Secret of Mana was a landmark Square
for the Super Nintendo
. It was basically a marriage of the exp/level building style of Square
's infamous Final Fantasy
series, with the more action-oriented, fast pace of The Legend of Zelda
The plot in SoM was relatively simple by modern standards, but it fit well into the game. Basically, the nameless hero (well, you name him at the beginning of the game) yanks a legendary sword ("The Mana Sword") out of a large boulder in the stream near his village. The elder fears that their village will be overrun by monsters, and banishes our hero, and his sword, from the village. It doesn't take long before we have 2 other party members - an amnesiac sprite and a spunky young lady determined to save her beloved, a general in the local army, from certain doom. One of the interesting things about SoM is that you actually have a female character trying to save an endangered male character. Also, there is absolutely zero love interest between the main characters, which is a nice break, because that's so cliche in RPGs.
For 1993, SoM's graphics dropped quite a few jaws. It had lush, colorful landscapes and enemies. Everything was very large and detailed, in sharp contrast to the tiled sprites of Final Fantasy IV two years before. Movement was not limited to the four cardinal directions. The menus consisted of a few delightful circular affairs that were clearly designed with a good deal of thought given to how to make them as smooth and quick to navigate as possible.
Your quest involved collecting 8 "mana weapons" (sword, bow, spear, whip, axe...). As you defeated bosses, you got "orbs", which could be used to boost the power of the weapons. In this way, you weren't really having to buy new weapons (just armor) all the time. Some of the weapons served a practical purpose as well. The sword cut through some plant life obstructions, the whip served as a rope bridge across chasms, the axe destroyed rocks blocking the way, and so on. You also got to hunt down 8 elemental mana spirits (earth, fire, water, wind, light, dark, moon, forest), each of which gave different spells to each of your characters (besides the hero). You leveled up your characters by getting experience points from enemies, and leveled up the weapons by the number of hits you made with them.
SoM also began the tradition of the Mode 7 worldmap. You got a large flying creature called Flammie who responded to beat of a drum to come escort you wherever you happened to want to go.
SoM was effectively the first "action RPG" - a combination of FF and Zelda, which were archetypes of their genre, done in the usual extravaganza of wonderful music and graphics that we usually see from Square. Probably one of their more innovative, if often overlooked, games. It also featured 2 or 3 player support (other players controlling the characters that the computer AI normally took over) for added fun.
The sequel to SoM was Seiken Densetsu 3. SoM itself was called "Seiken Densetsu 2" in Japan ("Seiken Densetsu" means "Holy Sword Legend", but apparently Square or Nintendo figured bible-thumping Americans would take offense to those heretic video games using "holy" in the title). The sequel never made it here, for various reasons. Secret of Evermore was produced by Square USA, not Square Japan. It used the same engine as SoM, but was completely unrelated to it, as far as content was concerned.