Secret of Mana

Game review by
David Wolinsky, Common Sense Media
Secret of Mana Game Poster Image
Classic tale finds clumsy new life with occasional crashes.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this game.

Positive Messages

Players are engaged in defeating evil, but violence plays a significant role in gameplay, is primary means to many ends.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Players control a group of fighters who offer moral support to one another.

Ease of Play

Simple controls, straightforward tactics, but due to some bugs, you'll need to micromanage both a lot. 

Violence

Characters use swords, spears, variety of special attacks against enemies who disappear into puffs of smoke or feathers when defeated.

Sex

One flying "book enemy" opens to a page that looks like a centerfold picture of a woman but without any detail shown. 

Language
Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Secret of Mana is a downloadable action-oriented role-playing game for PS4 and Windows that's also an updated port of a 1993 Super Nintendo game by the same name. Although there's no blood or gore, there's a heavy emphasis on combat as characters use swords, spears, and a variety of special attacks against enemies who disappear into puffs of smoke or feathers when defeated. The most objectionable content present in the game comes in the form of a flying "book enemy" that opens up to a page that looks like a centerfold picture of a woman, but without any detail shown. 

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What's it about?

In SECRET OF MANA, a young boy named Randi is tasked with reviving the magical power of mana. The battle for mana includes many tumultuous encounters along the way. Armed with the mana sword and joined by his two companions Primm and Popoi, Randi leads the epic quest to battle a treacherous empire as it tries to gain control of the force he now harnesses. To defeat the forces of evil, the three must befriend eight elementals who hold the power that comprises this magical force in the world. It's up to players to restore the legacy of mana as the brave warriors set forth to bring balance back to the world. 

Is it any good?

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.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about violence in video games. Even when it's stylized to be relatively cartoonish and harmless, what sorts of messages does it send? How would this game be different without any combat?

  • Families can talk about the trend of updating older movies, TV shows, and games for new audiences. Why would going back and experiencing games like Secret of Mana potentially keep some people from enjoying them? How do companies use releases like this as strategies for determining future products?

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