Secret Of Mana

A look back at a Square classic...

They say that smell triggers memories more effectively than any other sense, but when it comes to games, a few bars of the soundtrack are usually all that's required to hurl you right back to your experiences of it as a kid

For instance, the mournful melody that accompanies Secret Of Mana's crystalline Ice Country evokes the time our teenage selves hacked and slashed their way through a giant frozen forest to, for some reason, rescue Santa Claus.

Music has a way of filling in the blanks, extending a world beyond its physical and technical limitations, and adding an emotional context.

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Secret Of Mana is the story of a boy, a girl and a magical sprite. More accurately, it's the story of your boy, your girl and your magical sprite. Here was a trio of playable characters you named and shaped yourself, by deciding which arms from the game's exhaustive weapon classes they should become good with. This wasn't an arbitrary choice made at the beginning, but one that emerged naturally over the course of your globe-spanning adventure.

And what an adventure it was, taking in a haunted forest, a scorching desert, mountains, Moogles and everything in between. The game was made during an era in which game worlds felt like worlds, with intricate hand-crafted environments that betrayed the imagination of their artists rather than their talent with a brown felt tip pen.


In truth, it featured a fairly simple story, but it was effectively told, and backed up by a powerful score by Kenji Ito that alternated between otherworldly whimsy and nostalgic melancholy; the perfect expression of the series' deep affection for nature.

All those things make this an important historical title, but the slick, fast-paced combat is the reason Secret Of Mana hasn't aged a day. It's an accessible, evocative, imaginative beast of a game, one that's all but guaranteed to lodge itself in your heart - if it hasn't taken residence already. Tom Sykes

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