Children of Mana focuses on a set of four orphaned children, each of whom had lost their parents during a cataclysmic disaster that had occurred years ago. Peace descended over time, until things suddenly take a turn for the worse. Children of Mana for the DS is a fun romp in Square Enix's "World of Mana", but those looking for a successor to all that was great about Secret of Mana will be disappointed.
But the Kid is Not My Son!
When you begin the game, you may choose any of the four characters to play as. Children of Mana also sports a multi-player function for four-player co-op, so you and your friends can traverse dungeons together. Unfortunately, there is no Wi-Fi connectivity so you'll have to be in the same room to play together.
Graphically speaking, Children of Mana is colourful, sharply animated and a pleasure to look at. The cinematics in the game are beautifully rendered and make good use of the dual-screens. Square Enix did not make use of the touch screen during actual gameplay, though, and instead relegates the lower screen to statistics display.
Battling it Out
As the game is essentially a dungeon-crawler, the focus of the game is on its battle system. The system is well developed and runs smoothly, which is most apparent when you are battling numerous enemies simultaneously with no hiccups in the game speed. You travel from island to island, entering new dungeons and fighting your way through numerous levels.
During the game, you will receive four different weapons: sword, flail, bow and hammer, each of which has notable strengths and weaknesses. Hack-and-slash tactics work, but for more engaging game-play, pay attention to your surroundings. You can hit items or enemies into other enemies, causing them to ricochet into each other, inflicting damage. Other environmental hazards may be used to injure yourself or your enemy.
Also available for battle are the familiar spirits from previous Mana games. All of them are immediately accessible, but you can only take one with you at a time. One aggravating thing about the game is the save system while you're traipsing through dungeons. You are limited to saving every few levels, and if you leave the dungeon, you lose your progress.
The downfall of Children of Mana is its repetitiveness. Each dungeon is the same idea: fight bad guys, find a "Gleamdrop" and take it to the "Gleamwell" to transport to the next level until you reach the boss. There are numerous side-quests that have you revisiting old dungeons to gain money, equipment or upgrades while expanding the story and the world. The game also records the time it took you to finish the dungeon and assigns points. For overachievers, this is a plus, but for many, it's just wasted time.
Ultimately, Children of Mana is wonderfully rendered, but when compared to Secret of Mana's engaging narrative, Children of Mana's sparse and slow story falls short. The game is still fun, especially if you enjoy dungeon-crawling and strategically nuanced battles.