Review by ray_lightcaster

"Flaws outweight the good points by too much"

Quick Summary

As an action-RPG, Children of Mana reminds me of Diablo-style mindless dungeon crawling reincarnated in a cute Japanese cartridge. When my younger brother was addicted to the original Diablo, I saw that title more of a mouse-clicking action game than a RPG game. He was simply frantically clicking his way into the deepest of dungeons, obsessed with the item collection and character leveling-up. I could not excite myself with this Mana title with the same level of keen-ness which my brother exhibited. Simply put, the flaws outweighed the good points by too much.

Before I move on with the review proper, I will like to qualify my gaming experiences with regards to this title. The only Mana game I have played was Secret of Mana, which I enjoyed. As I am no fan of the Mana series, you will decide later if this has biased my assessment in any way. Our viewing glasses are all tainted by past experiences; so let us simply acknowledge and move on.

General Description

The basic idea sounds fun enough if you are into dungeon-crawling. There are random dungeons with spawning enemies and Zelda-type bosses. Once a dungeon is cleared, you would move on to a new one where new pieces of the story are revealed. No surprise, I guess.

There are new gadgets to collect along the way. These items are pegged to character levels. This means that you may gain a new item but would not be able to use it yet. Thus, there is incentive for the gamer to level up the character.

Old areas could be revisited for side quests. Besides gold rewards, you would gain gems. In simple terms, these gems – giving you extra statistics or battle effects – are bonuses to keep you coming back for more dungeon visits.

Spirits are this title's answer to magic. By equipping a certain spirit, you gain access to specific magic effects. Each spirit has two types of magic. The first is a specific attack type and the second is for support magic. You will probably spend some time to figure out which is your favorite and will subsequently stick to it. For me, it is quite simple. Attack will be physical melee and magic will take care of healing. Reasons are two-fold. First, inventory space is limited and I find that I do not have enough healing items most of the time. Magic is my answer to the problem. Second, attack magic is generally weak and does not always hit the targets. Thus, it does not have much attacking function for me. Of course, this is about personal preference. Be sure to check out before making judgement call.

What's Good?

I hope to find something good to say about this title but honestly, I have serious difficulty in doing so. If I really need to fill up this section, I will say that the graphics look quite decent. Not fantastic, but decent. If you like Japanese anime-style characters, you will not be let down. But having seen how FFIII delivers on DS, the graphics here is really nothing much to crow about. The cute dungeon presentation here does bring to mind Chocobo's Mysterious Dungeon on the original Playstation platform. That was a title I enjoyed very much due to the difficulty and uncertainty created by the randomness of dungeon maps and enemy types. The random elements in Children of Mana however are much more limited.

What's Bad?

I am very much disappointed about the poor game implementation. The first glaring error happens in the first few minutes after starting a new game. The gamer is supposed to be able to customise the hair colour of the main character. However, the programmers forgot to change this customised colour in the in-game portraits. You would thus notice that the hair colour in the in-game portrait is different from that of the moving character in the game maps. Will it affect the game play? Obviously not. But it does leave one wondering about the quality of pre-launch tests.

I find not much replayability value (single player) for this title. After a quick 8-hour-plus run, I switched to a new game with another main character. I realised that there is no substantial difference for picking different characters. Properly-thought-through scriptwriting could have used background character story-telling to increase the story depth. Sadly, it is not so for this title. To be fair, I have not finished the entire story to be able to give a full assessment. Nevertheless, I would be surprised if any difference exists. If you manage to complete two full runs using different characters, be sure to give me your assessment. For me, my time will be better spent conquering other titles.

Using magic in this game is close to being useless. The rewards are simply negligible. Despite being a fan of magic-using characters, I ended up button-mashing (ie. using physical attacks) most of the time. This alone says a lot, considering magic-user is my favorite character type in D&D games, may it be on paper or PC.

The key reason for side quest is to collect gems. Gems enable you to modify your statistics or generate new battle effects. The problem is that the modification lack true variation and I am not motivated to do the side quests at all. This is in contrast to games such as FFT Advance, where I would spend hours collecting the treasures featured in side quests. Of course, the comparison isn't on even grounds since the genre is not exactly the same. The point I was trying to make, however, is the attractiveness of in-game side quests.

The Recommendation

My score for this title is 2.5 out of 5. I would not mind if this game comes as a Xmas present. Purchasing it with my cash, though, is a bit painful. If you hate dungeon-crawling, be sure to skip this title (and I am surprised you read so far). If you are a fan, you may wish to rent it before deciding if it makes sense to buy. For me, this title is going back to the resale market via a second-hand store.

Reviewer's Rating:   2.5 - Playable

Originally Posted: 05/21/07

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