Secret of Evermore
  • Genre:
    • Action RPG
  • Platform:
    • SNES
  • Developer:
    • Square
  • Publisher:
    • Square
  • Released:
    • US 10/01/1995
    • UK 02/22/1996
Score: 80%

This review was published on 06/13/2013.

Secret of Evermore is an action role-playing game released for the Super Nintendo Entertainment System by SquareSoft. As you may have gleaned from the title, this game is similar to Secret of Mana, another action RPG released by Square a few years prior. The difference is that Secret of Evermore was created by Square's U.S. division, whereas Secret of Mana was made in Square's homeland of Japan. Square of America typically only localizes games made by Square of Japan, but this was one of the rare instances where they actually made a game. A lot of people criticize Secret of Evermore because they feel that it doesn't stand up to the quality of Square's Japanese games. Another reason people seem upset is due to a rumor that Secret of Evermore was released in North America in lieu of Secret of Mana's true sequel, Seiken Densetsu 3. As a result of that, many American gamers felt they were robbed of the real deal with a cheap stand-in. While those complaints are legitimate, there really isn't much wrong with the game itself, other than its stylistic differences from Secret of Mana. Secret of Evermore is a visually impressive game that improves on some of Secret of Mana's faults while providing a fresh, yet familiar experience.

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The game starts off with a flash back showing a mysteriously weird experiment taking place in "Podunk, U.S.A" circa 1965. Fast forward into the futuristic world of 1995, a teenage boy and his dog come out of a movie theater in a very '90s looking city. Is this another EarthBound? No such luck, unfortunately, because only a small portion of the game takes place here. Also, I didn't know dogs were allowed into theaters. The protagonist makes some witty banter about the shoddy B movie he just watched, when suddenly, his dog chases after a cat! Oh man, what a twist! The young boy follows his dog into an old, abandoned building. After fumbling around here for a while, they discover a secret chamber that led them to a strange contraption. The boy and his dog accidentally trigger the machine and it warps them into the distant future, or what seems like the distant future. There an unusual old man greets the boy. The old guy doesn't introduce himself, which is rude, and instead insists that the boy be on his merry way. Shortly after that, the old guy exchanges words with another old guy who happens to be a professor, and then guides the boy to an empty room. Just what is going on here? But wait, this room isn't exactly empty! The boy finds a BAZOOKA inside this room! I like where this is going already. The awesome is cut short when robots suddenly enter the room and begin attacking the boy. No sweat, really, since this is a boy with a bazooka. The robots are promptly destroyed. Soon after, the boy discovers an escape pod and escapes. The boy then makes a crash landing in a prehistoric looking jungle, where his journey truly begins. It's not much of a plot, but it does get the ball rolling. Secret of Evermore's intro has you wielding a bazooka, so it gets a pass.

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Evermore is the name of the location in which the game primarily takes place. In Evermore, you'll be discovering secrets. It might initially seem like time travel, because all the locations in Evermore are from different historical periods, but that's not the case. That doesn't stop the game from giving a blatant Chrono Trigger vibe, though. There's a prehistoric jungle area, a medieval area with knights and stuff, a roman area with a coliseum, pirates, pyramids, and even a futuristic sci-fi place. Evermore is almost like a theme park with all of these themes. It's a little cheesy, but the game feels refreshingly varied thanks to that. I mean, who doesn't like pirates? If you continue playing the game, the plot eventually explains why such a weird place like Evermore exists, but I won't spoil it for you. I say it doesn't matter how nonsensical these environments are if it's in the name of fun. Areas are divided into danger zones and safe zones. The danger zones tend to be maze-like areas with lots of enemies, kind of like an RPG dungeon, whereas safe zones are towns with friendly folk to talk to. It's very fun to see all the different towns in the game. My only qualm is that the game is incredibly linear until the very end. You move from one historical time period to another without the ability to revisit any of them until near the game's conclusion. I wish it were more like Chrono Trigger, which allowed you to switch time periods at almost any time. Oh well, I guess you can't have your cake and eat it, too, unless you're playing Chrono Trigger. Secret of Evermore's varied environments is one thing it has over Secret of Mana.

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Attacking an enemy in Secret of Evermore is as simple as pressing the attack button. No random encounters on separate screens or any of that malarkey. There is, however, a bit of strategy involved in how you choose to mash the attack button. Much like Secret of Mana, there is a number at the bottom that drains to 0 whenever you attack, and then slowly fills back up to 100 until your next attack. In order for your attacks to actually do significant damage, you have to strike when you're at 100%. Attacking below 100% means you'll get more rapid strikes, but the damage is usually not worth it. You mostly control the boy while the dog is controlled by relatively poor AI, but you can switch control between the characters at any time. Minor adjustments to the AI can be made in the menus, though there is no option to actually make the AI good. Being able to switch characters on the fly is quite nice, but unfortunately, these are the only two characters you get in the whole game. Maybe that counts as a spoiler? Initially, the dog won't be very fun or useful, but he gets overwhelmingly powerful later on. At that point in the game, you'll be glad you can control the dog. There's not a whole lot of depth to the combat beyond attacking at full strength and learning to move out of harm's way, but this is one of the things Secret of Evermore does well.

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In addition to leveling up your characters to strengthen them, your weapons can gain levels. Having a weapon at a higher level not only increases your damage output, it also allows you to utilize special charge moves. Again, this works much like it did in Secret of Mana. If you hold down the attack button, you'll see a bar slowly fill up at the bottom of the screen, and letting go of the button when this bar is full releases a super powerful attack. The bar can fill up multiple times at higher levels, too, which allows you to use even more powerful special attacks. It can be irritating to charge up the higher level attacks, though, since it takes forever. Some of these special attacks are so useful; they practically turn an otherwise useless weapon into a huge asset. For example, spears can be thrown as a projectile weapon when charged up. On top of doing big damage, this allows you to attack safely from a distance. You almost immediately lose the ability to use that bazooka you get early in the game, so the spear's charge attack will be your only means of inflicting non-magical damage from afar for a long time. The downside to this is missing. If you miss, then you'll have to deal with the excruciatingly long charge time all over again. It's really easy to miss stuff in this game, too. Secret of Evermore takes the innovative weapon growth system from Secret of Mana and refines it a bit more, further streamlining the experience.

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Alchemy takes the place of magic in Secret of Evermore. This is actually one of the more interesting mechanics of the game. As you progress in the game, you'll be given a few alchemy spells. The magic in Secret of Evermore does not consume stuff like MP. Instead, alchemy requires ingredients. A handy thing to keep in mind is that the dog can sniff out ingredients hidden in the scenery. You can also buy ingredients at some shops in the game, though the more rare ingredients usually aren't found in stores. Combine a couple of ingredients and you get all kinds of spells, from offensive ones to supportive buffs. It's annoying how you have to constantly restock on ingredients via shops or scavenging, but this system ultimately allows you to use magic more often than with MP. Later in the game, you'll practically have unlimited use of almost every spell ever. You'll want to use every spell as many times as you can, too, because spells level up the more times you use them. Higher level spells are more effective, as you can guess. That part of the magic system is the same as it was in Secret of Mana. Both Secret of Evermore and Secret of Mana have really cool magic systems, but Evermore takes it in a slightly new, interesting direction.

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For the most part, there aren't very many side quests in Secret of Evermore. Secret of Mana was also kind of lacking in terms of optional content, but Secret of Evermore is more so lacking in this department. There are, however, the trading marketplaces, where various goods can be exchanged for other stuff. These marketplaces are technically the most complex thing about the game. A lot of trading goods serve no purpose on their own beyond being exchanged for other goods, but the trading sequence will usually lead to acquiring an awesome item. The awesome items in question are things like armor you can equip, or artifacts that grant special effects to your character. The artifacts don't need to be equipped and provide their beneficial effects by merely sitting in your inventory. It's not easy to get all of them, though. I wasn't kidding when I said this stuff is complex. The only real way to get the cool artifacts is to use a guide of some sort, because it's not at all obvious what and where you have to trade. Sometimes you even have to trade back a few artifacts in order to get more, which make matters even more convoluted. While I like the idea of this mechanic, I think they went a little overboard with it. Secret of Evermore doesn't have many secrets, but the secrets it does have are very secretive.

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It's no secret that Secret of Evermore takes heavy inspiration from Secret of Mana. If these two games came from different companies, then I would label Secret of Evermore a cheap rip-off. Secret of Evermore is a great game if you enjoyed Secret of Mana, unless you're scared off by its Western style. It's not quite on the same scale of Secret of Mana in terms of length or complexity, but it'll get the job done if you're hankering for an action RPG worth its salt. However, if you're looking for the true follow up to Secret of Mana, then you'll be better served with Seiken Densetsu 3. That game more or less totally obliterates Secret of Evermore in almost every way imaginable. It's a shame it was never officially brought to the West. Secret of Evermore was released in the West, though, and it will be enjoyed for evermore.

Word Count: 1,959

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