iPhone review of the day: Secret of Mana delivers classic RPG awesomeness

17 years later and it's still fantastic

On iPhone
Game: Secret of Mana
Price: $8.99 / £5.49
Size: 70.3 MB
Get it now on the iTunes store:US/UK

Like most Japanese RPGs, Secret of Mana is an epic sized adventure to save the world. Except this time, it’s the hero’s fault that the world’s even in trouble. After innocently pulling a sword out of a rock, a young boy unintentionally unleashes a barrage of evil monsters that immediately start wreaking havoc. To make things right, he has to travel the world and visit eight temples, recharging the blade and making all the bad monsters go away for good. Pretty standard stuff, but the characters are funny and charming and the game is surprisingly well written.

This is almost a straight port, so little has changed from the Super Nintendo original. The lighthearted story is still intact, as are the lovely old-school visuals and awesome soundtrack. This is a game you need to play with the sound on. SoM is an action RPG, so there are no turn based battles. Instead, you’ll fight enemies in real time. But you can’t simply mash the attack button. This is because your attacks require recharging, so it takes a few seconds to get back up to full strength. Mastering the timing of attacks is key to success and many of the bosses require pattern memorization.

The major change in this port, of course, is the shift to touch screen controls. And for the most part they work well. The action buttons are big and easy to hit and the menus are relatively simple to navigate. The virtual joystick gets the job done but can be wonky at times, which can be especially annoying during intense combat sequences. But it’s not enough to truly mar an otherwise excellent port of a classic game.

It may be old, but Secret of Mana stands the test of time and is still immensely enjoyable to play. And if you think $9 is too much for an iPhone game, trying picking up a copy of the original on eBay.

Jan 12, 2010

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