There have been a few times now where I've tried playing Secret of Mana with a friend, but we never get very far in the game. Neither of us played it back in the day, so we both find the controls and hit detection and all that jazz too clunky to be fun. With this collection now, we'll probably give it a fourth go, but I have my doubts we'll get any farther than last time...
I'm enjoying Final Fantasy Adventure quite a bit. It's pretty charming and fairly advanced for a 1991 GB game (that's two years younger than Link's Awakening!). At points it definitely reminds me of a handheld Zelda, complete with far-too-frequent submenu switching. But that's okay, because the combat is fun, the world is large and somewhat nonlinear, and the music is good. Really not a bad get at all; it's impressive what they were able to do with the Game Boy.
I'd definitely still say I'm enjoying Final Fantasy Adventure a fair amount but the dungeons are starting to drain me a bit. I feel like the dungeons in the original Legend of Zelda had a real sense of progression (often searching for an item you would need later), the rooms felt different from each other, the length of the dungeons felt right and you would find a map, usually early on, that would help you pace yourself...
In contrast the dungeons in Final Fantasy Adventure just kind of go on and on with a bunch of similar rooms and little real sense of progression. Oh, and the map fills in as you go but if you die, despite being able to start wherever you last saved, the map wipes itself clean so it's tough to find your way back to exactly where you left off or figure out where you haven't been yet sometimes.
Yeah, now that I'm quite a bit further I have to agree. The overworld of the game is really good and the dungeons are decent enough but their sameness does start to wear on you. The design issues do affect the enjoyment (what's up with all the dead ends?); even the earliest Zelda dungeons had a strong flow and good pacing. Plus, aesthetically TLoZ used differing colors to give each dungeon its own atmosphere and LA cleverly used different tiles in each dungeon for the same effect.
Even so, the game's been a solid Zelda-lite. I just experienced a surprisingly heavy little moment in the story that caught me off-guard.
Well, I finished Final Fantasy Adventure. My final verdict is that it is a nice little gem that has a few too many annoyances to be a heavy recommendation in 2019 (probably in large part due to it being a bit dated, though as stated above, Zelda came first and did some of this stuff better.)
But I'm still glad that I finally got to play it. It's a great game and it really does have that OG Zelda feel a bit.
Small word of warning for anyone playing... the last area is a somewhat large area with a lot of boss fights so bring plenty of well... whatever you need, MP replenishment stuff is probably the best bet. I DIDN'T do that and still came out of it ok (in large part due to the fact that leveling up also replenishes all HP and MP) but it was a bit iffy at times.
KIND OF tempted to replay Secret of Mana before going to Mana 3, but... too many games right now. Maybe someday.
My physical collection came in (previously I was playing it on my sister-in-law's digital version) and I've finally finished Final Fantasy Adventure!
So, it's an interesting game for sure. I think I largely agree with @Zero's overall thoughts.
Let's start with the bat: the dungeons can feel like a slog, especially after the rather varied first third or so of the game. There are puzzles that are supremely obtuse, and this is coming from a Legend of Zelda (NES) fan. Things like buttons not having consistent properties, having to step on buttons in a specific (arbitrary) order, having a finite number of mattocks to break walls that are sometimes arbitrary (although I later found out that you can do the Zelda trick of hitting a wall with your sword to see if it's breakable), and the always-annoying risk of running out of keys mid-dungeon.
This means there's the strong possibility of a lot of backtracking to all but the most prepared players, and the dungeons are also lacking a clear flow--they're full of dead-ends and same-y rooms, and your map gets reset if you save and quit. In addition, the enemies are placed haphazardly, making rooms feel crowded, the hit detection is spotty and there seems to be a bit of randomness in how many hits each foe can take, even accounting for the stamina meter at the bottom. You can also just walk past most enemies since there are very few doors that require room clears. Many foes are resistant to most of your weapons, and sometimes what a foe is vulnerable to doesn't feel intuitive to figure out.
There's also that Link's Awakening problem where there aren't enough buttons, but it requires far more switching here, due to magic and items (including Keys!) sharing a single button. By the end of the game I was ready for it to wrap up. Sounds like a huge, primitive headache, right?
FFA also does a lot of stuff really well. For starters, it's massive for a Game Boy game--this came out in 1991, two years before Link's Awakening, but a lot of moments are definitely channeling the Zelda series, occasionally to the point where it feels like a Game Boy sequel to Zelda 1. It's got an overworld that's exactly as big as LA's in terms of number of screens, and plenty of dungeons to boot (I might say too many dungeons!). There's a rather crazy amount of enemy variety; there are over 70 baddies in the game, which is kind of bonkers! Even more impressive is the rogue's gallery of over 20 bosses, most of them quite challenging and rewarding to beat. The weaponry is really varied too, and the spellcasting works pretty okay.
The soundtrack is really quite good. Some of the dungeon themes grate a tad, as does the "status ailment" music, but most of the OST is adventurous, emotional and well-written. One of the better Game Boy soundtracks for sure.
And the story! Pretty simple, kind of poorly translated, but surprisingly effective. There's this one moment with Medusa Tears that'll hit you right in the heart. And that ending is seriously bittersweet, with extra bitter.
So overall, this game kinda reminds me of Lufia 1 in some ways. Sort of archaic and can be annoying to deal with, but when all is said and done, I have good memories of it thanks to an engaging story, a lovely soundtrack and a lot of ambition.
I'm actually working through Trials of Mana right now. I kind of really like it and think it is a great sequel to Secret of Mana while hating some parts of it. I don't know if this is just the way these old RPGs worked (I had the same issue lately with Xenogears) but I feel like I have to constantly check a FAQ to figure out where I'm actually going next. It's "non-linear" which is cool, but someone will just say "ok time to go back to Town X" and it's like... which of the 8 towns I have been to was that one again?! And I forget how to travel between the towns too, early on it's not totally clear... some have the quick travel cannons, and there are ships that just seem to take you to different places every time... a bit confusing.
Later on you get better ways to travel of course, AND a map which shows locations on it... usually, but then sometimes it doesn't show locations on it and back to the FAQ I go?!
But otherwise it's a great Mana game... and I like the class stuff, makes it feel deeper than Secret of Mana.
@TriforceBun There is a weapon type you can equip that breaks walls too but changing weapons in that game is so annoying. Still, once you know that, you never have to worry about running out of mattocks again.
Too bad I can't actually watch how people are playing, because I never had any of the issues people talked about in here with Final Fantasy Adventure, even the first time I played it. I guess I just like this type of game more than most. The only part which annoyed me was the clue about "palm trees and 8," I had to look up that one.
Finished Trials of Mana. OVERALL I'd say it is a solid Secret of Mana sequel, that does a few things better than Secret of Mana, while also feeling like it doesn't live up in some ways.
It's honestly hard to compare the two though. Secret of Mana was literally my first RPG ever, way back in what... I didn't play it RIGHT when it came out, but soon after... maybe 1994 or 1995? So here I am nearly 25 years later playing the sequel. How crazy is that?! But yeah I mean, my first ever RPG will always be full of nostalgia. And playing an RPG years after it was made will always feel a little antiquated. So, tough to compare.
But I'll try.
First things first, what does it do better? For starters, they removed the the thing for basic attacks where you have to wait for a meter to refill to get a good whack in. Now you can just whack away at an enemy as fast as you can jam the button (more or less), and it fills up a special meter, which you can use for a super attack. Makes the basic combat much more satisfying.
Another thing it does better is it introduces some choice of characters (each with their own class) at the beginning of the game, and who you choose affects the story. There is also a class upgrade system for each character type, where after awhile you can upgrade to one of two new classes (light / dark), and then later on you can upgrade again, making a total of 4 final classes (light / light, light / dark, dark / light, dark / dark). I checked a guide to see what the pros and cons of each was, since the game tells you NOTHING.
Where it falls short feels a bit subjective to me, but in my eyes the music of Secret of Mana was super important to the experience, and the music in Trials, while solid, just doesn't feel as good for the most part. I'd probably also say the story didn't grab me as much, although this is probably SUPER subjective, since Secret of Mana was my first ever RPG so I was probably just stunned by a game with a long story, period.
And then there is a bunch of stuff that probably holds true for both games, but I notice more now than I maybe did in the past. For one, like 95% of the battle system is just jamming the attack button. There really isn't much variety. You can do some spells and such but they tend to take more time than they are worth if you're not fighting a boss. Mapping spells to a button instead of having to go into a menu to do them might have solved that.
I'd also say, there are big chunks of the game that have almost no real story. Go see the 8 things. Go destroy the other 8 things. Etc. Once you start one of these things, it's going to be a long time before you get any real story motivation again other than just cycling through them all.
I also got lost a lot and had to resort to a FAQ, there are only so many places you can walk to on the map, but there are a lot of different ways to transport and it gets confusing keeping track of how to get around and where you need to go. Often a character would just say "go back to Town X" and I have no idea which of the many towns I have been to that is or how to get back to it.
Finally, if you pick the wrong characters, which I think I did?, you might need to level up a fair amount. Not a ton, but a few times I definitely needed to level up to stand a chance. Kind of true of most RPGs but still worth noting.
But still, it's a fun game, it has great retro graphics and a solid (if not as good as the original) soundtrack. Nice characters. It has multiplayer. It's not overly long like a lot of modern RPGs are (it took me about 25 hours to complete.) For a big Secret of Mana fan it was nice to finally get to play the follow-up. Didn't blow me away, but was nice.
PS. I probably wasn't SUPPOSED to do this exactly, but I needed to test out our school's new eSports table so I actually beat the final boss at work, lol.