Adventures of Mana Review

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Title: Adventures of Mana
Developer: Square Enix
Platform: PlayStation Vita
Game Type: Vita
Download:  512 MB
NA Availability: 
Digital Download | Retail

EU Availability: Digital Download | Retail
PSTV Support: 
Yes

The Mana series is something that a lot of RPG fans love, but more or less is an off-breed of Final Fantasy.  Mana has its own series and is a different kind of RPG than FF ever was.  From the get-go, Mana focused more on being an action RPG than a turn-based RPG, which FF didn’t deviate from until Final Fantasy XI released as an MMORPG.

The Mana games have actually gotten some new entries in recent years, though not many have actually come to the West.  One that did was Adventures of Mana, a remake of the Game Boy game, Final Fantasy Adventure.  When this came West, there was a stir in the PS Vita community.  Like Chaos Rings III, it released in the West on iOS and Android, and not the PS Vita.

Since then, thankfully, Square Enix has been good to bring the Vita version West as well and that’s what I’m going to review today.  Here is my official review of the Vita and PSTV version of Adventures of Mana!

Story

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Little spelling errors like this are common throughout the game

Adventures of Mana takes place in a kingdom known as Glaive where the Mana Tree supports all life in the world.  Hidden away after a violent war for the Tree’s power, it is once again threatened by the “Dark Lord” of Glaive, wishing to harness it’s great power for his own personal use.  A slave forced to fight beasts known as Sumo, however, goes on a journey to protect the Mana Tree and effectively keep the Dark Lord from repeating the world’s past mistakes.

The setting is very in tune with Final Fantasy games, but the story doesn’t come without mishaps.  First of all is the translation of the game.  There are a lot of areas where there are misspelled words or completely wrong words in the middle of sentences.  We’re not talking like SAO: Hollow Fragment, but it’s pretty noticeable when you say “Study the Cant in my book” instead of “Study the Chant in my book”.  It happened pretty often, so I figured I would mention it.

The other factor is the showing that the game is very dated.  There are story scenes that push the story forward, telling you where to go next, but the pacing just goes so fast that it doesn’t take time for character development.  You meet someone that’s dying on the road and before knowing anything about them, they just auto-trust you and tell you where to go to save the world.  I get dying-breath, but it’s to a point where it feels way too fast.

Gameplay

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It’s hard to believe this is the same giant cat that the original game started with

Adventures of Mana is a hack-n-slash Action RPG with puzzle elements thrown into the mix.  The better way to describe it would be to have you take Zelda games like Link to the Past or Oracle of Ages and add Final Fantasy elements to them, and you have what this game is.

You progress through the game by exploring a large overworld and getting from one place to the next.  The map is like a grid that you explore as you move around, much like older Zelda games.  For a more recent example, think about how the map forms in Hyrule Warriors’ Adventure Mode.  Every grid you visit is added to your map so the more you explore, the more you have to reference on your map when you have a new objective.

Figuring out where to go and how to get there, though, is a different story.  You’ll have NPCs telling you what direction to go for your next objective but it’s up to you to figure out where, exactly it is and normally involves you using a specific item or weapon to traverse areas like a puzzle to actually reach those areas.  Some might require you to just go a few grids to the right, while others may require you to move around for a bit to find a pole your chain flail weapon can grapple you to in order to pass a river that is blocking passage to the next town.

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I have lots of Mattocks and Rings, and for good reason

The most important aspect of the game are items you use in dungeons.  You get items that help you navigate dungeons, like keys to open locked doors and Mattocks to break down walls and rocks.  However, you only get a certain number of uses, which means you need to have several of each of these in your inventory whenever you’re getting close to a dungeon.  If you don’t, it can be fatal to your progress of the game.

Here is why.  This is a 1:1 remake of the original game, meaning nothing was changed about the original.  Many dungeons will lock you inside and won’t unlock until you’ve beaten the dungeon and this can stab you in the back if you’re low on Mattocks or Keys.  You can buy these in the shops or get them as drops from specific enemies.  During my first save file, I got to a dungeon and ran out of Mattocks.  None of the enemies in the dungeon dropped it and I couldn’t leave.  I was 100% stuck and had to start a completely new file, losing 5 hours of progress.  You have to be careful, because every bad spot that can get you stuck forever is still here in the remake.

The strategic part of this is that your inventory isn’t infinite.  You can only hold about 15 different items at once.  This is counting Keys, Mattocks, Key Items, Potions and other healing items, curing items for various status ailments, etc.  So, you can’t just by 99 Keyrings and 99 Mattocks with all of your money.  You have to constantly watch your inventory between dungeons to know when to visit shops and when not to.

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You get partners for dungeons and bosses, though most of the time, they’ll go down and it’ll just be you versus the boss

Actual combat in the game varies depending on your weapon.  You get lots of weapons from simple swords and axes to chain flails and spears.  Each weapon handles differently for different situations.  This is also critical for boss fights, as certain weapons are much better at fighting certain bosses than others.  A boss surrounded by magic orbs is best fought with the long-range chain flail than the short range axe.

This method of combat works but also has that “Zelda” feel to it.  You’re not going to be hacking all over the place like you would in, say, Star Ocean.  As I said at the start of this section, this game is like a classic Zelda with some Final Fantasy elements thrown into the mix.

With time in play, you can expect the game to last you at least 10-15 hours, but if it takes you some time to learn the system or you don’t use a walkthrough, the amount of time it’ll take to get lost and learn the system could make it last up to 20-25 hours or more.

Controls

Adventures of Mana is like a straight port from iOS/Android, but with button commands thrown in.  Mobile icons are still on the screen, but despite this, Square surprises gamers with the fact that this is 100% compatible with the PlayStation TV.

Moving around is done with the Left Analog Stick or D-Pad.  The L and R triggers are used for spell and item shortcuts.  Then you have the face button controls.  X is for attacking and Circle can use the currently-selected item or spell.  Triangle opens up the Map and Save menu and Square opens up the customization menu.

No real complaints about the control scheme, really.  Granted, nothing is explained to you in the game.  You just have to press buttons and learn as you go, but once you get that going, it’s not bad at all.

Presentation

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Nothing is more fun than riding a chocobo to a sweet tune in a colorful world

Visually, the game got a massive overhaul compared to the original Game Boy release.  The Chibi-like 3D renders and environments look very colorful on the PS Vita and PSTV both.  It really helps bring the game to life, especially for those coming back to the game after having played the original on the Game Boy years ago.

There’s no real bad part of the presentation or performance.  Frame-rate is surprisingly good.  I don’t know exacts, but I can tell you that the game runs higher than 30 fps for the entire game.  I had a video project set for 30 fps for gameplay of this and I had to set it up to a max of 60 fps because the 30 fps video made the game look like it was lagging.  All around good job on the presentation and performance from Square Enix.

The only thing that’s different from the iOS/Android release is that the load times for changing rooms is slightly longer.  We’re talking maybe a single second longer.  Enough to be noticed, but not enough to be a problem.

Summary

Adventures of Mana is on the PS Vita and is a shining example of 1:1 remakes that Square fans always demand but don’t realize they don't really want.  The game looks beautiful and plays great, but translation, confusion, and game-trapping issues that plagued the original game are here and almost require you to prepare yourself to play the game instead of just enjoying it on your own. 

6/10

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