Secret of Mana in Nintendo Power
May 13, 2021
Like many ’90s kids, I miss my monthly Nintendo Power excitement. With no interwebs, that was how you got the info. The writing was quite good, and it gave you a reason to actually get out and see other people and mutually rejoice in the info. They were also designed to last; after ~30 years, they’ve held up remarkably well, even while being scanned. I can’t say the same about some other older sources that come apart when you open them, even when “new.” In this era, Nintendo Power had no external ads, and virtually no fluff. Just the power of Nintendo.
Okay, I’ll stop being a neo-boomer now…
There was a common promotional mantra that Secret of Mana was literally Zelda in every way, except for when it usually wasn’t. Nintendo Power had a bit of that from its first mention in this section. At this point, it was going to be localized as Final Fantasy Adventure II, and it wasn’t quite clear how many players could hop in (another issue said five). Ironically, this month was the original planned launch in Japan; it was eventually pushed back to August. The screenshots are an earlier version of Potos, a cut area east of the Water Palace, and a test with all three characters fighting the Mantis Ant.
It’s almost here! :O I wonder if it’ll be Zelda-like enough to be Link-like…
I keep forgetting to make the spaceship page at Redux…
All kidding aside, they were planning on a spaceship at one point, so maybe the editors got jumbled information. Like this bit about multiple paths through the game:
The UK’s Retro Gamer would report in 2011 that this was one of the first ideas to be scrapped.
The Top 20 was Nintendo Power’s monthly popularity contest. Secret of Mana hit its peak in this issue at #6. This may have been a disappointing finish considering that the aging Final Fantasy II (IV) was was still on the charts—a longevity feat that SoM wouldn’t go on to match. Final Fantasy III (VI) was Square’s next RPG and would go on to debut at #3.
It would take Nintendo Power seven months to get back to Secret of Mana, after its popularity had begun to decline. But they made this fun, dynamic graphic to show you the benefits of buying such a dorky game:
Everyone deserves friends who are excited about the MANA MANIA CONTEST. You can find some of the answers right here at SoM: Redux. Though #2 is a bit of a trick question…
This month began the celebrated Days of Mana special that would stretch for three issues. It was a dramatic first person recitation of the story with accompanying art by in-house illustrator Katsuya Terada. For lack of something better to say, it has a truly classic feel to it, not unlike the comics or movie concept art of its era. Even if those movie concepts might be Stephen King-related in the case of a few of them (you’ll see what I mean sooner than you’d like). As a result, it contrasts sharply with the usual styles we see. Some art couldn’t be scanned as it disappears into the spine and doesn’t look right on the screen, but this collection is available in many other places.
Also in this issue: RPGs still weren’t really a thing…
Not everyone could appreciate how important that art would become…
The first issue of 1995 was a bonus issue with a special outer cover. In a sign of the times, the magazine was trending towards busier page designs and computer generated content i.e. less line art and comics.
This issue was also the last to feature Secret of Mana in its Top 20, just as Final Fantasy III (VI) made its debut.