Square Enix is a company that needs no introduction. Built on the foundations famous for Final Fantasy and Dragon Warrior, as well as a bevy of other titles, this publisher has a rich history of having kept gamers entertained for over a decade. One of the acclaimed titles originally produced by Square Soft in the mid 1990's was Seiken Densetsu, known domestically as the "Mana" series. The second installment, Secret of Mana, was an acclaimed hit on the SNES while the first game was localized as Final Fantasy Adventure for the Game Boy; a title doomed to fade into obscurity. Now, Square Enix and developer Brownie Brown are prepared to set the record straight. The original Seiken Densetsu will come to North American shores as Sword of Mana for the Game Boy Advance, a complete recreation and facelift for the progenitor of the Mana series.
The original Final Fantasy Adventure's plot was simple: the hero, a 17-year old fencer who had lost his parents to a villain five years prior, is sent to protect the Mana Tree from evil. In the remake, he will be joined by a female companion from the Mana tribe along with two supporting characters, the beast man Nikita and Li'l Cactus (a staple mascot of the Mana series). With all the planned additions, players can also look forward to an expanded plot that builds on the original's premise.
The visual aesthetics are something out of a classic storybook. Sword of Mana's graphics resemble watercolor paintings of flamboyant, yet nature-oriented inspiration. The sprite-based world is richly lush with detail, from the first gnarled root to the last talking mountain. This remarkably picturesque world is comparable to that of Legend of Mana for the Sony PlayStation, featuring giant bosses, smooth character animations and atmospherically indulgent backgrounds.
For music lovers, Kenji Ito, the composer responsible for the soundtracks behind the original Final Fantasy Adventure, Romancing SaGa, SaGa Frontier and Chocobo Racing, will reprise his role as the game's composer. If Ito remains true to form, players can expect airy, romantic compositions alongside hard-edged battle themes.
What attracted many players to the Mana series was its real-time combat system. Players would guide their party around the screen, hacking away at enemies with one character while the others were computer-controlled. Players would alternate between using their weapons and opening the "Command Ring" to launch magic projectiles, use items or change settings. How effective a player’s attacks were was dependent on a power meter that would decrease with use and recharge when the characters rested. This meter also served the dual role of a running stamina meter. These key features will make a return in Sword of Mana; however, the power meter is reportedly more lenient on players, allowing them to execute more attacks and run further without having to recharge.
Another defining feature of the Mana series was the incorporation of multi-player gameplay. Secret of Mana and Legend of Mana allowed players to cooperate with each other using multiple controllers, a feature which is possible using the GBA's link cable. Sure enough, if players want to hook up with each other, the two-hero system in Sword of Mana fits the bill.
The Game Boy Advance has been privy to many quality remakes, and Sword of Mana promises to be a testament to that fact. Although the game is soon to be released in Japan, Western gamers will have to wait until December 1st of this year to get their hands on this hot item.
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