Adventures of Mana

Long before the days Square-Enix decided to create spinoffs of major entries released in its Final Fantasy franchise such as Final Fantasy X-2, they did so with the first entry of its Seiken Densetsu / Mana series with Seiken Densetsu: Final Fantasy Gaiden. Therefore, when the original GameBoy title saw English release, its retitling as Final Fantasy Adventure was somewhat appropriate unlike the renaming of the first three GameBoy SaGa games as the Final Fantasy Legend games. The first Mana game would see a remake on the GameBoy Advance titled Sword of Mana, which changed things almost entirely, and a more loyal remake for iOS devices entitled Adventures of Mana, which brings back memories of better titles in the somewhat-neglected pantheon.

Adventures opens with a protagonist bearing the default name Sumo serving as a gladiator that escapes one day and overhears the chief antagonists, the Dark Lord and Julius, talking about seizing the power of the Tree of Mana for themselves, although Sumo is caught and is sent down the nearby waterfall, after which he rescues the chief female character, default name Fuji, with both embarking on a quest, whether together or separate, to secure the power of Mana from the forces of evil. While the plot largely maintains its brevity due to GameBoy cartridge limitations, and better direction on how to advance would have been welcome, it was still enjoyable in the original version’s time, with some sad moments and occasional twists.

Throughout his quest, Sumo acquires a variety of weapons with which to battle the enemy, such as a sword, spear, flail, ball and chain, and sickle, some of which are necessary to advance across the world, with the sickle for instance able to cut tall obstructive grass. Some enemies are immune to attacks by specific weapons, necessitating a change in equipment, although since Adventures features shortcuts for three items or weapons, doing so doesn’t always necessitate a trip through the menus. Sumo further levels occasionally, the player when he does so able to choose one of four class specializations that determine what stats he receives. The gameplay works for the most part, with the most marked improvement being diagonal movement, although there are some moments where the player can accidentally leave the screen from, say, boss battles, and have to fight them at full health again.

The interface is superficially decent, with an easy menu system and the ability to save the game anywhere outside boss fights, although as mentioned, there is poor direction at many times on how to advance the main storyline, and inventory space is limited, with most items not stacking, although relief from carrying mattocks necessary to break walls eventually comes in the form of the ball and chain weapon that does so. In-game automaps are present as well, alongside the mentioned diagonal movement, and overall, while interaction does leave room for improvement, it still has its strong suits.

Kenji Ito’s soundtrack is among the remake’s highlights, orchestrated, no less, although there are occasional silent areas.

The visuals look nice as well, being two-and-a-half-dimensional, with nice environs and character and enemy models, although occasional pixilation is present.

Finally, the remake takes a little under ten hours to beat, with trophies enhancing replayability. Overall, Adventures of Mana is, for the most part, a superb remake of a game that was already good, enhancing various aspects such as its combat system, interaction (though it still leaves most of its room for improvement in that area), a better translation for the story with only minor errors, excellent music, and nice visuals. Despite its flaws, the game is definitely better than more contemporary Mana games, with the remake certain to kindle nostalgic memories of good Seiken Densetsu.

The Good:
+Simple but quick and enjoyable combat.
+Good story.
+Nice music.
+Great graphics.
+Trophies add lasting appeal.

The Bad:
-Limited inventory.
-Sometimes poor direction on how to advance.

The Bottom Line:
A great remake.

Score Breakdown:
Platform: iOS
Game Mechanics: 9/10
Controls: 7/10
Story: 8/10
Localization: 9/10
Music/Sound: 9/10
Graphics: 9/10
Lasting Appeal: 10/10
Difficulty: Medium
Playing Time: Less than 20 Hours

Overall: 9/10

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