The Mana Tree Needs Defenders!
The location of the Mana Tree - wellspring of all life - has been lost to legend. Many centuries have passed, and the Granz Realm's Dark Lord is searching for secrets of the ancient tree so that he can control the source of Mana. Now, a young hero and heroine must come together to defeat the evil that threatens both the mystical tree and the world itself.
- From the Sword Of Mana box art (Back)
Little background information first. A Game Boy title by the name of Seiken Densetsu ("Final Fantasy Adventure" in North America and "Mystic Quest" in Europe), Sword Of Mana is essentially a remake of that same title. Graphics and sounds have been given upgrades for the Game Boy Advance release. Originally released in 1991, Seiken Densetsu was given major praise by gamers. Does Sword Of Mana fare any better?
The graphical presentation looks great in Sword Of Mana. Towns looks great as do grassy fields and such. For the GBA and its limited technology, there aren't a lot of negative things to say about it. Other than some occasional glitching, the graphics are near perfect.
The music and sound are just epic, or as epic as you can get with the GBA. The score that was composed by Kenji Ito, the original composer for Seiken Densetsu, is amazing. When you hear the theme when wandering around the field, you can't help but feel triumphant. Sound effects are also very nicely done, from sword swipes to striking enemies. Fantastic score, all in all.
The gameplay, which is undoubtedly the most important part of any game, is a hit and miss deal. You have two stories to play: the hero and the heroine, the former specializing in hand-to-hand combat and the latter being superior in magic and spell casting. This definitely helps the replay value.
However, a few glaring flaws are present. One of them being your partner. Sometimes they will be so dimwitted as to find themselves suck near a tree or another pixelated object, thus you have to free them which can seem like a chore if done enough times. Another gripe is the length of the game which can be completed in about 5 to 6 hours. There are side-quests to take part in, but anyone not too ambitious to play through them can see them as a chore. It just seems like a disappointment as far as that goes.
On the whole, Sword Of Mana is a newly refined port of Seiken Densetsu and it mostly gives you a worth-your-time adventure. Hacking and slashing away at enemies is pretty fun, the music is nice to listen to and, if you can get past the flaws you may encounter, you will find yourself enjoying this title. So if you're a fan of the action RPG genre, this'll be one to try.
When you first start Sword Of Mana, you have the choice of playing the story of either the hero or the heroine. While the plot is basically alike, their backgrounds are different and are spoken of more in depth, depending on who you choose. Both are also different in terms of play style: as spoken of in the overview, the hero is combat oriented while the heroine is magic oriented.
During combat, you are given free range like many other action RPGs. You will also encounter enemies that you will need to defeat in order to level up. Of course, you will need weapons in order to do so. You'll start off with a default weapon (Hero: Sword, Heroine: Rod) which will serve you until you come across other weapons. You can encounter tools like a bow, flail or sickle. Some of these weapons are in the caves or areas you fight in and you can heighten their effectiveness through forging.
The Level Up system is one that gives you some kind of control as to how you want to build your characters. After you reach the required level of experience, text that says "Lv Up!" will appear over their heads. Press Start and you will find a "Lv Up!" option. In this screen, you can choose certain classes to raise. The character class your hero or heroine falls under depends on this.
As helpful, if not more so, than your weapons are the creatures known as Spirits. This is where your Mana Power comes in. While some you'll come across easily and others are freed when defeating bosses, each one can prove to be useful. One example is Wisp, a light spirit as well as the first you encounter, specializing in Healing and Light Damage. Another one is Undine, a water spirit, specializing in Invisible and Dark Damage. There are others and it is up to you to seek them.
One thing that is very unique to Sword Of Mana is the Hot House. Offered to you early in the game through a Cactus Essence, buy it and you will be able to do plenty:
First thing to address is Li'l Cactus's Journal. Written by a skilled writer by the name of Li'l Cactus, this helpful tool jots down what tasks or side quests you have completed, making it easier to keep track of what still needs to be done. To activate this feature, simply walk into the Hot House and walk back out.
Second thing is Watt's Shop. This is the one feature you need to progress through the game in order to obtain. You will need to meet the Watts first. After he decides to work there, you are able to temper and forge weapons and armor for different prices. This is the way to improve how effective your equipment is in battle.
The third and final feature is Trent's Orchard. This allows you to plant a combination of two seeds in order to sprout a fruit or vegetable. Fruits are used to temper armor and vegetables are used to temper weapons. While some fruits and vegetables are rather simple to come across, others require further effort. Like the journal, a simple exit and return will grant you what you need.
|A Button||Attack, Talk To People, Look At Objects, Open Chests|
|L Button||Browse Menus, Jump (Once Learned)|
|R Button||Browse Menus, Use Selected Spirit's Magic (Hold For Stronger Power)|
|Start Button||Bring Up Ring Menu|
|Select Button||Switch Between Hero and Heroine, Show/Hide Help Messages|
|In order to encounter these, you must kill 1,000 of any one variety of monster. This will replace the monster with a Black version of it. While these are stronger than the normal type from before, the chance of Crystal Ores being dropped is greater.|