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

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


  • DoctorCrazy - April 21, 2012 8:07 a.m.

    Completely forgot I asked that question. Well, thank you Brett (who no longer works here) and thank you Hai-Shi, a year later I am finally going to buy it.
  • ChiefLethal - January 14, 2011 1:46 a.m.

    Is there a reason this hasn't come to DS yet? I mean if Square were going to put any game, aside from FF or Chrono Trigger, it should be this one. Or am i completely over-estimating this game's popularity?
  • EnragedTortoise1 - January 13, 2011 11:56 a.m.

    @flang: 'Cuz it's portable?
  • FelNaRj - January 13, 2011 11:53 a.m.

    This is the game that made me and addict to JRPG for years to come! :D i cried in the end. love it , obviusly is already on my iphone!
  • flang - January 13, 2011 10:43 a.m.

    So ah, I can either spend $9 on a straight port with less-than-ideal controls, or spend $8 for a perfect port with perfect controls. Now why would I want the iPhone version again?
  • PotOfHippoPus - January 13, 2011 10:39 a.m.

    The music is great too.
  • Hai-Shi - January 13, 2011 7:51 a.m.

    Man, Secret of Mana was so awesome back in the days (as well as Secret of Evermore). The real-time co-cop fighting was great and gave it some kind of zeldaesque flair. I wonder why Square Enix does not consider a HD re-release. Would be damn fine... @DoctorCrazy: I do not like turn-based JRPGs myself, but SoM never felt like one. It kinda felt like a co-op version of an early Zelda game...
  • GamesRadarBrettElston - January 13, 2011 4:37 a.m.

    @DoctorCrazy It's aged a bit, but the basic gameplay is still fun IMO. There's more focus on slashing and actually moving around the screen, so if you usually steer clear of jrpgs, you may still get into it.
  • venom65437 - January 13, 2011 3:31 a.m.

    Yea Japanaman, it's on the VC.
  • DoctorCrazy - January 13, 2011 2:44 a.m.

    So the combat in this isn't turn based which looks good, but would someone who isnt a huge fan of JRPG's enjoy this (me)?
  • Japanaman - January 13, 2011 12:28 a.m.

    This is on VC, right?
  • paganpoet - January 12, 2011 11:53 p.m.

    I wish this would come to Android, although I'm a little skeptical of playing it on touch screen.
  • Eliath - January 12, 2011 11:50 p.m.

    Best console RPG, ever. I think I'll stick to my SNES cartridge though. Still, I hope this does well and more people get to know the awesomeness that is Secret of Mana.

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