actors: it almost seems that Square Enix has taken two steps back for each step forward and even the most interesting novelty of the package, represented by the dialogues that deepen the characters every time you stop in an inn, quickly loses all its charm, especially because they end up often focusing on the idiosyncrasies of the characters, repeating the same gags to exhaustion. It is in these moments that we regret the original and its slips, children of another time and, for this very reason, much easier to forgive.
CommentTested version PlayStation 4 Digital Delivery Steam, PlayStation Store Price 39,99 € Resources4Gaming.com
The thing that angers Secret of Mana is the philosophy according to which Square Enix would like to probe the interest of the Western public in the series with low budget products, made hastily and with superficiality, that mortify the original titles. Unfortunately, this remake fails to represent the importance of the true Secret of Mana, easily available thanks to the compilation included in the Super Nintendo Classic Mini: our hope is that Square Enix will give itself a sound wake up, locate the Seiken Densetsu Collection for Switch and deliver those gems also to today's gamers. In short, this Secret of Mana is just a decent alternative to an experience that, in our opinion, all polygons in the world will always struggle to match.
- Graphically it is clean and colorful
- It faithfully follows the original structure
- The dialogues in the inns enrich the story
- The poverty of the animations also negatively affects the fighting
- Clunky interface and mediocre artificial intelligence
- Frequent spikes in difficulty caused by all new problems