Just Another Video Game Blog: Retrospection – Secret of Evermore

Blogger’s Note: This series will be a look into an older game, company, console, series, etc… These will not function as reviews, but will simply be a bit of a deep dive into the development of a game or the history of company, etc… that may not be as well known to today’s audience. Or, alternately, it may just be a game I really, really want to write about.

In 1994, Square was fresh off the success of Secret of Mana, having released on the Super Famicom in Japan in August of 1993 and the Super Nintendo in October of 1993 (it released in the PAL region around a year later). The second game in the Mana/Seiken Densetsu series, Secret of Mana was both a commercial and critical success. Fans were understandably anxious to see if and when a next entry in the Mana series would arrive. While the sequel, Seiken Densetsu 3 / Trials of Mana was in development by Square in Japan, that’s not where our focus is going to be for this blog post. Instead, we’re going to be focusing on Redmond, WA in early 1994.

Square was looking to build an RPG tailored to an American audience, with an American feel and hired a development team at the Redmond office specifically for that task. While the over-arching story was dictated by Square Japan (a boy and his dog traverse a world based on B-movies) along with the edict to make an Americanized Secret of Mana, development was left largely to the American team. Brian Fehdrau, lead programmer on Secret of Evermore, had this to say in an interview with Super-NES, “We were, simply put, to make an American-flavored Secret-of-Mana-like game. The exact details of how we did it were up to us, but what we did had to be infused with that essence. That was the basis for the creation of the new Seattle studio and its team.”

Development utilized two Square programs, S.A.G.E. (Square’s Amazing Graphical Editor) and S.I.G.I.L. (Square Interpreted Game Intelligence Language), but it’s important to note that the team responsible for building Evermore was very green. Brian Fehdrau, as noted above, was introduced to game development with Evermore. Jeremy Soule, who composed the music for the game, was only around twenty years old when he was hired to score the game. Mr. Soule is generally considered the source of the word Evermore in the title, though this seems to be good-naturedly objected to by producer, Alan Weiss.

Artwork for Secret of Evermore via Square


Secret of Evermore began development as Vex and the Mezmers. Producer Alan Weiss created the concept of magic users telling stories and transporting their listeners into said stories. Vex, who would have been the antagonist, would have been trapped in these stories and would corrupt them. You, the player, would be tasked with hunting down and defeating Vex. If you’re familiar with Secret of Evermore, then you already know that the final product is not this, though the concept is interesting. The story would continue to evolve into what we know today. A boy and his dog are transported to a strange fantasy type land where they must uncover a years old mystery if they ever hope to get back home to their beloved hometown, Podunk, USA.

Developers considered making the title a two player affair, but felt intimidated by the idea of having to program for two independently controlled characters on screen at the same time. Said Fehdrau, “The single-player-game choice was actually an attempt to reduce complexity. We were a brand new team, many of us new to the industry, and it just seemed wise to eliminate risks. Having two or more players independently controlling characters on a large scrolling map is a bit of a minefield. Early on, we had experienced a couple of instances where we managed to get our characters stuck in Secret of Mana, and had to reload the last save. That worried us. If an experienced and clever team in Japan hadn’t quite gotten it right, it looked bad for us. In retrospect, I really wish we had sucked it up and worked out the kinks. I think that was a real failure on our part.”

The final plot of Evermore begins with an experiment being conducted by a group of unseen characters in a mansion in 1965 Podunk, USA. The dialog indicates that the experiment goes wrong. You then find yourself in 1995 Podunk, where the main character, while strolling in front of the now dilapidated mansion, chases his dog inside (the dog in question having chased a cat into the mansion). You encounter a large machine that is accidentally activated, transporting you and your dog first to a largely technological area, before being jettisoned to a jungle environment. Finding that your dog has transformed to match this jungle environment (now appearing as a large, wolf-like dog), you set off to explore and find out exactly what has happened. As you explore, you’ll meet the original members of the group from 1965, though none have aged. Each region of Evermore is very unique and sees your dog continue to transform, somewhat comically. Regarding your dog, it can be assumed that he was meant to be the second player. Though Evermore is only a single player game, you can swap control between your two characters at virtually anytime.


An aspect of Evermore that set it apart from Mana was the abandonment of magic and summons for an alchemy system. The system was simultaneously simple and complex. Essentially, you would occasionally encounter an NPC that would give you an alchemy formula (some of these are required while others are hidden and missable). An alchemy formula would consists of two ingredients, with a certain number of parts of each ingredient. For example, the alchemy formula for Drain is one part Ethanol, two parts Root. The game includes twenty-two unique ingredients, with some being more rare than others (such as meteorite being quite rare, while water is available practically everywhere). Ingredients can be purchased and found throughout the world (pressing a shoulder button will direct your dog to sniff out ingredients). Alchemy spells will also level up when used, though you are only able to equip nine at one time, so slotting out weaker spells for stronger versions can be strategic depending upon how much an alchemy spell has been leveled up.


While the magic/spell system in Evermore was rather unique, the weapon gameplay was very similar to Mana. Weapons consist of swords, axes, and spears, with each having two level-up abilities. Leveling a weapon up allows you to charge the weapon, one level at Level 2, and two levels at Level 3, again, very similar to Mana. Each new region includes new variations on these three weapons, with the new variations being stronger than their predecessor.

Secret of Evermore launched in North America on October 1, 1995 to largely positive reviews. NintendoLife praised the visuals, “The rendered visuals give the game a less colorful, but much more realistic look. You’ll also notice that the variety between the many areas of the game is staggering. While the character and enemy animations isn’t quite on a level as say a Chrono Trigger, they’re still quite a bit better than those found in Secret of Mana. One rather impressive aspect of the game would have to be the bosses. Some are absolutely immense in size and all feature some very cool animations to give them that little extra touch of realism.” AllGame generally praised the game, but was critical of the story, “While Evermore has all of the important elements necessary for a rewarding RPG, it fails in delivering an exciting or involving story. Characters are ordinary and there are weak attempts at humor and campiness throughout, such as references to B-movies that don’t even exist, which is more puzzling than funny. The bottom line is that Evermore is a good, solid RPG, but those expecting memorable characters or a dramatic, involving story will most likely be disappointed.” ElecPlay disagreed on the story in a glowing review, “So, what’s wrong with Evermore? Not a whole heck of a lot. The story’s good (I laughed out loud more than once), the fighting’s cool, the different worlds are great, the modes of transport are inventive (yet more than a little similar to other Square vehicles) and the variety of weapons and spells simply rocks,” though they did take issue with the amount of time it takes to level up weapons. Ultimately, Secret of Evermore would score an 81% on GameRankings.

Unfortunately, Evermore would find itself at the center of a controversy that it actually had no hand in creating. Evermore was essentially the follow-up to Secret of Mana in the US. However, it was not Secret of Mana 2 (Trials of Mana/Seiken Densetsu 3). Trials had released in Japan one day before Evermore released in the US, and would never come to the US. Many gamers drew the conclusion that Evermore had replaced Trials in the US, which made Evermore the victim of some backlash. This was never true, though. As noted above, Evermore was developed and released entirely independently of Trials. Reportedly, localization for Trials what cancelled due to programming bugs that could not be resolved in a timely manner. It’s important to remember here that this was now 1996, and an extended localization would have almost certainly pushed a release of the game past the release of the Nintendo 64 system. Square had to believe that was a poor business decision.

In many ways, Secret of Evermore has been lost to history. It never saw a release on the virtual console, or a digital release on any other platform. Still, the game has maintained a very vocal fanbase in the gaming community. Jump in to practically any retro-gaming hub and ask about Evermore. You’ll be met with multiple messages praising the game, the story, the graphics, etc… And, frankly, I’ll be one of the most vocal of those people. I adore this title. I find it charming, well designed, and gorgeous to look at, even twenty-eight years later. Secret of Evermore may still be confined to the Super NES, but many of us still sing the praises of this title, and will recommend anyone that hasn’t experienced it to find a way to do so ASAP. That is the lasting legacy of a boy and his dog from Podunk, USA.