Review by Tomatini

Reviewed: 01/02/07

My first mana experience.

Children of Mana is a hack n' slash RPG from the developers of Shining Soul and was released in November 2006. For those of you that are wondering, Shining Soul I is a rather mediocre GBA ARPG released back in 2002 which many, including myself, believe brought disgrace to the "Shining" series. I didn't exactly go into this expecting much, and thus was not disappointed.

The tale begins with four orphans who lost their parents to a horrible incident at the base of the mana tree which resides in the center of mana village,and seek answers .At the core of the story, it's your run of the mill "Evil is emerging, please hero save the world!" tale. It feels completely uninspired and is unbelievably dull. The dialog is rather corny with absolutely no signs of humor or emotion. The characters are boring with little to no signs of life. Thankfully, the cut scenes don't last that long and the story is not a major part of this game. Overall, the story of Children of Mana is forgettable to say the least.

Children of Mana starts off in a land called Illusia. As you progress, more areas open up and the world expands before your eyes. From the beginning you have the option to pick one of four characters, each of which have their own strengths and weakness's. Ferrik, an overall balanced fighter who prefers the sword. Tamber, master of the bow and greatest strength being that of agility and stealth. Poppin, the youth of the group at age 9, has very weak physical stats but his superior magical abilities more than make up for it. Lastly is Wanderer, who looks kind of like the dwarf from Lord of the Rings, with superior physical attacks but severely lacking magical abilities.

After you make your selection, you will also have the choice of 8 different magical forces to chose from. Each of these have their own traits and elemental tie-ins which add a minor touch of strategy to the game, albeit a very minor touch. As for weapons, you start with a lone sword but as you continue along in your quest 3 more weapons come into play. A bow, which is helpful for long distance attacks. A flail, which is used primarily to draw your enemies closer and get items unattainable by the usual methods, but also has a 360 degree attack. Last but not least, a hammer. With the hammer, you destroy objects that stand in your way as well as send your enemies flying like pinballs with one mighty swing. The game utilizes the Dual-Weapon system by pressing A and X respectively, so at any one time you are able to use 2 of the 4 weapons. Magic comes into play pressing down the Y button and releasing the force into the open. Doing such will cause a powerful attack to be demonstrated by your elemental of choice.

When it comes to combat and the effectiveness of each, the flail is almost useless and the hammer takes far too long between each swing. You can upgrade the length the flail can reach and the speed of the hammer through gems (which I'll explain a bit later on), but in the end the sword is the best weapon to use. This is mostly due to the fact it's the only weapon with the 3-hit combo. The bow is good if you are low on HP or if the enemy is far away, but takes too long to kill your target in most cases even at the highest levels. Magic is useful when their is an array of enemies and you feel overrun, simply cast your elemental and it will attack all enemies with a set radius.

Gems are found on the combat field, or bought at a store (as are all weapons and items). The gems effect vary from boosting offense and defense to making your character immune to fire attacks. Gems can also be used to strengthen your elemental and to broaden the range and effectiveness of your weapons. As you progress through the game, the amount of gems you can attach to your character expands. Also, you are able to fuse 2 gems to make a much more powerful one.

The setting of said combat takes place in 8 different dungeons. There are a set amount of levels in each dungeon (usually 8) with chances to save or leave the dungeon every 4 levels. You cannot change weapons in the dungeons themselves or leave on your own free will until you have the chance to save the game. Your performance between intermissions are judged based on how many treasure chests you open, the amount of enemies killed and the time it took you. At the end of each dungeon their is a boss battle, and sadly after each dungeon is when the horrible story comes back into play. If you do well enough, you will be awarded a prize at the end of the boss battle, which comes in the forms of gems/weapons/items.

The enemies that beseech you vary depending on the dungeon and the level of said dungeon. After a while though, you will begin to realize you are fighting only slightly different versions of the same enemies you fought in the last dungeon, and it gets rather repetitive and boring. After the first dungeon, you will be able to complete sub quests by paying for the information or talking to people in the village. These involve fighting through the exact same dungeons over and over again, and only sometimes fighting different enemies. It's a good way to level up, but is in most cases far too repetitive to enjoy.

This truly is a game of constant grind. You do the same exact thing you have done in the first dungeon in the next 7 dungeons until you beat the game, in which case you can choice to continue playing through the EXACT SAME DUNGEONS again to complete anything you didn't in your first play through. This wouldn't be a problem if the dungeons and the enemies inside the dungeons weren't so poorly designed or incredibly bland. You can barely stay awake fighting through the dungeon one time, but for some reason the developers expect you do the side quests in the exact same areas. Luckily, side quests aren't mandatory and the game is rather short. I completed it in 14 hours and 30 minutes to be exact. I did exactly 8 side quests, but mostly just followed the story. If you like doing the side quests, and somehow end up truly enjoying this game, you can easily clock an additional 10-20 hours.

Children of Mana is a mindless hack n' slash RPG. If you are looking for anything more, look elsewhere. My biggest gripe with this title is the lack of locations, you only wander through one town the entire game, and 8 combat arenas. It's far too repetitive, easy and short by any stretch of the imagination. Buy or Rent? Only rent if you truly like the genre, otherwise pass on it altogether.

Rating:   3.0 - Fair

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