Secret of Evermore is a role-playing game for the Super Nintendo Entertainment system released by Square Soft in 1995. The story follows the adventures of a boy and his dog as they attempt to understand and escape a strange world into which they have been unwittingly drawn.
The game is uniquely the only game developed by Square's North American division, and was never released in Japan.
A boy and his dog (names chosen by the player) leave a movie theater in the small town of Podunk when the dog chases a cat into an abandoned mansion. In the mansion the boy finds a strange machine that teleports him to an unknown location, seemingly a space station. The boy is herded onto an escape craft that crashes on the planet, where he finds a large jungle full of dinosaurs and man-eating plants.
The boy explores the jungle and finds a group of humans led by a young girl named Elizabeth. Elizabeth agrees to help the boy if he rescues the village alchemist, Strong Heart, from a swamp called Bugmuck. The boy does so, and Elizabeth reveals she is from Podunk as well. The mansion the boy entered belonged to her grandfather, Professor Ruffleberg, and he had built a machine that could transport people to worlds of their imagination. This region, Prehistoria, is based on her fascination with cave people and dinosaurs. Elizabeth can still sense outside influences, though, and believes someone is active in the nearby volcano.
In the volcano the boy finds an evil copy of Elizabeth has taken control of the dinosaurs in the area and is planning to shut down the volcano, causing an ice age. The boy defeats her monster, Magmar, and the girl overloads the volcano to make it erupt. The eruption lands the boy in a new region, Antiqua, based on ancient Greek, Roman, and Egyptian civilization, and when he awakens his dog has gone missing. The boy crosses the desert to Nobilia, where his dog has become revered as a sacred animal and "chooses" him to fight in the coliseum. When the boy is victorious, the ruler of Nobilia's aide orders him to retrieve two ancient jewels, the Diamond Eyes, from the ruins across the river, and their ruler will send the boy home if he does.
Across the river the boy meets an archaeologist, Horace Highwater, who was a friend of Ruffleberg. This area, Antiqua, is a product of his imagination. Horace says that the ruler of Nobilia cannot be trusted, and has only recently taken over the city but has never been seen in public. Horace aids the boy in exploring the nearby Hall of Collosia and Pyramid to retrieve the Diamond Eyes, and on returning to Horace's camp finds he is gone. On the way to Nobilia Horace intercepts the boy and takes the Diamond Eyes, but the boy notices he was acting odd. In Nobilia, "Horace" uses the Diamond Eyes to revive the town statue as a giant monster, Aegis.
When Aegis is destroyed, the real Horace arrives and explains that the ruler of Nobilia was an evil, robotic copy of him. Aegis' power core is about to explore, so the town strongman, Tiny, hurls it away. The explosion opens up an underground tunnel that leads to a new area, Ivor Tower, a medieval kingdom. In Ivor Tower the boy wins an audience with the ruler, Queen Bluegarden. The Queen is another member of Ruffleberg's experiment, and asks for the boy's help in clearing out the neighboring kingdom of Ebon Keep of a few stragglers that refuse to move to Ivor Tower.
In Ebon Keep the boy finds a woman identical to Queen Bluegarden. She reveals the Bluegarden that rules Ivor Tower is a robotic imposter that imprisoned her and moved the kingdom across the land to rule them in her place. The boy returns to Ivor Tower and destroys the fake Queen's minion, Mungola, and the Queen destroys herself when she crashes through the floor and is destroyed. The townsfolk return to Ebon Keep, and Bluegarden's inventor, Tinker, says he can help the boy return to the space station. The boy uses Tinker's flying machine to gather the needed parts from Prehistoria and Antiqua to build a rocket, and is launched to the space station, Omnitopia.
At the station the boy meets with Professor Ruffleberg. Ruffleberg explains that he conducted his experiment 30 years ago, but they have all been trapped in the simulation, called Evermore, by the machinations of Ruffleberg's robotic butler, Carltron. Carltron sabotaged the experiment to strand them in Evermore, and has recently attempted to use robot duplicates of Ruffleberg's friends to take control of Evermore for himself. The boy returns to Gothica to retrieve Aegis' dormant power core and uses it to activate a teleporter to Carltron's lair. The boy destroys Carltron's strongest robots, and Ruffleberg finally deactivates him.
With Carltron deactivated, Evermore begins to de-stabilize as his influence on the world has been lost, and cataclysms break out across the planet. The boy quickly returns to the surface to gather Elizabeth, Horace, and Bluegarden, and return to Omnitopia. Ruffleberg returns all of them to the real world, and the boy awakens outside the movie theater, where a movie "Secret of Evermore" is showing. The boy wonders if his adventure was all a dream brought on by a movie. At the mansion, Ruffleberg and his friends contemplate what will happen to Evermore without them, and how they will adapt to the new world after being gone for so long.
Secret of Evermore is an Action RPG. The player controls both the boy and his dog, switching control between them with the Select button. The two roam areas freely, engaging or fleeing from enemies they encounter. Enemies that are killed reward experience points and money, and sometimes leave remains that can be collected for alchemy ingredients and other items. The boy fights with an assortment of swords, axes, and spears, as well as a bazooka, while the dog bites and claws enemies. Some weapon types are needed to solve puzzles; axes can knock down walls and barricades, while spears can be thrown to hit switches and distant enemies.
In lieu of a traditional magic system, Secret of Evermore employs an alchemy system. The boy collects ingredients that are used to create alchemy by combining them together; for instance, combining Wax and Oil creates the Flash formula. Using an alchemy spell uses up ingredients, and the player cannot cast alchemy when they do not have the proper ingredients.
As the player uses weapons and alchemy in combat, they level up and become stronger. Weapons gain special attacks as they level up, while alchemy simply does more damage.
Development on Secret of Evermore began in early 1994 at Square Soft, the Redmond, Washington office of the Japanese parent company Square. The concept of a boy traveling with his dog through a world based on cheesy B movies was dictated from overseas, whereupon Square Soft began work on the detailed storyline. This resulted in popular culture references and dialog that are distinctly American for a mainstream console RPG. The game's associate producer and writer, George Sinfield, decided that making such references would be familiar to American players. The working title for the game was "Vex and the Mezmers." Producer Alan Weiss originally had the concept of a group of magic users who "could tell dream stories and transport the listeners into the experience, virtually. During one of these storytelling sessions, Vex got trapped in one of these worlds and started to corrupt the dreams. The game was going to be about finding Vex and defeating him." But when George Sinfield asked the name be changed, the studio had a naming competition which resulted in Secret of Evermore.
Many of Secret of Evermore's elements were copied from Secret of Mana because they had been proven to be effective. The size of the game was an early issue. It was decided that the game would be single-player to preserve memory because it was originally planned to be only 12-megabits. However, the game would double to 24-megabits near the end of development. Various pieces of concept art were designed by Daniel Dociu. Using computer software, including SGI Indy II and Alias workstations, the game's artwork and design were mapped out by three animators, four background artists, and a 3D rendering artist. It was put together using the company's SAGE (Square's Amazing Graphical Editor) program, led by programmer Brian Fehdrau. Rather than having to hand off their work to the programmers, the artists and designers were able to test their ideas directly using the SAGE program. Using another company program, SIGIL (Square Interpreted Game Intelligence Language), Secret of Evermore was made into a final product. One of the worlds that was cut was called Romancia "where 'everything is all flowers and sweet stuff, excessively so.' It was pink and purple."
There is a persistent misconception that the game is, or was released in lieu of, a follow-up to Secret of Mana. Other Square titles such as Final Fantasy VI and Chrono Trigger were being localized simultaneously with the production of Secret of Evermore. Fehdrau explained in an interview that Secret of Evermore was not created in place of Seiken Densetsu 3 and that the team that developed Secret of Evermore was assembled from newly hired staff, and would otherwise never have been assembled. Several of the team members joined Humongous Entertainment, which spawned Cavedog Entertainment, while the rest of the team spread to other Seattle-area game studios like Electronic Arts, Boss Game Studios, Microsoft Game Studios, and Gas Powered Games, among others.
Secret of Evermore was released on October 1, 1995, in North America. In 1996, it was translated into German, French and Spanish for the non-English-speaking market in some PAL territories, including Australia and New Zealand. Some PAL versions were packaged in a large box and included a strategy guide.
The score for Secret of Evermore was composed and produced by Jeremy Soule as his first video game project. While still in high school, Soule was a large fan of video games and he felt that the scores in most games "lacked drama and intensity." After completing high school, Soule created an experimental demo showcasing what he felt video game scores should sound like. Soule was hired by Square Soft after reviewing the demo and was promptly given the task to score Secret of Evermore. The score is described by Soule as a mix of ambient sounds and low-key music. The soundtrack was released on a CD containing 29 tracks, the first eight of which are arranged versions of the original sound. The disc was published by Square and was only initially available to those who pre-ordered Secret of Evermore.
Secret of Evermore received positive reviews from most media outlets. Most publications praised its graphics. For instance, RPGFan called the game a "wonderful visual experience," applauding its use of color, animation, and background. Zachary Lewis of RPGamer noted that the locales found in Secret of Evermore were detailed in a much more realistic way than other games of the genre. GamePro was complimentary of its American art-style, but longed for the Japanese art found in other Square titles. Another highlight for many critics was gameplay, particularly aspects also found in Secret of Mana such as the ring menu.
Reviewers were more critical concerning the game's sound. Although the musical score was appreciated for its overall quality, both RPGFan and RPGamer found that there were too few adequately long tracks, with mediocre ambient sound effects to fill the dead time. Critics were mixed on the issue of Secret of Evermore being the first game developed by Square in the United States. Super Play found that the game was not up to the standards held by other Square games. Others noted that Secret of Evermore was a decent first attempt by the American team. GamePro dubbed the game "worthy of a sequel," while Game Players anticipated another game from the same development team.