When the SNES Classic launched at the end of last month, among the most exciting inclusions for me as a longtime JRPG player was Secret of Mana, Enix’s beloved multiplayer adventure. And the thing about the SNES Classic that I love so much is that its entire library of games, the RPGs included, still holds up.
That’s why a Secret of Mana remake feels redundant right now of all times. When Square Enix announced it was revamping the classic for PlayStation 4, PlayStation Vita and Steam in honor of its 25th anniversary next February, old-school fans were unsurprisingly delighted. But after playing an early portion of Secret of Mana at a Square Enix event last week, I have doubts that anyone with a SNES Classic — or access to one — will find a need for this remake.
Secret of Mana takes the original’s story and gameplay and covers it with an unattractive, chibi-styled veneer. The color palette is reminiscent of a 1990s platformer aimed at gaming newcomers; so too are the untextured visuals. It’s not a sight to behold, at any rate, which is in stark contrast to Secret of Mana’s beautiful illustration work that continues to be used to promote the remake.
The original game had its own big-headed characters and cutesy monsters; it was just less obvious with 32-bit sprites. But some things just work better in that visual style, and when transplanted to 3D, Secret of Mana loses much of that forested, fantastical quality that always attracted me to the original game.
These are my aesthetic preferences, of course, but they’re major ones for a classic RPG remake whose original release just became a whole lot more accessible. The gameplay is the same, as is the story; those who remember Secret of Mana best for its action RPG fights will appreciate that side of it. I only got to take on some small, cutesy monsters very early on, but seamlessly heading into and out of battle felt satisfying enough.
But since there aren’t any major mechanical differences on that front, and I am one of those luck SNES Classic Edition owners, what use do I have for this current-gen version? Not much, based on my time with it. But if you’re less particular about sacrificing some beautiful pixel art for decidedly less-pretty visuals, the remade Secret of Mana will launch Feb. 15, 2018.