Released 8/6/1993, published by Square
Final Fantasy Adventure was one of the earliest action RPGs I played, which was for the Game Boy. In Japan it had the additional title Seiken Densetsu ("Legend of the Holy Sword"), and that continued to be used in Japan for future entries, while the US went with other titles. This was Secret of Mana here. I remember playing this when it came out and enjoying it but being annoyed by a lot of the things that still annoy me about the game -- I can't really say it's overrated because it does get a lot of criticism, but I feel that there's a lot of nostalgia glasses coloring people's memory of the game.
The game has a complicated development history. Originally it was planned to be Final Fantasy IV, with what we now know as IV being planned as V. Then this project was spun off on its own and planned to be a collaboration with Akira Toriyama called "Chrono Trigger" that would be a launch title for the Super Famicom CD add-on. When the CD project fell through, the game was redone as a regular SFC game. This forced the development team to scale back their plans a lot -- this may account for some of the rough parts of the gameplay, as well as the second part of the game where dungeons seem to be lacking where you would expect them.
One aspect this did help was the music. The company always intended to spend a lot of effort on the music, but the game's long development time meant that the composer, Kikuta Hiroki, had much more time to work on the music than would normally be the case, and he was able to revise and perfect not only the music but the sound effects as well. This definitely paid off; it's still one of my favorite video game soundtracks and even decades after I played it I could remember certain themes like the Palace theme, the Gold City theme, and the final theme playing when you fly on Flammie.
It's just too bad the gameplay is not more enjoyable. It's not terrible, but here are some of the things that annoyed me at age 13 and still annoy me now:
- The "ring" interface system is cumbersome and annoying to use
- It's too easy to get trapped by monsters because of the long recovery from a hit
- Magic is way too powerful
- The weapon levels are ultimately pointless because the charge up attacks are so hard to use -- they take way too long to charge and it's too easy for the enemies to knock you out of them once you try to use them. This is especially true of anything level 3 and up.
There's a little freedom of order in the early game but I got the girl first:
I named her Sakura, and then the other character I named Sprite (I was never sure whether Sprite was supposed to be male or female).
Eventually we help out Undine, get magic (for the girl and sprite), and find out the main purpose of our quest -- to fuse the mana sword with the eight mana seeds, and stop the Mana Fortress from being resurrected by the evil Empire.
This is kind of a short update but I'm not sure these well-known games need as detailed treatment (and I'm kind of busy this weekend -- hopefully next Saturday when I have the game finished I can be a little more detailed), so I'd love to hear all your experiences with the game in the comments.