Sword of Mana
Game Boy Advance
Reviewed: 12/01/2005


Sword of Mana was hyped up as the impressive remake of the gameboy RPG known as Final Fantasy Adventure. Impressive it is not. There are just far too many problems that hold this game from being any of the things it tried: being a remake of Final Fantasy Adventure, or to be a worthy chapter in the Mana series.

The gameplay in Sword of Mana fails to impress. It is a very basic hack and slash game, reminiscent of the Diablo series, except it’s far more clunky. Nothing is designed very well in this game, like the arrows, for example. When fired, they shoot through the air in a weird, unnatural arc, which looks really bad, and it cuts the distance that they travel. The Whip has a longer attacking distance than arrows! That just does not make sense. Also, the Magic System is just plain horrible. There are eight different elements that each have two spells: one where you tap the “R” button, and one where you hold it for about five seconds, then release to cast a different spell. The problem with this is that you can’t move while charging a spell, which leaves you open to attack. Another problem with the magic system is that the spells only have the range of the currently equipped weapon. So if you have the whip, no problem, but if you are using your sword, then you have to get right next to the enemy to hit them with a spell.

Screen Shot
Hey, I can see the shattered remains of my old life from here!

Then there are the weapons and enemy systems. The weapon system has about ten different weapons to choose from, that you can upgrade by forging at a blacksmith. This isn’t very hard to do at first, until you realize just how it works: You have to plant seeds to get fruits and vegetables to use to temper with (which doesn’t even make sense) and that depends on the in-game day of the week, which isn’t exactly easy to keep track of, and harder to do so in a portable game. It all becomes needlessly complex. Then there is the enemy system, which only serves to complicate matters. With it, every enemy in the game is weak to some of your weapons, and resistant to some others, and at least one will always do no damage to it. This is bad, because, say, you were building your axe really strong, putting all your time into it, and then you run into an enemy that takes no damage from it. To make matters worse, he only takes damage from the glove, which you hadn’t upgraded at all, so you’re only doing minimal damage to it.

Unfortunately, the best thing in the game was cut from it, as the legendary multiplayer that made Secret of Mana so famous is not present. A shoddy A.I. system was left in its place. I can recall numerous occasions where I was surrounded by monsters, and my ally simply got caught on a rock and didn’t help me at all, because he insisted on getting around it.

The story needs some work as well. It starts out with simple RPG fare, but as the game goes on, the story becomes more and more convoluted, until the last few hours pretty much make no sense. In fact, during those last few hours, I was just playing the game to finish it, and see how everything wraps up, as I really didn’t have a clue what was going on. The ending wasn’t very enjoyable either, I’ll say that. Case in point: The main villain is named “Dark Lord.” That’s not so bad, except for what I encountered in an early town, an NPC who said something to the lines of “Dark Lord is a wise and powerful leader, he will help us out!” What confuses me is how a town can love and praise a leader whose name is Dark Lord. Seriously, if my leader called himself Dark Lord, I’d be thinking twice about what side he’s on. The only slightly nice thing about the story is that there are two different main characters, each with their own story, which helps.

One aspect of this game that really shines is the wonderful graphics. Each character has tons of sprites, so they animate beautifully. But the real high point is the backgrounds. Every single area looks like it was originally a watercolor painting, and everything is filled with bright colors that really set an atmosphere for the game, and can draw you in well.

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HERO the Vampire Slayer, Season 3 on DVD soon.

The sound quality isn’t too bad in this game, but it’s not anything really great either. The sound effects are good, and they make things seem a bit more real. The music is pretty average though. There weren’t any bad tracks that made me want to listen to anything else, but there weren’t any real engaging tracks either, except for one. The desert theme about midway through the game was wonderful, and really pumped me up for the battles ahead.

The game does manage to retain some replay value, which is impressive, considering that all you do is move around hitting things for about 25 hours. There are two different main characters, whose paths cross throughout the game, and each have their own backstory. This could inspire you to play through the game again, if you wish to see everything.

Before this game was released, it had a lot of hype surrounding it, proclaiming it as another great chapter in the Mana series, and a much deserved remake to the fabled Final Fantasy Adventure. The hype was wrong. Had I known what I was heading into beforehand, I would’ve avoided this game for something much better. I strongly suggest that you pass on this game.

-Joey Janowksi

Score Breakdown
Out of 10
See our Review Criteria
Gameplay Below Average
Story Bad
Graphics Excellent
Sound/Music Average
Replay Value Below Average
The Verdict: 3