The journey of a thousand illusory miles starts with a child chasing after a dog chasing a cat into an abandoned factory on the edge of town. At least, I think it’s illusory, since it seems like most of the adventure takes place in a land constructed from the thoughts of a handful of people from 30 years in the past. So goes the beginning of Secret of Evermore, a SNES action RPG released in 1995 by Square Soft, Inc.
For starters, Secret of Evermore was heavily influenced by Secret of Mana and plays as such. The battle system is real-time, including the ability to heal, change equipment, or use different alchemy recipes. The player can switch between characters and rudimentarily control their AI. Each weapon and alchemy recipe gains experiences and levels up with use. Leveling up weapons unlocks powerful charged attacks, so it’s worthwhile to find a weapon you prefer using. Finally, both games use the extremely awkward circle menu system!
What it adds to the Mana system primarily has to do with alchemy. There’s a limit to the number of active, alchemy recipes the main character, Stephan, can use. Stephan is required to carry the ingredients for each recipe at all times. Both points can be detrimental since the player is forced to visit certain people in isolated locations to restock or change active recipes. At least if the player forgets to buy everything needed, Stephan’s faithful pup, Garrus, can find some.
Apart from sniffing out ingredients, Garrus is extremely useful in battle. He also levels up as Stephan does and rapidly becomes more powerful. He’s on a mission to protect his master and does so very well, though it might be due to actually charging up his attacks as long as his AI is set to do so. Garrus also has a unique ability to fit in to his surrounds in each of the four regions of the map. Frankly, he’s an all-around good boy and is the best part of the whole game.
Outside of technical tidbits, Evermore stands firmly on its own. The secondary cast are ridiculous caricatures and stand out well. Our young hero himself fills the stereotype of a nerdy 80’s kid, the kind you’d expect in the B-movie parodies he references. (I could see Finn Wolfhard channeling his Stranger Things character in a movie adaptation.) It’s worth mentioning how awesome and how much of a good boy Garrus ends up being.
Overall, Secret of Evermore was a good time but not a game I’d go back to play repeatedly. Our very good boy should have been featured more prominently on the box art.