Secret of Mana (PS Vita) Review

By Drew Hurley 21.04.2018

Review for Secret of Mana on PS Vita

There was a golden age of JRPGs for gamers on the SNES back in the '90s. Square Enix - Square at the time - was responsible for putting out some of the most iconic and memorable of the time. Games like Final Fantasy VI and Chrono Trigger. Experiences that took hold of a generation of gamers and got them hooked for life. Probably best known for these types of JRPGs, Square put out some other real gems during this era; gems like [i]Secret of Mana[i]. This isn't the first chance for a new batch of players to get their hands on this memorable little adventure but this isn't just a re-release, it's a full makeover.

Those unlucky enough to have not experienced the original can prepare for a top-down adventure RPG in the same vein as Zelda, although with some significant differences. Secret of Mana told the story of a cliché young boy named Randi pulling a sword from a tree and… unleashing evil upon the world. He then embarks on a quest to give power back to the blade while being pursued by an evil empire ruled by a secret ancient force. Along the way, Randi recruits Primm, an Elfish girl who acts as the healer to the team, and Popoi, a Dwarfish caster who acts as the group's mage.

Square Enix is somewhat notorious for taking any chance it can to make an extra couple of quid; always happy to re-release its fan-favourite games on generation after generation of consoles and handhelds. Fans of this Zelda-like action RPG, though, hoped for a little more with this remaster. The original was well-loved with good reason, but anyone who has revisited it can attest to the flaws that are evident throughout. A remaster is a chance to revisit these flaws, to address them, to make something good great, and to make something great fantastic. Sadly, that's not what this remaster does.

Screenshot for Secret of Mana on PS Vita

The most obvious and significant change here is obvious from starting up the game. The classic, rich, 2D sprites are long gone. In their place is a 3D overhaul. This is, in itself, not necessarily a bad thing, but the presentation here is not good. The animations of the models look stunted and during combat the hit-boxes can regularly feel off. Worst of all, they all feel hollow, floating through the world instead of feeling part of it. Ultimately, it all just looks… wrong… and so much less than the original.

Another big change in this version is the inclusion of voice acting, and true to the generation it comes from, this game has some comically bad performances. Also on the audio front, this release includes both the original soundtrack and a brand new remastered version. That original soundtrack is absolutely superb. It was then and it is now. The remaster is horrendous. The less said about this absolute butchering of a musical piece of art, the better.

Then there's the combat. In the original, there was a system called the "Ring Command," a menu that would pop-up in the middle of the screen upon a button press, where the gameplay would freeze and give the player a chance to pick a spell or ability. Improvements in this new version move the ring to hover above the player it is for and also stores the last used ability in memory to allow for spamming of heals or effective combat abilities. Oh… wait... that's the opposite. Those "improvements" were part of the original and inexplicably this remaster completely does away with them! The Ring Command forgets the last used ability, making every combat experience more clunky and choppy.

One of the big innovations of Secret of Mana was the inclusion of multiplayer. Two-player and even three-player drop-in and drop-out sessions were available on the SNES thanks to the Super Multi-tap. Again, it's a bit harder here. Those options still exist, but it means a separate PlayStation Vita and copy of the game for each person who wants to play.

Screenshot for Secret of Mana on PS Vita

Cubed3 Rating

Rated 4 out of 10


As the era of remakes continues on and on, with the recent confirmation of the original Shenmue games finally receiving their long-awaited remaster later this year, this is not a good example to look to for what's in store. If this is indicative of what to expect, the Final Fantasy VII faithful are right to be concerned for what their upcoming drastically different remake has in store. Somehow, it manages to take the original and, honestly, it makes it worse… The same story and the same game are still here at its heart, but it's hidden away under so many layers of imperfections and issues that it's almost indistinguishable. Frankly, it's a better idea to grab a SNES mini and enjoy the original instead. Horribly disappointing.


Square Enix


Square Enix


Real Time RPG



C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  4/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now   


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