Secret of Mana

Kill those...things. Those poor little things.

Writing reviews for obscure or terrible games is easy; you can treat them like children you don’t care about and say whatever you want about them.

When the game is as popular and entertaining as Secret of Mana*, the task becomes much, much harder (someone might call CPS on you). This, of course, makes me want to do it much less.

There’s nothing I dislike more than being challenged, which is why I immediately shoot in the stomach anyone who raises a glove to issue a challenge. There has been quite a number of mistaken gut shots regarding this policy, especially in the winter. Sometimes it’s hard to tell when someone is planning on striking you in the face and challenging you to a duel or just wants to put their mittens on. Fortunately winter coats are excellent at absorbing most of the damage caused by the smaller caliber firearms.

I’ve always regarded Secret of Mana as Chrono Trigger‘s lesser cousin, a comparison which isn’t entirely fair. Secret of Mana has the distinction of being a real-time battle, not the the turn-based lackadaisical battles of its contemporaries. Having to make immediate decisions regarding the prioritization of stabbing your foes requires constant attention (and controller usage). You can’t contemplate the ethical ramifications of cutting up a Tomato Man’s face unless you want the Tomato Man to cut up your face first. There is no time for hesitation. As the saying goes, “he who hesitates masturbates while playing Secret of Mana.”

I haven’t played Secret of Mana since it came out—with the exception of the few moments recently for the purposes of this review, which was entirely unhelpful: like most JRPGs, Secret of Mana has a glacial start as you are introduced to the basic concepts of the game—so my memory of the plot is pretty much nil. I could look it up and re-familiarize myself enough to comment on it with GREAT INSIGHT, but I feel as though research is a lie built by work and prefer to write my articles in a vacuum. Literally, I am sitting inside a container from which the air has been completely removed. I have to finish this fast before it’s too late.

Secret of Mana was also notable for its inclusion of the feature where three players could run around in collusion, helping each other cut faces. Not coincidentally, unless you were very very good friends with the people playing the game with you, the likelihood of any hesitation in the battles was near-zero. Having human brains playing with you instead of AI is a nice advantage, unless the human brains aren’t much smarter than the AI, in which case it’s not. Why did I write that last sentence?

This is a pretty solid entry in the really very lacking SNES library. It’s not the greatest game in the world and is pretty silly (please see every JRPG ever), but it’s well-designed, fun, and most importantly, it’s a SNESGILF.

That “G” stands for “game,” and not “grandmother,” just to be clear.

* Secret of Mana is essentially the pretty, white middle class girl of SNES games.

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