The Secret of Mana remake launched February 15th, and all everyone seems to be able to talk about is just how bad it is. After spending some time with the game myself, I can say that the Secret of Mana remake is not that bad.
(This is not a full review of the Secret of Mana remake and is solely based on my impressions of the first few hours of the game)
Square Enix has become one of the most nostalgic and prolific names in gaming, right alongside Nintendo and PlayStation. Squaresoft and Enix owned the early years of console gaming and together popularized the RPG genre around the globe. So as you can imagine franchises like Final Fantasy and Dragon Quest have become near and dear to gamers hearts.
The Secret of Mana is no exception to this phenomena. Many retro collectors will tell you that Secret of Mana is one of their favorite games on the SNES. So when Square Enix announced that they were releasing a remake of the beloved classic on PS4, people’s expectations began to soar. This remake might not have been quite what they were looking for.
Honestly, I wouldn’t label it a remake at all. Without the shiny new coat of paint, it is essentially a port of the original game. And for myself, there is nothing wrong with this, as I happen to love the new visuals and really enjoy the old-school gameplay. Where the game’s faults really creep in is its terrible voice acting and a new soundtrack.
When you first boot up a new game file you will be prompted to choose either English or Japanese voice acting. No matter which one you choose they are terrible. All of the VO comes across like a poorly read audiobook. The decision to add a VO in the first place seems like an afterthought for this game anyway, as none of the characters mouths move. It comes across awkward and makes the experience feel quite cringe-worthy.
Almost just as bad is the new soundtrack for the game. Anyone who has played the original knows how great the OST for the game is. The new arrangement only makes the game feel a little too silly. The tracks seem to be mixed incredibly high and some of the sounds feel more at home on a newer Yoshi’s Island game than Secret of Mana.
But don’t fret, because there is some good news for anyone who wants to re-experience the game as it was intended. If you go into the settings you can completely mute the VO leaving just the classic text dialogue for you to read. You can also change the soundtrack to the original music from the SNES game as well.
As soon as I made these two changes to the game, everything felt immediately more satisfying about the experience. The gameplay is great and while it doesn’t make any improvements to the original gameplay, it is perfect for anyone who just wants to relive the nostalgia of the original game. Some people have complained about the gameplay saying that it was boring, but if you have played the original Secret of Mana you know exactly what to expect. Most of your time will be spent whacking adorable enemies over the head with your sword. It is nothing profound, but you must remember that this is essentially a port of an almost 28-year-old game. The remake also keeps intact the original multiplayer features that allow for some really fun couch co-op as well.
The new Secret of Mana remake is not a bad game and shouldn’t be mistaken for one. It is a port of an outdated classic with a beautiful art style and some strange audio decisions. It’s certainly not a game for everyone. If you have never played the original or don’t find classic and retro games appealing then this might not be the game for you. But as someone who plays plenty of retro games and enjoys the classic style of action RPGs, I can say that a few minor adjustments in the settings make this game quite enjoyable for the old school crowd.