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Children of Mana - DS


Sparkz
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I picked up this game last week to keep me company while attending a conference the past 5 days. The DS is such a great distraction when you are on a plane, or stuck in a hotel room in a city with nothing going on.

 

This was a blind buy for me, meaning that I hadn't read a review or played its prequels...but I had often the Sword of Mana for the SNES is one of the best RPGs of all time on a console. So far I am having a great time with Children of Mana. The game has logged me as having played just over 6 hours, but there were a lot of restarts in there for one particular boss battle where I probably spent a few more hours.

 

When I returned from my trip, I looked for reviews, Gamespot hasn't rated it yet, and IGN gave it an 8, along with a good summary:

The action is solid, the amount of character customization is definitely robust, the amount of side quests and bonus missions to partake in will ensure players that the adventure isn?t over too quickly, and the game is simply beautiful on an audio/visual level. As far as hack-n-slash RPGs go, Children of Mana is one of the best we?ve seen on a handheld, and for dungeon crawler addicts Square Enix has definitely hit the spot. It has its downfalls, such as a lack of diversity on side quests and a few nagging multiplayer issues, but the overall product is definitely one to pick up if you?re looking for a button-mashing, action-intensive role playing experience on DS.

I agree with all of the above... well except for the multiplayer, because I did not (and most likely will not have the opportunity to) try that gameplay aspect. Multiplayer is only available through local connections, and not the Nintendo WiFi service.

 

The game begins with have you select from a choice of 4 characters. I chose a fighter. So far, there is only one town and you talk with different characters in the town to receive various quests. There are also 8 spirits/elements in twon that can travel with you, and these serve as the magic portion of the game. For example, a genie has been traveling with me, and he'll either do some tornado damage to the enemies, or make my sword paralyze enemies with a lightning strike when I press the "B" button. Once your character leaves town, the only option is to go to various dungeons to either fight a boss or find a quest item. So far, I've only found four dungeons...but a lot of the quests involce returning to the same dungeons for a diffent item. The layouts of each dungeon are different each time you visit, but they have the same overall theme and enemies. The objective of each dungeon level is to discover a key and also the exit, and bring the key to the exit in order to leave. While you are carrying the key, you cannot attack any enemies, so it is best to kill all enemies first.

 

I started off with a sword, but as I progressed through the game, I was awarded a flail, a bow, and a hammer. The hammer lets you break obstacles like an big urn that you previously couldn't with the other items (but sometimes you could send an enemy flying into those obstacles, and they would break). You can use two items at a time, in any combination. The flail is more like a grappling hook, and you can thow it at enemy to pull it closer to you (very similar to Scorpion's "Get over here!" move in Mortal Kombat). I haven't used the magic aspects very much, probably because I chose to play as a fighter. I don't know if different character classes have different weapons.

 

There are also treasure chests scattered around each level that have random weapon and armor upgrades. However these upgrades are limited to when your character reaches a certain level. For example, I just found a steel bow, but can't use it yet because you have to be level 21 and my character is only at level 19, so I'm stuck using an iron bow. There is a shop in town where you can buy and sell these items.

 

The most interesting aspect of the game is the ablility to make enhancements to your character by finding gems in the dungeons. Each gem offers a different upgrade (that sometimes come with a penalty), and they drop randomly. You start off with a frame that is 2x2, meaning that you can put 4 small gems in it. A gem can add points to your attack or defense, magic or dexterity, or other aspect of your character. They can let your weapons have alternate attacks or ways to parry. There's a shop in town that buys and sells gems, and they have some for sale that will upgrade the spells of the different spirts that travel with you (can't afford these yet). The shop also fuses gems for even more options. After completing a certain quest, I was awarded an upgrade to the gem frame, so that it is now 4x2, meaning that there are 8 spots for small gems. However, I am now finding bigger gems, so the bigger frame was very much needed!

 

The choice and customization of your play style allowed by these gems is unlimited, and has quickly grown to be my favorite part of the game. As mentioned I was stuck on the same boss battle in the earlier part of the game for over a day. But once I realized that I could re-configure the gems to increase my attack abilities, that boss was a piece of cake.

 

Now here's the tricky part...you can't get the screen which allows you to change gems, or weapons and armor, while you are in the dungeon. You have to make these decisions before you enter the dungeon. After advancing 5 levels in a dungeon, there is the opportunity to save and make changes. But by limiting the on-the-fly changes, the game is more balanced.

 

The most frustrating part of the game is that once you pause the game, you are given the default choice of "Return", or the choice to "Exit". However, if you choose to "Return", you leave the dungeon immediately and return to town, and lose all progress made in the dungeon. If you chose exit, then you exit the menu screen, and return back to where you had paused the game. I can't tell you how many times I confused these options.

 

In summary, I would highly recommend this game to any RPG fan, especially if you are a fan of dungeon crawlers. It doesn't really take advantage of the DS's touch screen abilities though. Each quest does go by very quickly, so this game is great for a portable system. And while the sounds/music in the game are very good, they are not needed to enjoy the game. So that, combined with an easy pick up and play aspect, make the game a joy to play on the DS if you are on a plane, in a waiting room, or any other place that is ideal for gaming on a portable system.

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I pre-ordered this for $25 shipped from dvdempire...it was a fatwallet deal though. Dunno what status is - I used google checkout, no update yet.

 

Site says stock is "on order" so I guess maybe they didn't have enough to fulfill pre-orders.

 

Pretty rare that I preorder a game, but it was a good deal - big fan of Secret of Mana for SNES, although I really only like it a lot played multiplayer (btw I think that's the game you meant - Sword of Mana was for GBA...)

 

It's got a 69 on metacritic, and 1up says:

 

The graphics are almost painfully cute, and the pseudo-physics system that causes enemies, objects, and heroes to ping-pong around the screen with abandon can make combat entertainingly chaotic. It's good, clean, dumb fun. There's just not much to it, or of it.

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