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The Lost Mana

Mike Moehnke

The Mana series has been set on the back burner by Square-Enix ever since Dawn of Mana and Heroes of Mana were unsuccessful. To the majority of series fans, it seems that nothing since the Super Nintendo days in this series has been wholly successful. Sword of Mana has its defenders, but Legend of Mana is widely regarded as horrid and Children of Mana as an uninspired dungeon-hack. To the vast majority of Mana fans, Secret of Mana remains the pinnacle of the series.

Square-Enix appears to have taken an extended hiatus on further Mana games after Dawn and Heroes produced underwhelming financial results. Secret of Mana appearing on the Virtual Console shows that Square-Enix has not entirely forgotten the series outside of Japan, and is probably awaiting some inscrutable omen that outsiders will never be privy to for its resurgence. Rather than going off on a new tangent with the Mana series, however, Square-Enix would be well-advised to remake the one major game in the series that has never seen an official English release. Seiken Densetsu 3 (aka Secret of Mana 2) can certainly be played in English if one is willing to resort to the ROM method, and its enduring popularity via that means bespeaks a certain quality. Square-Enix could take this sustained interest as an inspiration to give the game a remake similar to Sword of Mana, except sticking closer to the source material this time.

Precisely what makes Seiken Densetsu 3 worthy of a remake is how it takes many of the things about Secret of Mana and improves upon them. Instead of a linear story with three characters, there are three main linear stories with a total of six characters. This game is built around replay value, for it is impossible to see everything on the first play. Each character's class change possibilities add to the replay value, because the class changes alter combat enormously. Enormous replay value is the major alteration from Secret of Mana: otherwise new players will instantly recognize the game as being that game's successor. Combat involves waiting for the charge gauge to hit 100% or else damage will be minimal, the ring menu returns but wiht a limit of 9 instead of 4 items, Hiroki Kikuta did the music again, many of the enemies will be recognizable to Secret of Mana veterans, and the eight elements of that game recur.

In a hypothetical remake, there are certainly issues that ought to be dealt with. The class change process is rather difficult to figure out and should have a bit more explanation, for it does not happen without specific steps being taken. Somehow the HP totals of later bosses were increased substantially, but the limit for damage did not rise over 999, and this makes many fights take a very long time. The menus could use a revamp, because there are far more items in Seiken Densetsu 3 compared to Secret of Mana, and items can only be switched into active use after everything onscreen is dead. Reducing the difficulty would be recommended also, because it takes a long time to level-up in this game and the enemies are quite powerful. As a comparison, the werewolves that could singlehandedly wreck an unlucky player in Secret of Mana early on have multiple counterparts in Seiken Densetsu 3.

This hypothetical remake will only exist if Square-Enix decides that the Mana series is worth returning to. After so many underperforming titles and disappointment among the fans, such a thing may not happen soon. I have high hopes that what I suggest here will be Square-Enix's actual course of action, but the company has had numerous past opportunities to remake Seiken Densetsu 3 and never done so. Perhaps the company will decide to put Friends of Mana on Wiiware instead. The recent remake binge the company has gone on, however, suggests that the time is finally right to let English speakers officially play what might be the best game in the series.

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