joyousmenma93 (joyousmenma93) wrote,

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Firechick's Game Reviews: Adventures of Mana

I give the first game in the World of Mana series (the remake, to be more specific) 80/100!

Unlike most gamers that I know of, the first video game console I ever owned was the GameBoy Color, a lime green one. I played the heck out of that thing every chance I got. Now, it's unfortunately broken beyond repair, and I'm not very tech savvy, so I don't know how to get it to work again. Being that the GameBoy was my first game console, I usually played Pokemon games on it, completely ignoring other games. But when I hear people talk about what they consider to be the best GameBoy game ever, many of them say a little game called Final Fantasy Adventure deserves that title. Supposedly a spin-off from Final Fantasy, the developers then decided that it'd be better off as its own series, and thus, the Mana franchise was born (You may recognize games such as Secret of Mana and Seiken Densetsu 3 as being part of it, since those two are always mentioned in the fandom, and usually considered the best). Then I learned it was remade, then retitled Adventures of Mana. I bought a PS Vita recently, and this was one of the titles I bought for it. I've finished it now, and do I consider this to be one of the best games ever? Eh, not really. But there's definitely a lot to like about it, and I can see why people love it so much.

The story is actually kind of dark, especially in the beginning. The world is in peril. The Dark Lord has near complete control of the world, and the only thing he needs to complete his reign of terror is the fabled Tree of Mana, said to sit high atop of Mt. Illusia. In the midst of this, a combat slave named Sumo and two of his friends are forced to fight for their masters' amusement and want nothing more than to be free. Unfortunately, one of Sumo's friends dies after a grueling fight, and it's his death that finally spurs him into action. During his escape, he runs into a mysterious girl named Fuji, who accompanies him on his quest for freedom as thanks for helping her. But things quickly spiral out of control as the two find themselves at the epicenter of preventing the Dark Lord's dominance of the world once and for all.

Now, I've only played the PS Vita version of this game, not the one for the GameBoy Color, so this review will focus solely on the Vita version. The graphics are really nice. The colors are bright but not obnoxiously so, the character designs are decent and well made, the 3D models are cute and don't look odd or unsettling, and the maze-like dungeons are kinda fun to explore if you know what to do and where to go. I don't say this lightly, but I think it needs to be said: Adventures of Mana has one of the absolute best video game soundtracks I've ever heard. I can't be objective about this, as there's really no denying it: The soundtrack is a masterpiece. Every single piece of music is extremely awesome and well done, and there wasn't a single piece that I didn't like. From the beautiful piece that plays when the game starts up, to the swelling overworld theme that pumps you up, to the absolutely epic battle theme that plays when you fight Davias and Julius near the end, this soundtrack absolutely NAILS everything. Kenji Ito, you deserve an award for such an amazing OST, and from what I heard, he was only 23 when he worked on the original chip tunes for the GameBoy version! I could listen to this soundtrack all day if I wanted to, and I have a few times, it's that awesome!

I really wish I could rate this game higher, but unfortunately I have to dock points for three main flaws it has. For one, the story is very linear and barebones. All you really do is travel around with companions, fight monsters, and try to save the world from evil, and every scenario you encounter follows identical plot beats to those in other stuff before and after Adventures came out. It doesn't help that the game is extremely short. You can beat it in 8-10 hours tops, especially if you take the time to get every single spell and weapon. This is probably because the original GameBoy didn't have enough internal storage to handle more than a certain amount of content. I'm not a tech expert, but I hear that doing pixelated games takes a lot of work, more so than doing 3D CG models, and GameBoy cartridges didn't have much in the way of space and storage. The remake doesn't add anything new like new storylines or side quests or anything, so it runs for about the same length of time as the original despite being on a system that can handle more content. The fun gameplay mitigates this somewhat, as the strength of your attacks comes from filling a gauge, and if you let it go all the way, you can unleash powerful attacks that do a lot of damage. Plus, the game expects you to switch your spells and weapons around a lot. An enemy can be immune to fire attacks but weak to ice, or you won't be able to hit one with a sword but with a long flail. Unfortunately, there's nothing in the game that tells you which enemies are weak to what attacks or spells, so unless you figure it out yourself, you'll have a really hard time defeating certain bosses.

But the game's biggest problem is its characters. Or rather, the fact that they're all really one note and bland. They're admittedly a product of their time, when certain character archetypes were being used and reused over and over again after being shortly established beforehand. The player character is the typical shounen hero who saves the day, Fuji is the typical mysterious woman with magic powers who's sought after by the enemies, Gemma is a strong old man, Watts is the dwarf who makes your weapons, Marcy is the helpful robot, so on and so forth. They each have different abilities when paired with Sumo. Fuji can heal, Marcy can restore MP, and Watts sells you equipment, again, so on and so forth. They don't really have a whole lot of depth to them, which I think is because the game was so short and so limited on storage space that the creators couldn't give them more depth. They're not bad characters per se, but by today's standards, they can be considered bland and rather one-note. I also wish Fuji had a more proactive role in the game, as other than healing you when she was paired up with you, she's little more than a damsel in distress who gets kidnapped a few times by various villains, who also don't get explored nearly as much as they should. Though in terms of uselessness, the character of Lester is unfortunately the most useless one of all. Not only does he only appear in one part of the game and never gets utilized after that, his ONLY, and I mean his ONLY support ability is that he throws knives at enemies and changes the background music! That's it! Nothing he does contributes to the story in any way whatsoever. He's not a bad character, and I feel bad about riffing on him like this as I do like his design and personality in-game, but having a character only throw knives and change the background music doesn't necessarily make for a useful party member in combat. The creators really could have utilized him more. Fuji may be a typical damsel in distress, but she can at least heal you, which is definitely more useful than changing the background music!

Objectively, that's about all I can say on Adventures of Mana. Subjectively...I actually still enjoy it, flaws and all, and I admittedly like it better than Secret of Mana. The original SoM at least. Don't kill me! I'll still defend the SoM remake to my dying breath, but even with its pretty glaring flaws, I still genuinely enjoy Adventures of Mana. It may not be one of the best games ever, but there's still quite a bit to like about it. Honestly, if we didn't get the original Final Fantasy Adventure, the Mana series wouldn't have come to be, and this first game did lay the groundwork for the Mana franchise as a whole, so it still has that going for it. Overall, if you want a short but sweet, fun game that's also really, really sad, give Adventures of Mana a try. I really enjoy it, and it's a good little romp for any fantasy game fan.
Tags: adventures, game, mana, review

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