With hundreds and thousands of games released since the dawn of the industry, there’s clearly no time to play them all. But there are some that you should play at least once. These are the Essentials.

We know SquareEnix for Final Fantasy, but the famed maker of JRPGs has had many other successes under their umbrella. My personal favourite: the second entry in the Seiken Densetsu series. Read on for my Secret of Mana SNES review

Originally intended as a release for the Super Nintendo’s promised CD addon, it was repurposed as a cartridge game, cutting out several features including multiple endings. Translated in a mere 30 days following its original Japanese release, it finally reached Western shores.

What makes this game so special for me personally, are the progressive mechanics that differentiated it from the turn-based battles that the JRPG genre was known for. Combat is very action focused, with the player given direct control of the protagonist, and eventually two other party members. Once these party members were met through the early hours of the story, a multitap peripheral could be used to plug a third controller into the Super Nintendo console, so up to three players could control a party member each, making for a very unique co-operative experience that is mostly unheard of in the genre.

secret of mana snes review

But this wasn’t just a game of hack and slashing. A gauge counts to 100% after every attack made by the player, and should the player try to attack again while that gauge is still counting, the results are a much weaker attack that barely grazes enemies. You had to know when to strike and fall back. Magic also plays a part, with various spells available after several elemental mana spirits are met. Each character could equip 8 different types of weapon, from close range swords and axes to long-range weapons such as whips, bows and throwing weapons. These weapons could be upgraded by finding hidden mana orbs and giving them to a dwarf who will forge your arsenal, increasing their potential power and also enabling devastating attacks that require charging before they are unleashed. Weapons and Magic could also be levelled up by just using them on enemies, which would increase their effectiveness.

This is clearly a JRPG with a difference, and it astounds me that it’s true sequel, Seiken Densetsu 3 never made it over to Western Shores. It offers an absolutely sprawling quest, taking you across a whole host of exotic locales, in order to locate the mana seeds to power up your sword and of course, save the world. You’ll also meet many odd characters, including Neko the shopkeeping cat, a whole village of dwarfs and even a meeting with Santa Claus himself, who turns into a boss after being corrupted by the power of a seed.

It also contains one of the best SNES soundtracks you’ll ever hear, featuring musical instruments you’ll never heard in games before or since. It’s a beautiful mix of styles and moods that complement the game perfectly, and it’s so good you can even purchase it from the iTunes Music Store.

Secret of Mana SNES Review Conclusion

In short, this is the perfect JRPG to play if you’re fed up of the Final Fantasies and Dragon Quests of this world. Grab some friends, a multitap and some extra controllers, and you’ll have an absolute blast, I promise.

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