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Secret of Mana Remake for PS4 first look and thoughts

I meant to post this immediately following this year’s attendance at Comic Con 2017 in NYC, but hey, better a little late then never. They had a couple of games to test out on the main floor, the lines of which were pretty long when I went on Friday and then even longer on Saturday! I had some time to myself Saturday and decided to go and play Secret of Mana which is coming out this February (15th seems to be the exact date they haven’t changed as of the writing of this) for the PS4, Vita and PC, which is actually just a few months short of the 25th anniversary of it’s initial release on the Super Nintendo.

 

I originally had loaded a save file, which found myself at Neko’s just south of the Water Temple and had begun exploring when I was told I had to start a new game and play up to the first boss (grrr, I had watched others play up to that point and was hoping I could get a little further without being noticed!). So, I complied. I was brought back to the familiar beginning on top of the large log overlooking a waterfall with 3 young boys, and your character falls (to what one would assume is his death, but against all odds that’s not the case) and you’re soon greeted by a ghost and pull out a sword beginning all sorts of terribleness in this world. You know, that old chestnut.


A few things I noticed; The graphics were very large and in your face, but also childish. It was a bit like Final Fantasy Explorers for the 3DS. This was a game aimed for a younger audience back in ’93, so I can’t fault them for going cartoony and I can dig it. Also, voice acting! A welcome change to what was purely reading in the SNES days, it’s nice to have something to listen to and not just read. However, it’s like a low budget voice addition. Everyone keeps the same permanent face their character has with words coming between closed, or frowning or smiling features. However they look, there’s absolutely no lip movement to match the voice work, which is odd at first but hey, it’s a remake of something that had nothing like that at all and I am not going to nitpick something like this. Especially when by the time you get to the first town, EVERYONE has something to say, and by that I mean speak, with voice acting, and for that first town anyway, no two voices sounded the same. This guy and that guy, that old lady, shop keeper, all unique and I’m happy about that. I can’t imagine every single person in the game will be unique. I’m sure random NPC in this town will sound like another in some other town, but to at least be unique in the same town is pretty outstanding.


Combat…. is very slow paced as it was on the SNES which is fine, they don’t need to reinvent the wheel here. The original system worked well and with a couple practice swings, you re-learn the ropes of letting the numbers on your status bar tick up to 100 to perform another attack at full power. Once you earn your first charge up,  I feel the area of hit for that first charge attack is less forgiving, making it so you really need to be dead on with where the enemy is to connect or you whiff and leave yourself exposed. I don’t recall if it was that way for the original, but it keeps you on your toes. That first boss…. the giant Mantis creature, it was really cool to see them larger than life, with detail, and more than just a static image of facing forward only. Now, he can turn his body towards you and move his limbs. I always enjoyed that first simple boss and defeating him brought back the same memories of joy I had when I first played decades ago (that is so much more painful to write years ago and then realize it was actually over 20… old!).


Anything I could pick apart from this playthrough is…. well I very much dislike some of the “straight from the original” movements that I encountered. When the bully, Elliot, starts to “punch” the main character after you return to the Village Elder, and then the earthquake begins causing him to run around in panic, you do not see him throwing any punches like the original, and he runs around awkwardly on his set path, the exact path he did in the original SNES version only now it looks incredibly out of pace, rigid and just poorly done. These graphics are updated, I don’t see why they can’t just make that scene look a LITTLE better. It’s very jarring. I was able to play a little bit more after the first boss to see Dyluck and the soldiers preparing to fight the Witch, and even their abrupt movement to the left off screen was just rigid and looked out of place. Also talking to someone’s back causes that jarring “they’re suddenly looking right at you unnaturally”. A person turns their body to face you, it was understandable in the 2D SNES sprites of the past, but to see if now is just weird.


Anyway, none of those little complaints are going to matter in February when I will absolutely play this game and love it and play with friends and for a little while relive some childhood memories together. I honestly can’t remember (which is why I should have wrote this sooner when the memory was fresh!) if the soundtrack sounded updated, I don’t recall hearing anything other than the original score (which for the record, has been on cds, music players, iPods, etc., since I was able to download or rip music, so I know the score well) and it sounded like what I love, but perhaps it was re-scored? If it was it certainly wasn’t fully orchestrated or anything, that I would have noticed. It’s available for pre-purchase on steam already and pre-order on the PlayStation store, both of which offer wall-papers and 2 sets of bonus outfits for the heroes to wear (the tiger bikini for the girl I remember as an actual outfit from the original… so I’m unsure if things you can equip change your appearance or if these are special re-skins that you can only get from the pre-order. I only bought 2 pieces of clothing from the first shop and didn’t see any difference so I’m thinking it’s the latter. Actually, that reminds me! The equipment and accessories all had stats, which is definitely a new feature, which showed more than just defense, but included passive defenses like being poisoned, ballooned, etc. I like that. Adding depth to the equipment is something I definitely appreciate. In any case, expect a full review of the remake once I’ve had the chance to really sink my teeth in after it’s release in February 2018.