Heroes of Mana Review

I was worried about Heroes of Mana since it wasn’t the traditional Mana-gameplay I’m accustomed to. Not only was it an SRPG, but it was an SRPG on the DS, to boot! While the game doesn’t really do enough to make me consider it a must-buy (or even a must-play), thankfully it does do enough to show that these games on the DS can work.

As you could probably guess, being an SRPG on the DS Heroes of Mana isn’t filled with a lot of complex gameplay elements or graphics-heavy special units. Most of the emphasis is on portable SRPGing and stylus control, and while the game is a huge hit or miss, for the most part they get the basics down.

Rather than have a set base, you instead get an airship which is free to fly about doing whatever you want it to do. When it’s in the air, you can’t use a lot of its features, but it is less vulnerable. Once it lands, you’re able to use the traditional base features, but anyone and everyone can take a swing at it. The ability to move your base around the map to specific points does add a bit of tactical element to the game, so that’s always a good thing.

What isn’t good is anything and everything related to moving your characters from one spot to the next. The pathfinding is some of the worst I’ve ever seen (sometimes they’ll go all the way around the area rather than take a few steps to the right) and the pace the units move at is so slow you may think your DS is dying.

In addition to the horrible movement, the enemy AI is also very, very stupid. For starters, most of them won’t move until you come near them and lift the fog. Not only do they complacently stay where they are until you come slaughter them, but they rarely ever pose an actual challenge. I suppose since you can’t see much info at all about enemy units (and a lot look so similar you can’t tell them apart) that may be a good thing.

There is good news, though, because the way you control your units and everything with the stylus is fairly intuitive, and nicely executed. Given the right developer and game, and you could even make the argument that a DS SRPG will control better than a console one.

Despite the tragically flawed pathfinding and molasses-like speed the game plays in, Heroes of Mana is a Square game, so obviously the story is good. It’s connected with Seiken Densetsu 3, so anyone who’s played a translated ROM of that or understands Japanese and has played the original knows what they’ll be in for. If you can manage to stay awake long enough to get to the story elements, at least you’ll be rewarded.

With the Mana franchise and the DS’s hardware, Square had a great shot at making Heroes of Mana the next cult SRPG classic. Sadly, what we got is basically "SRPGs for Dummies." Given the nature of the DS and Nintendo’s love of non-gamer friendly games, maybe that’s a good thing. If you’re a hardcore gamer and like some challenge, though, you may want to pass this up. Whether you like this or not, however, there’s no denying this game will pave the way for future DS SRPGs.


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Author: Brendon Lindsey View all posts by

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