Sometimes an excellent operating system can be made even better
Ubisoft Heroes Of Mana
- Touch screen is ideal for quickly selecting units, character designs are interesting.
- The DS screen is way too small for RTS, the maps sit on uninspiring black backgrounds that give the game an unfinished feel.
Diehard Mana fans will lap this up and ask for a second bowl regardless. Everyone else should expect a slightly bad aftertaste.
Price$ 69.95 (AUD)
Here's one we weren't expecting: an RTS RPG for the DS set in the universe of the Mana series. But that's exactly what Heroes of Mana is. The story follows a new character named Roget and a rapidly ballooning band of rebels as they battle against the encroaching Peddan army. With so many characters it's difficult to become attached to many of them, and the overall story doesn't grip players in the same way Secret of Mana has before, though it makes a valiant effort.
Knowing Is Half the Battle
The title places an emphasis on RTS action that follows the typical 'Gather, Summon, Fight' progression that most every other RTS game relies on. Although, the inclusion of Leader units that can equip armor and cast magic does make for some variation, the game is still trapped in genre conventions. Thankfully, the implementation of the DS controls is good, although the end results are a little mixed. The touch-screen makes it easy to tap and lasso specific units, allowing you to quickly and efficiently send your troops off to do your bidding. The game's biggest Achilles Heel, however, is the size of the DS screens: micromanaging dozens of units across a sprawling battlefield isn't easy when you can only see a three-inch sized portion of it at any given time. This problem is almost rectified by the DS' dual-screen use, as the battlefield is displayed on the bottom with a map on the top. You can flip the map down to the touch-screen area and tap anywhere on the screen to see the action in that section but you have to then flop the battlefield back down onto the touch screen to manipulate your units again, which definitely wears thin after a while.
Overall, Heroes of Mana is a nice enough diversion, but it's hard to see what Square Enix was trying to do with this title. RPG fans will obviously disdain it for its RTS skewed focus while RTS fans will turn their noses up at the lack of strategy necessary and idiotic unit AI. And both parties will be turned off by the limitations of the DS' screen size. It's a hard title to recommend to anyone but the most ardent Mana 'verse fanatic.
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