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Dawn of Mana  

The island of Illusia floats in the center of the Great Sea and here, the Tree of Mana towers over a small village. Welcome to the World of Mana, this is where it all began. Dawn of Mana is the next chapter in the Mana games and Square has decided to take a risk in going back to the origin of the series.

When most games go back to the beginning of a series, it is usually not done very well. Unfortunately, this is one of those games. Dawn of Mana begins with a gathering of the spirits and they are to discuss the future of the spirit - human relationship. In order to do this, the spirits must go over how the Mana Goddess and the Sword of Mana came into being. This begins with Keldy, a young man from an unknown island living on Illusia, and Ritizia, a young maiden born on Illusia. Ritizia�s pet, Buju the rabbite, has gotten away from Ritizia and Keldy is asked to go get Buju before he gets too far away. Keldy picks up a large stick and proceeds to follow Buju.

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Keldy doesn�t get too far when he is attacked by various creatures. Thus begins the tutorial. Everyone who has played the previous Mana titles will recognize most of the monsters that are fought in the opening areas of the game. Once Buju is caught, Keldy and Ritizia head back to their village. On Their way back they spot an invading army looking for the door to paradise. They then decide to try and find the legendary Mana Beast who is supposed to protect the island and inside the lair of the Mana Beast, Keldy comes into contact with a seed of the Mana Tree. It attaches to his arm and allows Keldy to call forth a sword and whip like vine from his arm.

Fighting in Dawb of Mana is accomplished in real time, there are no separate screens for random encounters as in a traditional RPG. Just like the previous Mana titles, enemies are out in the open. This game, however, takes an unusual approach to leveling the main character. What a player has to do is startle an enemy which is mainly accomplished by shoving something at them. Most everything in this game that looks movable is movable, from dice berries, to a pile of lumber to even a dinghy, can all be moved. If an object lands near or hits an enemy, the creature is startled and runs around with a counter above its head. At this point if attacked, they drop items that look like casino chips. These items have different values such as attack up, magic up, HP up, etc. When enough are collected, Keldy levels up and more attacks or magic spells are open to him. Unfortunately, startling creatures is about the only way to get these items. They are otherwise barely dropped.

The story in DoM is separated into chapters and each chapter can be played multiple times. Most of the Mana games take place in large open world, not divided up into chapters. One of the biggest frustrations this time around is that whenever a chapter is started, all experience is lost. For example, at the end of chapter one, Keldy had leveled up his attack and Magic, at the beginning of level two, he has lost all of his spells and items and has to start fresh again. Normally this wouldn�t bug players as much, unfortunately since it takes forever for Keldy to level up and gain his items back, it becomes a large pain. To top it off, because of this the game does not even feel like a RPG. It feels more like a hack and slash title such as Devil May Cry.

From the beginning of the game, players can tell that Square Enix has done a fantastic job of making the game look good. The colors are vibrant, and the models of the main characters are well done. The animation is a little stiff and they move much like characters from the Kingdom Hearts games. The voice acting is reasonable, unfortunately, some of the lines are not, so expect some good voice acting along with some really bad line delivery.

This unfortunately is where things turn bad. On top of losing everything at the beginning of a chapter, the music in most places of the game sounds like really bad shopping music. The camera is also a point of contention. The camera is way too close, and players cannot move it away from Keldy. There are areas early on in the game with rotating platforms, and because of the camera, many times players cannot see where they are jumping and when they do, the camera moves so fast that there is little time to react. Along with stiff controls and a targeting system that couldn�t hit the broad side of a barn, this makes for an extremely frustrating experience.

The Mana games are generally known for being good real-time/action RPGs. However Dawn of Mana does not do very well in comparison, and there are very little to no RPG elements in the game. Most people have come to know the Mana games as one of the best RPG series out there so hopefully this will be corrected in the next Mana title.

-- Chris Laramie


Review By
Chris Laramie

Grade
C-
Average

Review Date: 5/30/2007
System: PlayStation 2
Developer: Square Enix
Publisher: Square Enix
Medium: DVD-ROM
Players: 1
Online: No
ESRB Rating: T - Teen


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