Pros: Multiplayer support, artistic graphics, awesome gameplay, two
separate quests, epic story
Cons: Poor second player AI, slightly easy difficulty
During the reign of the Game
Boy "Final Fantasy Adventure" or better known as Seiken Densetsu in Japan
was Square's action RPG experiment. However, it lead to an entire "Mana"
series that redefined the action RPG genre. Time passed and many
improvements were made from future games, such as the ring menu system,
classes and even mutiplayer support. In Square Enix's second collaboration
with Nintendo they remix a classic adding what they've learned from the
First of all Sword of Mana isn't a low budget remake like Link's
Awakening DX. They didn't slap color on and an add an extra dungeon and
call it a new game. This game got a massive overhaul, even larger than the
one found in Final Fantasy Origins. You'll notice the graphics changed
first if you're familiar to the old game. Gone are the simple four
gray-shaded sprites from the original game and out comes lush artistic
graphics that are reminiscent from Legend of Mana. The actual in game
graphics are close to Secret of Mana and retain the super deformed cute
cartoony look of the Super Nintendo mana games. The enemy sprites look
like they were lifted from Seiken Densetsu 3 ("secret of mana 3" which was
never released in the US) and put straight in the GBA. While this isn't a
technical feat, the sprites and animations will seem new to US gamers.
All the "mana" trademarks are present in the game, even ones that
weren't in the original. The ring system makes a return, its interface
(love it or hate it) is pretty much the same as any other mana game. You
spin the ring around to select what option you want. While the menu is
cool, it does get frustrating in intense battles when you're trying to
select "candy" to recover your HP. The class system makes a return as
well, but not as clear as it was in Seiken Densetsu 3. At each level up
you can choose a style of leveling up. The options are warrior, thief,
monk, sage, magician and random. When you level up your stats are altered
depending on which option you choose. The game keeps track of which level
up you take and you will get a title after so many level ups. For
instance, 5 warrior level ups nets you "fighter" title and you get a bonus
while attacking and 5 magician level ups yields "magician" title and gives
you a bonus for magic. There are a wide variety of titles to obtain, but
you could miss on getting titles for a long time if you don't concentrate
on one or two level up types.
All the familiar weapons (sword, sickle, axe, and lance) return from
Final Fantasy Adventure with the addition of the bow, knuckles and rod,
which only the heroine can use. Weapons can be upgraded at the Cactus
Blacksmith to gain additional power and even status attacks. Magic also
returns, but it isn't in book form like the original game. Instead the
familiar elements from the Mana series (wisp, shade, undine, salamander,
sylphid, luna, dryad and gnome) deliver magic. There is a wider range of
magic over the original game, you can heal, deliver elemental damage, and
even turn into a moogle. More options can arise if you choose to do an
optional side quest to upgrade your spirit.
All these upgrades make the game feel like a traditional Mana game. If
you haven't played an of the mana series here's what you can expect: a
quality action RPG with a deep story line. Speaking of the story there are
two entirely different stories (even though the characters come together).
If you remember the original Final Fantasy Adventure the main character
was a gladiator/slave forced to fight. In the Sword of Mana rendition they
actually explain how he got into his predicament with a lengthy flashback
in the beginning. The heroine has a less dramatic story where she escaped
capture in a town and has a dream about her childhood friend that was
captured. Eventually, you will have control of both the hero and heroine
when they meet up in a chance situation.
The music in the game is remixed music from the original game. While
that music has its own flair to it, it would be nice to see some new
tunes. The sound effects are also lifted from other mana games, which
isn't too bad since those effects were well done. Overall, the sound is
well done, for a GBA game.
The only thing we didn't get a chance to test was the multiplayer
support, since that requires two copies of the game. Hopefully, it'll turn
out well since that was one of the hallmarks of the mana series too.
Even if you've played Final Fantasy Adventure you won't recognize this
game and if you don't read Japanese you'll miss out on an excellent
A US release is currently scheduled for December 1, 2003
With two different quests, multiplayer support, awesome graphics, and
rock solid gameplay this game is a hands down winner.