Cidolfas's RPG Reviews: Sword of Mana (GBA)
Sword of Mana is a GBA remake of the Game Boy game Final Fantasy Adventure (known in Japan as Seiken Densetsu).
You Are: Either a male warrior or a female magic user. Gee, there's an original premise.
Your Goal Is: To defeat the EVIL DARK LORD! With a now-predictable plot twist.
General System: Sword of Mana is pretty similar to its predecessors on the SNES, with the usage of a "ring menu" to manage all your items and information. Unlike the others, though, your weapons and armor have to be forged and tempered rather than bought. You can do this by collecting base materials (for forging new items) or fruits and vegetables (for tempering). Yes, you make your sword stronger by adding a fruit to it. No, it doesn't make sense. Thankfully, the seed-planting part of the game is far more deterministic than Legend of Mana's, so crack out the FAQ and get going! Oh, and one nice addition is that you can actually jump around this time.
Battle System: Your generic action RPG, where you go around bashing things, along with an AI-controlled opponent who does the same (although unfortunately the AI always seems to completely waste its MP on spells as soon as it can). Spells are a bit different than the others in the series: you assign one spirit (Wisp, Gnome, etc.) to your R button; tapping it produces a defensive spell, while holding it down gives you an offensive one (the element is determined by the spirit, and the trajectory by your equipped weapon). Enemies all have strengths and weaknesses to the various weapons and elements, so battles are more similar to Rock-Paper-Scissors than most other games out there. One thing that bugged me is that as soon as you beat all the enemies on screen, after a few seconds they all come back. 8-\
Graphics: Bright and colorful, but not really anything to write home about.
Music: Not awful, but again, nothing memorable.
Story: Although there are a few fairly original ideas, most of the story is cliched and easily ignored. The localization is quite well done, though. I also like the idea of being able to play either the male or female hero, whose plotlines cross several times; it's done better than in Star Ocean 2, but still doesn't really save the fact that the story itself isn't interesting.
Length: About 30 hours
My Thoughts: Eh. Sword of Mana is a decent time-waster, but not particularly enjoyable. The dungeons are a bit too maze-y (especially considering the GBA's small screen), the story is old and hoary by this point, and the numerous side quests are difficult to discover, annoying to finish, and entirely unnecessary. I found that it lacked the playability of Secret of Mana or the charm of Legend of Mana. Still, if you're a Mana fan, you might get a kick out of it.
Overall Rating: 5.0/10