Switch is already ascending to its destiny as a retrogaming haven

First there were Neo•Geo games and Blaster Master Zero; now there’s this:

There’s still no word on what Nintendo plans to do in terms of Virtual Console for Switch, if anything, but clearly third parties have no intention of sitting around and waiting for plans to solidify. And so we have the Seiken Densetsu Collection. And by “we” I mean “Japan, anyway.”

Yesterday Square Enix’s official Mana franchise Twitter account teased a brief and masterful video clip of people playing Secret of Mana, which wasn’t particularly remarkable until the camera pulled out and — BAM! — they were playing on Switch. Rather than let the question of, “Is this real?” linger in the air forever like a bad smell, the company went ahead and announced a collection of the first three Mana games this morning. And all was well, except for the uncertainty surrounding a possible localization.

I think it’s pretty reasonable to hope this makes its way west as a Mana Collection (or some such). The lack of a proper, official English-language version of Seiken Densetsu 3, the gorgeous 16-bit sequel to Secret of Mana, has always been one of those sources of simmering resentment for RPG fans; the game likely wasn’t localized because of the difficulty involved in squeezing a less-efficient English script into a huge, jam-packed ROM, which already sat at the upper limits of the system’s practical size restrictions (and therefore would have been ridiculously expensive here). Every once in a while Square Enix kindles a spark of hope that we’ll finally get a belated English conversion of the game, such as when they teased Heroes of Mana as a sequel to SD3. And yet here we are more than 20 years later, and no official U.S. release of SD3.

This seems like the ultimate test. If we don’t get this Mana compilation, we’re never getting SD3 in English from Square Enix and will have to settle for paying people to flash SNES ROMs of the (groundbreaking and quite excellent) fan translation for us instead. I kinda feel like letting this languish in Japan would amount to leaving money on the table, but what do I’m know? I’m a bozo who would have Square Enix localize every single unsellable SaGa game, so it’s just as well I’m not making any of these decisions for the company.

There’s more than just coulda-woulda-shoulda with this collection, though. The simple fact is that Mana perfectly embodies the appeal and potential of the Switch. While the first Mana game (Final Fantasy Legend for Game Boy) lacked multiplayer hooks, both Secret of Mana and SD3 featured drop-in-drop-out cooperative action-RPG adventuring for up to three people at once. A system designed to make that possible anywhere is a perfect place to repackage these classics — especially if this serves as a trial balloon to see whether or not there might be interest in a new Mana game. And also, I get the impression Switch is pretty heavily targeted toward old and nostalgic gamer types, so this hits that core demographic, too.

Of course, if the collection doesn’t come west, the Switch does lack any sort of region locks, so we can always just import it. Hopefully it won’t come to that. Playing these games without English language wouldn’t be the ideal for these games; it’s certainly possible to bumble through, but SD3 in particular relies heavily on the nuance of its characters and their allegiances. In any case, I’ll be camping out at Square Enix’s front door every day until they finally relent and announce an American localization.

16 Comments

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16 Responses to Switch is already ascending to its destiny as a retrogaming haven

  1. Finally got to play 3-player SOM all the way through recently with two good friends. Pretty unforgettable experience for all of us and totally cemented our friendship. Hope we get this collection!

  2. John Learned

    Man, that cover…

  3. Wasn’t the first Mana game Final Fantasy Adventure, not Legend?

    I pick up FFA every few years to say “this is the year I will finally beat it,” and then I lose track of where I was for a month and it languishes. It’s some of my favorite music on GameBoy, though, and I really think the Vita/Mobile port from a couple years ago is pretty great.

    I’d really love to see that version tucked into a Switch cart alongside Mana and SD3. Or, since I’m dreaming, that AND the GB version with an improved localization. While functional, it’s a bit rough in spots.

  4. AJ

    Jeremy, do you think that the sales of the 3DS versions of DQ7 and DQ8 could have an influence in the localization of the Mana Collection ? Like to hear your thoughts.

  5. Call me crazy, but I’m holding out hope. SE localizing old games for new systems isn’t unprecedented: they did it with FFV back in the PlayStation era (granted, that was right in the middle of the JRPG bubble, but damn it, I have to hold onto something). God, that artwork is gorgeous too.

  6. Jeremiah Jones

    Any excuse to get a chance to play SD3 again is a welcome one. Is there any news about a map function for SD3? I know they did that for Chrono Trigger DS, and SD3’s latter areas can get a bit difficult to navigate.

    Square could really spoil gamers with additional features to SD3 if they were willing. Here’s hoping…

  7. Christoph

    I never could stick with SD3 enough to see it through. Something about that game just doesn’t click with me. But I would welcome the opportunity to try it again on Switch.

    • I finally gave in and played an emulated version (on my smart phone! Wonders never ceased) with the translation patch a few years back.

      Playing the game on a good emulator really IS the best way to go. The game has a lot of great things going for it, but it’s mired down by aggravating stuff like how the action freezes every time you OR the enemies perform a spell/tech attack… but an emulator can fast forward through all those and lessen the aggregate annoyance. Similarly, if you want to take your characters to their second class level, you can only do so by endlessly grinding away against certain enemies for incredibly rare drops (which might not even be the item YOUR character needs!), but with emulation you can just enter the appropriate cheat codes, and voila.

      Also, a FAQ helps. Going into the game blind could leave you picking a lousy party combination and/or crappy classes. And since it wouldn’t be a Mana game without glitches galore, a FAQ will keep you from wasting your points on stats that don’t work.

  8. Pingback: Japanse Seiken Densetsu Collection aangekondigd voor Switch | Games

  9. Kirin

    If this isn’t out in English by the time I finally get a Switch in, oh, maybe a couple years, I’m gonna be sorely tempted to pick up an import copy. I’ve already beat SD3 once on the original SFC cart…

  10. lonecow

    Luckily it is coming early enough in the Switch lifespan where I think it will be localized just to maximize sales. If we were 5 years in, this wouldn’t have a prayer. But Nintendo is going to want to put as much on the system as possible.

    It’s the same and only reason we got Tokyo Mirage Sessions.

  11. Adam

    I know I’m in the minority, but I would love to see Secret of Evermore added to the collection for North America. It’s not as good as the mana games but it is still worth revisiting.