Dawn of Mana - Review

Dawn of Mana
Ages: Teen

The game opens with an Ancient, with an Irish brogue, gathering the twinkling fairy sprites to tell them the story of the Mana the tree of life. Nowadays, with sequels outpacing prequels, this is the story that comes before Secret of Mana. And a good story it is -- this one in 3D eye stunning color.

First the villain King Stroud of Lorimar wants to invade Illusia to unlock the power of the Tree of Mana to plunge the entire world into darkness. (What would games and stories be without these maladjusted characters around?) To accomplish this he kidnaps the tree maiden, Ritza. Our main character, Keldric -- Keldy to his friends must find Ritza before her powers are misused to destroy the tree of life. Keldy is adopted by Faye a spirit child with stat boosting ability who flies before him like a Tinkerbell. So now begins the battle between good and evil.

Kelty, starts out bashing mushrooms and sharp beak birds with a stick. After meandering about the forest he comes before an alter and upon picking up an artifact, is imbued with Mana quest power which results in his arm being turned into a vine sword, which he can fling out, capture villains with and toss them about. Eventually the vine/arm can also be a slingshot and a bow. This combination allows him to hit enemies at a distance, capture them and fling them about or to simply bash them with his sword. There is endless platforming in the game, relieved only by the occasional ladder.

Scaring is an interesting innovation in this game. If you scare enemies you can see their scare points go up they are easier to defeat and you get more credit when you vanquish them. Many objects can be pushed pulled or thrown to frighten enemies. Rolling boulders and giant balls are my favorite. I used every opportunity to drop them on someone.

A map in the upper corner of the screen map shows red, blue, yellow and white boxes to indicate goals, enemies, and allies. It has the same problem I found with maps in the last four or five games I reviewed. They are too small, have no scale, and don't update your progress often enough to be much more than confusing. The blue arrow of direction helps but it feels like a cheat.

This doesn't really feel like an RPG there aren't enough stores or trading going on, your abilities central to RPGs are re-set to base each time you start another one of the eight chapters. Perennial abilities are acquired by earning emblems and these are earned depending upon how fast you completed the chapter, how many enemies you have killed and how many objects smashed. You are being rated, and you get marks, MARKS! There is some complaining about this system -- as you might well imagine.

The game has four levels of difficulty: Easy, Normal, Hard and Ultimate. Certain requirements must be met to unlock Hard and Ultimate modes. My solution set your level to Easy, they don't even count stats at this level, there is enough bashing to keep up the interest and you can go through the great story and enjoy the wonderful environments without getting hot under the collar. This is a new development a fun way for casual gamers to enjoy some of the games that they would never get into. IMHO. It's great marketing.


Fun Factor: Nice fighting in pretty places.
Female Factor: Disappointing. Tree maiden gets kidnapped leaving battles to Keldy and baby spirit
Player Friendly: Easy setting is a win. Plenty of saved spots.

Reviewed by: Editor - 05/07

  • Dawn of Mana
  • © Square Enix
  • Platform(s): PS2
  • To Order: PS2 http://www.amazon.com/ $49.82