Final Thoughts: Secret of Mana Remake (Part 2)

Yeah, I know, should an article entitled “Final Thoughts: Secret of Mana Remake” be allowed to have a part two?

It’s all in the name of fairness, folks. A few points have come to my attention since The Cartographers Guild played the game, mostly to the tune of functional improvements to the remake, that I either didn’t notice because I hadn’t played the original for a long time or because we couldn’t have noticed them playing multiplayer. I found these in a video by a YouTuber called Casp, so all credit to him, and I recommend the video.

  1. In the original game the camera only moved once the player walked to the edge of the screen (edge-scrolling), now it’s centered on the player (but only in single player). It was easy to walk right into enemies on the SNES version because of the edge-scrolling when you were playing solo. Because we only played the game on multiplayer, I didn’t know about this improvement and we couldn’t comment on it.
  2. Sprinting used to be, as Casp describes it, “a short burst of linear speed with a hefty cooldown,” and is now a controlled, maintained sprint in the remake. Sprinting used to drop your charge down to 0% and only let you run in one direction, now it increases your omni-directional speed and slowly reduces the charge meter. If you saw the stream (and if you haven’t, check out the playlist on YouTube), we noticed and really liked this improvement.
  3. Stairs in the original Secret of Mana used to be really awful, slowing your speed by 50% and not letting you sprint on them (each individual step would reset your sprint). The staircases in this game are plentiful, and can sometimes be quite long, like in Watts’ Forge in the Dwarf Village in Gaia’s Navel. The back stairway into the forge is supposed to be a shortcut, but it sure doesn’t feel like it in the original game. Now staircases are treated like flat plains that you can run on. I’m pretty sure this one completely got by me, but now that I notice and think about it, big improvement. Getting up the Lofty Mountains is so much less painful now.
  4. Here’s another one we didn’t notice because we only played the game in multiplayer: characters move independently of one another in single player and are not all required to be on the screen. The AI would often get stuck on terrain in the original and restrict your movement, you’d have to go back and move such that they could find a clear path to you so you could go on. I played a decent amount of the original SNES game solo, and I can tell you that’s a big single player improvement.
  5. The AI can also be reset to your position by loading the menu now, which arguably, as Casp argues, may have been a better improvement for the original game, as you don’t ever need to reset the AI to your position in single player in the remake because (A) they get stuck less often and (B) they don’t all have to be on the screen anymore, so who cares if they fall behind. Again, these were not functions we enjoyed in The Cartographers Guild run, because we had three players, but that is another great single player tweak.
  6. We complained a lot in the stream when we got to the Pure Land because of the abundant foreground foliage that our characters were often behind as we made our way through the area. I completely forgot that in the original game there were no white outlines around your characters when you went behind foreground elements, so you had no idea where you were. Now, you still have no idea where the enemies are in those cases, and therefore no idea except for sound effects or a treasure box/damage number popping up if you’re actually hitting the enemy, but the white outline is an improvement, to be sure.
  7. The new UI always shows your MP (which I forgot the original did not, you saw it in the menu when you called up the spells to cast them) and also the weapon each character has equipped by their character portrait. You can see the weapons in their hands, so maybe that addition isn’t quite as good as always showing the characters’ MP, but then again, the javelins tend to look a lot like the spears, and each weapon looks different as you level it up, so having a clear, persistent view to teach you how your new weapon looks probably isn’t a bad thing.
  8. Apparently the shoulder buttons on the SNES version did nothing. I had to go look it up, because I thought I remembered they were used to switch characters, but nope, it was the Select button. In the remake you can assign weapons, magic, or items to them. We didn’t do this on our playthrough, but maybe getting Cure Water or Remedy or Cups of Wishes quick-slotted would have kept the game moving along better. Casp’s video goes on to explain how this might have been done even better, suggesting there were other unused buttons on the controller that could have been shortcuts, and it might have been helpful to be able to use them to cycle through weapons, like in Mega Man X, for example.

I don’t agree with everything in this particular video, but I didn’t feel my thoughts on the game would be complete unless I pointed out these improvements, most of which I didn’t see as we played for the reasons I mentioned. While I very much appreciate them (and will probably enjoy them more when/if I get around to a solo playthrough of the Secret of Mana remake), they’re just not enough to make this game worth the $40 price tag. As I mentioned in part one, my biggest problems were the missed opportunities to give us the game Secret of Mana was supposed to be, and as nice as these improvements are, I consider them to be the bare minimum to have in a game you’re trying to update to appeal to new and old gamers alike.

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