Secret of Mana Redux

The Legend of The VHS of The Secret of Mana

Gather ’round children, and I’ll tell you the tale of the promotional videocassette released before Secret of Mana came out in Japan all the way back on August 6th, 1993.

Chapter 1: A Curious Tale

You see, a videocassette dated June 25th, 1993 was provided to some stores in Japan to advertise the game. How do we know this? Well for a long time our only proof was a .jpg on DEATH QUEEN CITY, a site run by a Japanese retro gaming collector who has a lot of very cool and very rare items.

The only Secret of Mana merch item on DEATH QUEEN CITY labelled “Rare”.

Right there, in the “CD Video Cassette Tape” category lies the very tape I am talking about right now. It is a nondescript videocassette, in a simple white case, emblazoned with a white sticker that reads “(株) スクウェア「 聖剣伝説2」VP 120min エンドレス 93. 6. 25”, translated to “Square Co. Ltd. “Secret of Mana” VP 120min Endless 93. 6. 25″.

Yawn… where is the plain white label with black text? This is boring.

Exciting, isn’t it?

Doesn’t it look just so interesting?

I bet it is the most amazing videocassette you’ve ever laid eyes upon.

It looks especially amazing compared to the colorful V-Jump cassette with Arale on it just below it on the list. Is that Arale? It looks like her, but she’s got a sword. It’s probably not Arale. I’m just gonna call her Arale though, I don’t have time to look her up I’m writing a novel here.

That V-Jump cassette with maybe-it’s-Arale on it is pretty neat by the way. It has a one minute commercial for Secret of Mana that features the Flammie figure made for the game showing off the game like a newscaster. Click here to watch it!

And now back to the weather…

Anyway, I digress. It’s obvious the nondescript videocassette tape only given out to probably a handful of Japanese stores in 1993 that has the coveted “Rare” insignia bestowed upon it must have something even cooler on it. Also it’s 120 minutes long. That’s a long time! Probably half the length of time it took me to write this monstrosity!

This mystery cassette could be anything! It could even be a one minute commercial for Secret of Mana that features the Flammie figure made for the game showing off the game like a newscaster.

You know how much we wanted one of those!

But anyway, where was anyone going to find this thing? It’s “Rare”, after all.

And now back to the weather…

Well you see my friend (we are friends now, right?), your old pal Sheexy here has more than two problems. One of these problems is that when he sees something Mana related on an auction site, he’s gotta go for it. The other problems are probably readily apparent to you as you read through this monstrosity.

I’ve had a run-in with another “Seiken Densetsu” related cassette tape in the past, actually. Back in 2007 I found a cassette missing its cover but labeled “Excalibur Seiken Densetsu” on a Japanese auction site that was really tempting until I did some research and figured out it was just the Japanese dub of the Hallmark Entertainment television miniseries of “Merlin” from 1998 starring Sam Neill and other people like James Earl Jones and Martin Short. It’s got a 7.1 on IMDB and won 4 Primetime Emmys. Not bad.

You can read about that on this old Seikens post here. (Guess my writing style hasn’t changed for 15 years.)

Chapter 2: Flight into the Unknown

Seven years later, though, another videocassette showed up on a Japanese auction site. And this one must have looked promising because I made sure I won it. And then promptly forgot about it after it was delivered to me in June 2014.

That was about 50 bucks in 2014.

You see, in 2014 I was in the middle of graduate school, meaning my free time was at a premium. 2014 is also about when Seikens went into hibernation, I wonder why? I didn’t have time to mess with the tape, and also I didn’t have a VCR because it was 2014 and VCR usage fell off hard around 2005. So it got to live in my closet for four years until I graduated and then moved twice in 2018. At this point, I had a vague memory of wanting to put the tape into the family VCR back in Texas and rip it (we had the technology) but instead I squirreled it away somewhere. Where? At the time I did not recall.

Fast forward to March of 2021, another seven years later, when I notice Kassidy (another webmaster on Seikens) has posted about some new Mana site called Secret of Mana: Redux (ever heard of it? me neither, tell your friends), and how the webmaster there had some seriously cool stuff going on.

It was so cool it caused me to bring Seikens out of hibernation and start fixing up the place.

Seriously, come join us!

Anyway, this gets me to join The Mana Series Discord (you know, since we’re friends now and all, you should really come join me there). In conversing with ManaRedux I find out that he is searching for this fabled videocassette I just spent approximately 900 words yammering on about.

A videocassette I may own and have vague memories about.

A videocassette for which the only proof of existence is the receipt above from 2014.

But after seeing the receipt I was pretty sure I had the tape. You see, the receipt says “店頭” which means “storefront”, and the DEATH QUEEN CITY site uses the same kanji when talking about the cassette too.

This was in May 2021 that I disclosed this information, in fact you can see my comment about it on this very site. I immediately started searching for it, because maybe I kept it with me through those two moves. I just didn’t know.

I tore my place apart, but it wasn’t here. I asked my mom to search my room in Texas for it, but she couldn’t find it either. And my mom is no slouch when it comes to finding lost things. I once lost my deceased grandfather’s knife that he left to me in a dry creek bed after riding my bike along it for a good ways and searched for it for over an hour just to have my mom walk up and find it within 5 seconds.

Mom not finding the videocassette was concerning.

With Mom unable to help, I had to wait until I visited back home in December to search for the cassette myself.

Do you know what that meant?

It meant over half a year of this:

Dag nabbit

So December rolls around, and I fly back home. Greet the family, pet the cats and dogs. Start searching for a videocassette tape.

Chapter 3: Calm Before the Storm

I found it.

“Treat your tools videocassettes like a friend. Keep ’em by you. Never let ’em down, and they’re always at your side.” – Mario Mario

Yes, that is Bob Hoskins as Mario Mario from the 1993 Super Mario Bros. movie. It’s got a 4.1 on IMDB and no awards. Not bad. My aunt gave that cardboard cutout to me back in 1994, just a year after she introduced me to a cool new video game called “Secret of Mana” (ever heard of it? me neither, tell your friends). It’s something of a “Rare” item in and of itself, but it just doesn’t get the blood pumping like a nondescript videocassette tape does. It does help me wake up in the morning though.

Yes, I do have a cardboard cutout of Mario and Luigi from the Super Mario Bros. movie hanging in my childhood bedroom across from my bed, and yes, it is pretty awesome to wake up to Bob Hoskins saluting you and John Leguizamo giving you a thumbs up.

Just to show you how cool it is, check this out:

There I am Gary, there I am!

Pretty darn cool, right? In fact there is a lot of cool going on in this image, lemme help you out with that:

Now we’re talking.

You know, if you wanted to know more about all that stuff, you could check out the Collectibles section here on Secret of Mana: Redux or some of the Merchandise stuff on Seikens.

Anyway, the closet on the right there is where I eventually found the cassette tape, and I don’t blame Mom for not finding it because it was way in there jammed under the ninja costume I wore for Halloween in 2009 (sorry I never returned it Trey, just like your copy of Legend of Mana), an old 8mm projector, and some kind of duvet cover or something.

I had the tape. It was time to watch it.

Let’s go!

Chapter 4: The Curse

Wait, what, no no no no no!

He’s dead Jim.
Lock, Shock, and Barrel looking fine here.

That stupid ancient VCR ate up my tape! After all that it just threw up an error and started chowing down!

I had even tested the VCR first with my sister’s copy of Nightmare Before Christmas and it was fine! It’s got an 8.0/10 on IMDB and was nominated for an Oscar. Not bad.

After some debate on the Discord about what to do, I decided to repair the thing myself. One trip to Amazon and a couple days later, and I have an amazingly 80s looking piece of junk that barely works in front of me. At least the tape seemed good. You see, you can’t just use any regular tape, it’ll get the adhesive all over as the cassette tape winds its way through things, gumming up the system and making our situation all the worse.

“Secret of Mana, videocassette. A tape barely alive. Gentlemen, we can rebuild it. We have the technology. We have the capability to build the world’s first bionic tape. Secret of Mana will be that tape. Better than it was before. Better, stronger, faster.”
Spike knows what’s up.

Just flipping up the guard panel on the videocassette revealed part of the problem to me. The tape had melted a bit to the supply-guide pin. When the pinch roller of the VCR started pulling it managed to rip from there. I should have checked that the tape fed correctly!

The tear was ragged and the tape had fallen out of the supply-guide pin, tension pin, and guide post that the supply reel feeds into. I was going to have to open it up and weave the tape back through before splicing it back together.

It looks bad.

Four screws came out without a hitch, but then I ran into trouble.

It is bad!

That’s some kind of security screw, I can’t remove that! The only way to get this tape out is by breaking the whole cassette. I can’t do that! This thing is “Rare” remember?

But you know what? With some careful prying and delicate tweezer action I was able to snake the tape deep down in the cassette shell through the supply-guide pin, tension pin, and guide post. I realigned it nicely, and pulled out enough tape to splice the thing back together. A couple razor cuts later and some careful application of the special splicing tape, and everything was good to go. It was beautiful, probably the best cassette tape repair in history, and somehow I didn’t think to take a photo of it. Dag nabbit!

Chapter 5: The Dark Star

Told you it was a good repair.

Picture this, the tape is in, it’s rolling, and it’s no video I’ve ever seen before. There are strange computer noises playing, “Squaresoft” displayed front and center, and in the top left corner appear the words “Seiken Densetsu 2”. Suddenly a booming voice states “Motion battle RPG”, the game’s logo appears and the voice states “Seiken Densetsu 2”.

Oh baby, we’re in.

I press the Pause button (this was a mistake) and run to get the tape ripping device.

With the tape ripping device set up, I press Play and the video starts up again. I’m greeted by Phantom and a Rose and start seeing game footage! There is a world map, Flammie swoops down and flies around, some more views of the map and I see Randi pulling out the sword! The three characters run through the Scorpion Village in the Ice Country, Kakkara, the Pandora Ruins, Gaia’s navel, and then a boom as they shoot out of a cannon. The music breaks into Flight Into the Unknown and they head through the Haunted Forest.

Now I am a minute into the video, and I have to press Pause again (another mistake). You see, the sound is perfectly fine, but the video is really not. If you look closely at the cannon shot, you’ll notice the HUD is off screen on the bottom, and the top of the screen has a black bar that gets darker towards the right. The video was bouncing up and down and blacking out every few seconds. Maybe my repair wasn’t that good.

I press Play and the video looks even worse. The sound is gone too. Not good, I press Pause (yet another mistake).

I press Play and the VCR says “Err” again. Really not good, I hit eject.

Once again the VCR tries to eat the tape, but I manage to get it out without any tears. That’s tears as in breaking apart. There may have been tears on the Discord though, as in breaking down.

Chapter 6: One of Them is Hope

I throw in my sister’s tape to see what’s going on. Gotta see if it’s the VCR or my tape that is messed up.

Chins don’t work like that.

It’s the VCR.

My sister’s tape is bouncing and twisting and blacking out as well and the sound is awful.

We could all learn a thing or two from Roger. Thanks to Jordan Parks on The Mana Series Discord for this gem.

I press Pause again (final mistake), and the VCR goes into forever “Err” mode.

You see, when you press the Pause button on a VCR it moves the pinch roller, the thing that make the tape rotate correctly and holds it against the read head. When unpausing the pinch roller moves back in and things proceed. These rollers are made of rubber, and they can be deformed by the stress of pinching down on the capstan inside the VCR, and rubber rots and goes bad over time. And this VCR was very old.

Pressing the Pause button made the VCR pinch roller mess up, and who knows what else inside. Everything was fine until that button was pressed. And I pressed it a lot of times.

Each time the tape bounced up and down, that was due to the pinch roller not holding it correctly. Each time the screen blacked out, that was likely due to a crater of rotted rubber that formed on the pinch roller meaning that the tape wasn’t being held against the read head. This VCR was done, without some kind of repair.

At least this meant my tape was probably ok! After all, it was the best cassette tape repair in history, remember?

Sorry sis.

As a parting shot, the VCR decided to eat my sister’s tape. It’s ok, it was after Christmas at this point anyway. Still a nightmare though.

At this point I shoved the VCR into my closet where it could rest jammed under the ninja costume, the projector, and the duvet cover or whatever. See you space cowboy. What I should have done is taken it outside and performed some good old percussive maintenance on the thing.

“My ship works better when I kick it.” – Spike

Chapter 7: Morning is Here

Spike and Jet going to great lengths to get a VCR.

I wasn’t going to shell out for a new VCR, have you seen the prices on those things? I also wasn’t going to repair this one, those things are much more complex than just a few pins and some tape. I searched around our house and barn for some fabled DVD/VCR combo player my sister swore we owned, but found nothing. The thing probably would have rotted rubber too considering the fact I just said it was likely stored in a barn. It was time for me to give up.

Defeated, I carried the videocassette with me back home on the plane, and brought it to a local shop that deals in all things VHS when I got back. Yeah I could have done that in Texas, but we live out in a rural area and the nearest repair place would have been a 2 hour round-trip and I was on vacation ok.

The whole event really reminded me of the Cowboy Bebop episode “Speak Like a Child” by the end of it. There is a mystery videocassette, problems with the cassette player, long searches, and some tears. It’s got an 8.7/10 on IMDB and is one of my favorite episodes. Not bad.

Long story short, I got the cassette ripped and no you can’t watch it.

Yet.

ManaRedux is deep in his analysis of it and will reveal all soon. Also, my repair totally held up, I knew I was good.

I will tell you, though, that it’s not a one minute commercial for Secret of Mana that features the Flammie figure made for the game showing off the game like a newscaster. It also probably won’t get a 10/10 on IMDB and multiple awards. But it’s not bad.

Seriously though, it’s just a four minute 50 second video that repeats 25 times across the ~120 minute cassette, don’t get your hopes up too high. The time it will take you to watch the video pales in comparison to the amount of time it just took you to read this nonsense, but hopefully this nonsense gives you some appreciation for the nonsense I’ve gone through to document this nearly 30 year old promotional video from a game that shaped my childhood.

Epilogue: The Legend

You can read ManaRedux’s post about the video here: ManaRedux’s post

You can watch the video yourself below:

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