Square Enix recently announced a remake of the beloved classic, Secret of Mana. The action/RPG for SNES made its mark for its fun co-op, vibrant visuals, and fantastic music. This remake includes 3D visuals, voice acting, and a newly arranged score by original composer Hiroki Kikuta. While in Japan, I had the opportunity to speak to producer Masaru Oyamada about what we can expect from the remake and the design decisions behind it. Here are some of his biggest revelations.
How Co-op Works
As fans will remember, Secret of Mana had three-player co-op, which was rare for the role-playing genre at the time. Oyamada says the co-op functions in the remake exactly like the original, meaning it’s offline couch co-op. “You have three players sitting next to each other on the couch with three controllers – all playing at the same time,” he confirms. “I think a lot of the enjoyment that people have in their memories of the original game relies on that playstyle. We felt it was best to have that recreated in the same way.”
A Few Improvements But Sticking To The Original’s Core
Every remake holds the danger of changing too much for longtime fans or not updating enough for a modern audience. Oyamada gave more insight into the team’s approach and the changes. “The overall construction of the game and the content of the game is the same as the original – nothing has been cut,” he says. “The additions and tweaks we’ve added the game are more subtle, more for accessibility and ease of play. For example, dashing and the run button used to only work in a single direction, now you can do it freely. The other thing for ease of control is controlling the ring commands for allies used to be very difficult for one person, but we’ve made that a lot easier.”
Cutscenes and more detailed character interactions are also new features. “In the original, it was really left to the imagination of the player to figure out what the main party was doing and how they were talking to each other between the adventures they went on,” Oyamada says. “You now get to see conversations between [the party members] and little scenes that add to the story.”
Adding Voice Acting And 3D Graphics
This also marks the first time characters are voiced for the game, but Randi, Primm, and Popoi have appeared in other Square Enix collaborations using voice actors to say their iconic lines. “When I saw [those], it actually felt very natural,” Oyamada says. “It didn’t feel out of place at all, so when it came to doing the remake of the game, I thought we should go with voices from the start.” If you want to experience the remake like the original, there is an option to turn the voice acting off, too.
Secret of Mana’s art style has always been core to its identity. Unsurprisingly, the shift to 3D visuals has been met with mixed reactions from fans based on the first glimpses. “It’d be very difficult actually from a technological perspective these days to do development in the old pixel style graphics,” Oyamada explains. “And I think the other thing is if we did decide to go along with that, we wouldn’t be exceeding the original. We thought it’d be better to go for an evolution – a more modern update of the graphics for 3D. But, we did very much pay attention to make sure they were not something that would put off the original fans, that they wouldn’t feel too out of place.”
What Makes An Old Classic Work For A Modern Audience
Secret of Mana is a great game, but some elements are archaic. I was surprised to see how close Square is sticking to the original. I have a lot of nostalgia for the game, as it’s one of my personal favorites, but what about fans who don’t have that experience? What makes Oyamada confident they’ll enjoy it? “There are not really many games that have that classic JRPG feel and these structures anymore,” Oyamada says. “You don’t really see it that much, and even going further seeing a game with a more modern 3D style and essence to them. I think Bravely Default is the only series that really does that. So in some ways, it feels really fresh and new in just doing that in itself – the classic style with the new 3D graphics.”
Wanting To Rekindle People’s Love For The Mana Series
The Mana series has struggled in the last decade or so compared to its early days. Last year, the team remade Adventures of Mana (previously known as Final Fantasy Adventure in North America) to a mostly positive reception. Could this be a push to revive people’s passion for the series and carry forward to newer entries? “I very much think about the series and the remake in that way myself,” Oyamada shares. “If we can hear the same kind of opinions from fans, I really think that will link through into the future of the series.”
Secret of Mana launches on February 15 for PS4, Vita, and PC.
For ore on Secret of Mana, you can check out Dan Tack’s hands-on impressions.
Beta Test Five Things You Should Know About The Secret Of Mana Remake