Though my love for the Super Nintendo as well as my obsession with Chrono Trigger are well-documented, there were other 90s RPG titles that caught my interest and filled my socially reclusive days with hours of multi-colored, pixelated entertainment.
When people think about the classic RPGs from the Super Nintendo, the ones that always come to mind are Chrono Trigger, the Final Fantasy series, and Zelda: A Link to the Past. The game I’m reviewing today most closely resembles the latter.
Although I could never hate on the turn-based systems of combat presented in Chrono Trigger and the Final Fantasy series, I’ve always had a thing for a more action-oriented approach. Much like the future action RPGs Kingdom Hearts or Dark Souls, this game was all about fighting in real time and casting magic on the fly. This game was Squaresoft’s answer to Zelda and a blast to play. The game I speak of is Secret of Mana.
It was Christmas morning, 1991. A hyperactive, super-excited, greedy little version of myself crept down the steps of my childhood home after my father had given the go-ahead. He always had this annoying ritual of setting up the video camera before my sister and I could come to claim our rightful cornucopia of presents.
After opening what seemed like hundreds of lesser presents including action figures, hygiene products, movies, and unwanted clothing, the two of us were like two starving puppies wondering why the top item on both of our Christmas lists, the Super Nintendo, was nowhere to be found.
In what seemed at the time to be a heartlessly cruel jape, my parents exclaimed “Oh, it looks like you guys missed one!” and proceeded to produce a nondescript box covered in reindeer wrapping paper. As we hastily tore the useless adornments from the magically mysterious final gift, we realized it was what we had always dreamed of. Finally, the glistening gray and purple rectangular prism of infinite awesomeness was presented to us. As our eyes glazed over and our mouths gaped open in wide wonder, we realized that we were now official owners of a SUPER NINTENDO.
The Super Nintendo Entertainment System (aka Super Famicom, Super NES, SNES, Super Nintendo, or Jesus Christ incarnate) is a 16-bit video game console that was unleashed upon the adoring Nintendo-centric public in North America in 1991.
As a child of the early 90s, every Friday night in suburbia was a mixed bag of excitement and choice anxiety. My parents would haul me and a friend to Blockbuster Video in our spacious, maroon Toyota Camry to pick out some mindless entertainment for the evening. I was allowed to rent one film and one video game and there were no exceptions.
The film was an obvious choice, as I was quickly becoming a horror connoisseur and I could always find a forgettable, disgustingly bloody cinematic masterpiece to fulfill that quota. Whether it was something from the Children of the Corn, Halloween, Friday the 13th, or Nightmare on Elm Street franchises, it always proved a great accessory to a bag of Doritos and a two liter bottle of Mountain Dew.
However, I faced many a bout of choice anxiety having to pick out the video game. There were too many options and game types available to choose from. SNES was home to quite a few pieces of vaporware as well, so you didn’t want to make your decision too rashly. The consequences could be dire.
I believe it was the giant sword on the cover and the simplicity of the design that made me first delve into the realm of RPG goodness. While some may consider lands full of dungeons, dragons, ninjas, monsters, and magical crystals a geeky endeavor, they’ve obviously never had the masochistic pleasure of playing through Final Fantasy II for the SNES.