Thursday, 5 February 2009

Review - Dawn of Mana

I just finished Dawn of Mana for the PS2 the other day.  It was a fun game, but not without its shortcomings.

Gameplay wise its quite different from the previous games in the series.  Instead of an overhead view of the world, its now a 3d platformer type game, not unlike Zelda Ocarina of Time.  I've read reviews on the game that seem to give the game bad marks just because of problems with the camera angles.  While there are indeed instances where I didn't know what the heck was going on because the camera screws up, I actually laughed hysterically because of it.  While yes this could be a hindrance on bosses, fortunately it never happened to me during a boss.  The camera angles made jump quests especially hard, fortunately there aren't that many jump quests though.   So yeah, the camera could have used some work, but I don't think thats why the game should have gotten 4.5/10 on some of the reviews I read that basically just said the camera was the worst point.  Also, the camera in any game will have issues, especially in games such as this.  

Dawn of Mana does have a learning curve.  They actually tell you just about everything you need to know in the prologue, but they really don't tell you how to execute this knowledge.  I learned stuff at the end of the game, that I should have been doing the entire game.  For instance, in the beginning I would use Keldy's whip thing and grab an item/enemy, and then release it by flinging it at an enemy.  I didn't realize until the end that I could have just used the square button to fling it, but keep it attached to the whip and pummel enemies with it over and over until one dies.  Would have made the game a lot easier.

Now would be a good time to point out the battle system.  Its quite different from any game I've ever played.  Enemies have a "Panic" meter, which basically means if they get hit by something, or something comes very close to hitting them, they freak out and are either stunned, or they start running away.  When they are stunned they will drop Medals when you hit them, which are basically how you level up.  Some medals increase HP, some SP, and some Max Attack.  Depending on what hit the enemy, and how many time the enemy was hit by something, the Panic meter has a higher countdown.  

The bosses overall weren't extremely hard.  The battles can however take quite  bit of time to do.  I died a few times on quite a few, but thats only because I couldn't figure out what to do to harm it. Once I figured out how to stun the boss, it was pretty easy.  

Graphically the game is beautiful.  This is definitely where the Dawn of Mana shines.  The Mana series has always been known for lush environments, and Dawn of Mana is no exception.  I had a lot of fun just wandering around looking at the world.  Its also really fun to look at 3D renderings of my favorite Mana series monsters, such as Rabites and Mushbooms.  I just wish they made more monsters from the series, like Sahagins and those ducks with the helmets.

Being a Mana game, the story reflects that.  Mana Tree is being destroyed, Mana Tree is destroyed, Mana Tree is reborn.  All in a tragic story revolving around Keldy and his friend Ritzia.  There are a few twists, though kind of predictable.  The game is quite short, which does make character development nearly non-existent, yet somehow you still feel for the characters.  My only complaint is that the story is very linear, so there really isn't too much replay value, apart from collecting all the ribbons.  A ribbon is a reward that boosts your abilities, you can only equip so many at a time at the beginning of a chapter.  I've never been one that must have 100% in a game, so I can't be bothered to get all the ribbons.

The music is also another shining point for Dawn of Mana.  Again the Mana series is known for good music.  All the music fits seamlessly to what is happening in the game.  Fierce boss battle music, calm tranquil ambient music, and emotional music in tragic scenes.  The music in the very end nearly made me shed tears.

Overall I thoroughly enjoyed the game.  I personally hate numbering systems for reviews so I won't put one.  Although quite different from the previous installments, this is not a detractor.  The game is still as fun as the rest and I definitely recommend playing it.  Dawn of Mana is not for the casual gamer however, so if you do get it and play it, save points can be few and far between, so be warned.  Despite its lack of replay value, the gameplay itself might make it worth playing again.

Talentless Troll has spoken!

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