Long, long ago, there was a goddess.
She cherished all life and transformed herself into a Mana Tree to
watch over the world.
Thus the legend began.
As time passed, memory of the goddess faded from people’s hearts…
One day, a man crept into the sanctuary where the Mana Tree slumbered.
With the power of Mana, he built a great civilization. But this marked
the dawn of a terrible age of darkness…
The man forced the world to kneel to his will.
His name was Vandole.
When souls were trapped in the darkness of despair, a glimmer of hope
shone in the hearts of a few brave youths.
The fighting was fierce, but they would not give up. One wielded a holy
blade that gleamed as brightly as the hope in their hearts.
Powerless before this light, the darkness was vanquished. The power of
Mana was reclaimed from human hands and restored to its rightful place.
The people have forgotten the goddess once again…
|Publisher||Square Enix / Nintendo|
|JP||29 Aug 2003|
|US||1 Dec 2003|
|EU||18 Mar 2004|
Shinyaku Seiken Densetsu: Sword of Mana saw the series return on August 29th, 2003, bringing the series to Nintendo’s latest handheld platform at the time, the Gameboy Advance. It would reach American shores on December 1st, and later reach Europe on March 19th, 2004. Developed by Brownie Brown, a company composed partly of people who had worked on previous Mana titles, it takes on board many aspects from previous titles.
A special edition of the Game Boy Advance SP was released in Japan to celebrate the launch of the game, in a “Mana Blue” colour, packaged together with the game and a carry case.
The Action-RPG was designed to be a remake of the first title in the series, Final Fantasy Adventure, bringing the graphics up to the latest in handheld technology, enhancing the soundtrack, and incorporating several ideas from the other titles in the series, such as a class system, magic and the ever-popular ring-menu. Several aspects of the storyline were also changed to try and add more depth to certain characters, though some of these were not well received, such as Willy no longer dying at the beginning of the game (Sheexy will back me up on this one too).
Although marketed as taking advantage of the GBA Link cable, the only communications feature the game presents is the ability to exchange Amigo information with other players, allowing them to unlock certain items otherwise unnaccessible. Many buyers believed that the game would feature a multi-player option, but were left disappointed.
Right off the bat the player can choose whether to play as Boy or Girl, and each has their own storyline. The two had a brief encounter as children, and have now been reunited, though they do not recognise their former acquaintance until later in the game, as they try to stop Dark Lord and Julius from taking advantage of Mana Power to carry out their evil plans. Already the Mana Tribe (guardians of the Mana Tree, from whom the Girl descends) have been accused as heretics and hunted down, and the Gemma Knights are in desperate need of help.
At many points in the game, the player will be aided by the character they did not choose, controlled by the game’s AI. Sadly, the game’s control of the secondary player is quite lack-lustre, and normally leads to them using up all their MP, getting stuck or simply dying rather miserably.
The soundtrack is once more handled by Kenji Ito, who takes it upon himself to remake the classic FFA tracks using the now more versatile hardware at his disposal. The new tracks received mixed reactions, many feeling that some of the added sequences were unnecessary and more attention should have been paid to the instrumentation itself.
Graphically the game takes the feel of Legend of Mana, the title released on the Playstation, and works it well into the game, making this one of the key sellings points of the game. This game would be the last title before the launch of the World of Mana Project in 2006.