A huge thank you to our forum’s very own Duran for contributing this very extensive and detailed write-up of the game.
I pre-ordered Dawn of Mana sometime ago and I picked it up on Wednesday, along with the bonus soundtrack that came with it.
Well, I finished it today and I must say that DoM was a pretty drastic change of genres, as far as the series goes. Which reminds me, DO NOT expect this game to play anything like the others of the series! Keep that in mind, and you’ll enjoy it to some degree.
The Heroes – Keldy and Faye
The story follows a young boy named Keldric (“Keldy” for short), and his fairy/spirit parter named Faye as they venture off to prevent the Lorimarian king, Stroud from opening the door to Mavolia, which would envelop the land of Fa’ Diel in darkness and corruption if opened.
The Graphics ( 8/10 ) – Dawn of 3D
The visuals are astounding as the Mana universe is shown in full 3D. The character design is bright and colorful which is a signature of the series, and the cinematic sequences are probably some of the best I’ve seen (I swear, Square-Enix could rival companies like Pixar and Dreamworks if they just made movies).
The Gameplay ( 6/10 ) – Reek havoc and cause Panic
The gameplay revolves around you playing as Keldy as you hack and slash your way through 8 gargantuan stages, each is interactive to the point where you can break and/or throw various objects which makes almost anything a cover point or a projectile. Your arsenal consists of a large vine wrapped around Keldy’s right arm, which can change into one of 3 dfferent weapons: Sword, Slingsot, and a Whip. You have your sword to slash at enemies nearby, and your whip to pull things toward you or fling them around. Your slingshot can shoot one of two different pellets; normal pebbles, which don’t do much damage, but are unlimited in supply, and Hex orbs, which are much stronger and adds different effects depending on which element they are. Unlike pebbles, Hex orbs must be found on the field (In the shape of the Mana spirits) and you can only carry a certain amount of each one. Also at your disposal is little Faye, who is your only source of casting magic who starts off with only two spells but can learn more as you progress.
The main thing you’ll notice while playing is that it’s key aspect is the Panic System: When an object lands near or hits an enemy, they get into a state of panic for a short time which is displayed through a counter on top of them shows how many seconds they’re in that state). As this continues, the panic counter will increase. The counter will decrease over time, and will decrease even faster each time you hit them. Once an enemy is in a state of panic, they are vulnerable to any and all attacks and will drop either Lucre (money) or one of 3 different colored medals whenever you hit them. Each medal you obtain increases a certain stat; Green for Attack Power (which is displayed as a vine around your HP bar), Red for HP, and Blue for MP. When you’ve collected a certain amount of medals, your character will level-up, or be upgraded, unlocking new abilites and spells to be placed at your disposal.
For example, at Magic Lv. 1, Faye can only cast 2 spells: Power Up (Temporarily Increases ATP) and Aegis (Temporarily Increases Defense). Once you reach Magic Lv. 2, she is able to cast Heal Light (Recovers HP) and Purify (which cures Keldy of status ailments like poison). Increasing Your attack and HP will put you at higher level which grants you new abilities like longer attack combos (with both the sword and slingshot), and the ability to grab and fling larger enemies with the whip.
However, once you’ve cleared an area, you lose any and all spells, abilities, and hex orbs that you’ve obtained once you start the next area, which means you’re back to square-one. In other words, the game plays like a classic platformer.
As a bonus,you’ll later be given the option to equip emblems. By equipping emblems, you’re given an edge in battle as each emblem you equip will either increase your stats a bit, or give you special abilities like immunity to ailments or wider attack range.
Aside from the story, there’s a separate Arena Mode where you can take on various missions to earn extra lucre by taking on various battle challenges. You can then spend all the lucre you earn from both Story and Arena modes to purchase additional emblems, pets and items (for the arena), and even various media like background music and cinematic scenes so you can watch or listen to them over and over again.
The Controls ( 5/10 ) – Stay on target!
One of it biggest weaknesses are the controls. As you play, you’ll find that controls lack a lot of precision, making weapons like the whip a complete chore. Also to note, the camera controls are equally bad ad you’ll end up having to tinker with the camera during battle so you can see what’s around you.
The Music ( 9/10 ) – Will the sun rise again?
Definately an excellent soundtrack by the team of Kenji Ito, Tsuyoshi Sekito, and Masayoshi Soken, with their blends of full orchestra sound with rocking guitar riffs and their arrangements of some of Hiroki Kikuta’s (Secret of Mana, Seiken Densetsu 3) and Yoko Shimomura’s (Legend of Mana) work are incredible to say the least.
Replay Value ( 5/10 ) – Will they ever see you again?
Its only replay value would be access to harder difficulty levels, unlocking bonus material and emblems, and Arena mode. However, the klunky controls will more than likely kill the experience for any casual gamer.
The Verdict ( 6.6/10 ) – Is it Mana enough?
Despite its kinks, its a decent platformer…and nothing else. If you’re a veteran of Mana’s action/RPG aspect, this is a daring break from the norm to bring an entirely different experience and shouln’t be expected to play like the others of the series. Overall, I really enjoy the games strong points of having excellent music and visuals and while the gameplay is an interesting change of pace, I would say that if the team fixed all of the problems before releasing it, Dawn of Mana would have been much better. So, unless you’re a die-hard Mana fan, I wouldn’t recommend this game to just anybody.