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By: Zachary Lewis
When word reached the masses that the creators of Final Fantasy: Mystic Quest were trying their hand at another RPG, terror and trepidation swept the streets. Rioting and rebellion were the callings of the day. Then it was rumored that the Secret of Mana engine was going to be used, and a hush overcame the fuming crowds. Was it possible that such arcane brilliance as an action RPG could possibly come from an American development team? Yes. Yes, it was.
It should come as no surprise that, as an action RPG, everything from hacking, speaking, moving, and ensorceling is done in real-time. Combat is often a matter of maneuver, quick attack, dodge, repeat; except in the case of boss creatures, who tend to hold their ground. Magic, although not wholly useless, is significantly less effective than regular melee fighting, especially after each weapon can be charged up to do additional damage. Due to the significant restriction on item carrying, however, alchemic spells are absolutely vital to health restoration and temporarily increasing stats.
As many of you are probably aware alchemy is the 'science' of combining or altering materials to create effects or other materials. Because all the spells in the game are based on alchemic formulæ, bringing forth your magic requires that you have the proper ingredients on hand. These ingredients can be found in generous supply or bought from various dealers throughout the land and range in oddity from water and salt to brimstone and gunpowder.
While this take on magic might be unique in RPGs, the idea behind the game's story is not. A young boy and his dog stumble upon a machine that transports them to a parallel dimension. Once there, it becomes their solemn duty to undo the woes caused by the previous set of visitors and eventually to discover who trapped them in Evermore to begin with. Toss in a penchant for quoting imaginary 'B' movies and the scene starts to become grim.
Grim, on the otherhand, hardly begins to describe the audio in the game. Admittedly, most of the music in the game is very good. However, that means very little when you realize that there are only a dozen or so songs in the entirety of the adventure. What fills the dead space then? Sound effects; wind, birds, water, and so on. And, given the relatively archaic nature of the Super Nintendo itself, it should come as little surprise that these effects are less than stellar. But, hey! At least the dev team didn't have trouble translating the game... Since it was made in English to begin with.
Thankfully the game couldn't possibly have botched its interface. Like all other 3/4ths overhead view games, there's not much that can go wrong while using an 8 point dpad. As an added bonus, the 'ring menu' system was stolen directly from Secret of Mana, where it worked to wondrous effect. The only issue with directly ripping off a two-year-old game is that it does little for your originality.
Also in the vein of practically all other latter-era SNES RPGs, the graphics are a relatively cutesy super-deformed get-up. However, one really fantastic element of the visuals in Secret of Evermore is that locations tend to be colored much more closely to reality than in its contemporaries, e.g. the bright pink trees in Secret of Mana or the vermillion landscape of the veldt in Final Fantasy VI. Evermore's replay value also sits in the humdrum of the average of the day, meaning little, if any at all.
So, what does Secret of Evermore teach us? First, it shows us that developers outside of Japan can make an RPG. Second, it shows us that ripping off your predecessor is very bad, indeed. And lastly, it proves that even a below average game made in the USA can still be fun, if you don't mind being 'berated' by your friends.
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