Has “Mana” lost its magic?

By Spencer . May 31, 2007 . 8:26pm

Dawn of Mana has been out in North America for a week now much to the disdain of video game critics. I’ve been playing it too and as much as I want to say something glowing about it I can’t. Ok… well it’s easy on the eyes and Square-Enix did a good job transitioning the colorful artwork the mana series is known for into the scary third dimension. However, you’re not “watching” Dawn of Mana, you’re playing it. The main character, Keldric wields a sword that also shoots out vines so he can grab and fling rabites. Yeah, it’s hilarious to toss a mushboom with the Havok physics engine, but the novelty wears off fast.

 

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It seems like Square-Enix tried to implement the Havok physics engine as much as they could in Dawn of Mana. Before you approach a group of peaceful monsters you have to put them into a “panic” by knocking rocks into them or hitting another monster into them. While panicked, monsters freeze with a number over their head, making them easy targets to attack by hitting the square button. Since monsters don’t give experience points the only way to “level up” is by hitting panicked monsters so they drop medals. Medals boost Keldric’s maximum HP and attack, but not forever. At the end of each chapter all of the precious medals you earned are erased and if you get a high enough ranking you earn emblems that grant Keldric a permanent stat boost. Unless you earn an exceptionally high grade when you complete a chapter expect Keldric to level down when you enter the next, harder chapter. It’s frustrating to think all of the time you put into build Keldric is wiped out as a reward for completing a level. What is really annoying about the whole panic system is if you ignore scaring monsters and rush into fighting you’re not going to get medals. You can’t just jump into battle with your trigger finger on the square button you have to find a rock or throw an enemy if you want any kind of reward.

 

The story in Dawn of Mana isn’t that interesting either. On the plus side it does tie in with the other mana games. If you’re a fan of the franchise you’ll notice familiar locations and clear connections like the elemental spirits telling the story. However, following Keldric’s quest to rescue Ritizia, the traditional damsel in distress with magical powers, is a cliché start for the mana linage. Instead Dawn of Mana is more like a virtual playground where you fling barrels and knock over stacks of logs set in the Mana universe. Or maybe it’s a really attractive looking Havok Physics demo. Either way it’s missing one of the key things that made the Mana franchise great playing with friends. A second player can control Faye, a floating fairy who casts spells to boost Keldric, but you’re limited to being a Keldric’s assistant.

 

Square-Enix has been criticized about their stream of remakes, but instead of spending all the time developing Dawn of Mana I wonder if they would have better success translating Seiken Densetsu 3. Just add in online play and sell it as a budget Xbox Live Arcade title or give it a full remake and bring the Mana series out of drudgery.


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  • http://www.squarehaven.com/editors/Jeriaska/ Jeriaska

    Indeed. We need Shinyaku Seiken Densetsu 3.

  • jeffx

    You’re right on every point. I couldn’t care less for this Mana. A non-gamer friend of mine told me he wanted to buy a PS2 just because he heard there was a sequel to his childhood smash hit Secret of Mana, I said don’t bother dude! You’re gonna ruin some perfect memories.

    Good thing Atelier Iris 3 came out to save the situation… game RULES HARD

  • Arc

    I think the fan expectations meant bad news for this game before it was even released. Everyone was expecting Secret of Mana in 3D or something, and unfortunately this game is not that. However, I’ve been playing and enjoying this game for what it is without trying to hold it up to some standard that it is not.

    Perhaps it would have been better to release this game calling it something other than “Seiken Densetsu 4″, and then the review scores might have improved. I can’t deny that I’d love a more “traditional” Mana game in 3D with such beautiful graphics as these, though.

    Then again, I liked Children of Mana (I have someone to play multiplayer with, so maybe that helps), and I’m looking forward to Heroes of Mana. But I do think that what the “World of Mana” needs is another blockbuster title to go along with all the other side games.

  • Hello Hello

    Unfortunately, this series seems to be done for. If Square-Enix has a heart it will remake Seiken Densetsu 3 for the Nintendo DS, and then let the series rest in peace.

  • hikarutsukino

    When I played secret of mana (many years ago) i loved and now still love it! It’s was my first rpg ever, and made me fan of the genre. I love seiken densetsu 3 with it’s character-fest and legend of mana with the being-part-of-the-world feeling, too

    About the roots, I think they have returned to them , but unfirtanaly to the BAD ones (final fantasy adventure) I hate damsels on distress (WTF was that scene between the hero and the heroine before batle in sword of mana!, well that was a change… for WORSE ), monotony in the quests (children of mana), only a male hero to play as (dwan of mana) this is 2009!

    In Seiken games I could be a girl kicking monters asses in a ravishing escenaries developing a touching story and HAVING FUN AS HELL. what happen to that SQUARE-ENIX?!

  • hikarutsukino

    When I played secret of mana (many years ago) i loved and now still love it! It’s was my first rpg ever, and made me fan of the genre. I love seiken densetsu 3 with it’s character-fest and legend of mana with the being-part-of-the-world feeling, too

    About the roots, I think they have returned to them , but unfirtanaly to the BAD ones (final fantasy adventure) I hate damsels on distress (WTF was that scene between the hero and the heroine before batle in sword of mana!, well that was a change… for WORSE ), monotony in the quest (children of mana), only a male hero to play as (dwan of mana) this is 2009!

    In Seiken games I could be a girl kicking montres asses in a ravishing escenaries developing a touching story and HAVING FUN AS HELL. what happen to that SQUARE-ENIX?!

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