Nostalgic Secret of Mana Fan? Look to Mobile for Your Fix

Nostalgic Secret of Mana Fan? Look to Mobile for Your Fix

Between a new remake of Final Fantasy Adventure and a remastered version of Secret of Mana, lonesome Mana enthusiasts may like what mobile offers -- despite the platform's flaws.

Adventures of Mana, a remake of 1991's Final Fantasy Adventure for Game Boy, is now available on iOS and Android. You might want to consider it if you've a hankering for a solid top-down action RPG -- or if you're nostalgic for Square-Enix's Mana series.

That last point is an important one for Mana fans. Though many SNES-owning Westerners still equate playing 1993's Secret of Mana to a candy-colored religious experience, it feels like the series slipped out of our grasp shortly thereafter. Seiken Densetsu 3 for the Super Famicom never received an official translation (though fans stepped up to the plate with an excellent localization effort at the turn of the millennium), so our direct successor to Final Fantasy Adventure and Secret of Mana was 1999's Legend of Mana for the PlayStation.

Arena Tiger: Jonesin' for your blood since 1991.

While it's good in its own right -- and while it possesses some of the most beautiful sprite artwork in a video game -- Legend of Mana is light on story and ponderously-paced thanks to its world-building aspect. It's fine, but if you're familiar with the action-heavy Zelda-style SNES Mana title, it's underwhelming. Undoubtedly, a lot of Secret of Mana fans made disappointed returns the week after Legend's release.

Maybe that's why the Mana series is typically regarded as "that one game I had on the Super Nintendo" in the West. And maybe that's why Square-Enix is making a small push to indicate it still cares, and it wants us to care. That's great, even if the company's platform of choice -- mobile -- is curious.

In 2010, Square-Enix put Secret of Mana on iOS. An Android version eventually turned up on Google Play in 2014. It's not merely a straight port of the SNES title, however. The original's sandpaper-rough translation is reworked, the companions' AI is much-improved, and the graphics are re-drawn to match the more polished style of the later Mana games.

Secret of Mana is one of my "comfort" games. I go back to it whenever I need a digital hug. I own the original SNES cart as well as the Virtual Console title and the iOS remake, and interestingly, it's the iOS version I find myself returning to again and again.

I've only played a few hours of Adventures of Mana, but what I've tucked under my belt seems like a very decent re-construction of Final Fantasy Adventure. It's already less tedious than Sword of Mana, another Final Fantasy Adventure remake that popped upon Game Boy Advance in 2003.

Whack that lizard's gizzard.

But neither Secret of Mana for mobile nor Adventures of Mana are perfect, and there's a big, obvious reason why: Screen-based controls aren't ideal for a fast-paced Mana game. They're certainly workable in both games, especially since Square-Enix offers a free-floating joystick and customization options. All those adjustments still don't hold a candle to a good old fashioned SNES joypad, though.

And if we're ticking off flaws, here's another big one that's exclusive to Secret of Mana mobile: You can't get your pals to control the tag-along characters.

So the big question is, why is neither "Mana revival" game available on the Nintendo 3DS? Adventures of Mana is on the PS Vita in Japan, but there are no plans to bring it westward. That said, the game isn't particularly resource-heavy, and it should run smoothly on the 3DS.

We'd have all those bells and whistles, along with tactile controls. For Secret of Mana, maybe we'd even have local multiplayer, thus allowing us to relive the days of playing alongside our friends. Heck, we could re-capture the nostalgic experience perfectly by gorging on pizza, popsicles, and chips!

It's a dream, but a perfectly feasible one. Square-Enix doesn't support the Nintendo 3DS as thoroughly as it did the DS, but it hardly shuns it, either.

There are no answers, unfortunately. For now, look to mobile for your Mana fix. This is one instance wherein "something" is definitely better than "nothing."

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Nadia Oxford

Staff Writer

Nadia has been writing about games for so long, only the wind and the rain (or the digital facsimiles thereof) remember her true name. She's written for Nerve, About.com, Gamepro, IGN, 1UP, PlayStation Official Magazine, and other sites and magazines that sling words about video games. She co-hosts the Axe of the Blood God podcast, where she mostly screams about Dragon Quest.

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