Secret of Mana - Gameplay

Gameplay

Like many other role-playing games of the 16-bit era, Secret of Mana displays a top-down perspective, in which three player characters — the hero, the girl, and the sprite — navigate the terrain and fight off hostile creatures. Control may be passed between each of the characters at any time; if the hero is currently selected, his two companions are controlled via artificial intelligence, and vice-versa. The game may be played simultaneously by two or three players. In order to support three players, a Super Multitap accessory must be plugged into the second controller port of the Super Nintendo console. The Virtual Console version of the game supports three-player gameplay with the use of additional GameCube controllers or Classic Controllers.

Each character possesses individual strengths and weaknesses. The hero, while unable to use magic, excels at fighting and masters weapons at a quicker rate; the girl functions as healer, able to cast restorative and support spells but with less physical attack power than the hero; and lastly, the sprite's magic is almost entirely offensive, but he is physically the weakest. Upon collecting enough experience points in battle, each character can increase in level to gain improved stats such as strength and evasion. The trio can find refuge in a town, where they can regain hit points or purchase restorative items and equipment. Options such as changing equipment, casting spells, or checking status are performed by cycling through the game's Ring Commands, a circular menu which hovers over the currently controlled party member. The game is momentarily paused whenever the Ring Commands appear.

Combat takes place in real-time. Located below each character's hit points is a percentage gauge that determines the amount of damage done to an enemy. Swinging a weapon causes the gauge to fall to zero percent and then quickly recharge, allowing that character to attack at full strength. The party wields eight different styles of weapons throughout the game: sword, spear, bow, axe, boomerang, glove, whip, and javelin. All weapons can be upgraded eight times through the game (the sword's last orb is obtainable through a programmed "glitch" in the game), and repeated use increases their Skill Levels to a maximum of eight, unlocking a new charged attack with each level. Weapons are upgraded through the use of Weapon Orbs, generally obtained after defeating a boss or found as a treasure in dungeons. Once an Orb is collected, the weapon can be brought to a blacksmith (located in most towns) to be reforged.

Magic in Secret of Mana operates in much the same way as weapon skill progression, with the exception that magic points are consumed each time a spell is cast. In order to learn magic, the party must rescue spirits known as Elementals. The eight Elementals represent different elements (water, earth, wind, fire, dark, light, moon, and life.), and each provides the player with specific spells. Magic skill can only be as high as the party's current Mana Power, up to eight levels, which is directly tied to the amount of Mana Seeds that have been sealed.

At the start of the game, players must traverse an enemy-infested countryside in order to reach their next destination. Travel may be expedited through use of Cannon Travel Centers, where non-player characters offer to launch the party to far-away destinations via a giant cannon. Cannon Travel usually requires a fee, but is mandatory to visit other continents early on. Later, the party is given access to Flammie, a miniature dragon which is controlled by the player and able to fly freely across the world, represented by an overworld map. These sequences make use of the Super Nintendo's Mode 7 capability to create a rotatable background, giving the illusion that the ground beneath Flammie is rendered in three dimensions. While riding Flammie, the player may access either the "rotated map", which presents the world as a globe, or the "world map," a two-dimensional view of the overworld.

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