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THE LOGO
Earlier installments:
· Final Fantasy Adventure
· Secret of Mana
· Seiken Densetsu 3
· Legend of Mana
· Sword of Mana
· Children of Mana
· Dawn of Mana
· Heroes of Mana
Last seen in: 2007
Publisher: Square Enix










Secret of Mana

Secret of Mana/Seiken Densetsu

You could say that Mike Moehnke says... The funny thing about the Seiken Densetsu series is that it never really stopped. Even now, Square-Enix is pumping out a mobile game called Friends of Mana (that won't work on phones outside Japan), which might seem to argue that including it in this feature is pointless. The saga of Seiken Densetsu is told in more than a simple chart of its game releases, however. Few would argue that whatever magic it possessed dissipated years ago.

Secret of Mana seems to be regarded as the high point of this series, with the possible exception of some who hold Seiken Densetsu 3 in higher regard. Legend of Mana has its fans, but the strengths of that game are not the same as the 16-bit entries. As if realizing that, Square-Enix sought to bring back the multiplayer component with Children of Mana, but putting that game on the DS made anyone not drowning in fellow DS wifi signals miss the multiplayer, leaving a repetitive dungeon crawler. Then came Dawn of Mana and Heroes of Mana, games that succeeded in tarnishing the good reputation of the series so much that they are not spoken of in polite company today.

Secret of Mana and Seiken Densetsu 3 should not be so hard to replicate, and yet it has constantly proved beyond Square-Enix's abilities in recent years. Even if Mana's secret remains elusive, that's no reason to give up, because really good action RPGs are still a very worthwhile commodity. Really good action RPGs with a multiplayer component are even rarer, and something that has barely been tried outside this series. Poor sales may have scared Square-Enix away from trying a new Seiken Densetsu that is more than a mobile title, but poor quality was the reason, not a lack of interest from consumers. If Square-Enix again makes a good Mana game, the gamers will come.

The opinion of Nathan Schlothan... The Seiken Densetsu series has always had a confused identity. The original Seiken Densetsu was a simple and charming game that was basically a Legend of Zelda clone with Final Fantasy trappings, including White Mages, Black Mages, and a cyborg chocobo. The next two games dropped both the Final Fantasy aspects and the dungeon puzzles, instead focusing on more sophisticated action-RPG elements, such as adding AI teammates and multiplayer capabilities. Legend of Mana radically changed everything by adding a lot of complexity to a series that was previously straightforward and elegant, dramatically changing the series' art style and identity, and removing the multiplayer component. Since then, Seiken Densetsu games have been very inconsistent, and nothing has captured the simple fun of early gems like Secret of Mana.

Like many, I consider the best games of the Seiken Densetsu series to be Secret of Mana and Seiken Densetsu 3, in no small part because of the great multiplayer experience they provide. I still think of it as one of the best implementations of a cooperative multiplayer mode, which is remarkable for a game in a genre that far too often lacks any multiplayer capability whatsoever. Secret of Mana could add or drop a player with the push of a button, and the game was a lot of fun regardless of whether you played alone or with friends. In many ways, Secret of Mana was the great multiplayer experience that later games like Final Fantasy: Crystal Chronicles failed to be. It is truly unfortunate that many later entries in the series were strictly solo experiences, and that Children of Mana's multiplayer mode was crippled by the limitations of handheld gaming.

More than anything, the Seiken Densetsu series needs to return to its roots. Really, all Square Enix needs to do is create a solid action-RPG with a good multiplayer mode. It merely needs to be a simple and fun game. Secret of Mana is fondly remembered today despite being nothing more than just that. Unfortunately, with the current state of Square Enix as a whole and the Seiken Densetsu series in particular, the next game in the series is far more likely to be yet another gimmicky game of questionable quality in a strange genre.

Can a new game happen?

Series Highlights

Not soon with SE's current business model

Secret of Mana, Seiken Densetsu 3

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