Adventures of Mana is a video game that has lived many lives. It was first released as a GameBoy game called Seiken Densetsu: Final Fantasy Gaiden, a more action-oriented spinoff of the Final Fantasy series that would become it’s own Mana series. That GameBoy game was released in America as Final Fantasy Adventure and in Europe as Mystic Quest (not to be confused with the Final Fantasy Mystic Quest that I played earlier this year).
In 2003, the game was brought back into the Mana series when it was re-envisioned as Sword of Mana for the GameBoy Advance. If that weren’t enough, the game was once again remade as Adventures of Mana for mobile phones and the PlayStation Vita.
I’ve been feeling guilty for ignoring my Vita, so I decided I’d give the little device some love. Adventures of Mana would be the 252nd video game that I’ve finished.
While Sword of Mana takes some interesting liberties with the story and mechanics, Adventures of Mana is extremely faithful to the original game. In fact Adventures of Mana is a one-to-one recreation of Final Fantasy Adventure. The graphics have been completely redone in three dimensions. The soundtrack has been re-orchestrated, and it’s quite good (tell me that “Dungeon” and “Royal Palace” don’t sound like they might be at home in a Dragon Quest game). Even the dialogue has been enhanced and is presented in a much more engaging way.
Strangely, Adventures is a game that feels like it was made with a very low budget, but it feels like that budget was very lovingly invested in creating a game that feels similar to its source material.
Although, not everything received the same degree of polish. Your attacks feel floaty and imprecise in a really unpleasant way. If this developers could have gotten this right, the game would have had the feel of a much higher budget game.
Beyond that, not every aspect of the game has aged well. I don’t think the game does a very good job of guiding you from one event to the next. This is by no means a problem unique to Adventures. Nearly every JRPGs of that era lacked built-in quest logs and maps, either because of the limitations of the technology or as design choice intended to extend the length of the game.
This is a minor complaint, but it’s one that I have with all of the retro games that I play. Even then, it’s an issue of preference. Some folks don’t want a video game to hold their hand from beginning to end. As someone with a limited time to play video games, I’d like to have a clear understanding of where I need to go at any given time.
Ultimately, this is not something that I hold against Adventures. After all, it is a product of its time. It simply means that I may have to consult a guide from time to time. If you don’t mind that, the game makes for a nice, light snack. I whiled away several afternoon hours with Adventures and had a reasonably good time doing so.
What do you think? Would you rather a game err on the side of telling you too little or too much?
In my ongoing effort to rank every game that I’ve ever finished, Adventures of Mana is tentatively ranked 222 out of 252.