Sword of Mana review
Sword of Mana
Great RPG mechanics.
Some minor set backs stray the title from perfection.
The plot can be confusing.
Sword of Mana is not new. It is a port of an old Super Nintendo game, Final Fantasy Adventure. And what an excellent port it is, in my opinion. The gameboy adaption of FFA adds myriad of new features on to what was already a great game. Fans of the original will enjoy the memories, and newcomers will love the game for what it is: an almost perfect RPG.
The game is told in two halves, one is that of the hero and the other, the heroine. Both of these adventures intersect at many points during the story, with the gender opposite joining your party at intervals. Which ever gender one chooses, the story will be fundamentally the same, however to get the full story will require two playthroughs. The story itself is pretty clichéd, the hero trying to kill the lord which murdered his parents and put him into slavery and the heroine fulfilling her master's dying wish of destroying the world's greatest evil. Sounds pretty familiar, eh? It is, but the thing that backs the story up is it's plethora of characters. Throughout the journey, your story will intersect with all manner of people. From friend to foe, vampire to minstrel. Each little person has his or her own story to tell, be it absolutely relevant or not. Of these characters, some are not what they seem, some fight beside you, some die in your arms. Many of these characters are mere minor roles, but others, especially the main character, one will become attached to. I believe it would be impossible to go through this game and not have a favourite partner and when those final credits roll, knowing you'll never see your main character again is positively tear jerking.
Characters aside, another staple of this game is its strong RPG system. Notably, the leveling up mechanic. This game has a lot of levels. In addition to your character leveling up, kills gained with a specific weapon will also cause that weapon to gain a level. When the player character levels up, a point is awarded. This point can go towards any of the “class” choices. These classes include “warrior”, “sage”, and “thief” to name a few, and they affect stat distribution. A point given to either of the classes with affect two things: one’s stats and, vicariously, one’s overall class. The stats in question are pretty generic when it comes to RPGs. HP, Luck, Dexterity, you know, the usual suspects. The classes, however, are a brilliant concept. When a certain combination of points distributed amongst the classes, a character will advance in the game’s three tiered class tree. Each class is given certain bonuses concerning certain weapons, stats and magic, though they are not entirely limiting. For example, if I had a gladiator character, he can be expected to have high HP and strength (as the Gladiator is made up of the “warrior” class, which augments these stats), yet he still may have some spell casting ability, due to my giving of some points towards the “sage” class.
The spell casting system of this game is also quite intuitive. One uses spells through channeling “sprites”, which are collected as the game progresses. The magic itself can be used in two ways, the first uses little MP and is generally used to overcome an obstacle in the story and the second, which eats up more MP, is usually an offensive attack. The action a spell takes is determined by what weapon one has equipped at the time. The heroin (who is arch typically a spell caster) has a staff, which is much more suited to magical combat than the hero’s sword. Sprites are characters in their own right, leveling up as they are used and even given their own dialogue.
The combat system of this game if fairly by the numbers. You see an enemy, you press A to attack, hit it a couple of times until it vanishes into oblivion. But each enemy is impervious to a certain type of attack and susceptible to another. With a wealth of over 500 enemies, one will never be bored of fighting a new foe. Enemy designs are fairly unique, some being borderline iconic. As with allies, you will not leave this game without having a favourite enemy.
Unfortunately, with this game stays true to the adage “the closer you get to the light, the longer your shadow becomes”. Even with the great characters some are really weak, whilst others are downright stupid. Also, I feel the main characters are fairly skewed. The male character is stronger HP wise early in the game, and the heroine’s magic is weak and difficult to control for beginners.
That said, the good far outweighs the bad in this game. An extensive story with many side quests and skills to master will leave even the most hardcore players playing this game for a week. This title, while being only a port, is worthy of being bought by both the young and the old, for it’s an excellent role playing adventure, now with the added advantage of being portable.
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