In the near future, I plan to go into detail (great detail!) about how much Squaresoft’s action RPG Secret of Mana means to me. For now, I’m content to say this much:
1) The game’s on mobile, and it’s a pretty good port! The graphics have been updated to match the modern Mana-style games, and the AI’s been updated to add some intelligence to the zombies that stagger behind you in the SNES version of the game. Oh, and the sound’s been fixed so that sound effects don’t interrupt the game’s music. This is good, because:
2) Secret of Mana’s soundtrack is sublime.
Composed by Hiroki Kikuta, Secret of Mana is one of those games that leaves me with a blank expression and a slack jaw whenever you ask me, “What’s your favourite piece of music from the game?” I don’t know. I just don’t know. Though most games have me jamming the “Start” button before they can offer me a single chord of title screen music, I’m not ashamed to admit that whenever I play Secret of Mana, I almost always let its title music, Fear of the Heavens play out. And it makes my heart flutter Every. Damn. Time.
WHAT IS THAT WHALE. I don’t know. I love it.
Secret of Mana was my first Squaresoft RPG back when I was young and I thought a plot about a boy with a missing mother was epic. But whenever I play the game I still find myself engaged, and I believe it’s because the soundtrack is a big, big, hook.
Consider the piece A Curious Tale, which plays whenever you’re in towns owned by the Empire. I was surprised to see these cities are clean, orderly, and prosperous — being a huge Dragon Warrior fan up until that point (and beyond), I expected ruination and decay wherever evil lurked. A Curious Tale indicates there’s no immediate danger, but still makes it clear you’re in potentially hostile territory and you need to watch your step.
Secret of Mana’s expert delivery of mixed emotions and messages via music is why I’m featuring Meridian Dance in this Let’s Listen. The final boss, the Mana Beast, is a conflicting foe. It’s not evil, but neither will it be stopped in its mission to scorch the world and restore the balance of Mana. It’s a necessary but troubling fight, and boy, are you outclassed. It’s no wonder Meridian Dance is so energetic, so epic, but avoids any tones suggesting the Mana Beast is wrong.
If you need a comparison, the music accompanying the fight with the second-to-last boss, Thanatos — a being of pure, demonic evil — leaves you with zero doubt that you’re fighting an ages-old lich who inexplicably stole a jacket from David Bowie.
By the way, Secret of Mana has a lot of tracks that play once during very short cinema segments. One of those tracks is The Curse, which plays right before Thanatos launches himself at you. Without mincing words: It’s creepy as hell. If you ever find yourself stumbling in the dark and your memory helpfully dredges up The Curse, you’re well within your rights to poop your pants.
What an amazing collection of beautiful sounds.
One more thing
A Bell is Tolling.