A Remake of Mana

I sure like Secret of Mana. That’s why I wrote three separate entries about it a few months ago. And now I’m compelled to write one more, because there’s a remake on the horizon.

Square Enix’s Secret of Mana recast was inevitable. The original Seiken Densetsu (which, of course, we knew here as Final Fantasy Adventure) got a recent Vita and mobile-device remake under the domestic name Adventures of Mana, so the second game in the series needs a turn. After a decade or so of Mana games that fell short, Square Enix returned to what worked best. I’d say that it’s craven nostalgia mining, but I’d also have to say that the first two Mana games are the best of the whole line.

This new Secret of Mana recreates the old game with polygon graphics, remixed music, and new gameplay features. The new look is a little primitive by modern 3-D standards, perhaps because the game has to fit on the Vita’s handheld hardware as well as the PlayStation 4 and Steam. Even so, that shot of Randi, Primm, and Popoi riding Flammie is a freeze-frame of adorable perfection.

Less welcome is the voice acting that pops up in the trailer. It’s not terrible. I just question its necessity. Secret of Mana thrives on its speed, its smooth pace, its refusal to over-explain or lengthily dramatize. Grafting voice-overs to the lines only makes them drag.

It’s also not clear how gameplay might shift in this revised Secret of Mana. It adds a corner map and presumably fixes the original game’s hit detection and the confused AI routines of the player’s companions, but it’ll maintain local multiplayer for up to three people. It also seems to stick to the original game’s perspective and layouts. Adventures of Mana sticks noticeably close to the Game Boy edition in its level layouts and general flow. Will this Secret of Mana remake do the same?

I hope not. As much as I like Secret of Mana, I don’t care to play exactly the same thing with a 3-D look. I’d like new landscapes and dungeon layouts, possibly restoring some of the structure trimmed down when Secret of Mana changed from a Super NES CD game to a regular Super NES cartridge. I’d like new enemies and slightly more subplots. I’d even like some more playable characters or AI partners, such as the elderly knight Jema, the mushroom-like King Truffle, and rebel leader Krissie, who was outwardly tough but still cried nightly over her dead parents.

Yes, remakes often jump the track when they change too much, or, in the case of the endlessly and perhaps unjustly denigrated Sword of Mana, talk too much. But what’s the point in making the same thing with a different surface?

Well, one point is to sell more merchandise. Square Enix seemingly intends on keeping the Secret of Mana remake digital-only in the West, but Japan gets a nice special edition with a soundtrack, a pop-up book, and little statues of Randi, Primm, and Poipoi. It’s exclusive to the Japanese Square Enix store and costs about $125 with even the most forgiving exchange rate, but holy moley, do I ever want those figures. I’ve wanted them ever since seeing the clay models in the Secret of Mana instruction book.

It’s easier to get the game’s bonus costumes, as they come with preorders. One set gives everyone Moogle costumes, and the other puts Randi and Popoi in tiger suits while Primm gets a tiger-stripe bikini. The suits are a nice touch, but on the list of Games That Need Sexy Costumes, I would rank Secret of Mana way down there with Bubble Bobble and Tryrush Deppy.

Another thing bothers me: is this remake the reason why Square Enix didn’t bring the Seiken Densetsu Collection to the Switch in North America? The most likely explanation is that Square Enix just didn’t want to translate Seiken Densetsu 3, but I could see some executive fretting that between the remake, the Super NES Classic Edition, and a Switch compilation, there would be too much Mana on the ground.

Yet I can’t complain too much when Secret of Mana is back. I’ll wait until it’s actually out, and then I’ll complain too much. That’s a Mana series tradition.

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