In 1965 in Podunk, USA, a malfunction occurs in a mansion's laboratory, and thirty years later, a boy and his dog stumble upon the lab, then finding themselves transported to the surreal world of Evermore, from which they must find their way home. Squaresoft's Secret of Evermore, one of their few RPGs developed in America, is in some respects a knockoff of Secret of Mana, but isn't as fun, despite having its share of redeeming qualities.
Evermore's battle system borrows heavily from Secret of Mana, with both the boy and his dog squaring off against the enemy in real-time combat, with both having gauges that gradually fill up to 100%, guaranteeing maximum damage when attacking enemies with the various weapons the boy acquires during the game, or the dog's attack. As in Secret of Mana, killing enemies with weapons acquires experience for the used weapon, with the player able to level each weapon twice, allowing the player to use a charge attack of a maximum of two levels when holding down the attack button.
The main issue with weapon level-building in Evermore is that weapon levels don't transfer when the player acquires more powerful weapons of a specific type, including swords, axes, or spears, and must build experience all over again, which can be time-consuming and even difficult if the player sets the dog's A.I. to constantly attack enemies. The dog's attack level also increases up to two times, with a maximum charge attack of two corresponding levels, which can be very useful later in the game against more powerful enemies, though at the expense of the boy's weapon levels lagging.
Where the similarity to Secret of Mana ends is the magic system, where the player acquires dozens of alchemy recipes that the boy can cast using ingredients acquired from special shops or found when the dog smells something on the ground on the game's many fields. Constantly using spells gradually makes them more powerful, although shops across the game's world have different ingredients for sale, creating the problem of having to remember which shops sell which ingredients and taking the time to revisit them in order to purchase them, as well as taking a toll on the player's money.
Consequentially, Evermore's battle system doesn't work as well as it should, given the tedium of having to build weapon levels when acquiring more powerful weapon incarnations, not to mention the flawed alchemy system, although there are some useful spells, such as healing, which can come in handy against the toughest bosses. The A.I. for the dog is also reasonably competent, in spite of causing his master's weapon levels to lag if the player sets him to charge and attack enemies, and overall, the battle system leaves plenty of room for improvement.
Control in Evermore is superficially decent, with an easy ring menu system reminiscent of that in Secret of Mana, and easy shopping for new equipment, although shopping for ingredients can be tedious since, as mentioned, different shops around the world sell different ingredients, making the use of alchemy spells somewhat restrictive. Dungeon design is also tedious, what with the lack of convenient automaps, and sometimes the game doesn't do a good job telling players how to advance the main storyline. Ultimately, the game doesn't interface as well with the player as it could have.
The story was okay for a game released back in 1995, what with some okay plot twists, even if said twists are a bit redundant throughout the game, although the lack of direction at times on how to advance doesn't serve the plot very well, and the references to fictional B-movies fall somewhat flat. Ultimately, the narrative isn't bad, but isn't great, either.
The soundtrack by Jeremy Soule is half-decent, with some decent tracks, although too many areas rely on ambient noise in lieu of music. The graphics are probably the best part of the game, with large character and monster sprites and reasonable animation, alongside well-designed scenery, though the character sprites don't show much emotion during cutscenes. Ultimately, Evermore sounds okay but looks better.
In the end, Secret of Evermore is a knockoff that falls somewhat flat, what chiefly with flaws in its combat system and interaction, although some areas are okay, such as the music and especially the graphics. It certainly isn't a terrible effort, although players won't be missing much if they avoid the game, and would probably be better off playing Secret of Mana instead.
+Lots of Alchemy spells and weapons to try out.
+Soundtrack is okay.
-Leveling weapons/spells can be tedious.
-Soundtrack is too ambient.
Platform: Super NES
Game Mechanics: 6/10
Lasting Appeal: 3/10
Playing Time: No In-Game Clock