Secret of Evermore: A Retroview

Secret of Evermore: It seemed like a good idea at the time

By: Castomel

Review Breakdown(something certainly broke down here)
   Battle System 5
   Interface 5
   Music/Sound 5
   Originality 4
   Plot 4
   Localization NA
   Replay Value 2
   Visuals 6
   Difficulty Ridiculously Easy
   Time to Complete

Enough to make you rue wasting it

Overall Rating

It seems the title screens wasn't terribly compelling; I couldn't find it anywhere.  Instead, look at these bones.  heh heh.. bones.

The year is 199x. Your grandparents are your only source of video games. Are you a bad enough dude to ask for Secret of Evermore? Well.. wait a second. Perhaps bad isn't quite the proper term, although it certainly does apply to the game. "Hoodwinked" might come closer, since everything Squaresoft had previously released was quality material. This game broke the mold, unfortunately. It was mostly awful, and marked the last time I bought(or asked for) a game solely based on the 'Squaresoft' across the front. While not the worst game I've ever played, it was definitely bad enough to make me wish I'd asked for something a little more entertaining, like socks, or dental surgery; however, everybody makes mistakes(On the plus side, my grandpa also gave me a joke gift that year, which I opened first. It was a video-game sized box filled with straw and a little note instructing me to be nice to my sister if I expected good presents. The thing is, I still have the box of straw, while my cousin lost the game a couple years ago). Anyway, I did play this arduous game to completion, so I may as well get a review out of the deal.

    In Secret of Evermore, you're a punk kid from Podunk, NJ(which, from what I've been able to determine, doesn't actually exist... I searched for Podunk's zip codes in the US Postal Service directory and came up empty)with a trusty canine sidekick, and one day, you both get sucked into an alternate universe by an evil time machine of some sort(but don't worry; your dry sense of humour, powered by your lousy taste in movies, will see you through the situation!). After spouting a couple of lame one-liners, you're deposited unceremoniously into a prehistoric jungle, where you have to fend off, among other things, bugs, dinosaurs, and the local foliage. How? Well, you can either take the role of the dog and sic 'em(this mode of attack doesn't really change very much throughout the game, although the dog goes through varying phases of identity crisis, alternating from wolf dog to irish setter to dandified poodle to robot dog) or be the kid, bashing heads with a chunk of bone.

    Since they ripped the name and mechanics off of Secret of Mana(and then corrupted it beyond recognition), the developers at this point decide to rip off(and corrupt) the battle system too, stealing several weapons and the basic controls for attacking and then somehow making the whole experience immeasurably less enjoyable to play than their inspiration. Tossed into this battle system is alchemy, a process whereby you combine various and sundry items to produce magical compounds. Don't get too excited here - it's sort of fun trying to get the new spells, but after awhile, you realize they're are all basic variations of the same thing; after that, running around looking for the components loses its thrill. On top of this, some reagents are difficult to find, and often, it just isn't worth the trouble to find them. Sadly, however, this battle system is the best part of the game, as it involves the least boredom. As far as the rest goes, it's pretty much downhill from here.

    Our first stop on the downhill slide is the non-combat gameplay. Chiefly consisting of solving inane puzzles and going from point A to point B, talking to person A and person B in corresponding sequence, it's neither entertaining or challenging; merely mind-numbing. Any difficulty in the game occurs chiefly by accident; there are parts in the game where you get stuck simply because the next task you have to complete is so dreadfully obscure as to be barely worth completing. This obscurity is the only source of any real difficulty; everything else can be completed with a minimum of trouble, to the extent that when I got to the final boss, I didn't even know it was the end, partially because it looked too benign to be the final challenge in the game, and partially because it was so easy to kill. The only real bright spot in non-combat gameplay is the menu screens, which was adequate. That's about the highest compliment I can pay it, really, and it is about the only thing aside from the battle system which isn't a total bust.

This thing looked way cooler than the last boss.. come to think of it, it was more difficult, too
'Only Umaro could really make a hunk of bone look cool...  

   Now, you might ask how a downhill slide sounds. The answer is mediocre. There were hardly any memorable tunes, and several areas in the game had no music at all, while others were blessed with repetitive songs that rewarded me with a headache for my troubles. The sound effects were decent; in particular, I enjoyed the sound of a mosquito meeting its grisly end on my chunk o' bone. Although the sound effects are at least reasonable, however, the music drags the whole aural experience downhill badly.

    Tumbling along, we now come to originality. This game just doesn't cut it in this department. The impression I came away with after playing it through was that of a half-baked attempt at a sequel to Secret of Mana which was scrapped in favour of the actual sequel which was subsequently released(in Japan). Secret of Evermore is not terribly impressive because it's not anything new. If you really want to run around killing bugs and beasties, Secret of Mana affords a much better venue for doing so, and possesses the added advantage of being better than SoE in every imaginable way. Even the plot isn't even particularly inventive, coming across as a sordid mix between Alice in Wonderland and a lousy adventure novel. All in all, nothing terribly inventive or new- just the conventional forest, field, desert and mountain settings which pop up in every RPG. Then again, you have to ask- who needs to be creative when they can sell something by its name alone?

    Lack of interest must certainly have played a factor in the game's plot, since it didn't have one. Aside from the opening sequence, which pretty much lays everything out, there's not much of particular interest to follow. About the most interesting item in the game is a cameo appearance somewhere in the third act. Things just shift from tired motif to tired motif with minimal explanation and little effort. All in all, not a particularly outstanding effort.

This looked cool... in 1993
Flammie looked much better than this glorified hang glider  

    Now, you may wonder how many times I've played through this game. The answer is one, which I guess is partial justification for giving this a two. There were a few other factors in that decision, too. I didn't enjoy the game very much at all. It just wasn't good enough. Some parts were tedious, others awful. Some parts are better done in other games, some parts are better off not done at all. Quite simply, I never want to play it again. I really wish this was exaggeration, but I say this in all honesty. Life's like that, I suppose.

Moving along to the end of the string of mediocre qualities of this game, we come to the graphics. They were decent, admittedly. Some parts actually looked nice, and the backgrounds, in many cases, were nicely done. This said, that wasn't enough to save the game; it merely added to the frustration of seeing what this game could have been had it not been so shoddily tossed together.

spritified guards have such bad-looking posture!
Desperation mounts as our hero desperately seeks to escape this awful, awful game  

Well, that about does it. There's not much more that can be said. This game wasn't particularly difficult, so if you do happen to inflict it upon yourself, don't expect it to take much longer than 15-20 hours(assuming you don't get stuck because you can't find the right pixel to stand on to activate a door switch, of course... that can skew your estimated time to complete horribly. I couldn't even tell you how long it SHOULD take you to get through, in truth; I can't stomach the thought of playing Secret of Evermore again). Anyhow, this was definitely one of the lousier games I've ever had the misfortune to play, and should you ever be able to say the same, don't say I didn't warn you.

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