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Secret_of_Mana

Secret of Mana

Secret of Mana, known in Japan as , is an action role-playing game developed and published by Square (now Square Enix) for the Super Nintendo Entertainment System and the second installment in the Mana video game series (the first, Final Fantasy Adventure/Seiken Densetsu: Final Fantasy Gaiden was for the Game Boy). This is the only Mana game released on the Super Nintendo outside Japan. Most players outside Japan were introduced to the series through this particular game.

Rather than use the traditional turn-based battle system of games like Final Fantasy and Dragon Quest, Secret of Mana uses real-time battles akin to the Legend of Zelda series' games, but with the statistical-based elements of the RPG genre and a unique "ring menu" system. In addition, with its brightly colored graphics, expansive plot, and soundtrack by Hiroki Kikuta, Secret Of Mana has been called one of the greatest video games ever made.

Gameplay

Generally, Secret of Mana uses a top-down view common with role-playing games of the 16-bit era, with movement governed by the directional pad and the game's other functions by the other buttons (however, the game has an option to flip the controller's functions to be used as upside down, theoretically giving left-handed people functions with their left hand while controlling movement by their right hand). However, unlike its companion turn-based RPGs, Secret of Mana uses a pictorial ring menu system. It is from here that the player can change what weapons the main characters use, cast spells, use items, equip armor, change game settings and control the behavior of the computer-controlled main characters while the action is paused. The ring menu is used again in later Mana games and the spin-off Secret of Evermore.

Weapons and spells

Secret of Mana offers the player eight weapon types to choose from, including Randi's initial sword. These include a spear, bow, axe, whip and a javelin. As a default setting, Purim joins the party using the glove and Popoie with the boomerang. Weapons can be upgraded through the use of orbs, generally obtained after the successful completion of a boss battle or found as treasures in dungeons. In order for the upgrade to be performed, the weapons must be taken to Watts the Dwarven Blacksmith, who is a staple of the series.

Secret of Mana also introduces the Elementals concept to the Seiken series. The eight Elementals can be found on different locations of the game world, and each has a distinct personality and provides the player with specific spells. The eight Elementals are (in order of appearance) Undine, Gnome, Sylphid, Salamando, Shade, Lumina, Luna and Dryad. Each Elemental has destructive and support powers.

Both weapons and magical powers are given a proficiency scale of nine levels (ranging from 0:00 to 8:99), which are raised according to how much the player makes use of them; higher levels allow for more powerful attacks or stronger spells, but each new level takes longer to achieve than the last. Weapons are granted a new, more powerful attack with each level, but with these comes the downside of an increased cumulative charge-up time — the more powerful the attack the player wishes to unleash, the more time he or she will have to spend charging up for the attack and the more vulnerable to enemy attack they are. Even without starting a special attack, the player has to wait momentarily for the character to recover from each attack they make; failure to wait for the character to recover will make their attacks deal minimal damage until enough time is given (around three seconds). Spell animations change approximately every two levels, and once an element reaches above level 8:00, there is a chance that a super-powered version of any spell of that element will be performed when cast. The closer to level 8:99 the element is, the more often the special version will trigger.

Items & equipment

A variety of beneficial items are available for use in Secret of Mana, mainly for use as curatives, restoration or healing. Unlike its sequel, Seiken Densetsu 3, there are no items purely for attacking enemies. The game also provides an additional challenge through only allowing the player to carry a maximum of four of each item at any time. This four-of-a-kind-maximum rule can be seen to encourage the player to kill enemies and loot any treasure chests left behind to replenish their stocks, or to use spells to achieve the same effect. However, using spells compounds the challenge as the Faerie Walnut items, which are the only items that replenish the Mana Points used to cast spells, follow the same rule. Throughout the game, the use of some items, such as the curatives and healing items, becomes less of a necessity as the player receives more elemental powers and their proficiency in them increases, particularly for Purim, who casts most, if not all, of the beneficial spells. For example, Undine's powers include Cure Water, which restores hit points, and Remedy, which removes status modifiers such as poison or petrification, are obtained early in the game; practicing these spells allows the player to stop relying on the curative Candy, Chocolate and Royal Jam items gradually, and the healing Medical Herb. Cups of Wishes, which revive fallen party members, are generally needed until near the end of the game, when the spell Revivifier is obtained, but still provide an alternative to the spell's high Mana Point cost. There are also two one-of-a-kind items that restore the special "midget" and "Moogle" status modifiers, the Midge Mallet and the Moogle Belt; however, their use on an unfettered character will shrink them and prevent the use of their weapons, or turn them into a Moogle respectively.

Unlike some other roleplaying games, weapons cannot be bought or sold; rather, an orb for one of the weapons is awarded or found and brought to Watts the Blacksmith, who will then irrevocably upgrade that weapon to a new, more powerful form. Armor, on the other hand, is either bought and sold through vendors, such as the travelling peddler Neko, or can only be found in chests left behind by defeated enemies. As the game progresses, more powerful armor is available either through chance in the looted treasure chests (the most powerful armor items in the game can only be found this way), or for purchase with the in-game currency of GP, and is then equipped on each character's head, body or arm, depending on the armor type. Some items of equipment, like the Spiked Vest, can be worn by all characters, but others, like the Tiger Bikini and Rabite Cap, are character specific.

Ring System

The Ring System allowed for the player(s) to access commands using the Y and X buttons on the Super Nintendo Entertainment System controller. The Y button would allow the user to bring up the ring for the character he/she was currently controlling. The X button would allow the user to select another character's ring, as long as that character was not being controlled by player 2 (or 3). While the ring was being perused, all other action would stop, allowing for players to look at anything without being attacked.

The Ring System had three or four level layouts that could be accessed, depending on the character. Randi's ring was limited to three levels; the weapons ring, the status ring, and the items ring. Purim and Popoie had a fourth ring level; the Elementals. The weapons ring allowed for each character to choose his/her own weapon. If a weapon was was currently being used by one character, the act of choosing one of those weapons would allow the two to swap weapons. The status ring had options from equiping armor to changing the layout of the text box. The item ring held the items, which could easily be selected in this fashion. The Elemental ring showed which Elemental could be called upon to cast spells.

Bosses

Bosses in Secret of Mana are tied to an 'elemental weakness' system, where a particular boss may be weak against a certain element. If every element is trained to the same level, the boss' 'weak point' element will deal extra damage; while magic generally does more damage than a straight melee attack, if the attack is 'charged' by holding the 'attack' button, the melee attack will deliver greater total damage. Additionally, weapons can be charged with mana elements to take advantage of a boss's weakness.

After defeating a boss, players are rewarded with 'weapon orbs', which are specific to a given weapon and can be used by Watts, the dwarven blacksmith, to reinforce and 'power up' a weapon.

Multiplayer

Secret of Mana can be played simultaneously by one, two or three players. In order to support three players, a Super Multitap accessory must be plugged into the second controller port of the gaming console. Otherwise, the game's artificial intelligence will exercise limited control over the one or two supporting characters. The AI is known for having a notoriously weak path-finding system, which quite often results in supporting characters getting stuck, forcing the player to switch control to them to unlodge them, as an invisible barrier prevents the player from becoming too separated from the other two characters. It is possible to adjust the aggression level of each AI-controlled character, but spell-casting must be performed manually.

Because of this auto-detection mechanism, additional players could join or leave the game simply by plugging or unplugging their controller. Removal of the controller simply reverted that character back to AI control.

Plot and setting

Setting

The story takes place in a fictional world, during an unspecified period following the destruction of the "Mana Fortress" (It is hinted towards the end of the game that the fictional world is actually Earth in the future, as they find "videos", one of which is a Jeopardy episode with a final question being 'Who is Abraham Lincoln?).

Plot

Using the power of mana a civilization had grown strong. In time, Mana was used to create the Ultimate Weapon: the Mana Fortress... This angered the gods. They sent their beasts to destroy the Fortress... A violent war rocked the world, and Mana seemed to disappear... Before all was lost, a hero with the Mana Sword smashed the Fortress... Though civilization was destroyed, the world was peaceful again. But, time flows like a river...and history repeats...

When a young man from the village of Potos disobeys his elder's instructions and leaves the safety of his home, he stumbles upon a sword in the middle of a river, embedded in a stone. Pulling the sword free, he didn't recognize the legendary Sword of Mana. Soon afterward, monsters that were released by the removal of the sword attacked Potos and the surrounding forest, and a knight, Jema, sends the boy to the Water Palace in an effort to restore the seal that protected the world. Banished from his home by reforging the Mana Sword and accompanied in his travels by a Sprite child and a Princess from the Kingdom of Pandora, the boy must defeat an invading empire that seeks to control the Mana Seeds and restore the Mana Fortress that once devastated the world.

Characters

The Heroes

The primary protagonist of Secret of Mana is the knight, who is supported by the spell-casting girl and sprite child. While the three released versions of the game do not have a default name for each of the characters, the Japanese instruction manual refers to the knight, girl and sprite respectively as Randi, Purim and Popoie (or variants thereof). The origin of the heroes' names is somewhat cloudy: they were possibly bestowed by the Japanese Gamest Magazine previewing the game, then followed upon by other magazines and subsequently by Square. Regardless of origin, the gaming community tends to refer to the three protagonists by these names, as does this article.

Randi, a.k.a. The Boy or The Hero or Randy

The boy is adopted by the Elder of Potos after his mother disappears. After pulling the Mana Sword free, the monsters invaded Potos and the villagers persuade the Elder to banish him. Seeking to restore the sword, he then embarks on a quest to re-energize the sword.

Purim a.k.a. The Girl

Purim, the girl, meets Randi briefly when he's ambushed by Goblins. After helping him escape, she disappears, only to appear again outside Elinee's Castle. The girl is in love with a warrior named Dyluck, who was ordered by the King to attack Elinee's Castle, which is considered a virtual suicide mission. Angry over her father's actions, she rebels and leaves the castle to join Randi in his quest, and possibly save Dyluck as well.

Popoie a.k.a. The Sprite

The Heroes meet Popoie the Sprite at the Dwarf Village. The Sprite makes a living by scamming people at the dwarves' Freak Show. He doesn't remember anything about his past, so he joins the team to try to recover his memories. The Sprite comes from a village in the Upper Land. He was washed away by a flood to Gaia's Navel, where the Dwarf Elder found him. The flood caused The Sprite to suffer from amnesia; the Sprite can't remember anything of his past. While Popoie may seem childish at times, he has courage equal to that of the other two heroes. As an orphan, he understands how the boy feels not growing up with his parents. Popoie's gender has never officially been stated, although he uses the first-person pronoun "oira" that is mostly used by males.

Major Non-Player Characters

  • Dyluck: Purim's lover, who was captured by Elinee and given to Thanatos on a mission against Elinee. Thanatos seeks to possess his body, and controls Dyluck on several occasions. Dyluck, however, fights his control, helping to save Purim from being drained of life in the Empire Ruins, and sacrifices himself to prevent Thanatos from controlling him in the Mana Fortress.
  • Elinee: A witch who kidnaps Dyluck and sends him to Thanatos, supposedly in exchange for magical herbs. After the party defeats her, she promises to reform herself and lead a more benign life.
  • Elman: Purim's father, apparently a former knight or other noble. He raised her alone, and believes that she has become selfish as a result of not having a female influence in her upbringing. She refuses his arranged marriage to a young nobleman, despite his claims that it will make her happy, and is attracted to Dyluck instead. It is implied that he had a hand in sending Dyluck against Elinee, as Purim accuses the King and him of doing so. Elman may have been motivated to send Dyluck against Elinee in the hope that the mission would result in his death, leaving Purim with no reason to oppose the arranged marriage. Purim is very bitter about what she perceives as attempts to control her, but as she returns to her father in the credits, she may have forgiven him to some degree.
  • Flammie: A white dragon that the party saves from the giant serpent that killed his parents. After the party escapes the Imperial Castle with his help, he becomes the primary mode of aerial transportation, and the only way except for Cannon Travel to travel between continents. It is suggested that he is somehow related to the Mana Beast, given that they look somewhat similar.
  • Geshtar: Also known as the "Mech Rider," and one of the Empire's lieutenants. He attacks the party at three different locations; the Kakkara Desert, the Emperor's Castle and the Grand Palace. At the Grand Palace, he has been imbued with Thanatos' magic, being turned into a "living, fighting machine," and appears unresponsive. He is then defeated and killed.
  • Fanha: The Emperor's only female lieutenant. She helps Thanatos betray Emperor Vandole, and attacks the party as Hexas, a creature resembling a Lamia. The party defeats and kills her, however.
  • Sheex: Also known as the Dark Stalker, he is another of the Empire's lieutenants. He infiltrates Tasnica and attempts to disguise himself as their king, but is detected and defeated by the heroes. He then attacks the heroes at the Tree Palace as Aegagropilon, a plant-like demon, but is defeated and killed.
  • Jema: A Tasnican knight who commanded the King's troops and was best friends with Serin (Randi's ghostly father). He quit the army after Serin's death, but fights the empire wherever he can. However, Randi relies on his advice less often as the game goes on.
  • Joch/Jehk: A sage who sends the party on certain errands while pretending to be his own apprentice. He deceives the party to help them prepare for the trial against themselves.
  • Luka: A 200-year-old guardian of the Water Seal who tells Randi much of the story of the Mana Sword and Fortress. She is taken hostage by Geshtar in an attempt to obtain the Water Seed. Toward the end of the game, when the Empire breaks the seals that the party had fought hard to protect during their absence, if the player returns to the Water Palace, one will find Luka imprisoned in a basement cell beneath the Water Temple, and she tells the party of the Empire's arrival.
  • Neko: A cat who sells the party items and allows them to save, appearing in many places, including the wilderness and some dungeons. He also has a shop near the Water Palace that also features an inn. His items are significantly more expensive than those sold by other merchants, but the party can buy every inventory item from him no matter where they find him. Toward the end of the game, Neko sells some of the strongest armor near what is left of the Grand Palace.
  • Phanna: One of Purim's friends, who was jealous of her relationship with Dyluck. That jealousy allows Thanatos to control her easily, but she regains control and apologizes for her actions by the end of the game.
  • The Scorpion Army: A Boss and two underlings. They typically scheme to make money, first by stealing the Water Seed, then by creating a resort in the middle of Ice Country, and finally by attempting to steal and sell the Mana Sword itself, and are usually quite incompetent in carrying out their schemes. They unleash robots against the party.
  • Thanatos: An ancient Lich unrelated to the Empire. He is the main villain, and seeks Dyluck's body and the power of the Fortress. He is an ancient sorcerer who sold his heart to the underworld. He transformed because his true form is the Dark Lich.
  • King Truffle: The king of the Fungi Kingdom. A more minor character, his role is to take care of Flammie until he is able to fly and save the party from the burning Imperial castle.
  • Emperor Vandole: The head of the Empire, he seeks to control the world with the power of the Mana Fortress. However, he is betrayed and killed by his subordinates.
  • Watts: The Dwarven blacksmith who helps upgrade weapons with orbs. He appears in every town.

Development

SNES Disc Drive

Secret of Mana was originally going to be a launch title for the SNES CD add-on. After the project was dropped, the game had to be altered to fit onto a standard game cartridge.

English localization

The English translation for Secret of Mana was completed in only 30 days, mere weeks after the Japanese release. This was presumably so that the game could be released in North America for the 1993 holiday season. According to translator Ted Woolsey, a large portion of the game's script was cut out in the English localization due to space limitations and a lack of sequential text. The English translation of Secret of Mana uses a fixed-width font to display text on the main gameplay screen. However, the choice of this font limits the amount of space available to display text, and as a result conversations are trimmed to their bare essentials, leaving a good portion of the game lost in translation.

Graphics

Through its information and settings screens, Secret of Mana uses a 512x224 pixel high resolution mode (one of a handful of Super Nintendo games to do so) so that a smaller text font could be used. However, the smaller size of the text and the lack of contrast between the white text and the moving light green background can make the information hard to read — likewise the lack of clear distinction between the characters and the background (as compared with The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past) can be troublesome for some players. This is actually problematic for those using an emulator to run the game instead of the console, as these settings must be manually adjusted for.

Another unusual use of graphics comes while flying Flammie, the game's main means of transportation. Secret of Mana makes use of the Super Nintendo's Mode 7 capability to create a largely scaled and rotatable background, giving the illusion that the ground below Flammie is rendered in three dimensions. However, this is only viewable after Flammie ascends to a certain height (the automatic default), and not if the player decides to fly with a top-down view.

Also, while on Flammie, the player can access the "rotated map", which presents the world as a globe. While viewing this map, the player can then switch to the "world map", a two-dimensional view of the world.

Original Soundtrack

is the soundtrack to Secret of Mana. Originally released in 1993 in Japan under the name Seiken Densetsu 2 Original Sound Version, its US debut followed in the next year due to the game's massive success. The US release is identical to the Japanese version, aside from the packaging and localized English song titles (not necessarily accurate translations).

The game's soundtrack was composed by Hiroki Kikuta. It is known for its variety of tunes which tend to focus on the use of percussion and woodwind instruments, ranging from a lighthearted dwarves' polka to a somber, wistful snow melody to a tribal-like dance.

Secret of Mana's title theme, Angels' Fear is well known by video game music aficionados for its haunting, echoing piano melody, and was featured in the third Orchestral Game Concert as well as serving as the base for many remixes. Parts of the game's soundtrack were incorporated into the Seiken Densetsu 2 Secret of Mana/Secret of Mana+ compilation arrangement CD.

Reception and sequels

As of February 2004, Secret of Mana shipped 1.83 million copies wordwide, with 1.5 million of those copies being shipped in Japan and 330,000 abroad.

Secret of Mana was listed at number 42 on Nintendo Power magazine's Top 200 Nintendo Games Of All Time. It was also rated number 48 on the "IGN's Top 100 Games" in 2005 and number 49 in 2006. Also in 2006, Secret of Mana was voted the 97th best game of all time by the readers of the well-known Japanese magazine Famitsu. It was also ranked the 86th best game made on a Nintendo System in Nintendo Power's Top 200 Games list.

Secret of Mana developed a large fanbase, so much so that since its release, Square Enix has decided to launch several new games in the series on multiple platforms, along with the possibility of novelizations, films, and manga products being created.

References

External links

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