Secret of Mana, originally released in Japan as Seiken Densetsu 2, is a 1993 action role-playing game developed and published by Square (now Square Enix) for the Super Nintendo Entertainment System. It is the sequel to the 1991 game Seiken Densetsu, released in North America as Final Fantasy Adventure and in Europe as Mystic Quest, and it was the first Seiken Densetsu title to be marketed as part of the Mana series rather than the Final Fantasy series. Set in a high fantasy universe, the game follows three heroes as they attempt to prevent an empire from conquering the world with the power of an ancient flying fortress.
Rather than using a turn-based battle system like contemporaneous role-playing games, Secret of Mana features real-time battles with a power bar mechanic. The game has a unique Ring Command menu system, which pauses the action and allows the player to make decisions in the middle of battle. An innovative cooperative multiplayer system allows a second or third player to drop in and out of the game at any time. Secret of Mana was directed and designed by Koichi Ishii, programmed primarily by Nasir Gebelli, and produced by veteran Square designer Hiromichi Tanaka.
The game received considerable acclaim for its brightly colored graphics, expansive plot, Ring Command menu system, and innovative real-time battle system. Critics also praised the soundtrack by Hiroki Kikuta and the customizable artificial intelligence (AI) settings for computer-controlled allies.
The original version was released for the Wii’s Virtual Console in Japan in September 2008, and for the Wii U’s Virtual Console in June 2013. The game was ported to mobile phones in Japan in 2009, and an enhanced port of the game was released for iOS in 2010 and Android in 2014. It was included in the Collection of Mana release for the Nintendo Switch in Japan in June 2017 and North America in June 2019. Nintendo also re-released Secret of Mana in September 2017 as part of the company’s Super NES Classic Edition. A full 3D remake was released for the PlayStation 4, PlayStation Vita, and Microsoft Windows in February 2018.
Like many other role-playing games of the 16-bit era, Secret of Mana displays a top-down perspective, in which the player characters navigate the terrain and fight off hostile creatures. The game features three such characters: the hero, the girl, and the sprite, named Randi, Primm, and Popoi outside the initial North American and European releases. The player can choose to control each of the characters at any time; whichever character is currently selected, the other two companions are controlled via artificial intelligence. The game may be played simultaneously by up to three players, made possible by the Super Multitap accessory for the Super NES console. The Virtual Console version of the game supports three-player gameplay via additional GameCube controllers or Classic Controllers.
Each character possesses individual strengths and weaknesses. The hero, while unable to use magic, masters weapons at a quicker rate; the girl is a healer, able to cast restorative and support spells; and the sprite casts offensive magic to damage and impair enemies. Upon collecting enough experience points in battle, each character increases in level and improves in areas such as strength and evasion. The trio can rest in towns, where they can regain hit points or purchase restorative items and equipment. Options such as changing equipment, casting spells, or checking status are performed by cycling through the game’s Ring Commands, a circular menu which hovers over the currently controlled party member. The game is momentarily paused whenever the Ring Commands appear.
Combat takes place in real-time. Located at the bottom of the screen is a power bar, a gauge that determines the amount of damage done to an enemy when attacking. Swinging a weapon causes the gauge to empty and then quickly recharge, allowing that character to attack at full strength. The party wields eight different types of weaponry: sword, spear, bow, axe, boomerang, glove, whip, and javelin. All weapons can be upgraded eight times, and repeated use of a weapon increases its skill level to a maximum of eight, unlocking a new special attack with each level. Weapons are upgraded with Weapon Orbs, which are found in dungeons or earned by defeating certain bosses. The player takes each Orb to a blacksmith, located in most towns, who uses it to reforge one weapon.
In order to learn magic, the party must rescue spirits known as Elementals. The eight Elementals represent different elements—such as water, earth, and life—and each provides the player with specific spells. Magic has skill levels similar to weapons, but each magic spell costs magic points to cast.
At the start of the game, to reach a destination players must traverse an enemy-infested countryside. Travel may be expedited with Cannon Travel Centers, where the party may be launched to faraway destinations via a giant cannon. Cannon Travel usually requires a fee, but is mandatory to visit other continents later on. Later, the party is given access to Flammie, a miniature dragon which is controlled by the player and able to fly freely across the world, represented by an overworld map. These sequences make use of the SNES’s Mode 7 capability to create a rotatable background, giving the illusion that the ground beneath Flammie is rendered in three dimensions. While riding Flammie, the player may access either the “rotated map”, which presents the world as a globe, or the “world map”, a two-dimensional view of the overworld.