Heroes of Mana (Nintendo DS) Review

By Adam Riley 21.09.2007 5

Review for Heroes of Mana on Nintendo DS

The World of Mana project has not exactly performed quite as well as perhaps Square Enix would have thought in terms of worldwide sales, but that is not to say the level of game quality has been low, as seen with Children of Mana. Now Nintendo-owned Brownie Brown has been enlisted to do Heroes of Mana, and just like Children it bucks the trend and chooses the Real-Time Strategy format rather than traditional Action RPG approach old Mana fans are used to. But can the team keep the standard high despite the change and should you rush out and pick this up?

The game's story centres on Roget, a young chap who hails from the land of Pedda. However, he and his friends soon find out about plans for a Peddan revolution, with the objective being to take over the rest of the world via whatever means necessary. Therefore, Roget and a select few comrades take it upon themselves to enlist the help of anyone they can find from neighbouring regions and revolt against this dark uprising, eventually using the power of Mana to help with their cause of bringing peace back to the world. Each new character you face has their own back story that develops throughout the journey; however, as is the case in games such as this, you only tend to really follow the thread of the characters you most often choose in battle. But everything is more than engaging enough to hold your attention through to the end of the game that is for sure...

Unlike Brownie Brown's moderately eye-catching Magical Starsign (also on DS), Heroes does not take a fully 2D approach, instead going down the route of several PSone titles, such as Square Enix's own Xenogears, and mixes both 2D sprite characters and 3D world locations, with other three-dimensional bits and bobs littered throughout the game (such as for various flying crafts). Whilst nowadays on Sony's 32-bit system through a TV set this might not look too good, on the reduced resolution of the DS screen set-up it all looks splendid indeed and certainly bodes well for the Dragon Quest IV remake that is coming to Japan later this year and chooses the same approach. Bright colours, varied characters and impressive locales all add to the charm of the game, whilst the manual camera functions sufficiently well enough to prevent frustration from kicking in when characters move behind scenery.

Screenshot for Heroes of Mana on Nintendo DS

In terms of the soundtrack, the Mana series is renowned for having memorable tunes that are uplifting, moving, catchy, and perfectly crafted to suit the mood and tone of the numerous locations you visit...and Heroes is no different. There are plenty of musical pieces that will stick with you long after the game has been shut down, from the main menu tune to the pre-battle character selection ditty, right through to places such as the desert and snow-covered areas that will undoubtedly sound pleasingly familiar to fans of Secret of Mana from the SNES. It is only a shame that the CD soundtrack will likely never get an official release here in Europe.

There are other similarities to previous Mana games as well in terms of the settings, with recognisable locations such as Wendel cropping up, the usual Mana spirits lending assistance later on in the game, plenty of recycled enemies for all Mana outings and even the storyline hinting towards future versions of the series (Heroes pre-dates the Japanese-only SNES ARPG Seiken Densetsu 3 in terms of storyline). But in terms of actual gameplay this is a completely fresh approach for the franchise, with the emphasis being on creating your own army and sending the troops out to battle your foe in a real-time fighting scenario that is akin to the likes of StarCraft and Dungeon Keeper.

Screenshot for Heroes of Mana on Nintendo DS

The game is broken up into twenty-seven different missions, some of which are split into several smaller objectives. The aim is to achieve the main objective whilst abiding by the conditions set, such as 'Do not let Roget get killed', 'Do not let your ship be destroyed' or even ones like 'Protect person X' or 'Find X item'. You start each mission by equipping your characters with the latest weapons, charms that have either been won as a reward for completing the last mission or simply found by wandering around the entire of the last map you were on, or even magic (once the Mana Spirits start to help, allowing you to use their magic via your weapons whist in the battlefield) and then choosing the fighters you wish to use in the following mission (a maximum amount is set per mission, making the choice much harder when you have to, for instance, pick just three from a selection of about sixteen or so, depending on what stage of the game you are at).

Once on the main map you are faced with the characters you chose, your ship and that is it. Control of your team is done by tapping on the character you want and then tapping on the place you want them to move to or enemy you want them to attack, simple as that. For the selection of multiple units you can tap the 'group' icon and then simply draw around the units you want to select en-masse and then click where you want them to go or what you want them to attack. Get the idea

Screenshot for Heroes of Mana on Nintendo DS

After enough rocks and fruit have been collected you can build new plantations for bulking up your fighting crew, with flying creatures, heavy-set ones, arrow-shooting monsters and many more. The more you progress through the game, the more creatures become available for selection in each plantation, but they also then require more fruit to be collected to grow them. Bearing in mind that certain fighters are more useful against differing enemy types than others (the old rock-paper-scissors scheme coming into play), you must wisely choose what troops go up against which enemy. Selection of multiple units can become slightly awkward when you have too many creatures on-screen at once and the ally icons that are on the bottom screen are not too useful as nearly all the icons look the same, meaning it becomes kind of random which one you tap on and thus pointless, but that is a minor gripe. The biggest issue has to be that when a troop or group of troops have completed their task, they normally just sit there until directly engaged by the enemy (in other words arrows can hit them from afar without them reacting or retreating). However, again this just means you need to keep a closer eye on proceedings, so does not hamper the enjoyment as much as you may think. So overall, especially considering I have never been a big fan of this particular genre, it proves to be addictive and a highly enjoyable adventure.

...And definitely one that will last for quite a long time. With the large amount of missions on offer that are themselves, as previously stated, broken up into smaller sub-stages in many cases and whilst not overly taxing, do require multiple play-throughs to complete at times, Heroes of Mana is definitely a game that lasts for the long-haul. However, not only do you have the main game to work through, there is also the challenge of bettering your performance on each stage due to the ranking system employed where you receive a rating at the end of each mission (extra points are given for no damage to your ship, not losing any characters, uncovering more of the map, and so on, improving your overall rank), plus a Hard Mode that is unlocked after your first run-through of the game. There are also Free Battle maps where you can train yourself on certain stages, find more items and equipment, plus gain some Wi-Fi goodies...Finally, if you manage to work through Hard Mode you will be treated to a special Free Battle stage as well, where you can discover a secret enemy that hails from Seiken Densetsu 3 on the SNES

Screenshot for Heroes of Mana on Nintendo DS

Cubed3 Rating

9/10
Rated 9 out of 10

Exceptional - Gold Award

Rated 9 out of 10

The World of Mana series has come under fire from many sectors due to none of the new games being anything like Secret of Mana or Seiken Densetsu 3. However, as with Children of Mana, Heroes of Mana shows that a change is as good as a rest. Brownie Brown has created a very workable RTS experience on the DS that is far more welcoming to newcomers than other games in this genre. Be sure to give this your full attention...

Developer

Brownie Brown

Publisher

Square Enix

Genre

Real Time RPG

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  9/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  10/10 (2 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now   

Comments

Has anyone here actually played this game? I really enjoyed Children of Mana, but found this one to rather more engaging. I've never been a big fan of RTS games before, but this really grabbed my attention.

Adam Riley [ Director :: Cubed3 ]

UNITE714: Weekly Prayers | Bible Verses

Great review Adam, and it seems like a nice title that I've overlooked. Maybe I'll get it in the future (but maybe not with the amount I'm currently playing...Smilie.

It came out at the wrong time, I feel, going up against Sonic Rush Adventure on DS and Super Paper Mario on Wii in the same week was rather suicidal.

If it doesn't climb up next week, though, it'll be yet another flop in the UK for S-E, with neither Children of Mana nor Chocobo Tales making the Top 30 :-( :cry:

Hopefully Front Mission 1st won't bomb as well...

Adam Riley [ Director :: Cubed3 ]

UNITE714: Weekly Prayers | Bible Verses

Sonic Rush Adventure actually came out the week before, but I agree. I don't see why companies have to release everything in bunches, there was a nice clear summer just gone where they could have surely got it sorted out - even releasing it a couple of weeks ago would have made things a bit clearer for it.

Chocobo Tales definitely deserved to be in the top 30, that was a shame. Still not played Children of Mana...

I hope Drawn To Life doesn't suffer a similar fate, also coming out at this busy time!

It's crazy sometimes, almost as if certain companies don't check to see what else is coming out!

Anyway, it would be a shame if S-E is discouraged to bring more 'risk' games over to Europe. It's still disappointing that it refuses to translate Rocket Slime because of its poor US performance. DQVIII did better in Europe than in the US so chances are DQH: RS could do so as well. Ah well, opportunity missed, I say.

Adam Riley [ Director :: Cubed3 ]

UNITE714: Weekly Prayers | Bible Verses

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