I’ve been a firm fan of RPGs ever since I borrowed a copy of Dungeon Master for the A500, and Secret of Mana ranks as one of my favourite games of all time. So it was with no small sense of anticipation that I picked up my controller again and decided to see what all the fuss surrounding the Final Fantasy series was about.
The cinematic introduction, coupled with an impressive score, took full advantage of my susceptibility to fantasy stories and sucked me into the plot almost before I realised it. There is a strong backstory, and as my heart went out to the loyal retainer from Doma I realised that once again I’d started caring about the sprites running around my screen.
The gameplay itself was familiar from other Square titles, but the constant surprise attacks quickly became annoying (though it did add a touch of realism through me not being able to pick and choose who I fought). Combat was much closer to pen-and-paper RPGing than arcade gaming – it was impossible to avoid getting hit through controller skill, so I had to do it through strategy.
After several weeks of playing (the main quest is enormous), I managed to complete it (probably missing a few sub-quests and plots along the way). The end sequence was as spectacular as the opening, and (as with most RPGs) there is huge replay value. With a strong emotional involvement, this game doesn’t need any more bits than sixteen.