The Ultimate Classic RPG Guide for New Gamers: Secret of Mana
Secret of Mana
Secret of Mana is one of those games that people were interested in, but always took a backseat to other titles like Final Fantasy or Zelda. Once word got around of how well this sleeper hit played, everyone wanted a piece of the action.
Our hero is your average young boy. Bored with school, craving adventure and getting into mischievous mayhem. One afternoon, your buddies talk you into ditching your classes in favor of exploring the depths of a nearby waterfall. Everything is as you would expect...cold, damp and dark. Except for and old sword that is planted inside a stone slab. Your friends all take a turn trying to pull the sword from it's holder, and make you try as well against your better judgement. Grabbing the hilt, giving a might tug the stone releases it's grip on the blade. Instantly, the serenity of the waterfall is disrupted by the chaos of monsters surrounding you. You are forced to fight your way back to your village. Unbeknownst to you, you've just woken Thanatos, an evil sorcerer who is bent on reviving the grand Mana Fortress so he can complete his ascension to the world and rule on high. The only thing stopping him are the mana seeds which you must find and protect as they are the keys to restoring the fortress. Each seed is guarded by a powerful elemental, in which you must prove your worth in order to obtain each precious key. Fortunately you are not alone. You will meet a young amnesiac princess and a pint sized sprite which will prove useful allies.
Battle is actually based on live action. You attack each monster on screen with an equipped weapon. You control one party member while the games' AI takes over for the other two. The RPG aspect comes from a skill ring which you can access at any time. Here you can use items, change weapons and select elements. You have eight weapons at your disposal. Each one has it's own special attacks which you learn overtime. The downfall is that you actually have to spend time with each weapon in order to gain proficiency with it. As an added bonus each weapon can be upgraded several times to add extra fighting power.
Every time you conquer one of the elements, they will grand you their powers in order to thwart Thanatos' scheme. On the skill ring, you can select different elemental spells that will help you in times of trouble. What makes this unique is each character will gain different spells from each element. Thus making each character different and special.
All and all this game was a milestone in the RPG legacy. It proved to the world that not all RPG's have to follow the same linear turn based system, and that there is room for some changes and upgrades. If you don't like the hero, you can switch him out for another character. If you want the princess to wield a sword or beat monsters with a set of brass knuckles, that's perfectly ok. Or if you want to keep weaker fighters safe away from enemies with a boomerang or javelin, that's perfectly acceptable too. Secret of Mana lets you make the game yours without feeling like your breaking a bunch of unnecessary rules.