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   Adventures of Mana - Review  

Digitizing the Analog
by Mike "JuMeSyn" Moehnke

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PLATFORM
Vita
BATTLE SYSTEM
3
INTERACTION
2
ORIGINALITY
2
STORY
2
MUSIC & SOUND
3
VISUALS
3
CHALLENGE
Easy
COMPLETION TIME
Less than 20 Hours
OVERALL
2.5/5
+ Quick, effective action
+ Looks and sounds quite nice
- Could've been updated much more
- Time-consuming interface
Click here for scoring definitions 

   When the original Final Fantasy Adventure was released for the Game Boy in 1991, it wasn't loaded with lofty expectations from being part of the storied Seiken Densetsu series. Recent entries in that series have been underwhelming at best, and Square Enix is seemingly content to let it persist only through reissues of old games and mobile titles. Adventures of Mana is a slight departure from that situation, in that it is indeed a remake of the very first game. It's not a revamp of the game — Sword of Mana on the GBA already provided one. Instead, this is a cosmetic upgrade with a few minimal alterations that do nothing to obscure its origin many console generations ago.

   A young man has been kept as a slave, forced to fight for the amusement of his owners. A chance to escape one day is seized, but this is hardly the end of trials for the fellow. A sinister Dark Lord and a nefarious magician are aiming to gain power, and the battle skills gained for the amusement of his masters prove just what is needed to combat the pair. Alongside a maiden whose abilities are desired by the dangerous duo, this hero must fight to save the land.

   Aside from being able to show much more text simultaneously than the Game Boy could manage and getting a contemporary translation, this tale is identical to that of Final Fantasy Adventure. Crises are announced tersely and then resolved with just as much brevity, characters have thin personalities that are lucky to be enhanced with a single piece of background information, and exposition is kept to the bare minimum. Understanding that Square Enix did not supplement the narrative of an early Game Boy title at all will help keep expectations in check. Sword of Mana changed things around, while Adventures of Mana tries its hardest to make no alterations or additions whatsoever.

   This title is full of action, sporting a good variety of opponents and means by which to battle them. The protagonist gains access to multiple weapons such as flails and axes, each with different attack timing and range. Enemies come in a wide variety of appearances, and even though the number of attack patterns they sport is nowhere near as diverse, keeping the roster flush is appreciated. Plenty of environmental obstacles will also need to be surmounted before the conclusion, usually by means of a particular weapon that doubles as a tool.

Besmirching the good name of empires?  For shame! Besmirching the good name of empires? For shame!

   Adventures of Mana really could have used some additional interface updating to accommodate the many extra buttons on the Vita compared to the Game Boy. Only two buttons are employed by default, while another three actions can be used through either icons on the touch screen or holding down the shoulder buttons. While better than nothing, it would have been preferable to cycle through weapons and spells using the shoulder buttons instead of having to enter the menu constantly when more choices are required.

   Another interface aspect that could have used alteration has to do with the world's structure. Like many games of the late 80s and early 90s, Final Fantasy Adventure was divided into a number of small areas, most close to the dimensions of a single screen. This model has been faithfully replicated for Adventures of Mana, and leads to a great deal of annoyance. Pauses so the game can transition between areas are omnipresent, and attempting to dodge something is frequently sufficient to inadvertently trigger a shift.

   Enemies can be dangerous, but rarely because they are intelligent. Most opponents have no short-term memory and will not immediately react to the protagonist's presence, making inadvertent collisions more common than intentional damage. Bosses are more malevolent but their attack patterns are fairly easy to identify and avoid. Gaining a few levels or acquiring better equipment will also serve to power through scenarios if that course is desired. An unusual aspect is the presence of several companion characters who will help the protagonist, though their AI is no better than that of the enemies and engaging them in conversation produces a single, unchanging response.

Suddenly I Suddenly I'm hungry for calamari, though not if it's spitting fireballs.

   The audio and video elements of the game have been updated substantially for this remake, and are quite pleasing to experience. Most impressive is the wide variety of enemy sprites on display, and while the environments are not a technical tour de force in any way they do look pretty. The original chiptune music by Kenji Ito is available, as is a nicely arranged rendition of the same compositions performed by live musicians. A couple of the tunes are too short, but the score is effective most of the time and has plenty of atmospheric music.

   I played some of the original Final Fantasy Adventure but never completed it. Now that I've played Adventures of Mana, I don't think playing the original again will ever be necessary. Square Enix originally made this version for mobile phones, which perhaps explains why not much was changed. It's still a minimally-altered rendition of something I wasn't enthralled with in the first place. Many others have much more affection for the original than I do, and will doubtless be overjoyed that Square Enix allows them to play it on a modern platform without rendering any memories of how to progress inaccurate through alterations. Those hoping for something more akin to certain acclaimed later installments of the series, or a title that plays in a fashion better taking advantage of the Vita's capabilities, will be disappointed.

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