The Super Nintendo produced from JRPG experiences unlike any other and is often noted for its vast, quality library of said games. One of the leading houses behind that genre was Squaresoft, now known as Square Enix, the company behind both Final Fantasy and Dragon Quest. Squaresoft games were epic, cinematic experiences before technology really made such things possible. Soaring scores with beautifully rendered and painstakingly detailed sprite-based graphics were often the overlay for a beautiful story that was deep and engaging.
Think Final Fantasy VI or Chrono Trigger and you have a good idea of what this era was like. But Squaresoft also produced something during this time that is unique in its library – Secret of Evermore. The only game to ever be developed exclusively by a North American team, Secret of Evermore recalls the gameplay of Secret of Mana while featuring a narrative that is distinct from JRPG narratives. Indeed, while the game’s form may have looked like a JRPG, its gameplay and narrative were something quite different.
Critics were not kind to Secret of Evermore upon release and it was not a commercial success for Squaresoft. Its Japanese release was even cancelled by the company. But this is vastly unfair. Again, the game is quite good and fans of action RPGs like Secret of Mana will find a lot to love here. The score sounds like a Squaresoft game and the presentation is one of the most colorful and gorgeous you will find on the SNES.
The game’s Japanese cancellation, as well as its North American pedigree, may have made it lesser in the eyes of some but it is a charming game that RPG fans today will love. In many respects it reminds you of Earthbound, a critically-acclaimed RPG from Nintendo set in North America that has achieved cult-like status today. It, too, was not commercially successful, albeit in reverse (meeting great sales in Japan and lackluster sales in North America).
One thing that is striking about Secret of Evermore is how well it has aged. This game is impressive and high-quality in execution, even though it was panned upon release as being something less than what Squaresoft was truly capable of producing. This gives you some insight into how excellent Square’s games were during this period, but we have to evaluate the game not in the context of the publisher’s library, but instead in the spectrum of hindsight.
And hindsight is kind to Secret of Evermore. This is a game many developers today would be proud to make. It features a robust system as well as a gradient of difficulty that makes it friendly to people wary of hardcore JRPGs. The only real flaw is the game’s story is perhaps not as fantastical as those you will find in other Squaresoft games.
Given this, the narrative may have held Secret of Evermore back when compared with its siblings during that console era. But this should not deter gamers from picking it up today as it is easily one of the best action RPGs for the SNES.