A remake of classic SNES game Secret of Mana is coming to PC, PS4 and PS Vita in 2018 to celebrate the game’s 25th anniversary. But is that a good thing?
Discovering The Secret of Mana
I really loved Secret of Mana when I played it on SNES. We’d hired it from the local Blockbuster (or whatever independent equivalent was near him) and took turns playing as the lead character. The game took everything I already loved about Zelda: A Link to the Past and somehow made the world even bigger. It wasn’t the first JRPG I’d ever played (that award goes to Rings of Power on Sega MegaDrive/Genesis), but it was the first one I really got sucked into. Every time we thought we had seen every mechanic, the game would throw something new in to surprise us. And then later we accidentally discovered you could make it 3-player by plugging in a multitap!
Like most JRPGs, the story slowed down in the second act. That was around the time we had to return the rented copy. The following week he bought it and it became a regular one to play at his house. You might think I’d be jumping for joy at the chance to play a remastered version on modern hardware. And part of me definitely is. But there’s a couple of things I’m worried about.
I’m Not Sold By The New Art Style
Here’s the announcement trailer.
The new art style is as generic JRPG as it comes. The original Secret of Mana might have been generic, but it seems to me like a remaster is exactly the time to do something about that. From the trailer footage, the game could easily be another Final Fantasy, Dragon Quest or Etrian Odyssey. Did it even need a 3D overhaul? I don’t think so.
English Voice Acting in JRPGs Typically Isn’t Good
They’ve added voice acting to the lead characters, although Square Enix hasn’t confirmed if English voices will be added or just subtitles. Voice acting can be great to improve accessibility. I don’t like having to wade through pages of text in the middle of an action game.
But English voice acting in JRPGs can be really awful. That could be because the translation is bad, or because the actor doesn’t understand the words they’re saying. These should be easily resolved. But more often than those it’s that the voices themselves are annoying. The genre has a tendency to have squeaky shouting voices for many of the characters. This is worse when these are adult actors trying to sound like excited kids. Stop it! just get actual child voice actors in!
Do We Need Another Remake?
This is the biggest issue for me. There are so many remakes and remasters coming out right now that it’s starting to feel like the entire industry is stagnant. We’ve got Crash Bandicoot, Bulletstorm, Full Throttle, Resident Evil 2, Call of Duty 4, Bioshock, Skyrim. There are so many damn remakes and reboots coming out that it’s hard to keep track of them! And some of them are only a couple of years old!
Hollywood’s movie industry is already suffering from this. Rebooting classic, well-loved movies (like The Mummy and TMNT) but losing all the heart and meaning of the original. Or just endlessly releasing sequels. And the business is suffering from it. There’s no reason that such a new medium should be suffering from that lack of originality already.
If Secret of Mana does well (and I’ve no reason to expect it won’t), this opens the door for all of the others. I’ve no doubt we’ll be flooded by even more of those classic games from the SNES era. that might be good for players in the short-term, but it’s not a great long-term plan for the industry. Because once a developer has remastered and re-sold an old game, that’s it. Eventually people will get tired of being forced to buy the same thing over and over. If people don’t buy games, companies go out of business.
I don’t want that to happen.