SoMhead.jpg['Parallax Memories' is a regular weekly column by Matthew Williamson, profiling classic '16-bit' games from the Sega Genesis, Super Nintendo, and other seminal '90s systems. This week's column profiles Squaresoft’s action RPG: Secret of Mana, released for the Super Nintendo in late 1993 in the U.S. and Japan, and debuting later in 1994 in Europe.]

Turned into a Moogle!

Secret of Mana is a game that started its heritage as a Final Fantasy title in the U.S. Released stateside as Final Fantasy Adventure, Seiken Densetsu for the Game Boy is the first title in the “Mana” series of games. While it never felt like a Final Fantasy game, I did enjoy it. Little did I know that it was part of its own series until my discovery on the internet years later.

Released in late 1993 for the SNES, Secret of Mana (Seiken Densetsu 2) is one of Squaresoft’s most colorful and aesthetically pleasing games. The music, created by Hiroki Kikuta, is extremely well implemented and memorable. It ranges from haunting and unsettling to exhilarating and fun, yet is always fitting for the mood and setting of each well crafted area.

1.pngA Boy, a Girl, and a Sprite

The game starts with you and your friends on a treasure hunt over a river, next to a waterfall. The sun is out and you’re without a care in the world. One wrong move and you find yourself in the river, only able to return home by taking the sword in a nearby stone and chopping your way through the forest. Unbeknown to you, these actions result in the return of all evil to the land and the leaching of Mana energy from the world.

After finding that the sword is the Sword of Mana and being exiled from your town, you decide to stop the evil forces that have arisen. On your quest you pick up a sprite that has lost its memory and a girl who is trying to find her true love.

Like a good team, even after you’ve helped them solve their problems they will stay with you. Unfortunately, the story was poorly translated, and at times is somewhat confusing, but it’s not the focus of the game anyway.

2.jpgLaunched From a Cannon

The game takes you over many different beautifully designed locations, each filled with unique enemies and tons of boss battles. The story is just a tool to make you a tourist in this lovely world.

The real joy comes from playing the game itself: mastering the use of three characters if you are playing by yourself, or learning to play well other people controlling each character in the team.

The action element lends itself quite well to the strategy of RPGs in Secret of Mana. The ability to play with more than one person is just icing on the cake. The overall package--gameplay, music, graphics and story--is not one to be missed; even if the story is a weak link.

[Matthew Williamson is the creator of The Gamer's Quarter, an independent videogame magazine focusing on first person writing. His work has been featured on MTV.com, 1up.com, Chatterbox Radio, and the Fatpixels Radio Podcast.]