The secret of keeping it real

The issue of real vs. fake appears to be more contentious than I expected, given that I didn’t bother to dredge up anything about the morality of emulation and ROM-gathering. I wish I could sit down and do a demographic study on everyone who responded to see how if age, upbringing or personal history have any bearing on people’s outlook, or it’s just one of those random things.

Of course, after posting that bit of musing on how I’d rather play games in their original formats than emulated, what did I do? I downloaded Secret of Mana and started playing it on Virtual Console. Playing it with gusto, even.

This is admittedly an odd comparison to make, but I realized today that Mana is the inverse of Half-Life 2 for me. No, wait, it makes sense. See, when I play Half-Life 2, I hate every moment of it. It’s a chore, an infuriating exercise in being railroaded and beaten down with endless gimmicks and gotcha level designs. But when I’m not playing it, I love it — the flow of combat, the setpieces, the atmosphere. I guess maybe I like the concept of HL2 more than the game itself, as the game is bogged down by countless minor flaws that specifically grate against my tastes and desires vis-a-vis gaming.

Mana, on the other hand, I love while I’m playing. Despite all its glitches and sloppiness, the game is made of pure joy. But when I’m not playing it, all I can think about is the lousy programming and the weird animation and color choices and that stupid Dwarf Village theme and the grinding and…yeah. And so forth. Once I actually pick it up, though, I can play for hours on end.

These are the only two games for which I feel such powerful, polar sentiments. I wonder why that is.

29 thoughts on “The secret of keeping it real

  1. I think SoM is the only game that I didn’t mind grinding in. Even Terranigma frustrated me for that.. I used the exploit with the tree boss to gain a few (or a lot of) sneaky levels. Weird.. it’s a funny game like that. Things that would be reviled in other games are somehow ok in it. That’s probably why the later ones failed so badly.. SoM really shouldn’t be as loved as it is, but for some reason everything is forgiven… but only this once.

  2. There’s really no need for grinding in Secret of Mana (except when you get to the Gold City, if you want all the new equipment). If you just cast spells on enemies on a reasonable, regular basis, your magic will level up in a reasonable, regular way, and the game won’t ever become TOO simple.

    I’ve probably played through SoM twice on my own and at least a half dozen times with friends. It really was a shining moment.

  3. I just hate how the camera works in SoM… when I walk to the edge of the screen and it keeps scrolling, all I can see is about a foot ahead of me – that bugs the crap out of me.

    Other than that, I really need to finish playing through it – I bought the game on eBay about two months ago and I haven’t played in a while.

  4. “that stupid Dwarf Village theme”

    Every time I play Secret of Mana that is always the most challenging part.
    Not so much to play, but to simply persevere through.

    I think I must have been 12 or 13 when I first played SOM, and the Dwarf Village theme almost turned me off. Fortunatly I pushed on.

    Damn, now I have to go replay it again.

  5. Okay, so the Dwarf Village theme is kind of short and gets kind of irritating kind of quickly, and it’s kind of the worst piece in the game…but I still like it. In moderation. What can I say? There’s no “kind of” about the absolute awesomeness of that game’s soundtrack.

  6. I wonder if Square is sitting on the proto for the SNES-CD. Imagine all the content that was cut. I still argue dwarf-theme or not, this is the absolute cream of the crop of gaming, and the best date game.

  7. “I wonder if Square is sitting on the proto for the SNES-CD.”

    A little company bird told me that most Japanese companies have (had?) a very bad tendency of getting rid of code from finished and unfinished games after they are done with it.

  8. I guess that means we shouldn’t look forward to a Retronauts on Half-Life pretty much ever. >.>

  9. “I wish I could sit down and do a demographic study on everyone who responded”

    So run a survey/poll/whatever and find out. Would make for an interesting 1up article, at the very least. Although we pretty much already know the answer: appreciation for actual hardware will be directly proportional to one’s amount of hair loss and/or midsection expansion.

  10. Fun counts for a lot. And as broken as Mana is, it has really fun fighting mechanics… combined with a consistent art direction and world-class music, I stay glued to my seat.

    Also, a game as complex as Half-Life 2 has so many more things it needs to get right to be a smooth, fun, compelling experience.

  11. The dwarf theme is SO bad that I can’t but think they composed it, laughed their asses off, and decided to put it in anyway.

  12. Hmm, to each their own. I am really enjoying Half-Life 2 and am about 90% done. Granted, there have been a few hard spots where I set the game aside for a spell. I played Secret of Mana a little bit when I finally picked up a copy before putting it back on the shelf, so I’ll turn my Tee Tyrant Playahz card in right after this post…

    As far as emulation goes, for consoles I prefer the real deal, but I think it really helps when playing old computer games i.e. C64, Amiga, etc. I have the originals, but the load times are brutal. Emulation is also great for 2D screen shots.

  13. Yeah so anyway if you ever make that comparison again I’ll ban you forever. There’s trolling and then there’s trolling.

  14. Actually on subject, I’ve spoken with a couple different people about Mother 3 who just don’t see how “those little old graphics” can be expressive enough to be emotional. It’s worth noting that all of these individuals didn’t really play games before the Playstation / N64 era.

  15. I’m praying to the square-enix gods that one day Secret of Mana will be remade. It doesn’t even have to be an overhaul – just fix the glitches, give it the Seiken Densetsu 3 battle system (waiting for weapons to power up=bleh.

    Such a great game, though. It’s a shame of what became of the series.

  16. CMate: yes. Tangentially related, but this was just published last week:

    And Parish, if you’re referring to my comment (I can’t tell either way), it wasn’t directed at you or anyone in particular, although my choice of physique-based analogy might have been inappropriate.

    Let me put it another way: older gamers tend to place more value on actual versus virtual ownership because we had to work for them. When kids can download the equivalent of millions of man hours of Nintendo’s work in minutes – for free – it cheapens both the experience and value for the user.

  17. >

    Not to take this too off topic, but it sounds like those people didn’t really PLAY Mother 3. You don’t really see how emotional those sprites can be until you see it for yourself, you know? Part of the impact of those particular scenes is that you don’t see it coming until it does.

    Oh right, Secret of Mana then. Secret of Mana was one of those games that was so absorbing in our young minds, I don’t think we really cared that much about the glitches and design flaws. I still don’t, even today. Nostalgia can have that effect, but then, it says something else for a game to even be able to be that nostalgic.

  18. I’m much the same way about HL2. Normally I think to myself “meh, I don’t wanna play HL2, it’s not really that great anyway”, then I’ll start playing it because I’m bored and can’t think of anything else to do, then by the time I’m tired of playing I realize I’ve been playing for like 6 hours straight.

    Secret of Mana, on the other hand, I just plain don’t like. I don’t like it when I’m not playing it and I didn’t like it the couple of times I did play it. It just felt boring and repetitive. And yet I love Secret of Evermore. I must be some kind of mutant.

  19. Loving Secret of Evermore is a recessive gene. You’re a charming mutant — not too deformed.

    As a former Alaskan I find Palin trolls very endearing. Alaska will only get this kind of attention for so long… gotta love it while it lasts.

  20. Boo to the posting mechanism here. I can preview a comment, but then the actual comment disappears so I have to copy and paste it over? Do wha…?

    Anyway, SoM is delicious. And that’s because nostalgia is a helluva drug.

  21. That’s pretty much exactly how I feel about Secret of Mana. Right now I’m afraid to ever play it again incase I find a glitchy and awkward game that wrecks all my long-held fond memories. But if this game can work it’s magic on you there might be hope for me too.

  22. Am I the only one that finds the glitches almost charming? Assuming we’re only talking about the minor graphic and text glitches, I don’t feel they’re frequent/terrible enough to de-rail an otherwise amazing game.

  23. I never had the pleasure of playing Secret of Mana… is it like a traditional RPG, or is it more like a Zelda title?

  24. I guess you’re not a big fan of “cinematic gaming” eh Jeremy? I’d bet 1,000 dollars that you hate Max Payne as well.

  25. I’m playing through Secret of Man for the first time on the Virtual Console. It’s not like playing it on a SNES, but it’s still feels pretty authentic. Plus, 3 player co-op is way easier to do.

    It’s fantastic so far. I played a lot of Secret of Evermore when I was a kid, so I’m already duly familiar with the gameplay. I love the music….even the Dwarf Theme.

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