Time for another installment in the Mana series. The Children of Mana has a title that really makes sense by the final boss which was a really unique opponent to go up against. I’d call this a dungeon crawler RPG. You don’t have any partners to help you out this time around so it’s like you’re some kind of solo leveling warrior on your way to stop all of the villains and prove your power. It’s a title that definitely ends up being really solid the whole time and you’ll have a good experience here.
The story follows a kid named Ferrik who one day gets roped into a massive adventure when monsters start appearing everywhere. Tess, one of those who prays to the Mana lets Ferrik know that he has to stop these monsters and use the Mana Sword for justice but the Mana Lord doesn’t want this to happen. He aims to create a lot of chaos and endless battles among those in the world before destroying it all. He is effectively using the mana to wipe out everything and believes it is the will of mana. Ferrik has to stop this lunatic and quickly but it won’t be easy. This guy basically is pure power after all.
The structure of the game is fairly straight forward. Each world has you enter a dungeon and go through a bunch of floors until you beat the boss at the end. At first the worlds are around 4 floors long, then 8, and then the final one was around 15-16. You can save every 4 floors which is really handy. One minor annoyance is if you lose you have to shut the console off and on again to load your save because otherwise it takes you back to home base. SO keep that in mind and try not to lose too often. On the other hand the big plus about this setup is that when you die you keep your EXP and weapons that you obtained. In that way it’s like a rogue game in that each playthrough will make you stronger. You get exp really quickly here so the level ups just keep coming in.
Each floor will have you try to find a gem in order to get to the next floor. Once you find that then you have to find the portal and each level will always give you a hint as to where that is. It can be trapped inside a crystal or perhaps generated by beating all of the enemies in the floor. The messages are very clear so you should never be confused on what to do next. It will just end up coming naturally to you. This is very much a game where you will get more and more comfortable with the controls as you play through the game. The important thing is to make sure you are good at attacking and then running off. Don’t bother finishing the combo unless it is a one on one fight or you may leave yourself open to a counter.
You equip gems to balance out your character so I made mine a glass cannon. The plus of that is that every enemy goes down quickly including the final bosses but the downside of that is that each hit really knocks you for a loop. A few hits and you will not be surviving. I still thought this was worth it because while I might die more I will also be obtaining exp a lot quicker so it adds up. Wouldn’t you say hat this is the right move when you take all of that into consideration? You can switch your setup at any time too so there’s no rush there. The game is very plentiful with the resources.
The gameplay style is that of an overhead real time battle system by the way. You start with a sword but gradually get 3 other weapons in the bow, hammer, and chain. Each one is handy so you will be using them a lot. Mainly I would focus on the hammer for environmental damage like destroying the big crystals and activating traps. The bow is great when you need to pick off enemies from a distance. It will take longer than using the sword but it is always a whole lot safer and I found myself relying on this more in the final worlds. The chain is good for if you are getting overwhelmed by enemies and need to create some distance. It hits in a full circle so you can hit a lot of enemies at once.
Grow used to each weapon and you will really be set. You also have magic but I never really used it the whole game since it just seemed really weak. My advice is to equip the light based one since as a passive ability it will heal you from time to time. At the end of the day that’s all I really need. Just give me that and I can take care of the rest with my weapons. There is really a lot of depth to the gameplay though so playing around with the equipment and weapons is really fun. I recommend just messing around with all of them and finding the setup that works for you.
The graphics here are pretty good. The game gets major credit from me for having some cutscenes that were fully animated. I know that’s not easy based on how few games for portable would actually do it. So that’s a really good amount of extra effort that’s just really nice to see. Major kudos on that! The soundtrack is also pretty good. I enjoyed the boss theme here and the game had that classic RPG feel to it. The music is very authentic and so you should be satisfied here. In terms of replay value, well the game is decently long. I want to say it took me around 15 hours or so. There isn’t really much replay value beyond that that I could see but the game hinted that there may be a post game hidden somewhere so that’s something to keep an eye out for. You should be able to get this for a decent price right around now too so this is definitely worth it.
Overall, Children of Mana is a pretty good game. The dungeon elements are fun and it’s not something that is done very often in the RPGs so I think it worked well as a change of pace. I don’t think the story itself was quite as engaging as some of the other Mana games and mainly I think that is because I do miss the banter with all of the characters. Since you’re just playing as the main guy with nobody around for about 90% of the game, there isn’t a whole lot of time for witty dialogue and all of that. If anything there isn’t a lot of talking for a very large portion of the game. As a result the story just didn’t have as much time to really grow and adapt. Still the gameplay will always be the most important factor and the game delivers on that so I would definitely recommend checking it out.