It's difficult to know where to start when describing Secret of Mana as a classic as there is so much that you can talk about, the characters, the story, the music, the game play, Santa Claus, so I'll start at the very beginning with the opening scene of the game.
As soon as you switch the game on you are introduced to enchanting and slightly haunting music as the titles appear and the screen opens and scrolls up to reveal the three lead characters standing before the Mana tree. It's a great opening which you get to savour before you are told about the history of Mana. Shortly after that you are introduced to your first playable character and the game quickly begins.
It's not long into the game that you meet the second of your three lead characters and what characters they are. Starting of as the hero you go on to meet a girl and a sprite and each person has their own individual strengths and weaknesses and reasons for joining the adventure. The main hero uses the Sword of Mana and is brilliant at combat but cannot use magic, he is tasked with re-energising the sword and saving the world from monsters and the big bad. The girl is physically weaker than the hero but can cast healing and support spells, she is trying to find her love who has been sent by the king to try and stop the monsters. Finally, the sprite is the last character who is physically the weakest but is strongest with magic, especially offensive magic. He joins the quest to retrieve his lost memories. As per usual with RPG's each character can be levelled up alongside their weapons and magic by killing enemies, finding weapon orbs and by rescuing spirits known as elementals.
The plot/story is pretty much your standard good vs evil like in the majority of RPG's but it's the way that the characters are portrayed and their reasons for taking part in the quest that make the game that little bit different. The girl and sprite are not in it to save the world, they want to find the love of their live and regain lost memories, the hero is only initially fighting due to being banished from his village for removing the sword, it's not like Zelda where a hero is called upon to save the world.
The game play is set in real time allowing for you to kill enemies and level up as you walk around between villages and dungeons. There are numerous bosses in the game which include a giant frost demon that when defeated turns into Santa Claus. As mentioned previously weapons and spells are upgraded by finding orbs and elementals. There are quite a few weapons found in the game and each one can be upgraded and includes a charge attack which means that you cannot attack whilst charging but once unleashed the attack takes off a lot more energy from the enemy. One really good thing about the game is not only that you can swap characters to fight with at any time but also that with the aid of a multi-tap up to three players can play at the same time. Extra players can drop in and out of the game at any time which is also handy. The world that the characters inhabit is huge and to cut down on travel the characters can be shot from a cannon (after paying a fee) to where they need to go, that is until the player accesses Flammie which is a giant dragon that is controlled by the player.
Moving onto the graphics and sound. Presented in a top down style the graphics are great with the characters through out the game being nice and big and the colours of the various parts of the world being bright and well done. The game also takes advantage of the Super Nintendo's ability to use Mode 7 when controlling Flammie. The music is fantastic as evidenced by the opening and uses a variety of tunes to show off the different parts of the world, ranging from somber to dance like.
To me Secret of Mana is a near perfect game, there are sections of grinding that could have been done without, but overall the game is vibrant, the game play fantastic, the characters are instantly lovable and the music is wonderful and that is why it's in my classic corner.