• Hey, guest user. Hope you're enjoying NeoGAF! Have you considered registering for an account? Come join us and add your take to the daily discourse.
  • The Politics forum has been nuked. Please do not bring political discussion to the rest of the site, or you will be removed. Thanks.

Happy 23rd birthday Secret of Mana! - A retrospective

DiipuSurotu

Banned
May 31, 2010
23,399
7
0
www.youtube.com
Darkness sweeps the troubled land, as mana's power fades...
People await a hero who will wield the sword...
Excalibur, Herald, Gigas...
The blade has had many names, for it has been celebrated in myths and legends throughout time.
But all of these speak to just one weapon: The sword of Mana.

Today Secret of Mana turns 23! Let us look back at the development history of one of the most popular action role-playing games of all time. Of all time!!



The origin of Secret of Mana can be traced back to sometime after the release of Final Fantasy III, in 1990. Square had plans to develop a huge RPG for the Super Famicom Disk Drive, a peripheral being developed by Nintendo and Sony. The project was codenamed Maru Island, and included Akira Toriyama (creator of Dragon Ball) as the character designer, as well as Hiromichi Tanaka (the main designer of FFIII).

Tanaka: "I frequently ran back to the office just to receive and look at the screen mock-ups that Toriyama-sensei did in the initial stages of the project."

Tanaka had high hopes for this project. He wanted it to be an action RPG with seamless battles, because this was a direction the Final Fantasy series was not willing to take. The game was going to involve time travel and a title was decided -- Chrono Trigger. However, the deal between Nintendo and Sony quickly fell through and the Super Famicom Disk Drive was scrapped, forcing Square to revise their plans. At this point, it was decided that the game would be cartridge-based and would use the setting of Seiken Densetsu: Final Fantasy Gaiden, Square's first action RPG. The project was retitled from Chrono Trigger to Seiken Densetsu 2.

Tanaka: "After we finished FFIII, we started FFIV with the idea of a slightly more action-based, dynamic overworld rather than keep combat as a completely separate thing. But, at some point, it wound up not being IV anymore… Instead, it was eventually released as “Seiken Densetsu 2” (Secret of Mana), but during development it was actually referred to as “Chrono Trigger”. (laugh)"

Tanaka surmises that almost half of what they had planned for the CD-based project had to be discarded. Many of these discarded ideas -- right down to the name "Chrono Trigger" -- ended up in another project that Hironobu Sakaguchi, Yuji Horii and Akira Toriyama were planning at the time.

Tanaka: "Many of the ideas we had for the CD-version came fortunately to use later, when we did Chrono Trigger. In fact, the original version of Secret of Mana was not at all the same game as we eventually released. The first version of the game had for example a much darker tone."


Time flows like a river and history repeats (pictured: Tanaka in 1999)

Hiromichi Tanaka was the Producer, Concept/System Designer, and Scenario Message Data Designer of the game. He was there when Secret of Mana was still called Chrono Trigger and, of course, he later went on to produce Chrono Cross on the resurrected Super CD-ROM hardware, with a combination of Mana and Chrono Trigger staff.

Tanaka: "Secret of Mana is in many ways the game Final Fantasy IV could have been. Many of the design decisions we discussed during the development of that game was used in Secret of Mana instead. The whole game represents a direction we were considering with Final Fantasy IV, but ultimately avoided."

Tanaka: "I view the Motion Battle System of Secret of Mana as an extension of the battle system in the Japanese versions of FF I-III, and the battle system of Xenogears as its evolved form, which in turn continued to evolve into the battle system used in Chrono Cross. As a basis for this statement, all of the aforementioned titles use the FF III (and on) data tables for EXP and LevelUp acquisition."


World of Koishi Ishii (Pictured: Ishii in 2001)

Koishi Ishii was the Director, Chief Game Designer, and Animation/Monster Designer of the game. He was the creator of the concept of elemental Crystals and the Chocobos in the first Final Fantasy games, and lends his unique imagination to Secret of Mana.

Ishii: "I really loved working with Secret of Mana, as much as I love the finished game. There is so much of myself in it. I even designed parts of the game after my own childhood memories. There are enemies that come from my nightmares when I was a little boy."

Ishii: "I drew inspiration everywhere. We wanted right from the start that the game should have the same feel as a storybook for children, so I looked at lots of animated films and illustrations in western storybooks in order to get the right feel. Certain motifs and monsters I actually stole outright. (chuckles)"

Ishii: "Compared with the Final Fantasy-series, I always felt that Secret of Mana was more my game. I was probably the biggest brain behind the world, I created it in my imagination and drew it up from scratch. It's probably silly of me, but sometimes I feel like I let other people visit my own world."


Programmed By Nasir (Pictured: Gebelli in 1998)

Nasir Gebelli was the Lead Programmer of the game. He was recruited by Square in the early years of the company and programmed the first three FF games. A fast, resourceful programmer, his involvement was probably critical to the realization of Secret of Mana after the demise of the CD-based project.

Tanaka: "The original idea was to have just three main characters, but the player would only control one of them while the AI controlled the other two. The multiplayer-thing was a bonus, we had not at all planned it from the beginning. But we suddenly discovered that it was quite easy to program the ability to control all of the three main characters and realized that many players would probably prefer human teammates over computer–controlled ones."

Ishii: "Well, this may not sound particularly romantic now, but basically, it was only about technical issues. We really tried with four players, but the hardware refused. Though at the same time, I wanted to simulate the feeling of playing as a family. Mom, dad and child. Three persons. And looking at it from that angle I definitely think we succeeded."

Ishii: "I love cooperation in games. When my friends and I were younger we always sat and played board games together and I remember how much I loved the feeling that the game involved someone more than just me. I once thought that if those who played Secret of Mana would start to quibble comradely about who would play the guy and who gets to be the sprite, then we had succeeded."


The Secret of Mana's opening theme (Pictured: Kikuta in 2004)

Hiroki Kikuta was the Music Composer for the game. He was brought on the project because Kenji Ito, who did the music for the first Seiken Densetsu, was busy with Romancing SaGa at the time. Kikuta's unique audio style can be heard right as the game starts, as the company's logo fades in with a now infamous whale cry instead of a more traditional "ping!" tone.

Kikuta: "The beginning of the game shows the mana tree and the calm surrounded the landscape and this track tries to build on that calm. Much like the mana tree stands tall over everything on land, whales are also one of the biggest animals of the seas and towers over everything in the water. So I thought it was right to make the song of whales a proper representation of the mana tree. I wanted the song of whales to be almost like a crying voice for the undying mana tree."

Kikuta: "It was not the electronic tone you have been conditioned to expect, but I think it starts the game off on a more evocative note. To put it more concretely, isn't the Mana series all about these magical creatures, these divine beasts? It felt more meaningful to place a sound there that was more deeply connected to the spirit of the game. Maybe most people who hear it cannot say for sure what it means, but I felt the concept was conveyed nonetheless, and was difficult to forget."


Leave Time for Localization (Pictured: Woolsey in 2007)

Woolsey was the Translator for the game. He had only one month to translate the whole game. To do so he played the game three times and had to videotape character appearances for reference since the script files were not in chronological order. He estimates that the English script is about 40% smaller than the original script.

Woolsey: "On Secret of Mana they were writing the screen text as I was translating in Tokyo. I was flown over for a month or so with my family and we hung out at a cool little condo just outside of Shinjuku. I'd go into work every day. It was frustrating because stuff I'd translated the day before would be changed. I'd have to go in and find it and tweak it and then there were edits made by people who were also on the [localization] staff, some of which weren't up to my standards at the time. That particular project ended up being much more of a mish mash than I had hoped, Secret of Mana."

Woolsey: "It was a lot of work, but I remember that time quite fondly. I liked the staff at Square in Japan, and had some great times with them both during and after work. Yes, I had access to the people writing the script, and asked as many questions as I needed to get the job done."

Other notable members of the Secret of Mana development team:


Hiroo Isono (Main Visual Artwork). Responsible for the iconic, lush title illustrations for the game and for some of the other Mana entries. Isono passed away in 2013.


Shinichi Kameoka (Player Character Design). His style mainly developed in later Mana entries, as the Akira Toriyama influence can still be felt on this game.


Yasunori Mitsuda (Sound Effects Design). This guy wanted to do the music. They didn't let him.



Sources:

https://www.chronocompendium.com/Term/Interviews.html
https://www.destructoid.com/secret-of-mana-composer-hiroki-kikuta-s-reddit-ama-271166.phtml
http://www.gamasutra.com/view/news/...he_Music_of_Hiroki_Kikuta__Yoko_Shimomura.php
 

maxcriden

Member
Sep 15, 2013
34,163
1
815
www.neogaf.com
My wife and I just started playing this for the first time on Wii VC. The save system takes a bit of getting used to when you're more used to modern games, but otherwise so far the game is very enjoyable.
 

Aeana

Member
Jul 10, 2006
42,062
4
0
Great soundtrack, game itself left a lot to be desired. It was such a buggy mess, and the soundtrack was messed up by iffy audio channel priority programming. It loved to cut melody channels to play sound effects.

At least the gameplay is being worked on. Keep an eye on this project.
 

Indelible

Member
Oct 30, 2015
3,506
1
325
Canada
I still remember renting this game without even knowing what it was and being blown away. Anything with Squaresoft on the box was golden back then.
 

RK128

Member
Jan 6, 2014
12,576
7
460
twitter.com
Really well done Retrospective OP :D! Didn't play much of Secret of Mana in the past but I remember playing one of the GBA games. The soundtracks of the series are fantastic :).
 

alf717

Member
Jan 11, 2010
3,112
171
950
Pennsylvania
Played this with my brother all the time. We played so much we started getting level 9 weapons. Such a fun game to play with another person.
 

TriAceJP

Member
Apr 19, 2011
3,045
3
625
Seattle, WA
www.unpopulargaming.com
Great soundtrack, game itself left a lot to be desired. It was such a buggy mess, and the soundtrack was messed up by iffy audio channel priority programming. It loved to cut melody channels to play sound effects.

At least the gameplay is being worked on. Keep an eye on this project.

The project this game needs.

I was wanting to love this game, but it was an unfinished buggy mess. Evermore was the superior game, and Legend of Mana is one of my favourites.

If they improve the game to an enjoyable level, I'd be stoked.
 

captmcblack

Member
Oct 4, 2004
18,186
0
1,470
Playing this with my girlfriend right now. This is one of my favorite multiplayer games, and one of the best (if not THE best) ARPGs of all time.
 

ienjoyrawfish

Member
Mar 25, 2015
477
144
470
Great soundtrack, game itself left a lot to be desired. It was such a buggy mess

This.

The soundtrack is extremely strong, but I've never been so disappointed to not like a game as when I played Secret of Mana. I had such high hopes. Hopefully the project you mention will make it more playable, and to be fair I probably missed out on a lot of the experience by playing it single player, but I still feel like Secret of Evermore, Illusion of Gaia, Terranigma, Landstalker and Story of Thor are better ARPGs from this era.
 

120v

Member
Mar 14, 2013
9,445
273
660
i could go on and on about how big a part the game was of my childhood but i'd just end up ranting for paragraphs on end.

i normally hate remake-begs but it really needs a proper version without bugs. hell i'd take a mobile version PC port, i'm not asking for much


many a time have i been reminded no traces of BITCH, ASS and COCK were never found
 

DiipuSurotu

Banned
May 31, 2010
23,399
7
0
www.youtube.com
Great soundtrack, game itself left a lot to be desired. It was such a buggy mess, and the soundtrack was messed up by iffy audio channel priority programming. It loved to cut melody channels to play sound effects.

At least the gameplay is being worked on. Keep an eye on this project.

Interesting! Some dude also was working on a retranslation. He had several successive threads on GameFAQs with lots of feedback and progress, but at some point he just disappeared I think.
 

Parsnip

Member
Feb 5, 2010
9,228
0
0
Finland
Seeing people not like SoM gameplay blows my mind. I guess I really haven't played it since it came out and it was the first of this type of game I ever played so maybe I just don't want to admit it.

Though Terranigma is infinitely better of course, but I didn't think SoM was bad.
 

Battlesmurf

Member
Jun 23, 2014
662
4
460
California
Great soundtrack, game itself left a lot to be desired. It was such a buggy mess, and the soundtrack was messed up by iffy audio channel priority programming. It loved to cut melody channels to play sound effects.

At least the gameplay is being worked on. Keep an eye on this project.

This coupled with a retranslation project-I'd pay a great deal for. Especially when the eng. translator mentioned that there's a ton of stuff that didn't make it into the version of the game I played. I'm curious as to what the differences are.
 

120v

Member
Mar 14, 2013
9,445
273
660
gameplay was good just really rough around the edges (which can be said of a lot of the game)

an ideal version would have the Seiken Densetsu 2 system of "weapon charging"
 

Malcolm9

Member
Nov 30, 2013
1,708
281
630
I remember importing this from America back in '94, what an amazing it was (and still is!).

This is making want to play it again.
 

Lindsay

Dot Hacked
Jul 21, 2004
7,840
1
0
Mineral Town
Really fun game with nice art and music! Drop in / Drop out multi-player was pretty neat to! Big shame it never got a GBA or DS port like so many SNES games did. Woulda really liked to be able to play it again.

At least the gameplay is being worked on. Keep an eye on this project.
That all reads to me like a one way to road to making a fun hack 'n slash complicated and unfun.
 

adixon

Member
Apr 5, 2012
831
0
0
Seeing people not like SoM gameplay blows my mind. I guess I really haven't played it since it came out and it was the first of this type of game I ever played so maybe I just don't want to admit it.

Though Terranigma is infinitely better of course, but I didn't think SoM was bad.

Probably people who played it mostly as a single player game and had access to other excellent single player focused action RPGs like Terranigma.

As an american kid in a pre-internet world, exploring squaresoft's beautiful game worlds like Final Fantasy and Secret of Mana in multiplayer, trying to make your way through an entire story with friends over a sleepover weekend was a feeling that simply didn't exist in any other form. And Secret of Mana was the best of these, because the multiplayer was done best. There was nothing else like it, there still isn't much like it if you want local coop, and to me it's probably still the most memorable time I've ever had playing a videogame.

But yeah, even at 10 or 11 I knew the game was a buggy mess. And that the magic system was unsatisfying and broken.
 
Apr 15, 2012
3,868
0
0
Man, I remember coming home from school one day and seeing that my mom had a bunch of new SNES games for me. I still don't know where she got them (garage sale or family friend), but this was one of the games I got. I loved playing with my sister. We beat it all on our own. It's one of my favorite SNES games. I recently replayed it with a friend, and sadly, I didn't enjoy it as much as I did before. It felt pretty repetitive to me, but I still think very highly of the game.
 

Aeana

Member
Jul 10, 2006
42,062
4
0
Really fun game with nice art and music! Drop in / Drop out multi-player was pretty neat to! Big shame it never got a GBA or DS port like so many SNES games did. Woulda really liked to be able to play it again.


That all reads to me like a one way to road to making a fun hack 'n slash complicated and unfun.

I don't agree with all of the proposed changes, but the game needs help. Fixing the magic system will go a long way. Unfortunately the hit detection mentioned above is unlikely to be addressed. One of the things I hate most about Secret of Mana is the lengthy delay after each attack. Nothing is more boring in an action game than having to wait to attack again, especially for as long as SoM makes you wait.
 

adixon

Member
Apr 5, 2012
831
0
0
I don't agree with all of the proposed changes, but the game needs help. Fixing the magic system will go a long way. Unfortunately the hit detection mentioned above is unlikely to be addressed. One of the things I hate most about Secret of Mana is the lengthy delay after each attack. Nothing is more boring in an action game than having to wait to attack again, especially for as long as SoM makes you wait.

The delay to attacks and hit reactions is definitely a cardinal sin for action RPGs, but I'd argue that when you're playing the game with 2 other people it actually has a rhythm to it that isn't mind-numbing. The timing coordination between team members can be pretty interesting -- it's one of the only action RPGs were you have the time and are rewarded to pay attention to what your teammates are doing, instead of everyone just in a race to massacre things and trying to go off in their own directions when there aren't enough enemies for everyone to spam attacks on..

I totally understand that being a reason to tear the game apart on single player grounds, though. I probably couldn't get very far into the game single player.
 

Rich!

Member
Dec 16, 2009
29,963
3
0
I have this covering one wall in my house:



Got it done hi res. Close up:



Cost £10 to get it printed at tesco
 

Lindsay

Dot Hacked
Jul 21, 2004
7,840
1
0
Mineral Town
I don't agree with all of the proposed changes, but the game needs help. Fixing the magic system will go a long way. Unfortunately the hit detection mentioned above is unlikely to be addressed. One of the things I hate most about Secret of Mana is the lengthy delay after each attack. Nothing is more boring in an action game than having to wait to attack again, especially for as long as SoM makes you wait.
What was wrong with magic, was it bugged out and not effective as intended? Maybe I've got misplaced memories from not playing it in forever but I thought you could keep slashing away? I mean you'd do less damaged if you didn't wait to let the meter recharge but that's more of a strategy/playstyle thing wasn't it?
 

adixon

Member
Apr 5, 2012
831
0
0
The problem with magic was basically once you got it, you'd get to a boss, open the menu -> cast spell -> open menu -> cast spell -> etc until you ran out of mp, then the boss would be pretty much dead by the time all the spells went off.
 

SuomiDude

Member
Jan 23, 2006
2,365
0
0
The best RPG ever. No other game has such a great co-op mode, the game also looks amazing, music is amazing, controls are great, battle system is one of the best there is in RPGs, the game is long with a massive world to explore. It's challenging, lots of loot, money means something in the game (lots of expensive stuff to buy). I first played it when it was released in Europe, it was a Christmas present for me and my siblings and it's still probably the best present ever I've had. I still have the game complete in box, and have played and beat the game dozens of times. Usually levelling up all the weapons and magic and collecting the best gear. Sure the story doesn't really open at least in the English translation and there are glitches and stuff was cut, but it's still almost perfect in my mind.
 

Skyfireblaze

Member
Dec 19, 2011
4,639
1
0
Germany
Great soundtrack, game itself left a lot to be desired. It was such a buggy mess, and the soundtrack was messed up by iffy audio channel priority programming. It loved to cut melody channels to play sound effects.

At least the gameplay is being worked on. Keep an eye on this project.

Really fun game with nice art and music! Drop in / Drop out multi-player was pretty neat to! Big shame it never got a GBA or DS port like so many SNES games did. Woulda really liked to be able to play it again.


That all reads to me like a one way to road to making a fun hack 'n slash complicated and unfun.

I don't agree with all of the proposed changes, but the game needs help. Fixing the magic system will go a long way. Unfortunately the hit detection mentioned above is unlikely to be addressed. One of the things I hate most about Secret of Mana is the lengthy delay after each attack. Nothing is more boring in an action game than having to wait to attack again, especially for as long as SoM makes you wait.

Hmm after reading both of your posts and also the proposed changes by the patch I kind of have to agree with both of you :/ The game definitely could use some fixes and I love the idea of magic quick-casting and seeing the MP at all times but the Strong/Weak attacks and manual blocking for example feel unnecessary. I admit I must have played through the game over 20 times now and yet I'm also unsure what to change about the long cooldown though. I don't really mind it but it could be handled better that's true. Either way I hope if this and other improvement patches come to full fruition I hope they are compatible with the VWF edition patch too.

But yeah I would love if we get more of the "full-package" of the game one day, it really is my favorite game of all time :D
 

Link_enfant

Member
Dec 26, 2015
590
0
0
France
I'm a simple man. I just want the game to be released on Wii U and/or New 3DS eShop. Please Square Enix... And Happy Birthday to this legendary game. Thans OP for the thread :)
 

Tiktaalik

Member
Aug 6, 2004
12,870
0
1,430
I'm playing through this again right now. Just got past the Mushroom village.

It's buggier than I remember and harder than I remember. Plenty of times attacks just whiff, especially with flying enemies. I basically just ran through the castle in Pandora, because it was nearly impossible to hit the flying guys that spawned zombies. Frustratingly as well it seems fairly common to get stuck in a loop where a bad guy is hitting you again and again and you can't get up, resulting in death.

I need to invite my buddies over because the AI is ok but pretty annoying and not terribly helpful.

When I played this as a kid when it came out I recall having a lot of money troubles in the end game so I'm being pretty cautious with my cash. Am I right that this is a potential problem or was I just a moron when I played it as a kid and I should normally have no issues?
 

graybot

Member
Nov 18, 2013
432
0
450
One of my favourites ever

I was saddened to see it was ported to smart phones. It can't possibly do it any justice
 

Worldshaker

Member
Nov 6, 2014
946
0
290
Michigan
This is still a top 10 SNES game in my eyes.

It's such a magical experience. I wish they'd fix the bugs and port it to the 3DS or something.
 

YankeeDonB

Member
Feb 24, 2015
4,143
0
0
Nice OT. I love basically everything about this game - including the battle system, which I know some find hobbled by the charge mechanic. It was one of my first action RPGs, and it was just slow and strategic enough for me to get my head around coming out of turn based and ATB.

The magic system remains one of my favorites in any RPG - the personification of each element, the division of defensive and offensive spells between party members, leveling up spells.

And the world! So huge and beautiful.

Really, both aurally and visually game is so simple but so evocative in so many ways.

Much as I enjoyed SD3, Secret of Mana/SD2 is still the series high point for me.
 

Fallen92

Member
Sep 12, 2014
235
1
330
Los Angeles
Amazing game. I just got my hands on a copy along with the manual and map/poster. Holds up wonderfully and I'm glad to ba able to play on a real SNES again.

Great write up OP I love reading these kinds of developer interviews.
 

DiipuSurotu

Banned
May 31, 2010
23,399
7
0
www.youtube.com
Didn't know Purim was supposed to be an elf.

Was that part the 40% of text Ted was forced to leave out of the game?

I'm not aware of an explanation in the Japanese version. Could it be a detail that was left out of even the original Japanese version due to the cartridge space constraints? Who knows.

Curiously, an early piece of concept art for Chrono Trigger (the Sakaguchi/Horii/Toriyama Chrono Trigger) described Marle as an "Elf King's Daughter", or "Daughter of the Fairy King" depending on the translation:



However, that piece was drawn by Masato Kato in April 1993, a mere four months before the release of Secret of Mana, so who knows if this was a leftover from the CD-based common ancestor of SoM and CT or it this was a coincidence.
 

Ailike

Member
Mar 10, 2013
426
532
670
I once called the Nintendo tip line about Shadow Zero (very nascent internet, mind you) - the guy was basically like 'Beats us. If you've got any ideas what he's about let us know!'
 

Tiktaalik

Member
Aug 6, 2004
12,870
0
1,430
This is still a top 10 SNES game in my eyes.

It's such a magical experience. I wish they'd fix the bugs and port it to the 3DS or something.

Yeah bugs and issues aside, I do think that this is a top game for the SNES platform. That's indicative of how much goes well despite the problems.