Continuing with this issue’s theme of pivotal gaming experiences, our eyes turn to parallel works by former rival corporations Square and Enix. Nowadays, of course, they’re but a single entity. But it wasn’t only boardroom meetings and an exchange of stocks that united these RPG giants. Oh, no — in our young hearts, they had already merged into a harmonious fusion of RPG genius. Or something like that.
Here’s a sight that would warm the heart of Nintendo marketers circa 1989: all their hard work trying to sell American kids on a primitive-looking three-year-old game that attempted to make a PC-based genre palatable on consoles actually paid off. Or at least, it did for author Red Hedgehog, for whom Dragon Warrior was a tiny, menu-driven revelation.
Secret of Mana
Me, on the other hand, I was OK with all those menus and minuscule tiles, but what really grabbed me was a game that managed to combine the substance of something like Dragon Warrior with the visceral immediacy of an action-oriented game like Zelda. Brace yourselves for a New Games Journalism odyssey as I talk about myself…and Secret of Mana, I guess.
23 thoughts on “GameSpite Issue 13.1: The pivotal Square and Enix”
Like a lot of gamers I got Dragon Warrior for free with a Nintendo Power promotion. I liked it OK, but it was overshadowed by Final Fantasy II, the first RPG to really get a grip on me. Still, reading this makes me want to play it again someday, something I haven’t wanted to do in memory.
And Secret of Mana, well. I bought the game practically on a whim while on vacation and read the booklet over and over and over during that week until I could go home and play it. I shrugged off the bugs and loved the rest. It was the first game I wanted to own the soundtrack to, and one of the few of my favorite classic games that I don’t (got Kefka’s Domain instead, which wasn’t a wrong choice, but still).
In some ways, the bugs made Mana even more special to me. My friend had great stories of struggling through the game after the Sprite disappeared from his party, forever. In my case, the Mana Sword vanished from my inventory as I entered the final battle. I punched that dragon to death with my bare hands, one HP at a time!
Wow. I never had anything more severe than dropped items getting stuck in the walls or characters getting trapped in the scenery temporarily.
Of course, the aborted CD-ROM project at the time was a response to Yamauchi learning that Sony was about to screw Nintendo out of CD-ROM game royalties in that part of their contract.
Yes, I realize that. But you know, part of effective editing is knowing when a tangent is worth pursuing and when it’s just a needless distraction from the topic at hand.
That’s Dragon Warrior II art in that Dragon Warrior I banner! I’m never reading this website again. >=[
Just a small correction. Nasir Gebelli is Iranian, not Israeli. Not the same place, you know.
Touche. The Nintendo/Sony Playstation story is a whole saga of unclarified and/or overlooked events all unto itself.
One other by-product of SoM’s stifled development process is that at least one or two tracks had an “unfinished” feel to them, for lack of better term.
Anyways, I’d already been looking forward to Secret of Mana given that it was the sequel to Final Fantasy Adventure, and of course, that I’d finally have a big, meaty action/adventure RPG in every sense of the word to sink my teeth into. Didn’t beat it until 4 1/2 years later though, lol.
In seriousness, these articles are really, really good.
cartman414: what tracks?
Re: Dragon Warrior II art
I know, but it’s so good I had to use it regardless and try to gloss over the lie by covering up the companion characters with the title text. I am ashamed :(
If cartman414 claims the Dark Lich theme sounds unfinished I’m banning him for life.
I got Dragon Warrior as well, but there were two things that kept me from being grabbed by it: my age and a dud battery. I think it’s mostly the latter, I did rent it prior to getting it, though I didn’t get far, and I was interested enough to flip through the guide they provided. For the longest time it, and other DQ games that I didn’t play through, held an unknown mystique about all the monsters and places you could visit later on, or even places early on that were inaccessible because you needed a key, and it seemed like I would never actually play the games and see them for myself. I ultimately got the GBC version of 1&2 for cheap though then beat them that way.
The Dark Lich theme is one of the best pieces of music in ’90s gaming.
The vast majority of my co-op experiences are, unsurprisingly, shooters, since that genre has really latched onto co-op in the past half-decade. But for a few months now I’ve really been yearning to play through Secret of Mana in its entirety (which I’ve never done before) with a friend. I just need to find that perfect weekend…
Man alive, if that wasn’t a great Secret of Mana description. The music got me, too.
Darn good job.
Did some YouTube spelunking, and remembered it was “Steel and Traps”. Guess it was me, but it sounded like it started looping like a scratched record.
“Dark Lich,” the phrase, seems redundant to me. Dark Lich, the track, is great, though!
I’ve never thought about RPGs leaving so much room for the imagination to fill in, RH, but you’re absolutely right. When I think of something like Dragon Quest VIII, for instance, which is so new and well developed and beautiful but still clings to the old conventions and so leaves all that space for the player to think in, it’s completely obvious. I just wish I’d played more Dragon Warrior as a kid, and I wish I still had that huge poster with the map on one side and the enemies on the other. Fortunately “dragon warrior poster nintendo power” is googlable.
I recall, in their marketing blitz, Nintendo Power devoted one of their (awesome) Nester comics to DW and it actually contained a hint for some obscure part where you have to search for something in a thin strip between the wall of the town and the edge of the screen so if you moved a square too far to one side you’d be deposited on the world map and have to start all over again… It was a pretty dumb puzzle, but I remember my friend and I were blown away when we figured out that this was what Nester was telling us to do.
Dragon Warrior was pretty bad even compared to its NES sequels, but was the first RPG I ever played and dear to my heart for that reason.
I still remember level grinding on the Mana Fortress (spoilers? too soon?) for about two hours before my idiot Sprite got stuck on a wall and having to reset the game. Few other games use cannons as a form of transport which makes up for most of the bugginess to me.
“Pretty bad even compared to its NES sequels”? Say what? Were DW3 and 4 not great?
The “even” was a typo or something.
I enjoyed DW3 greatly on the NES and even bought it on the GBC again years later. I never got to play DW4 on the NES. I think it was really expensive or something? And I have no DS to play the re-release because I’m poor. DW4 looked pretty cool in Nintendo Power though.
What the hell?
Secret of Mana is the reason I became interested in games at all, and the surreality and disconnectedness of the story, imagery and world play a huge, huge role in that. I’ve wondered from time to time, had the SNESCDPS gone through and the game had been released in its original, polished, fully scripted, glued together form, if I’d have even given it the time of day. The stripped down, ragged edge effect from porting the game to a cartridge gives way to such a beautiful cognitive dissonance. Nothing holds together, and yet there are these little poignancies that peek through the chaos; the space road journey to the Moon Palace, the pre-apocalyptic recordings, the out of place subway system, the face on Mars, all of the music… Secret of Mana genuinely haunts me, for all its warts and cliches now plainly visible.
Thanks for letting me relive a little bit of childhood awe, Mr. Parish.
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