Dawn of Mana: A good game is struggling to get out

One of my favorite games, as a kid, was Secret of Mana. It was one of the first long RPGish games I ever finished to completion. The combination of the extremely good sound chip on the SNES, and the great color palette, led to some incredible sights and sounds throughout the game.

Since, then, I have played all of the Mana games thereafter. Much to my dismay, many of the traits in the original SNES games (large open world) have not been carried over to the newer games. It almost seems as thought the creators have used the mana brand to experiment with new and different ideas as to what an RPG is.

In fact, Dawn of Mana is only an RPG in as much as God of War II is an RPG. More similarities exist between GoW 2 and DoM than DoM and its predecessors. Gone are the semi-nonlinear fields of yesteryear, filled with monsters and weapons vendors. In its stead is something rather akin to GoW: a fairly linear set of levels that must be overcome. In fact, DoM delineates these levels in a greater fashion than GoW does by having definite beginnings and ends to the levels.

I am currently on the 2nd chapter of the game, and while I really like the ascetics, some of the gameplay decisions are grating. All gains made at the end of ever level are eliminated after the end of the level. Given that the level of the character directly translate into how you can effect the environment, and thus the game, it becomes annoying.

The main new feature of the game is the Havoc physics engine. Items on the field can be grabbed, and flung at creatures, temporarily stunning them and providing an opportunity to attack. This leads to some of the better parts of the game, where knocking boulders down a hill leads to enemies below panicking and being made easy prey.

The problem with this is that it quickly becomes the only way to damage enemies. Combat consists of running around trying to find an item to fling at your enemies. This is actually entertaining at higher levels with the character, as you can knock pillars, and walls at your foes, but in the beginning, logs and small rocks are all that is possible.

Adding to the frustration is the lack of finesse controls of how and where items are thrown. It is difficult to know when an item can be grabbed, and even more difficult to determine where the item will land when it will be tossed. Tossing an item straight ahead is easy, tossing it to the side or behind you is an exercise in frustration.

Dawn of Mana is an extremely flawed jem; it does not meet previous expectations for the series, and the new elements it does provide are not polished enough to make for engaging gameplay.

That sounds like the same problems that were mentioned in the 1up review. Shame since I also have played the original Secret of Mana and secret of evermore. I thought they had a good idea with the PS1 game, you choose how the world develops.

From the description, it sounds like a gradual increase similar to Katamari would have worked better. That by the end you’ll be able to easily break apart bigger things from the start.

just another example of Square continuing the shitmarch they started with the end of the PS1 era.



I agree, except I thought Bushido Blade’s gameplay was pretty cool.

No, not fixed. Tobal 2, Einhander, Vagrant Story, Bushido Blade, Final Fantasy Tactics, Chrono Cross, and Final Fantasy 7.

No fair. I was going to use Final Fantasy 7 to support my point.

I’ll grant you, in addition to Bushido Blade, Einhander and possibly FFT (even though I don’t like the latter).

I was thinking the same about Chrono Cross.

I’ve heard Chrono Cross is a pale comparison to Chrono Trigger.

Then you’ve been grossly misinformed. It’s not a retread expansion of a gaggle of time-traveling animetropes, which is mostly the logic that breeds its criticism. The game took the risky route and came out quite solid to anyone but the fervent CT zealots.

Nice thesaurus-vomit. Chrono Cross has an awesome soundtrack and pleasing eye candy without gameplay, or a cast of characters / story that is at all interesting.

Speak for yourself friend(and just fer you I’ll lay off the meaty words), but the combat in CC struck a nice balance between setup planning, and power vs. action. It may not have elicited the “ooh’s and aah’s” of igniting a frog’s sword with a fire spell, but it offered it’s own brand of risk and customization. Uninteresting is grinding to level 10 for a Fire 2 spell.

Story and characters, sure it’s all over the map. Those that truly care probably should just relive CT for another decade…and will anyway.

I think they tried to do that, in that your previous powerups convert into Lucre which you can use to buy permanent powerup talismans, but unless you grind severe levels you won’t actually see a noticeable increase until a new game+.

So have I heard right about the other annoying parts of this game? A camera straight out of the first and worst 3D games that tends to face directly away from whatever you need to attack? A zero-mass player character who goes hurtling across half the stage if a rabite bumps into him? An autotargeting system that will lock on to the nearest thing “onscreen”, even if that thing is being rendered on the other side of a wall?


  1. Camera is wonky, but not abhorrent. Does require hand holding.
  2. Player character does get knocked around a lot, but I somewhat like this fact. The distance is not bad, but the occurrence of these knockbacks is. Especially the higher level boss monsters, who seem to be able to knockback at will.
  3. Autotargeting: yes. Nearly worthless.