reviews\ Aug 19, 2007 at 8:00 pm

Heroes of Mana - NDS - Review

The Mana series is constantly evolving with each platform that it comes in contact with. This time players will be able to try their hand at a real-time strategy game, which is a unique spin for this series. While there have been a couple of RTS games released from this system, there has never really been a game that has a high profile name like this.

The story for this game fits into the rest of the franchises’ world, so if you are have played previous games in the series then you should feel at home when you see certain enemies and other familiar things. The story for this game is that before the Mana Goddess was born, a great witch, Anise, brought darkness to the world. The witch was defeated by the guardians of the tree, but not before she spread her darkness and curse upon this and other worlds. As time passed the Mana Goddess used the Sword of Mana to capture the darkness and seal it into eight stones, thus the darkness subsided and the world as we know it was created and peace was restored onto the land. Time has now passed, but the peace is about to come to an abrupt end. It is up to you to defeat the evil that is leaking into the world.

The gameplay is pretty simple to get adjusted to. All you have to do is touch what you want to do on the touch screen. If you want to move units just select it and then tap where you want it to go. If you want to select more than one unit you choose the “multi” icon to the left then draw a circle around the units you want to control then you can move them with a tap of the stylus. It will take a few seconds to get adjusted to, but it works out really nicely for this game.

Selecting a group of units

Once you finally get into the game, you will see that your base is a huge ship that needs to be anchored down in order for it to be useful for you. It is then up to you to gather two different resources: Gaia, which is used to build various buildings, and Treant, which is used to summon units to aid you in the game. From inside the ship you will make the various buildings you need and then click on those buildings to make the units you need for battle.

When you find your first enemy to fight you will realize that this game has a rock-paper-scissors gameplay, which means that one unit type is always better at fighting another type, will do more damage. The formula follows this cycle: heavy-ground-missile-flying-heavy. The only problem about this is that when you select a unit, it doesn’t tell you the type it is, so you often forget and take the wrong unit type to fight and eventually they get slaughtered. There are also other units you can use in this game such as the gathering units, special units (which have a high level of attack and special abilities), and your hero units. It is up to the player to figure out how to manage each one in order to become victorious in each battle situation.

The graphics for this game are pretty nice. First off the colors that the developers used are always fresh and keep the various battlefields interesting. The characters are nicely detailed even though they are really small, the only downside is that there is not much variety in the animation of the characters, but that is easily forgivable since this is on a handheld system. What is really nice is the cut scenes that help drive the story along. The production value on them is very high, and players will be able to tell that the first time they see one of the movies.

The sound for this game is pretty good as well. The best thing about it is the sound track that players will get to listen to as they go through each level. It really makes gamers want to continue and defeat any enemy that they stumble upon. The sound effects do a decent job while you are in battle, but they are not varied enough and get repetitive quickly.

Lots of action

One of the biggest problems that this game has is in path finding. Each of the locations for the game is divided by a grid that allows the players walk around on. The problem lies in the fact that units refuse to be in the same grid as another character. So if you take a group of three units many times you will find one of the units taking the longer way to get to your destination, which will most likely be an enemy. This means that while two of your characters will be taking way more damage than they should since one of the characters decides to take the “scenic” route to the target.

Another problem that this game has is that the computer AI is not very intelligent. Most of the times when you first get to a new battlefield you can walk around and find the enemy and as long as you don’t get right up next to them, they will not attack you. So that means that the AI will just be standing in place for the duration of the game until you take the first move, or accidently brush up against them. This is extremely disappointing, especially in this day and age of real-time strategy gaming.

If your friend has a copy of this game, then you two can go at it to decide who the better player is, which is always more fun than playing against the dumb AI that this game has. Heroes of Mana would have been a whole lot better if they had actual online play. The game says that it is compatible with Wi-Fi, but in actually it is just a ranked leader board that updates each time you sign online, which is extremely disappointing.

Heroes of Mana is rated Everyone 10+ for language and mild fantasy violence.

Review Scoring Details for Heroes of Mana

Gameplay: 7.1
The gameplay mechanics are done really well and really easy to learn and get into, and works well with the Nintendo DS. The problem with the game is that the AI is incompetent and the game just moves way to slow, even after you are out of what I call the “training” missions.

Graphics: 7.6
The graphics for this game are pretty decent, and very colorful. The cut scenes look really nice though.

Sound: 7.8
The sound effects for this game are pretty basic and will not excite you to much. The soundtrack on the other hand, is really nicely done and gives you the feeling that you must go on and conquer the next enemy.

Difficulty: Easy
If you have ever played any RTS games you will know what to do immediately since the interface is dumbed down (not in a bad way) so it can work on the Nintendo DS. The AI in this game really needs work as it not that bright, so you will not face that many challenges that you cannot overcome.

Concept: 8.0
I really like the fact that the developers really tried to make a unique experience for this platform. They showed that you can make a RTS game work on the Nintendo DS. I look forward to seeing what else the developer came come up with in the future for this system.

Multiplayer N/A
At the time of this review I was unable to test the multiplayer aspects of this game.

Overall: 7.4
Heroes of Mana shows that it is possible to have an RTS game work on the Nintendo DS and remain fun. The main problem with this game is the dumb AI and very slow-paced gameplay. Hopefully the developers will give this game another shot as if they can fix these things, they will have a sure-fire hit on their hands.


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