Secret Of Mana Remake's Demo Is Low-Frills Fun 

Much like the game's Mad Mallard, a soldier helmet-wearing waterfowl who lays exploding eggs, the upcoming remake of Secret of Mana is an odd duck.

The 1993 Super NES action RPG, one of Square's classics of the 16-bit era, is having a bit of a moment in 2017. It's been re-released on Switch in Japan, is included on this month's SNES Classic hardware worldwide, and was recently revealed to have a full 3D remake in the works for PlayStation 4, Vita, and Steam, coming in February.

A demo version of the remake was on the PAX West show floor, and I made a beeline for it as soon as I could. What I found was in many respects exactly what I expected from the screenshots: a game that plays similarly to the SNES original, including a zoomed-out, top-down perspective, but with 3D graphics replacing 2D sprites.

What I found a little jarring was that the game seems to be produced on a tighter budget than I was expecting, producing something that feels a little cheaper than I'd imagined.

The demo began just as the SNES game does, with main character Randi, a boy from a small remote village, crossing a log bridge accompanied by two pals. But instead of that bird's-eye view of the action, we see the cut scene from more dynamic camera angles. This adds a little variety and drama to the proceedings.

Of course, this also makes it very clear that the characters' mouths and faces do not animate during their dialogue. The tough-guy bully kid, in particular, has this permanent rictus scowl etched into his face, like Jack Nicholson as the Joker but upside down. It looks fairly ridiculous and painful.

This is an example of what I mean when I say that the Mana remake is a low-frills affair.

Once the game itself kicks in, things feel quite familiar. You can't go around slashing that rusty Mana sword willy-nilly in the original Secret of Mana, and you can't do that here, either.

After you hit an enemy, you have to wait a second for your power meter to fill back up to 100 per cent before you can hit again at full power.

Slash before you're ready and you'll only do a tiny bit of damage. Mana's remake has retained the deliberate pacing of the original, which is a big step towards making this 3D PlayStation 4 game feel like the SNES game on which it is based.

The remake has also kept the original Super NES music. While some Mana fans might want a fully orchestrated arrangement to replace it, I'm happy with things as they are: The unique instrumentation of the SNES' sound sampler is a major element of the appeal of the Mana soundtrack, and I'd rather listen to that than a modern remix.

Things progress exactly as they do in the original: You walk through the forest back to your town, Mana sword in hand, whacking Rabites, until you get back to your town and find that a giant ant monster is attacking.

Unlike the SNES monster, this one can actually rotate his body instead of constantly facing forward. It doesn't actually change much about the boss fight, though, since he can still use magical attacks that target you no matter where you are.

Since the demo ended after this boss fight was over, I didn't get to explore much more about how this remake might change up Secret of Mana's gameplay.

Square Enix does say, on the game's official home page, that there will be unspecified tweaks: "The original system has been reworked in an effort to realise a modern action RPG with improved gameplay."

And it's true that, for as much as I love Mana, it had some broken elements, the magic system being the worst offender.

We'll have to wait until February 15 to truly understand how much has been tweaked. Based on what we can see now, Secret of Mana is a fairly straightforward, low-frills rebuilding of the original.

Since Square Enix has had serious trouble creating new games in the Mana series that even come close to touching the greatness of this one, perhaps a return to the original is what the series needs to move forward. But looking at the tight scope and the low-frills nature of the project, I'd just keep my expectations in check if I were you.

WATCH MORE: Nintendo News


Comments

    I don't really like the new way Square-Enix art style approach on this remake. It doesn't feel related to the old Secret of Mana. The styling I was hoping for is something similar to dragon quest 8 with cell shading

    That game should stay in 2d, maybe give it some nice lighting effects, high res sprites and backgrounds, include the missing content the original game missed and maybe net play with some friends for the 2 player and it would be awesome. I dont know of anyone that actually wanted a remake that wants this.

    Mate, just localise the switch trilogy port!

    Judging by those screens it certainly looks cheap and nasty. Blerg

    So many great musicians already updating the music from this classic, why wouldn't you enhance at least a little bit? eg: https://youtu.be/OLKN6MZeTqs

    If it comes to Switch I might bother. :/

    Did they comment on this stuff? The game isn't that far from release but early builds do tend to feel a bit cheap. I'd expect classic wub wub wub mouth when talking even on a low budget game.

    If they can somehow hotkey the spells and not have the game pause whenever you want to cast something it will be a great remake and Im looking forward to playing it with my missus.

    I think I prefer the graphics in 2D - even though it's more complex, it feels less detailed in 3D. I guess this is because there's no use of imagination, like "these 5 pixels are a flower" with the mind filling in the blanks, that you get with classic snes graphics. And as the author mentioned, zooming in to see a characters face permanently stuck in a grimace doesn't help things.

    I'll still definitely check this out, but I can see myself preferring the original.

    What would be really nice is the ability to switch between 2D and 3D graphics on the fly like in the monkey island remakes from a few years back.

    What I found a little jarring was that the game seems to be produced on a tighter budget than I was expecting, producing something that feels a little cheaper than I'd imagined.

    I don't need to play it to see that. The moment they released that trailer and screenshots I said it looked bad - like a mobile game and not a PS4 game.

    As MrBS said, just localise the damn Trilogy release, which will finally include an official English release of Seiken Densetsu 3 (a superior game to Secret of Mana too).

    I would have liked the music updated, if I want to listen to the original music I'll just play one of the many original copied I have. They need to give me reasons to go for the remake.

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