When I was a kid, I absolutely loved my Game Boy. I got it for Christmas in 1989, and that thing was a reliable little gaming paradise for a good decade. I suppose it made sense as a kid who went between two homes. Though I had different consoles at each house, the Game Boy could come with me wherever I went. I never had to stop playing whatever game I was into based on a schedule. And the reason I bring this up here is because one of my top tier Game Boy games was Final Fantasy Adventure, which stood as the best Zelda game on Game Boy until Link's Awakening finally rolled around.
It wasn't until I was much much older that I realized that Final Fantasy Adventure wasn't a Final Fantasy game at all. In Japan it was the first game in the Mana series. And it would be a long time before I knew that Secret Of Mana on SNES was actually the sequel to Final Fantasy Adventure. I had certainly heard of that game back in the day, but never did play it. Those SNES RPG's were generally pricey. But what made them more prohibitive was just local availability. I don't remember ever seeing Secret Of Mana in a store. So even if I thought magazine screenshots were pretty, I never had the chance to play it at the time.
When the Seiken Densetsu collection was released on Switch, I knew I had to get it. You see, I had played the Final Fantasy Adventure remake on GBA when it was released (and re-localized as Sword Of Mana), but it just felt kind of 'off' to me. It didn't quite FEEL like FF Adventure. There was something so perfect about that original Game Boy version. And while Densetsu collection would be in Japanese, well, at least I'd be able to re-play FF Adventure the way I (mostly) remembered it. I knew the game itself enough that the language barrier shouldn't be a problem.
The other reason I wanted the collection was so that I could FINALLY play Secret Of Mana. I mean, beautiful 16-bit sequel to one of my favorite GB games. C'mon! Of course in this case the language thing will be a bigger barrier. So obviously I knew I'd need to follow a walkthrough. Which... is fine. But it does kind of take away some of the fun of the game as it strips out some of the natural discovery and so on. But whatever. At this point, I guess I'd say it was more about EXPERIENCING the game rather than really PLAYING it properly.
And so I did that. I got to experience Secret Of Mana, at least for a few hours. And just superficially, I was sort of mixed. Graphically, the game is pretty stunning. There's some crazy Mode 7 stuff going on, and the color palette is gorgeous, and the soundtrack is excellent. But the combat itself... kind of clunky. It's funny because I had this same complaint with the Sword Of Mana remake on GBA. So it must be a series thing. Though I never had that problem with FF Adventure. So I don't know. I also found it kind of annoying that things would continue to attack you even if you were going through the animation of opening an item chest, or talking to a NPC. But that's minor, since if you're aware of it you can plan for it.
I played long enough to recruit Primm and had a good time with a second attacker to help out. The strategy planning menu is pretty cool actually. And since all of the menus are in minimal English, and mostly use pictures, it's not too bad to figure out. But the NPC conversions were rough. I mean, you can figure out how to stay at an inn or buy some stuff. But at one point I met a guy with a cannon and I thought I said "no, I don't want to ride in your cannon," but apparently I said, "sure, fire me someplace far away and since I'm following a walkthrough I'll have no idea where you just sent me and now I'm confused, thanks." Yeah, that happened. And then I got sort of bogged down with this needing a walkthrough to play the game and I didn't really feel like figuring out where the hell I was. So I just kind of stopped playing out of frustration. Oh well.
A YEAR AND A HALF LATER... and now I actually have the US version of Collection Of Mana, which means I've been able to play Secret Of Mana in English. And guess what? it's way less frustrating that way. No walkthrough required.
Apparently I've gone off on a different route this time, though. I've beaten some kind of plant boss in the Dwarf Cave, and yet still don't have a 2nd party member. Well, I do now. But it's not the same girl (Primm) that I had gotten earlier in the game last time I played. Interesting.
Anyway, this game is a lot better now that I know what's going on. And with Final Fantasy Adventure still fresh in my head, it REALLY DOES feel like a sequel to that game, which is pretty awesome for me.
Okay, I changed my mind, and fairly quickly. I know this is a so-called hot take, but I don't think Secret Of Mana is all that great. I know it's a cult classic. Actually, it might even be considered a straight up 16-bit CLASSIC. But it's just not doing it for me. This is the Mana game that everyone loves. But me? I love Final Fantasy Adventure. And from what I played of Trials Of Mana, I found that one way more interesting. But Secret Of Mana just feels kind of annoying to me.
For one thing, I really don't love the combat. The whole waiting for your gauge to refill before attacking again thing is annoying. The UI sucks. It takes me so long to cycle through menus to do something simple like change gear or use an item. I don't know. It just doesn't click with me.
Last night I got up to the battle to save Primm. This time she was guarded by two werewolf looking dudes and they INSTANTLY killed my other party member; then they'd charge me and I'd spent the majority of the battle stunned and being hit over and over again. When I managed to get some hits in they'd cast heal on each other. And because they look the same - and move SO FAST - I had trouble focusing on one long enough to get him down. After a few attempts I realized that I really wasn't having fun. Not the kind of fun I'd have with Final Fantasy Adventure, that's for sure.