Secret of Mana (Seiken Densetsu II)
A look at one of the timeless classics of the RPG world.
This game was the sole reason I relaxed my love of the Genesis and the Shining Force games and requested a SNES as well for an Xmas gift one year.
The game still is pretty nice to look at, the graphics are solidly composed. I can remember playing this game for hours ... heck I still do, though my SNES burnt out long ago my back-up Rom does the trick nowadays.
It's gameplay was highly addictive and took place in real time. When you fought these battles you felt like you were actually there in the thick of things ducking and dodging while getting in hits where you can this process is sped up by a radial menu allowing quick access to spells and inventory.
This style of play got the person more involved than anything possible in the turn based realm of Final Fantasy. It also included a weapon power-up system, rather than buying a completely new weapon you had your old one modified with power orbs specific to the various weapons ... such as the old sword you pull from a rock at the beginning of the game.
He(the characters had no default names) finds a rusty sword in a pillar of rock amidst a stream, and removes it because a ghost tells him to do so. By removing the sword he has removed an invisible barrier around his small village which had protected it from monsters for many years, when the village elder who is also his foster parent finds out he quickly banishes the boy following the attack of a Giant Mantis
... thanks alot "dad", guess that Father's Day present wasn't good enough.
As the story progresses through a beautiful and challenging world you eventually open up a mode of transport familiar to alot of RPG fans ... air travel.
Though whereas most games stuck you with an airship this game actually allows you to fly around a detailed world map on the back of a dragon you summon with a special drum. The best part of this flying mode is the ability to move in any direction including up and down, giving you the illusion of speed and feel of a racing game almost.
Now this should be enough to get many RPG fans salivating, though it gets better. The magic system in the game was great, you had a limited number of spells though could power-up each tier of magic you acquire after sealing a mana seed(locks in an invisible chain which keep the mana beast from awakening). The games magic is activated from the radial menu and calls forth the powers of one of the following Seed guardians in order to summon the desired effect. Undine(Water Elemental). Sylphid(Wind Elemental), Lumina(Moon Elemental), Gnome(Earth Elemental), Salamando(Fire Elemental), Shade(Darkness Elemental) and Dryad(Tree Elemental)
What makes this magic system so interesting is the fact new graphics for spell effects could be unlocked. Occasionally once you had powered-up these tiers of magic to the maximum the graphic of the spell would change and feature a cooler version of attack.
One of the other great features in this classic title was the ability to purchase barrels, once hidden inside of them characters could move freely between screens without engaging in combat if they did not so wish.
The game features several "side quests" which can be completed or left uncompleted entirely, which allowed it to feel a little less linear ... though the ability to free roam somewhat using the dragon also aided in that area.
Once you had decided to finish the game you were treated to a massive final battle, the Mana Beast covered the entire screen except when he flew away far enough to breath flame at you or swooped in from the side to hit you.