Parents' Guide to

Secret of Mana

By David Wolinsky, Common Sense Media Reviewer

age 10+

Classic tale finds clumsy new life with occasional crashes.

Game PlayStation 4, Windows 2018
Secret of Mana Poster Image

A Lot or a Little?

What you will—and won't—find in this game.

Community Reviews

age 9+

Based on 1 parent review

age 9+

An Inferior Update to a Whimsical Fantasy Wonderful for All Ages

During the summer after Elementary school, I was given a new game called Secret of Mana, and it was a blissful time. I mention that I was at the end of Elementary school because friends of mine (local kids) still in Elementary school, as well as a handful of other kids in Junior High, had this game as well, and it was universally loved, by kids from around 8 to around 14, and having replayed it again only a few years ago, I found it just as satisfying at 34. The story is a rather sweet one with elements such as respecting the balance of nature, the downfall of greed/lust for power, and while the plot itself is actually very straightforward, it's full of small imaginative flourishes that allow children to engage the story on its own terms. Throw in the fact that the controls were (and still are) incredibly tight and easy to manipulate, and a lively yet often times beautiful musical score (which has been updated to lesser effect). This remake keeps most of what was wonderful about the original game intact, but what's sad is how poorly it incorporates the new elements. The graphics look like a remake from 1999~2001 or so, the redone musical score, while sometimes grand, is often times less pleasant to listen to, and the voice acting during the voiced cutscenes is incredibly flat and one-note; the characters are largely one-dimensional, but their adventure does cover a number of emotional beats, and having the voice acting barely reflect any of this really dampens the experience. If possible, I would recommend the original for everyone, Kids 6 and up, but this one I'd recommend only as a backup, and recommend for 9 and up, simply because a couple of female characters are (almost randomly) dressed in risque outfits -- not nearly what you could imagine, but since the original game had nothing sexual in nature whatseover, the incorporation of PG-levels of sexuality is something to note for kids ages 6~8.

This title has:

Great messages
Easy to play/use

Is It Any Good?

Our review:
Parents say (1):
Kids say (1):

Despite being a universally adored title in an unfortunately short-lived series, this remake won't hold up for anyone but those most determined to push through. Simply put, this version of Secret of Mana doesn't feel finished or even polished. The game crashes frequently and has bugs like enemies becoming completely invulnerable during battle, or your ally characters randomly warping around the map. This list could go on and on, but some of the even stranger quirks that hopefully will be patched in the future also include getting to a new town that will seem completely vacant until you find a corner that has a powerful magnetic pull on every villager who can't help but walk toward it. A few of these hiccups make the game unplayable until you quit and go back in, but it's dismaying to see quality control this lacking in any title -- especially one intended to introduce an old classic to a new generation.

That said, the core game beats along just fine beneath the new aesthetics. It's a little strange to see so much work put into new 3D visuals yet still see characters modeled after their old sprites and stuck that way. That means you'll have conversations with characters whose mouths and eyes are frozen with the one look they had back in 1993, and they don't so much walk as glide along in one pose. Kids will likely find this funny when it isn't intended to be, and thankfully there were some new additions here, like the many dialogue sequences that play out when you rest in an inn: It fleshes out the relationships between your characters that were relatively light in the original with moments of true vulnerability and introspection. But every now and then, issues arise with making progress: Characters will forget the orders you give them and revert to running away or, strangely, waiting politely for enemies to get back up before striking them. If you're new to Secret of Mana, it's unlikely this version will help you understand why it was held in such high regard a few decades ago. Overall, you have to strain to find smooth patches, and even then you know they won't last. You're better off at least waiting until this game is patched, and then giving it a try with an open mind.

Game Details

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