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Secret of Mana HD Remaster Review: All The Joy of The Original

Secret of Mana HD Remaster Review: All The Joy of The Original
From IGN - February 14, 2018
By Meghan Sullivan

You know what this Secret of Mana HD remaster makes me want most? A full Secret of Mana remake. While I love how this remaster has all the heart and joy of the SNES original from 1993, it misses an opportunity to elevate this classic RPG by bringing it up to modern standards in areas like AI, combat balancing, and even graphics. The result is a charming but clumsy 20ish-hour adventure that both frustrates and delights.

Much of this push and pull starts with the new art style, which attempts to convert the originals sprites into 3D. On the one hand, Manas world design is scrumptious eye candy: almost everywhere you go youre greeted with scenic fields bursting with flora and coated in cheerful, sugary pastels like so much colorful caramel. Wolves trot through clusters of glittering, multihued trees while quaint wooden signs point travelers toward their destination so they dont get turned around by an endless procession of right angles. Even the imposing palaces guarded by hostile ducks wearing kettle helmets (dont ask) look inviting when decorated with beautiful stained glass windows. These lovely settings feel like chicken soup for the soul.

On the other, theres something off about the character models. The heroes large heads and saucer-sized eyes are pretty weird looking, and their mouths never move when speaking. The addition of awkward voice acting doesnt helpperformances seesaw between sounding like sleepy robots and fledgling Shakespearean actors. (You have the option of switching over to the Japanese audio if you wish, but dont expect it to be much better. I found it strangely bland.) Im not sure what happened, but it made what would otherwise be heartfelt moments between the heroes awkward or unintentionally funny. Thats too bad, because the story and characters are where Secret of Mana really shines.

This whimsical coming of age tale is like a mix of Arthurian legend with a just touch of steampunk:boy finds magic sword, boy meets feisty girl and amnesiac sprite sidekick, heroes use magic sword to fight evil empire trying to revive forbidden technology. Theres a little more to it than that, of course--including some pretty emotional story beats that I wo not give away here--but the thing I like most about this charming fairytale is the budding friendship between the protagonist and his two companions. Their reasons for coming together are flimsy, but even when they squabble over names for their group and tease each other about their heroic antics, you can really feel the warmth and depth of their relationship.

It made me smile, especially when paired with a toe-tapping score that sounds great whether you listen to the newly arranged version or the original SNES composition. Secret of Mana is one of my absolute favorite video game soundtracks of all time (Fear of the Heavens still gives me chills), and listening to its harmonic blend of soothing flutes and jollypercussionsevoked a lot of nostalgia. Id even find myself humming along to one of my favorite tunes, Into the Thick of It, while I was smack-dab in the middle of battle.

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