Adventures of Mana is now available on PS Vita, which comes from Square Enix and is a remake of the classic Final Fantasy Adventures game which released in 1991 for the GameBoy Advance. The game is full of charm and has a vibrant, cartoonish style.
The story starts with you as a prisoner, who has to fight and entertain the Dark Lord. Like with many games of this genre you soon discover that the princess and the kingdom are in big trouble, I’m sure you’ve heard this before. Very early in the game you seize the chance to make your escape and as you do so you are attacked, fall of a cliff and presumed dead. Now you have the chance to explore the world and save the princess. The story is actually more detailed than say Mario or Zelda games, but the plot and story moments don’t last long and if you’re not paying attention you can easily miss what’s going on. That being said, I actually really enjoyed how the story develops and there are plenty of twists and interesting moments.
As soon as I started the game I was instantly reminded of the Zelda series, with a top down view, overworld areas to explore and even dungeons. As you reach one side of the screen it scrolls across, loading the next area with enemies and other objects, which can feel a little jarring. The areas you explore often have certain routes to take, that feel maze-like with plenty of interesting creatures and enemies to encounter. I really enjoyed the design of the environments, but it would have felt more immersive to have been able to slash and hack your way through bushes and shrubs.
The gameplay is fun but ultimately extremely simple. You move around as you would expect and the only attack you have is with the X button, which swings whatever weapon you’re currently holding. There’s plenty of weapons to find and use but I would have liked to of seen more variety in attacks, even if it was just and strong and weak attack. For some reason I was expecting to use turn-based combat, maybe because of the old name of the game – Final Fantasy Adventures. The combat feels more engaging when enemies become harder and you have to work out attack patterns to know when to strike. Even though the combat is very basic it does feel satisfying to slash through enemies. It’s also important to note that enemies respawn if you move from a screen and then return. The boss fight are the best moments of combat as they have unique attack methods and patterns.
In a similar way to the original Legend of Zelda game, you attack with your main weapon and collect items along the way. You start out with a simple sword but you do get a nice variety of weapons. You also start to gather other important items and objects that are used to solve puzzles and progress forward. If you get stronger weapons you can cut down certain trees to reveal new areas. One thing I want to suggest is that you be very careful and cautious with the items you acquire, as they are often needed to progress in certain areas. Like I said before, there are plenty of enemies to fight and the more you kill, the more experience points you’ll gain. This allows you to level up and improve specific stats. I liked this element of the game as it allows you to build the character you want. I went for a warrior type and focused on attack power.
Another interesting aspect within the game is when you get a character to join you on your journey. They help you fight for a short while, heal you or even use magic. I thought the idea was good, but the companions are frustrating to say the least.
I never played the original game when it came out in 1991 for the Gameboy Advance but I did take a look at some footage and its clear that this new version looks much better. The game now has 3D visuals rather than the 8-bit sprite appearance. I was pleased that the game is so vibrant and colourful but I couldn’t help feel that the overall look felt a bit empty and bland. Also like I mentioned before the loading between screens is frustrating and took me out of the experience. The game suffers for because of this and combined with the limited combat it ends up feeling a little watered down. The sound design on the other hand is impressive and is one of the games strongest features. The soundtrack is melodic and uplifting and suits the vibrant tone of the game. You can also choose to listen to the original soundtrack, which is a nice touch.
Overall, Adventures of Mana is a game that has taken an old GBA game and enhanced the visuals and sound. I was a little disappointed with a few aspects of the game, like the combat and screen loading but in general its fun to play. The story is decent and I enjoyed seeing how it unfolded over the course of the game. I enjoyed my time playing Adventures of Mana and I would recommend it if you’re looking for a game that’s easy to play, feels reminiscent of Zelda games and is perfect for playing on the PS Vita.
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