Xmas RetroVision – Secret of Mana: Santa’s Curse

Christmas is getting ever closer, and at Rings & Coins we’ve got another game that’ll help that festive feeling. This time round it’s the classic Square JPRG Secret of Mana.  A game which, in some of the most unique and wacky storytelling seen in gaming, sees Santa in more than just a spot of bother.  In fact, believe it or not, the situation here is that bad, Rudolph is the one requesting your help.

Originally released in 1993 on the Super Famicom as 聖剣伝説2 (Legend of the Sacred Sword 2), Secret of Mana was actually a sequel to the game we in the west know as Final Fantasy Adventure.  Though that’s a story for another day.  Despite living in somewhat in the shadow of Final Fantasy, it included a variety of unique features, such as real-time rather than turn-based combat.  All of which combined, have made this game continually loved and respected.

Secret of Mana Art
Cover art for Secret of Mana.

The plot is set years after an ancient civilisation angered the gods, by exploiting the land’s natural resource of “Mana”.  This event was finally put to an end by thanks to a hero, and the “Mana Sword”.  A weapon very much akin to that of the British legend of Excalibur.  Now one boy has accidentally released the evil that was contained by pulling the sword from the stone where it lay rest, and must set off on an adventure to restore peace and safety to the land.

However, whilst all this sounds pretty conventional for a JPRG, conventional is the last word you would use to describe much of what goes on beyond the core storyline.  From a subway overrun with Zombies, to Tomato Men, Secret of Man will put you in some of the craziest situations to come out of any JPRG, and that’s saying something.  Yet, the most crazy of these, is the aforementioned Christmas themed mission to save Santa Claus.  A mission that hits the player like a bit out of the blue.

Secret Santa 3
Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer comes looking for help to save Santa Claus.

Why is Santa Claus in trouble then?  Well according to Rudolph, yes that’s right the Red-Nosed Reindeer, his master Santa Claus has been kidnapped by a monster, and he needs help saving him.  So, alongside Rudolph, our trio of heroes head off to save Santa, but only after first raiding his house for weapons.

This quest eventually leads them into the Ice Palace of Frost Gigas, one of the game’s many boss battles.  However, it turns out that the enemy they’re facing isn’t quite what is seems.  In fact, this boss is actually Santa Claus himself, with the game forcing you into a boss battle with jolly old Saint Nic.

Secret Santa 2
Frost Gigas boss battle.

Well I say that, but it’s not actually until after the boss battle with Frost Gigas that his real identity is revealed.  You see, it turns out that Santa Claus had been transformed into this evil monster, as an indirect result of children not believing in him anymore.  And you thought this couldn’t get any weirder eh?

Now before you go thinking that if we don’t all believe in Santa he’s going to instantly become a big monster and terrorise us, let me explain.  It turns out, as revealed by Santa himself, the reason for his horrific transformation was not children’s scepticism.  It was actually his meddling with Mana.

Secret Santa 1
Santa explaining what happened after being saved.

In order to try to make the children of the land believe in him once more, and also to save the spirit of Christmas itself, Santa planned to use the Mana to grow the biggest Christmas Tree ever.  However, this went drastically wrong, and thanks to his meddling with the Mana, he was driven mad.  In turn becoming Frost Gigas.

Santa then goes on to warn our heroes about the dangers of misusing the land’s natural resource, just like the ancient civilisation did.  Whilst also returning the source of his trouble, one of the eight keystones to the balance of Mana.  Nevertheless, despite this ordeal, thanks to Rudolph and our trio of heroes, both Santa and Christmas are saved.

Secret Santa 5
Santa Claus back in his home.

This quest may be one of the wackiest things to appear in gaming, yet it has helped make Secret of Mana a staple of Christmas themed gaming.  It also taught many a child of the 90s about the importance of believing in Santa Claus, just like classic films such as Miracle on 34th Street.  So, this Christmas why not jump into Secret of Mana and save a thought for Santa and his team of reindeers.  You never know what may happen if you don’t believe.

Simon Aubrey Drake

A lifelong gamer with a fanatical love of all things Nintendo and Japan. So much so that I've written a thesis on one and lived in the other. Currently on a quest to catch every last Pokémon. Follow me on twitter via @DudeXChill or @RingsandCoins.

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