Children of Mana


Review by Matt Paprocki


Action RPG

Graphics: 10

Sound: 6

Gameplay: 3

Overall: 3


It's expected that an action RPG will suffer from repetition problems. It's an unavoidable side effect of questing, leveling and destroying various foes. Children of Mana suffers from this single flaw, and yet it's so haphazardly tossed together, the stunning graphics can't overcome the feeling of doing the same thing a few thousand times.

childrenofmanads.jpg (61502 bytes)In an interesting design move, Mana eliminates the adventuring aspect. All new goals are found in a small village. Leaving this area brings up a map which instantly whisks you away to the chosen area of the land. While this eliminates the possibility of wandering lost for a few hours, it also takes away from the genres more enjoyable aspects.

The generic story feels like one you've heard countless times. Spirits, dying trees, young adventurer and monsters fill the gaps in the dialogue. This is hardly captivating material, and serving as a backdrop to a mediocre game only causes the flaws to stick out further.

Actual story advancing goals can simply be described: kill everything. Each mission is nothing more than a closed off dungeon. These all have a specific number of floors to conquer. The only way to advance is to find a specific item and take it to a portal.

This is the flow of every mission. To reveal the exit, the bottom screen lets the player know what needs to be done. Sometimes it's hidden in a rock, other times it will only appear by defeating all the creatures. Any way it's presented, it comes down to running through caves or any other dreary locale and slaughtering critters that appear from nowhere.

With a better save system, things might not be so rough. Clearing out four floors brings up a save point, along with the ability to swap out weapons and armor. Die at any point and you're tossed back to the last saved state, even during a boss fight. As if goals and combat weren't repetitive enough, being forced to replay them is ridiculous. Things become worse when room layouts are reused multiple times only with a new graphical backdrop.

It's a shame the overall design fails. The artwork, with stunning detail and vibrant color, is impossible to ignore. Combat itself with four basic styles of weapons feels great, but there's too much of it to go around. The soundtrack is marvelously composed as well, yet like everything else, it's far too repetitious.

The Mana series prides itself on multi-player since its inception, and Children doesn't change that. At any point, you can pause the game and bring up a menu. Hitting multi-player allows another player to join your game without a problem, assuming they also have a copy of the game. The ease of use makes this an attractive feature, though sessions will undoubtedly be short because of the gameplay.

Children of Mana is easily the weakest entry in this series. Fans will give it a chance, yet by the end, it doesn't matter how deeply involved you are with this franchise. After the first two or three hours, the story branches are obvious and you've seen everything. There's not enough here to carry a full-length game.


Go to Digital Press HQ
Return to Digital Press Home

Last updated: Sunday, December 31, 2006 07:57 PM