Review by w31uelv

"A great game for what it is."

Children of Mana has been seen as a disappointment by some. I share some of these complaints; however I believe that people who absolutely hate this game started playing it with a preconceived notion about what it was going to be.

Before we begin, one thing needs to be clear. Children of Mana is a dungeon crawler plain and simple. If you don't like the dungeon crawler formula you will almost certainly not like this game. Most of your time will be mowing down hordes of enemies inside one of the games 8 dungeons. In between you will spend your time in one village buying and selling goods and rearranging your gem frame to fit your needs. Now for the bulk of the review:

Gameplay

The main part of the game is spent in dungeons trying to make your way to the last floor or "zone" of it. Each of these zones is separated by a gleamwell. To activate the gleamwell and move to the next zone you must unite the gleamdrop with the gleamwell. The gleamdrop for each floor can be acquired by a number of different tasks. You are given a hint as to how to obtain it on the lower touch screen which shows your radar and your stats. Sometimes the gleamdrop is hidden in a breakable item such as a pot. Other times you might have to eliminate all of the enemies, or even one certain enemy. There is a lot of repetition in this game, but dungeon crawlers usually have this. Go to dungeon -> kill -> go to town -> repeat. CoM utilizes this formula in a moderately fun and appealing way. There is also a potentially infinite amount of replay value through the dudbear quests which never end, but they only take you through different parts of past dungeons. So in someways it seems like backtracking, but it is indeed not.

One of the things in particular that I liked about CoM was the gem frame. By utilizing the gem frame and the various gems that you can find in dungeons or buy from the gem shop, you can create a unique “build” to fit your playing style. Granted that not all playing styles are effective in CoM, you can still have fun making different set-ups for different situations. Speaking of non-effective playing styles, one of the chief complaints people have about CoM is the utter uselessness of magic. The magic system is obviously underpowered because you can only take one spirit to summon into battle, and that spirit only has two spells at their disposal, an attack one, and a support one. Magic cannot be easily utilized on its own, and a combination of magic and regular attacks are necessary for some level of success.

Graphics

The sprites and backgrounds are in the style of most 2d RPG's on the SNES. If you have enough time to pay attention to the backgrounds in between all the action you might find them a little lacking. Other people have stated correctly that this game does not utilize the DS's hardware to its fullest extent. Even so, the sprites are animated well and do their part well. Aside from the sprites there are also beautifully animated FMVs located periodically throughout the game, enough to keep you interested in the story. One complaint that I had about the stills of the characters was that even if you opted to change your characters hair/clothes from the default, the characters still life portrait would remain the same. No blue hair for you Ferrick.

Sound

The soundtrack to CoM is beautiful, it can almost seem like there is a mini orchestra playing on your DS. The songs are interesting and set the mood well for the dungeons they are in. I have clocked a total of 10 hours playing CoM and never once have I felt the need to turn the sound down because of an annoying song.

Summary

+Lots of Action
+Beautiful Graphics
+Beautiful Sound
+Gem Frame
+Lots of side quests
-Short main quest
-Repetitive at points
-Cliched story

If you are a fan of the gauntlet series I would advise you to pick up this game. If you are a fan of the Diablo series I would advise you to pick up this game. However, if you are a die hard fan of the Mana series, or if you like to use magic in role playing games, this game is simply not for you.


Reviewer's Score: 8/10 | Originally Posted: 11/14/06


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