Review by Gilgamesh1317

"....I can't think of a tagline."

Children of Mana is the first game in the Mana series to be released on the Nintendo DS, and was the action RPG in the series before the next two games experimented with different genres before dropping dead, being usurped by Square Enix's newer Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles and Kingdom Hearts franchises.

I feel somewhat inclined to be incredibly nice to Children of Mana. It's the last action RPG in the World Of Mana franchise and the last good game in the franchise (at least in my opinion) before the franchise seemingly died and got subsequently axed. It had a lot to live up to, given what it was following. And while it didn't fully deliver, it still provided me with hours of entertainment. It seems to rely on the player grinding to make itself longer, which I have no problem with personally, and it has great graphics and a nice soundtrack.

As I stated, the graphics in the game are great. The animated opening movie is gorgeous, and all throughout the game characters are represented by lovely looking portraits that are well designed. The ingame sprites are nice too; they get the job done at the very least. Some of the best looking stuff in the game is the giant monster bosses, which are pretty well done. I can't really fault the game here, to be honest. It looks really nice. The magical spells used by your spirit friends are pretty nice looking, too.

The soundtrack is alright, I guess. Some tracks, like the one in the first dungeon of the game, are pretty great, but others, like the one in the desert dungeon, are pretty easily forgotten in my experience. Like the graphics it gets the job done, but it could've been much better. It's a mix of good track and bland tracks. I don't know what else to say, because it's just...alright.

The gameplay isn't complex in any way. Combat comes down to mashing the A button most of the time, occasionally mashing the X button and maybe on rare occasions holding down the B button for magic. The game lets you run around with two main weapons, a spirit partner that grants you two spells, and a variety of items. You can switch weapons by holding down the R button and then assigning one of your four weapons to either the A or X buttons, and to change the currently selected item you hold down L and pick one with Y. Whenever you want a different set of spells, you go to the main hub town and talk to one of the spirits hanging around, and they'll go along with you. You hold down B to charge up your magic, and release to summon your spirit. If you stand near them, you'll get a good status effect. If you go away from them, they'll cast an element AOE spell. Holding down either A or X will let you carry out a special ability, from using your sword to block and deflect projectiles to using your flail to drag enemies and items to you from a distance.

As you beat up enemies, you fill up a bar in the bottom right corner of the screen. This is your Fury bar, and when it fills you can hit the Select button in order to activate Fury Mode and run around destroying everything. In Fury Mode, your attack power and speed are boosted, and by holding down the A button and X button you can charge special attacks that let you utterly destroy enemies very quickly. It goes away if you leave the floor you're on.

There are four weapon types: Sword, Flail, Bow and Hammer, which are given to you in that order. You can buy stronger weapons or find them, but apart from giving stat boosts they don't change much. You have to be a certain level to use the better things in the game, so if you want the best stuff you have to grind. I say this right now: most of this game is you mashing the attack buttons, healing yourself occasionally and probably never ever using your spirit buddy's magic. Magic is divided into several elements, with all the basic stuff here like Fire, Ice, Earth, and Wind and so on. Each spirit's main attack is a big AOE spell, with their secondary being a good special effect for you, such as Invisibility or getting special attack ability like being able to burn or freeze enemies or being able to slowly recover HP over time. Each Spirit has three levels, and in order to power them up to the 3rd level you need to use Gems.

What are Gems? Gems are special jewels that power you up when equipped, and they add a level of complexity to a pretty simple game. There's this thing called the Gem Frame that you get early on in the game. You can set various coloured Gems into it to power you up in various ways, from boosting your Attack/Defence/Magic stats to giving you immunity to status effects to powering up your Spirits and giving you special attacks. Gems have 7 types: Red, Blue, Yellow, Green, Orange, Purple and Impure. Red Gems boost attack strength and give you special attacks, Blue Gems boost your magic stats and power up your spirits, Yellow Gems boost your defensive stats and give you recovery abilities, Purple Gems affect your Fury powers, Orange affects your money and EXP gains, Green nullifies status effects and Impure do all sorts of things, usually raising one stat greatly whilst lowering another one greatly. You can fuse Gems to get new ones, and this is the only way you can get Purple, Green and Orange Gems. Gems will determine how well you do in dungeons, and if you have a poor setup you'll probably die.

There are four characters in the game, and I really don't know why. You will only need the generic RPG hero character, the young red-haired male who is decent in all areas except for magic, but even then he isn't too bad there either. The other characters all excel in one main area and suck in others. The girl is good at magic and is fairly fast, the little mage child is great at magic and crap at everything else, and the big cat dude with the awesome hat is great at physical combat and can take all manner of attacks is awful at magic. I guess all the different characters were designed for the multiplayer mode, which you'll probably never try because the multiplayer has been done better in the Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles series, which is probably why the World Of Mana franchise died; everything it did was done better in FFCC.

The story isn't anything really special. Basically a magical seal in your village fades away and chaos ensues. A nearby tower used to pray to the Mana Goddess is transformed into a dungeon, and you have to go save a friend of yours who was praying there. When you do, you find out that evil ancient monsters have been unleashed and they are invincible until you use the powers of a magical sword on them, at which point you tear them a new one. From there, an evil guy starts to bring about the end of the world and such. It's nothing special, but once again it gets the job done.

Children Of Mana is ultimately a good game, but I guess I only really like it because I like the gameplay and look of the game. It's actually pretty average in all areas, but it appeals to me with the oldschool Secret Of Mana-esque gameplay. I'd recommend it, but you're probably better off renting it or finding it preowned.

Reviewer's Rating:   3.5 - Good

Originally Posted: 10/05/09

Game Release: Children of Mana (EU, 01/12/07)

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