Blue 32 on 3. Hike.
Heroes of Mana is not your typical RPG. That's mainly because it has strong real-time strategy (RTS) elements. Not to say that it contains no RPG elements as you have hero characters that act as generals in combat. They are the lead characters in combat and seem to take the lead in the storyline. I didn't get a chance to jump into the story, so I can't really speak of the characters or plot.
The battle system for Heroes of Mana is just like that of a typical RTS. You have a base, and from that base you can make units to gather resources or for combat. In the time I was able to play, I made a handful of grunt units that I set to gathering berries and wood to help build more units and buildings. Once I had enough resources, I started training archers. It's your normal RTS layout and thanks to the use of the stylus, dragging to select units feels like it would on a PC game.
This is mass chaos.
The hero units each have different types of attacks based on what seemed like a kind of job class. These characters can level up and equip items and accessories just like in traditional RPGs. In my play through, I was taking on our very own site President, Mikel "Firemyst" Tidwell. Assisting me with the controls was Square Enix's PR Assistant Manager, Charlie Sinhaseni. He helped show me how to create buildings and train units, since I didn't get a look at the tutorial beforehand. After creating a few units and soldiers, I decided that it was now or never. I sent all of my heroes to attack Mikel's base and before he knew what hit him, things were exploding all around him. To his defense, I had a more experienced teacher, and he did manage to take out my heroes before finally going down. The sad part of this enjoyable multiplayer experience is the fact that it will not support Nintendo WFC for combat, so only local multiplayer will be available. It will use the WFC for an online ranking system, but that's it.
The graphics were very nice on the DS. It was nothing extremely shiny, but the game is quite colorful. The little I heard of the music was good as well, but I didn't get to listen to that much. This game is just around the corner here in North America, so when August hits RPGamers can get a good taste of strategy. I just hope your friends are close enough to play against in multiplayer.