Review by MegaHomeyX

"Don't buy this"

I was introduced to the Mana series through one of the best games created: Secret of Mana for the Super Nintendo. Secret of Mana was (and still is) quite a wonderful game, full of real-time action/RPG combat, housing an interesting plot, and even throwing a few lines of comedy in here and there. So I figured that Children of Mana, being on the more advanced Nintendo DS, would be even better. I was sadly disappointed.

Story (3/10): The plot was crappy. Absolute garbage, through and through. It tells the story of how your character, orphaned by a tragedy 10 years ago, now lives on the island of Illusia. All of a sudden, monsters attack the Tower of Mana where your priestess friend Tess is praying. So, you set off and beat the crap out of them, little knowing just how big your adventure will get...

Unfortunately, it doesn't get any better than that. The plot never, ever seems to pick up much more. Sure, there are a few small suprising events, but nothing noteworthy. You are opposed by the Mana Lord who, to me, never seemed to quite explain why he was fighting you, except that "I'ma fill the world with mana, ch00b, now diez! Shoop da whoop!" Okay, so he didn't talk like an immature leetspeaker, but the point is made. In the end, the final villain never seems to have a good reason to fight you; it seems more to be an excuse on the programmers' parts to add an extra level and boss battle than to actually improve the plot.

Graphics (9/10): Pretty good. Some of the enemies' expressions when you hit them are funny. There are some well-drawn anime sequences as well, which were made even more impressive considering the fact that it was done on a small card for a handheld system.

Music/Sound (7/10): The music and sound wasn't bad. Nothing really memorable like Secret of Mana had, however a few tunes (such as the background music in the Tower of Mana or Path of Life) were very good, and nothing was ever poor. The sound effects were very appropriate, though a few actions (like stepping on spikes) eerily lacked sound effects.

Gameplay (7/10): Like Secret of Mana, battle in Children of Mana takes place in real-time. You don't have to wait for your turn to attack; just walk up to the shmuck in your way and chop him to pieces! Four types of weapon are available: sword, flail, bow, and hammer. Each weapon has a purpose, and some are required. You can also bring one of eight elemental spirits with you to each dungeon, and call them using MP. The cost of calling them into the fray is the same for each spirit: 5 MP * level of spell (spell levels are determined by equipped gems). Each spirit has an offensive and defensive spell, and your strategy in battle can be modified to great extent based upon how you utilize them. Gems can be equipped to enhance various aspects of your character, from stats to spell levels to immunity to poison and beyond. And in case you weren't powerful enough yet, if you take or give enough damage your fury meter will fill. Activation of Fury Mode will increase the speed of your attacks and allow you to use special Fury Moves with each weapon.

All of that makes for some interesting fighting, which is a good thing, because fighting is about all you'll be doing. Sure, there's a town, and you can talk to the inhabitants (which will very occasionally be necessary to advance the plot), but the only real purpose of the town is to purchase, sell, and equip weapons, armor, gems, and items, as well as to change your elemental spirit and accept side quests. The majority of the game is spent in dungeons, where you advance through each "zone" by finding a "Gleamdrop" and placing it in the "Gleamwell". What are these drops and wells exactly? I don't know, but they're there. While there is some variation in how you find these drops and wells, the action ultimately revolves around them (except for when you fight semi-rare boss battles, in which case the action revolves predicatbly around killing the boss before they can kill you).

There is a multiplayer mode as well. I haven't had the pleasure of trying it yet, but I don't imagine it adds too much to the game. There are some things that can only be found through multiplayer cooperation, however I don't expect they add too much to the game. The game can be played quite successfully in single-player mode.

Replay Value (6/10): Sure, you could play through again as the other three characters, but why would you want to? Even if you have a friend, I doubt this game will maintain your interest that long.

Overall (6/10)

I got this score by taking a straight average. Incidentally, that's what this game is: merely average. Think of it as Final Fantasy: Crystal Chronicles in 2D, with most of the plot and a lot of the side features sucked out of it: that's what this game is. A potentially good game ruined by a lack of good depth and good writers.

Rent or Buy?

Rent this game first. Instead of spending 25 or 30 bucks to buy it outright, rent it first. You can probably beat it in five days, and you probably won't want to play through it again any time soon. Maybe you will want to buy it afterwards... but don't bank on it.

Reviewer's Rating:   3.0 - Fair

Originally Posted: 07/13/07

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