Children of Mana
Don’t ask me why, but the Mana series (Seiken Densetsu) has always intrigued me. Maybe it’s because Square-Enix has spoiled the Japanese for years with new parts while Europe was left out cold. Therefore I jumped a hole in the ozon layer when I heard that Children of Mana (DS) would be arriving in our stores as well.
My “connection” with the Mana games is from back in the age of the SNES. Japan was able to enjoy the first part of the series already, but in 1993 also the rest of the world got a taste of the legendary sequel: Secret of Mana. The action-RPG was very well received by the prehistoric games press and the title quickly rose up on my wishlist. I looked for it in all sorts of shops hoping to spend my money but when I didn’t find it anywhere I was forced to put Zelda 3 back in my SNES out of pure misery.
Years passed and the torture called Secret of Mana become no more than some background frustration. I had almost forgotten about the game when someone told me about emulators. Suddenly I could play just about any classic game on my PC. You can imagine which game was the first to be played by me. Finally it was my turn and despite the fake emulator feeling I even enjoyed it too. The game hadn’t lost any of its shine and can truly be called a classic.
I realise I’ve been talking like an old man for the past two paragraphs about a game most of you probably don’t even know. I just want to show that I was really looking forward to the latest game from the Mana family: Children of Mana. With high expectations I turned on my DS.
Children of Mana continues where Sword of Mana (GBA) stopped. The island Illusia is, after years of misery, back the peaceful place it once was. This doesn’t last long though as quickly the home of the sacred Mana tree gets hit by a new disaster. And of course it’s your job to go look for the source of evil and destroy it.
To successfully complete the adventure you have four types of weaponry at your disposal: sword, bow, hammer and sling. The hammer is the strongest but hard to hold and the bow is of course useful to take down enemies from a distance. With the sword and the sling you limit yourself to endless chopping down the monsters you meet. And there are quite a lot of them. The dungeons are truly filled with vermin as I’ve rarely seen. Enemies pop up like mushrooms and keep firing at you from all sides. This is immediately the biggest downpoint of this game. The adventure element that should bring the necessary variation is completely gone and instead you get the message to kill hordes of hostiles. You play this game on auto-pilot and this doesn’t help the game experience.
Next to weapons you can also use magic to fight your enemies. You can choose from a number of ghosts that will accompany you and on the road you collect as many magic jewels as possible to learn new abilities. But in the end all this doesn’t matter at all. 90% of the time you’ll be bashing buttons while staring out the window. Only the giant end bosses that you meet here and there will manage to stop you from dreaming away.
Qua presentation and looks there’s little negative to be said. There’s quite some variation in the envinronment and everything looks beautiful. Also the music is some of the best I’ve heard on my DS. Still, despite the good finishing you never get the feeling to be part of an epic adventure. For that I miss the puzzles, traps, secrets and more of that explorer nonsense. I experienced the hack&slash marathon called Children of Mana as a form of digital occupational therapy.
Maybe I expected too much and am therefore über critical. Still I can hardly imagine that someone gets drawn into this Mana game which is extremely monotone. You can only hope that the ancient Secret of Mana gets released on Virtual Console as then you’ll be sure to get quality for your money.