Monday, September 22, 2008

Tim's Whims 1 - Secret of Mana Wii

Tim's Whims 1 - Secret of Mana Wii

Following Piffman 2's "Piff's what if's? 1 - Ice Climbers", I decided it would be interesting to discuss what Secret of Mana would be like on the Wii. Any crew member can submit a "What if" but if you have a good one yourself, post it in this thread or e-mail Please comment on this feature below, whether you like it or dislike it.

Secret of Mana
, originally a series conceived as a spin-off for Final Fantasy, saw its second incarnation as a series in its own right on the SNES. Called something confusing in Japanese, with a '2' on the end, Secret of Mana was the first iteration in the series the reach Western audiences. Despite originally being a spin-off to Final Fantasy, it should not be regarded as a clone. Featuring a very rich storyline, vibrant graphics and a real-time fighting system with up to three players, Secret of Mana is regarded as a classic and is a rare and expensive find.

The game starts the narrative off thick and fast, seeing the main character, Randy, stumbling upon the fabled Mana Sword, albeit a sabre diminished in power. After the weapon reawakens numerous monsters (surprise, surprise) and threatens Randy's village, you are exiled and must go on a quest to recharge the depleted Mana Sword. Along your journeys, you will find two companions who can be controlled either by the CPU or by other players. New weapons and magic spells will also be discovered and all can be levelled up to increase their power and environmental effects, with a twist of needing 'Orbs' to upgrade. The usual fair of dungeons is broken up by a richly detailed world, much like the Zelda universe.

Much like Final Fantasy, a certain amount of levelling-up is required in order to have a chance against the various denizens of the world and this is naturally achieved by playing through the game. Every now and again though, some level grinding is required to ensure a not-impossible boss fight. Fortunately, throughout your travels you will meet a cat called Neko (ultra?), who will offer you highly-priced goods and allow you to save your game. This means the monotony of levelling is not redundant if you die and is also a handy save before boss fights.

On the whole, Secret of Mana's sequel, not release outside of Japan but available as a translated ROM in various places, follows this formula but adds stronger characterisation which is tied to the outcome of the game and branching classes, determining attributes of the heroes. A number of sequels have been released in various guises, including a third-person Mana game on PS2 and a strategy game on DS. Each game revolves loosely around the renewal of Mana, the Mana Sword and saving the world but if a game was to come out on Wii, hopefully a storyline which deviates from this basic pattern could be devised.

Fortunately, the transformation from top-down to 3D has been achieved with fantastic results in the Zelda franchise. Many of the puzzles in Secret of Mana would translate well into 3D, including shooting various switches to activate them. Environments could also be recreated to great effect on the Wii. Secret of Mana had very detailed environments, as did its sequel, rich with colour and motion. A 3D view would embrace this beautifully, highlighting the various levels and provided large, epic views demonstrated by Twilight Princess, Metroid Prime 3 and the up-coming Cursed Mountain. Enemies take various forms, from the usual fantasy fare of goblins to the more unique Rabites. Once again, a 3D perspective could only improve enemies. Attacks could take place on more than just one level, something which the original Secret of Mana would have benefitted from on several occasions, particularly a boss fight which took place on multiple platforms.

The gameplay of Secret of Mana is still classic. You can wield your weapon against an enemy in real time and as you level it up, build up charge attacks to deal more damage. The catch is, after every attack, you must wait to recover before you can deal full damage again. This prevents running in, button bashing and running out again. With Wii Motion Plus, I believe that weapons could be replicated to great effect. People have been going wild for 1:1 sword fighting and this could be inclusive for the Mana Sword. Other weapons include a spear, an axe, a whip, a javelin, a bow and a boomerang, all of which could have their corresponding waggles. In particular, the whip would be fun, as would the javelin, although a lock-on system would help greatly. The boomerang motion has been demonstrated already with the frisbee game in Wii Sports Resort. Of course, over-waggle is a distinct possibility and any implementation of motion control would have to be considered seriously.

Magic is a large factor in the game too, so much so that the last spell you learn is crucial to completing the game. Offensive and defensive spells are provided to the player and often prove essential to survival. Based on various elementals, such as fire, earth, moon and the fabled (and almost certainly fake) sun, the spells provide a variety of effects in the multifarious environments in Secret of Mana. Gothic structures, vast deserts, golden continents, tall mountains, ruined fortresses and forbidden forests all feature and are in the present culture of grey equals gritty and realistic, would present a colourful but enthralling alternative. The newly depicted story, like the previous ones, would have to include a dark streak, not just be a colourful, cutesy and tedious world. Personal strife is always a theme and determines the outcome of Secret of Mana's sequel. A long, epic story which included multiple endings could be crafted in order to sate the appetites of those not satisfied by shorter and shorter games and those not content with linear outings.

The real trick would be making use of Nintendo's online service, Friend Codes or otherwise. In Secret of Mana, three players were able to play simultaneously on the SNES. With a proper online set-up, making Secret of Mana Wii a co-op game would be both easy and fantastic. Instead of playing with CPU controlled companions, something which I have yet to find satisfactory, you could hook up with someone to work through the game, making all the sweeter. With a branching storyline, this would also ensure that you would not have total control over what happens, making the game even more intriguing. I'm sure some DLC could be included too, in the form of extra areas to explore or more missions to complete. As for local play, this would be difficult in a 3D perspective, unless split-screen display or LAN were adopted.

Square-Enix hold the reins on this one and they have not given the Wii much love yet. With Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles: The Crystal Bearers gone AWOL and only the WiiWare My Life as a King to keep us busy, Secret of Mana Wii would present an epic, enthralling, beautiful and fantastic action RPG, which could help promote Nintendo's online service and revive the franchise in the eyes of die-hard fans and new comers.


piffman2 said...

the real Secret of Mana needs to come back since these other Mana games aren't turning out so well

stan said...

online co-op on the wii for an rpg/action/adventure/epic game. i likes it. we need to get nintendo to see these articles. this one is great, I'd like to see it, or something like it.

Piffman2 said...

at least secret of mana is on the vc now