In November of 1991, Square’s Final Fantasy Gaiden: Seiken Densetsu was released in America as Final Fantasy Adventure on the original Game Boy. Now more readily available via the Collection of Mana, Final Fantasy Adventure has aged surprisingly well. The game can be thorny but it’s still a playable and enjoyable action RPG. In 2003, a fully realized remake was released on the Game Boy Advance called Sword of Mana. Sword of Mana had Brownie Brown’s whimsy all over it: its presentation, script, and storytelling gave it a Magical Vacation/Legend of Mana vibe. However, like Final Fantasy Adventure, it’s still an enjoyable romp. You just need to overlook its quirkiness. Finally, 2016 featured another remake called Adventures of Mana. The game has 3D visuals, a unique version of the Ring Menu, and revamped music. This modern take is great. I recommend it to anyone no matter their familiarity with the original game or the Mana series.
The hero of this story is Sumo. Sumo is a gladiator slave for the Glaive Empire. Day in and day out, he is forced to do battle against terrifying beasts. If he survives, he gets scraps of food and a little bit of water as a reward. If he dies, then the Glaive Empire loses another plaything. In other words, life is not good for Sumo. After his friend Will perishes from his wounds, Sumo attempts an escape. Sumo manages to escape, but he sees something he shouldn’t: the Dark Emperor of Vandole and his cohort Julius discussing a plot to drain the power from the Mana Tree. Adventure of Mana’s script is essentially a 1:1 copy of the original script from Final Fantasy Adventure. The only difference is the modernized writing. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing since the story is such a straightforward affair. But it would have been nice to have some extra narrative. More information on Sumo’s past, his history with the other gladiators, the relationship that forms between Sumo and the heroine, and other little things missing from previous versions would have been welcome.
Gameplay is another area that was mostly replicated from the original. The game might be presented in 3D, but the journey is viewed from a top-down perspective with a fixed camera. You move Sumo through a world separated by tiled screens; the same format from Final Fantasy Adventure. Towns and dungeons are also presented this way. Towns have a few locals to speak with, an inn, and various shops. Dungeons are multifloored areas that typically require keys for unlocked doors and/or mattocks for breaking walls or stones for uncovering hidden passages. Sumo starts the game with a sword, but overtime he’ll acquire a variety of weapons (and armor) for battling an array of monsters. Many weapons are used for more than just cutting down baddies. The flail lets you swing across gaps. The axe is used to cut down trees for clearing a path. Thanks to the Ring Menu (and some shortcut hotkeys) switching weapons and items around is much smoother. Sumo will also acquire magic for healing, attacking and puzzles. Big bosses are waiting for you at the end of most dungeons that are a lot of fun to destroy. The action never stops but Adventures of Mana is an easy game. Most enemies fall after one to two hits. In fact, the most challenging aspect of the game is traveling around the world map since it’s easy to get turned around. Thanks to an auto-save feature, a game over means restarting at a previous screen. The series collectively has low difficulty, but Adventures of Mana is at apex of easiness.
Obviously, the biggest change from Final Fantasy Adventure and Sword of Mana is the new look and revamped music. Those that enjoy the old-school tinny numbers have the option to switch the music to its original format. The revamped soundtrack is quite excellent and worth a listen outside of gameplay. The graphics are the standout change. Sumo, the NPCs that join him, the townsfolk, and the multitude of enemies are colorful and beautiful in their new 3D setting. Seeing some of the bosses from Final Fantasy Adventure transition to 3D is a sight to behold. It’s like the artists got to finally see their creations fully realized. I played on the Vita, but Adventures of Mana will look great on any device.
Those that do play it on Vita will have the chance to earn trophies. This will turn a 10-hour game into a 15 to 20-hour game. Adventures of Mana is a short game no matter how much stuff you wish to do before reaching the end. The game might be short, but it moves at a nice pace and leaves players with a heartfelt ending. I was glad that I played it despite previously playing other versions multiple times. It’s not a new Mana game, but it’s a great recreation of a classic. New to the world of Mana? This is the perfect place to start. If you’re a veteran, then this is still an enjoyable, easy-breezy game. Anyone that enjoys action RPGs will enjoy all this little gem offers.
Overall, 8/10: Adventures of Mana is nothing more than Final Fantasy Adventure in color and 3D. But, it’s still a timeless tale that really sets the stage for all things Mana.