Monday, August 19, 2019

Adventures of Mana (iOS/Android, PS Vita, 2016)

Time for the third and final version of the original Seiken Densetsu. We've covered Final Fantasy Adventure, we've trudged through Sword of Mana. How will this game fare in comparison? So far, it seems like a much more faithful re-creation of the original Game Boy game than Sword was. Kinda like how the 1982 version of The Thing is far more faithful to the original 1930's short story than the 1953 The Thing From Another World was, making it more of a remake of the story than a remake of the 1953 movie. Yeah, it's like that. Let's get this faithful reimagining of Final Fantasy Adventure on the road.

We get the text crawl from the original game, only now with a sweet image of the Mana Tree in the background. Around it you can see Pure Land, with its pristine waterfalls and sparkling landscape.

The hero and the girl return. Unlike Sword of Mana, you can't choose one to play as. Here, you're the boy and the girl is just a character in the story, as it was in FFA. So no Britty this time. The hero is more likable than his Sword incarnation and more faithful to the spry hero of FFA, so it's okay.

These default names have got to go, though.

There we go, that's better. I stick to FFA's four-character limit for the hero just for tradition's sake and name him after the world champion of Smackdown, the master of the Boom Drop and the Trouble in Paradise, Kofi Kingston.

The girl I named after a particular Mediterranean goddess I know, which is neither here nor there. Just keeping the tradition going.

The game begins exactly as FFA did, with our hero fighting in the arena for the entertainment of the vile Dark Lord. How much cocaine were his parents on when they named him that?

 Dark Lord's Mom: ::sniff:: "What should we name him? And can you get us some groceries? I need to go for a run. I'm gonna go for a run. When I get back I'll clean the house WHOOO. Anyway what should we name him?"

Dark Lord's Dad: ::large snort:: "We should name him Lord. Like Barron Trump! Bow down, for Dong Zhuo is the best at naming, folks."

Dark Lord's Mom: ::rubs nose furiously:: "Dong Lord? Kids will beat him up at school. AHHH I NEED TO FIGHT. I LOVE FIGHTING."

Dark Lord's Dad: "MY DEAR, it is too dark out to fight, especially with my stormtroopers roaming the streets." ::snort::

Dark Lord's Mom: ::sneeze:: "Too dark out? ...WAIT THAT'S IT."

Spiky Tiger: "Fungaaah!"

This is the same super-easy fight that it is in every other version of the game. You have to fight it twice, in the same room, before you can leave the area, which is kind of odd. It brings back nightmares of Lufia: Ruins of Lore and how it reused EVERYTHING.

Glaive has been downgraded from Empire to Duchy. Make no mistake, it's still an Empire. I wonder if this means it has a hot duchess, like that one episode of Highlander.

Is it bad that I feel worse for the exotic beasts than I do for the people?

Will dies almost right away, like the original game. Yep, Sword of Mana may have put right a wrong for Will, but Adventures of Mana re-wrongs it. That'll be the trend for this game: Heavy accuracy to the source material, at the cost of some story and dialogue. Also, Lil' Cactus didn't make it. THEY EDITED OUT LIL' CACTUS.

Will gives Kofi his mission...

...and dies. In this dimension, this timeline, he didn't have any luck. You know, the original source material of this game, and the resulting story, are pretty depressing.

WHOA. It's Amanda, and hot. I like the four-leaf clover looking belt buckle. It's almost as sexy as Harley Quinn having a "Lucky You" tattoo on her lower abdomen.

After defeating the Spiky Tiger a second time, Kofi makes a run for it! Yep, this is an exact parallel to FFA. No long intro or theatrics like Sword of Mana. Which is a preferable remake? Right now I'm leaning towards this one, but we'll see how it plays.

Behold! Dark Lord and Julius, in all of their splendor. Julius finally looks like a normal guy, with silver hair no less.

Instead of the "sir" of yesteryear, he pelts Dark Lord with "my lord"s.

Dark Lord...will have to flop upstream like a fish. Now he knows how sperm feel! Their 2 minute lifespan is nothing but struggle!

Dark Lord is no fish! Build him an airship!

After Julius takes off to find a way to the Mana Tree, Dark Lord spots Kofi and chases him to the cliff. This scene is much more dramatic now that it's fully-rendered.

Dark Lord knocks Kofi from the cliff. Being knocked off by Dark Lord is a hell of a lot more respectable than slipping and falling off a log like the kid in Secret of Mana.

Kofi manages to save himself from a hard landing by balancing on nearby trees and walking on his hands. He then intentionally lays down to enjoy the sky and collect his thoughts.

I was hoping for some new overworld music, but nope. Queue up the FFA overworld theme, though it's remixed a bit. Still gets repetitive. What am I complaining about though, it's one of the classic themes of the Game Boy era. Some new instruments in this version. So far, this definitely seems worth playing and I'm glad I picked it up.

The first thing to do on the overworld is find the Girl and save her from the dastardly truffle-men. These myconid bastards will PAY!

Simone is the helpless waif of the original game here, not the ass-kicking Britty. Once she joins you you're basically indestructible though, since she casts a heal-over-time spell on you any time you ask. It takes 7 seconds or so to heal you to full, and good luck to any enemies trying to out-damage it during that time.

I got lost for a few minutes once it sent me to talk to the woodcutter in the hut. You have to talk to this guy 3 times, Zhuge Liang style. The game doesn't really give you any clue about this, and I had to look it up.

I wonder how many people got lost at this point, and I hate when games put in obscure stuff like this that you have to look up. Especially early in the game. For example, that one hidden passage early in Metroid 2 that tied me up for actual days and is the only obscurely-placed required passageway in the game.

You get a map that fills in as you travel, which is super-useful. A lot of these overworld "rooms" look alike.

TURBAN'D SHOPKEEPER. The homie lives once again.

After dicking about on the overworld for a bit I gave up and looked up what to do next, which got me past the woodcutter. Talk to him thrice and...

...stuff happens, revealing him to be Sir Bogard.

Simone is cute and dainty, though she's dangerously close to the Creepy Doll Look that becomes so prevalent in later Mana games.

Time for some history. The Empire of Vandole, which may or may not be related to the "Vanda" that Culex hailed from in Mario RPG, is pretty much the lynchpin of the early Mana series. Or at least the first two games. Characters in this game make reference to the Empire of Vandole being an ancient force, which might place this after Secret of Mana in the timeline of the world. However, SoM ALSO refers to an ancient war involving said Empire. So for all we know the two games are just parallel tellings of the modern fight against the Empire's remnants. Who knows, at this point. It feels like there's a lot of backstory missing from this series, backstory that would make for a very interesting game of its own. Xenogears is in a similar boat.

Moving on, every time I see pots like this I instinctively want to throw them. Unfortunately, YOU CAN'T THROW POTS. Why even have them there? It's a tease, dammit! A damn tease!

Elsewhere, our hero gets the second of many weapons. The Battle Axe isn't thrown in this game; it's a heavy swing that hits everything in a bit of an arc in front of you. It's slower than the stabby sword so it leaves you a little more vulnerable to counterattack. At least it's a little better at clearing a crowd.

Things get HOT as our heroes have awkward flirtation in the bedchambers of the weirdass Mr. Lee. Mr. Lee is here referred to from the start as Count Lee, which I want to tell myself is a reference to Christopher Lee playing Count Dooku. It isn't because FFA did it, but it's a funny coincidence.

Nevermind, it wasn't hot at all, because it turns out that their awkward flirtation was just her asking him if he wanted to learn a spell. That spell is the best one in the game: Cure. It costs 2 MP, which means you always want an even number of MP for maximum curative potential.

Of course, since this is nearly a 1:1 remake, the Girl goes missing by morning. Count Lee's also-weirdass butler feigns ignorance.

Next stop? This roomful of lizardmen that guards the key to the Marsh Cave. At low levels this is practically a miniboss fight because they can hit pretty hard. However, they also give a large amount of EXP.

Victory gets us the Silver Key, which opens the Marsh Cave. That's the first real dungeon of the game, with the first real boss. As a result, I'm saving it for the next episode. In the meantime...

...this room is hands-down the best early-game spot to level up. Typically when you defeat all enemies on a screen, they don't respawn unless you move many rooms away. However, leave at least one enemy up, and the room will respawn if you leave the screen and return. So you can keep respawning this pseudo-miniboss and bang out a bunch of levels very quickly. I went from about level 3 to level 15 here, though going from 3 to 8 or so would have more than sufficed for the next part. I could keep going, too, if I've got nothing better to do. It was a relaxing way to spend some time. Better that than losing to Count Lee a bunch of times.

Next stop: The Marsh Cave. This place is home to a red mage who is also suspicious of the weirdass Count Lee and his girl-capturing machinations. That's right, he's back. More on this later.

Before I end this episode, time to get into the leveling system. When you level, you choose a stat to focus on, in the form of these four familiar classes. Str and Int will never both gain points at the same time, which means you have to focus solely on the two of them if you want to max stats. Vit and Mnd will max out regardless.

The super-lame thing is that if you level up Monk or Sage (Vit and Mnd respectively) you're basically wasting level-ups, and if you do this more than twice you can never max stats in that particular playthrough even if you go all the way to level 99. Not sure why they're even options at all.  This could have definitely been handled better.

For my part, I plan to go all the way to level 99 in this game because it doesn't take long to get there once you reach Dime Tower.

After doing some powerleveling at the lizardman room, I max out at 15. Levels are too slow now to continue powerleveling at this particular spot. It's worth stopping to level here, for sure. There's another spot midway through the game where you can grind out fights with werewolves for a lot of exp, and then a spot near the endgame where you can level off of elephant enemies. For the most part it isn't really worth the time to level grind here outside of the few areas where it's super-efficient.

So far I've focused entirely on leveling Str and Int, mainly Str. It's good to have a few points in Int to have more MP to cast Cure. At this point in time 10 MP (aka two Int level-ups) seems to be enough to get by, and with all of my other level-ups going into Str, our hero can hit like a truck.

So far, I'd say this is the definitive version of Seiken Densetsu 1. It's streamlined and loyal to the source material. While FFA is classic, it's also dated. And Sword does some interesting stuff with the material, really expanding on the story, but it isn't loyal to the source. It also does a lot of weird stuff. This remake, on the other hand, just gives you an improved FFA with bright colors and better music. It gets a seal of approval. More on this shortly.


  1. I think Spiky Tiger just wants a hug.

    At least Will can't overshadow our hero (in bed) this time.

    "Sir" no doubt takes up less text space than "my lord." Glad Julius isn't purple this time, that was weird.

    "Better that than losing a bunch of times" perfectly describes why I was so drawn to RPGs on the NES to begin with. I'll take the grind any day.

    I wish this thing wasn't stuck on Vita and mobile, I'd like to play it myself.

    1. Too bad this didn't get a PS4 release as well like SD2 and 3's remakes.