Secret of Evermore has always been panned by those who still harbor a grudge for Secret of Mana 2 never making it to English-speaking shores, but after playing it I don’t think most of the criticism is deserved. The game basically integrates the battle and menu system from Secret of Mana and adds its own unique magic system (Alchemical spells that require certain ingredients).
The story is simple and not that original (a boy from Earth goes to an imaginary world), but compared to similar games on the SNES at that time it feels pretty much unique. Sure, in the end the story is just another save-the-world-plot, but it’s still different in style and tone to other fantasy games. In some ways the feel of the game is that of a much toned down Earthbound, but with an American, 80ies vibe.
My biggest gripe with the game is that it inherited the battle system from its big brother, Secret of Mana. It’s a real-time attack system that forces you to wait until your gauge has fully loaded. If you don’t, your attacks will only deal minimal damage. While this system in theory seems like a clever way to force you to act more tactically, it praxis it doesn’t work too well.
Most of the time, due to the limited attack range of your weapons, you’ll miss the enemies. Either you then hack futile at the enemies with a low gauge or you retreat until your gauge has reloaded. This often resulted in my dog killing more enemies than myself, since computer-controlled characters (enemies inclusive) always hit with their attacks at full gauge. Another annoying “feature” of the game is the kickback from getting hit by an enemy, which can throw you a bit and stun you. If you’re unlucky, you get swarmed by enemies and hit until you die without any chance of resistance.
I prefer either round based battle systems or real action-battle systems like in Zelda or Terranigma, which are much better suited to this kind of gameplay. Still, if one manages to live with the annoying aspects of the game, it can be quite fun.