“ Manufacturer: Nintendo / Genre: Adventures & Role-playing „
"Sword of Mana" is a video game released for the Gameboy Advance console in 2004 by Nintendo. It is a roleplaying game based on an earlier Gameboy title of the same name. In the United States, the game received a rating of "E" by the ESRB panel which deemed it suitable for all ages.
Sword of Mana is based on an earlier Gameboy title known as "Final Fantasy Adventure". Here, players assume the role of either a male or female character. The male is a strong warrior who is proficient with weapons use and the female is a more intelligent sorceress who is equipped with extensive magical ability. They both follow the same storyline and that is to destroy the villain named "Dark Lord". The Dark Lord has enslaved the kingdom who the hero and heroine belong to and is threatening to distort any notion of peace in the land; it is the player's job to restore this peace. The game features a wide assortment of items which benefit the specific characters. I found the game to be more satisfying to complete as the male warrior, as he has access to numerous different weapons in comparison to potions and charms for the sorceress. The game can prove difficult as battles rely on a combination system which requires exact timing when striking buttons. In many heated confrontations, I was not able to execute the specific timings required and ended up only dealing basic attacks which impacted on my performance.
The graphics are presented from a top down perspective which changes to a side view in battle. The images, I found, were very dark in relation to the world. This could perhaps be to reflect the Dark Lord's presence over the kingdom but it did make for awkward viewing. Much of the game is contested within castles and are accented by candelabras and other flame lighting features which do appear to be visually pleasing but can become a bore after several hours in the game. The soundtrack is also more menacing in its playing with darker undertones to the musical compositions and sound effects following the player throughout.
Overall, Sword of Mana is an acceptable roleplaying game which I would recommend to prospective buyers. I find the gameplay to be an eventful experience but its visual implements leave a bit more to be desired.
About seventeen years ago, Final Fantasy Adventure was released for the Game Boy. It wasn't pretty compared to other Game Boy games at the time, but what made it a marvel was introducing top-down Zelda-esque gameplay with a driving story of magic and heroism. O ver a decade later, Square-Enix, with developer Brownie Brown, has gave this classic gem a complete overhaul for the Game Boy Advance system.
In an effort to increase replay value, the player now has the ability to go through the story as either an orphaned man who escaped slavery in the evil Empire Granz (Glaive in FFA) and it's murderous Dark Lord, or a fugitive woman of the Mana Tribe hiding from Empire Granz Heretic Hunters The story has been very-well fleshed out, but in order to make it consistent, the plot had to be changed from the original game. For example, some characters that may not have contributed much to the plot at all in Final Fantasy Adventure may now find themselves much more important to the progression of the plot in Sword of Mana. The storyline isn't as driving as Secret of Mana's, but it has plenty of shining moments, and is very humorous at times, which is a definate plus. The downside, however, is that with all of the numerous changes added to the plot, the story can actually become quite confusing the first time one plays through the game; certain details may be entirely forgotten or simply fly over one's head, so to speak.
Sword of Mana's graphics and character models are more akin to the Playstation title Legend of Mana, an RPG where in graphics, there are two camps -- You either love it's breathtaking detail, or you hate it and see it as blasphemy to the rest of the series. I personally am on the former side, and to show how spectacular the graphics are, I'm going on a limb to say that they even rival Golden Sun: The Lost Age in terms of graphical prowess. The Rings are more pixelated than I'd like them to be, though. Most spells are colourful and well-detailed. However, a relatively minor screen glitch is said to appear in most copies of Sword of Mana; it's no real problem, but it appears frequently, and is worth noting. All in all, though, the eye candy is very nice, here.
There are plenty of remixes from the original score in FFA, and some new ones as well. The sound effects are also very nice, from weapons hacking and bashing, to the clatter of animals bones hitting the ground. It's very pleasing to the ears, and not grating at all.
In the playability department, Sword of Mana gives a laudable presentation, albeit not quite up there to be labelled as "amazing." The button interface for attacking and casting spells is simple, yet efficient, so one will have no troubles in combat, most of the time. There are also a few handy abilities to learn, such as jumping over ledges to find secrets, resting motionless to restore MP, and many others. Being able to smith your own items and adjust the stats the way you want add strategy to the mix, as you hope to create the perfect character to defeat the hordes of enemies.
All in all, there are only a few nuances in the gameplay department that detract from Sword of Mana; some are a very minor nuisance, and some can have you ripping at your hair. For example, the AI for your partner is at most times, absolutely pathetic. It will be often that you will have to 'free' them since your partner gets 'stuck' many, many times. It helps loads to be able to switch between characters to help remedy this problem, which can be frustrating at times. The difficulty, while not exactly a walk in the park, can be considered ultimately a disappointment, especially when compared the games fellow brethren in the Seiken Densetsu series. When a sizable portion of the games many bosses can be defeated rather quickly, the sense of accomplishment can diminish the experience. Also, a relatively minor screen glitch is said to appear in most copies of Sword of Mana; it's no real problem, but it appears frequently, and is worth noting
Sword of Mana is a satisfying RPG, that brings back a mix of nostalgia with twists and surprises when you least expect it. The new day/night system and month/day system is more than just a gimmick, it affects gameplay in some parts of the story, and many times when having to perform a certain task or get a secret. Numerous Side-quests and two character stories lengthen the replay value heaps. Expect to find many familiar faces from many 'Mana' games, some of my personal favorites being the Elemental Spirits that you use for magic. If you invest in this title, expect to find above average action with swordplay and magic, a good, if somewhat complicated story, and overall RPG bliss.
Is it up in the ranks of Secret of Mana? Not quite, but a very solid title nonetheless. Will it keep you entertained and have your hands wrapped around the Game Boy Advance for many hours? Absolutely. Despite its flaws, Sword of Mana is a RPG that one should definitely invest some time into.
(also on gamefaqs)
I gather that the link-up feature is not for multiplayer but rather for enhancing player-characters. Not that I needed it though.
Sword of Mana is an enhanced remake of the first Seiken Densetsu (Mystic Quest in Europe) game for Game Boy. Though there is a fair share of enemies taken from the second in the series (Secret of Mana), it's the third Seiken Densetsu game (the one that wasn't released outside of Japan) which Sword of Mana resembles graphically. The 2D graphics look nice here however there are occasional layer problems in battle with character sprites appearing over others when they shouldn't.
The music goes towards making this game feel like a special one but it falls short of being great. As with the other games in the series this is an action RPG, with the combat having a 'sticky' feel to it. There are sections where you are accompanied by a computer controlled character, of which you are able to set their behaviour for combat. Unfortunately their AI is so poor not only are they lacking in combat, but they struggle to negotiate past the simplest of obstacles - which certainly does not help in places where the terrain comes into play. As such, you are made to consider switching characters rather than fight as a pair, but there is no great loss going solo leaving them as a ghost - when they inevitably get knocked out! Perhaps it is fortunate that there are no puzzles which require such teamwork.
Of note, there was a situation which depended on day/night changes, the problem being that I had to enter/exit a screen numerous times before I was able to move on.
Certain enemies are invulnerable to specific types of weapons, so using the right weapons is the key to progress in this game. This does bring in an element of trial-and-error to finding their weaknesses but luckily there are primarily only 3 types of weapons to consider. In the rarer cases where they are invulnerable to all then equipping spirits allows for magic use - pressing and charging the button casting different spells of the same element. However this along with the ring menus can make mixing and matching of magic a cumbersome task.
Enemies killed frequently leave behind treasure chests, of which these may trigger a booby trap. The damage received from these can be easily taken care of, but the roulette process which determines your pain can - considering it's near-random anyway - only slow matters down. After much opening of chests I just could not be bothered with them.
There are items which can be used to temper or forge weapons and armour which are helpful but goes to highlight the game's unbalanced difficulty. The ease at which the bosses can be killed is alarming - there were a couple who did not last double-figures and I'm talking seconds here! However, because attacking is slightly sluggish it's possible to get trapped up against the surroundings by an enemy and not be able to recover the situation.
Sword of Mana is a fairly linear game, and I'd be surprised if there were any worthy side-quests of sorts. The lack of difficulty in places is costly, though players should find that there is a decent 15 hours of play, with this being doubled as there are two characters to choose from, of which there are considerable differences between their sides to the story. However, once through proved to be enough for me.