Oh No, the Secret of Mana Remake Looks Kind of Bad

I'm so excited. I'm so ... scared.

Opinion by Nadia Oxford, .

Have you ever seen a cute, fluffy dog and said to yourself, "I'm going to pet that dog?" And when you put your hands on the dog, you discover its coat is a little greasier than you expected? Not that the revelation spoils your playtime with the pupper, which you thoroughly enjoy. But whenever you think back to your first meeting and the good time you had, you automatically recall the texture of dirty dog coat.

That's how I feel about the upcoming Secret of Mana remake for the PlayStation 4, PS Vita, and PC. I'm honestly stoked for Square-Enix's 2.5D remake of one of my favorite games, and I'm glad an English localization was announced from the get-go (hey, still waiting on word about a translation for Mana Collection, Squeenix!). But Secret of Mana is already a very pretty game, and I'm not confident its atmosphere is well-suited for the "polished plastic figurine" treatment.

Ask your dad.

I may be unjustifiably jittery about this. The debut trailer for the game only shows off a tiny bit of story footage. Granted, said footage looks flat and lifeless, especially the shot of the game's heroes flying away on the dragon, Flammie. But most of my worries about the Mana remake are cordoned to that one event. There are some still shots of the game on the official PlayStation blog, and some of it looks OK: I dig the muscle detail on that stupid idiot jerk of a tiger boss that fights you early in the game (too early). I'm also glad to see the new models are based on the character re-designs commissioned by Haccan in 2010.

I guess the question on my mind is, "Why 2.5D?" Square-Enix re-did Secret of Mana's sprites for the game's mobile re-release (the same project Haccan cooked up the re-designs for). Why not re-draw the sprites one more time, with more detail and a higher resolution? Heck, the mobile version of Secret of Mana has yet to hit any platform outside of mobile; just getting it on PS Vita and Switch would be a nice start. I honestly have no idea why the Mana Collection doesn't contain the 2010 remake of Secret of Mana, but I digress.

"I'll save you! Wait ... 'bend down?' As if. Give my regards to Satan, loser."

While I wonder aloud at Square-Enix's design choices, the studio's motivations for going 2.5D with Secret of Mana aren't hard to suss out: The new Secret of Mana is a direct follow-up to Adventures of Mana, a recent Final Fantasy Legend remake for phones and the PlayStation Vita. And, to be fair, I enjoyed Adventures of Mana quite a bit. However, former USgamer Editor-in-Chief Jeremy Parish was a bit taken aback by its plain, bland visuals. In his analysis of the game, he states "Adventures of Mana kind of feels like watching a colorized version of It's a Wonderful Life — an entertaining work either way, but not actually improved by its 'improvements.'"

Ironically, Secret of Mana's heritage as a soulful, beautiful game might work for its remake as well as against it. Adventures of Mana is admittedly a plain-looking game, but it's based on a Game Boy title from '91. Final Fantasy Adventure is a great action RPG, but its featureless, repetitive dungeons weren't destined to translate well into a 2.5D space.

Oh good, he can still breathe fire. That's great.

With Secret of Mana, however, Square-Enix has some prime source material to work with. Iconic locations. Cool bosses. Bright woodlands filled with cherry blossoms, dark castles, and twinkling ice-forests. I still don't believe 3D models embody Secret of Mana's world as skillfully as sprites, but with so much great material to build upon, I hope the remake looks not-hideous at the very least.

I suppose we'd all do well to remember graphics aren't everything, anyway. Sword of Mana is one of the best-looking entries in the series, but oh man, what a flavorless slog. If nothing else, I'm confident Secret of Mana's gameplay will hold up. Bonus points to Square-Enix if adds a bit of extra content to the original's clearly-rushed endgame, but I'm not wagering any money on the prospect.

(Note that I don't necessarily want to play the game as Squaresoft first envisioned it for the Nintendo PlayStation: I've already gone over why it might not turn out to be as cool as I make it out to be in my dreams and wishes.)

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Comments 21

  • Avatar for MetManMas #1 MetManMas 5 months ago
    Eh, I'm okay with this. Like, it's not amazing, but Square Enix has done remakes that looked way worse than this (glaring at you, Final Fantasy VI mobile). It's chibi, it's colorful, it's fine.
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  • Avatar for Thad #2 Thad 5 months ago
    I like the colors, at least.
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  • Avatar for nadiaoxford #3 nadiaoxford 5 months ago
    @MetManMas Yeah, at least it's not Final Fantasy VI mobile. I'd burn everything to the ground.
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  • Avatar for scotts #4 scotts 5 months ago
    I had the same reaction. A lot of why I want to play Secret of Mana is the charm of great SNES era graphics, sound and music. Outside of that context, I don't think it's nearly as attractive to play. I wish they had gone the Shovel Knight or Sonic 4 route of keeping the style of the source material, but making it better than it ever could have been at the time.
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  • Avatar for captainN2 #5 captainN2 5 months ago
    Exactly the same reaction. Mana was such a vivid and lush looking game. This looks cheap, flat and uninspired. :/
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  • Avatar for riderkicker #6 riderkicker 5 months ago
    This does look bad and makes you wonder why SE is putting a lot of effort into this release as opposed to just releasing the Mana Collection for the Switch. Does the company really want to not have Western audiences play Secret of Mana or especially its sequel at all?
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  • Avatar for camchow #7 camchow 5 months ago
    It is pretty generic looking. Really makes you wonder how this and the FF5 and 6 IOS ports were approved. Someone over at Square just really hates SNES graphics I guess. Really sad. Secret of Mana and FF6 were some of the best looking SNES games ever made so if you are going to give those games a visual overhaul you have to bring your A game and this clearly isn't that.
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  • Avatar for Pandalulz #8 Pandalulz 5 months ago
    It's a mobile remake that's not being released on mobile. I'm so confused.Edited August 2017 by Pandalulz
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  • Avatar for UnskippableCutscene #9 UnskippableCutscene 5 months ago
    I think this is a subjective 'bad' based on people who have played the original, because I didn't and it seems okay to me. I was a little surprised to not see a 3DS logo at the end if only because it has that zero shading, full brightness look many handheld games do, but I'm not afraid to play what is basically a handheld game detail on a 1080p screen if that's how it's going to happen.

    $40 is unfortunately a price that's not going to compel a lot of people who didn't play the original, though. It seems like a price for die-hard fans, not expanding the audience. I guess in this regard someone at Square likely decided that old ROMs of the original will effectively "demo" this game to newcomers, given that many people who already played/beat/know the game wanted a remake anyhow.
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  • Avatar for jcgg1983 #10 jcgg1983 5 months ago
    Frankly, I think it's premature to make any grand judgments about the game itself being bad.

    I can understand not everyone liking the 3D style, which does look low budget, but I think it's still effective and properly reflects the spirit of the original art. At least so far. In a way, I might even like this minimalistic approach when it's done well.

    As long as the game remains enjoyable to play, I think people should calm down.
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  • Avatar for SatelliteOfLove #11 SatelliteOfLove 5 months ago

    Good reference. Just wasted work, I guess? $10 port or $40 remake.
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  • Avatar for mobichan #12 mobichan 5 months ago
    Legend of Mana came out almost two decades ago. Somebody please tell me why that is not the bar for quality now? I love 2D sprites, but turning watercolor paintings and anime sprite art into a game seems like the ideal for this franchise.
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  • Avatar for NiceGuyNeon #13 NiceGuyNeon 5 months ago
    I mean you don't gotta be a debbie downer about it, I think it looks fine.....

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  • Avatar for Sturat #14 Sturat 5 months ago
    I would definitely prefer 2D graphics. Secret of Mana would look amazing with high quality 2D art like Legend of Mana or a Vanillaware game, and it would also look cool with an "enhanced 16-bit" look like Wild Guns Reloaded, Sonic Mania, or even the WiiWare Konami Rebirth games.
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  • Avatar for TernBird #15 TernBird 5 months ago
    The graphics look like Ever Oasis, which isn't a bad thing. It just makes me wonder why S-E is wasting its time putting this game on the Vita. The vita's kinda dead. I mean, the 3DS is in its twilight but it's not in the ground. Oh, well...
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  • Avatar for kazriko #16 kazriko 5 months ago
    Hopefully better than Adventures of Mana on the Vita. Though, I suppose if this got the same treatment as Adventure of Mana, it would be a better game than AoM.

    AoM is almost a direct port of the GB game, with a 3d veneer on top. The problems of the original gb game were apparent, and some issues with the boundaries between screens being different from the edges of the 3d screens existed.
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  • Avatar for link6616 #17 link6616 5 months ago
    @TernBird the vita has a surprisingly dedicated audience. I'm willing to bet adventures of mana did surpsingly well on the platform.
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  • Avatar for Roto13 #18 Roto13 5 months ago
    I think it looks pretty OK for a game that's probably designed for phones first and consoles second.
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  • Avatar for Gamer-Law #19 Gamer-Law 5 months ago
    @nadiaoxford - When I first heard about this remake, I was hoping for something along the lines of what we saw in FF III or FF IV on the DS. This trailer (albeit short) had a closer resemblance to a game being released for mobile devices as opposed to one headed to consoles.

    I am trying to keep an open mind and see how this develops, but it seems like another argument for leaving classic gems alone.Edited 2 times. Last edited August 2017 by Gamer-Law
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  • Avatar for fstim82 #20 fstim82 5 months ago
    Obviously the biggest problem with this game is that it's not on the Switch...
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  • Avatar for jandar #21 jandar 5 months ago
    Personally I love, the atmosphere of the original is respected. There is a good facelift of the game that passes better on our new machines while keeping the retro charm. I hope that Square Enix will show us again other games of the catalogs Squaresoft and Enix of the time by reworking them as intelligently. Go SE you still have nice nuggets to reveal.

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    Edited September 2017 by jandar
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