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Sword of Mana

Brownie Brown
Action RPG
Seiken Densetsu
  • December 2, 2003
  • August 29, 2003
  • March 18, 2003
B 21 total ratings
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Seiken Densetsu Revisited - Sword of Mana Review

A Sword of Mana review Author: Jeriaska Published: May 12, 2006
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Sword of Mana first appeared on the original Game Boy as Final Fantasy Adventure. The diminutive "Adventure" has now been granted its own identity with a Game Boy Advance remake "Sword of Mana," but it remains less of a successful title on its own than a reflection of the brilliance achieved in its sequels: the excellent Secret of Mana and the astounding Seiken Densetsu 3.
Seiken Densetsu
Seiken Densetsu

The portable turn-based RPGs entitled Final Fantasy Legend appeared around the same time as Adventure, though the game had nothing to do with the Square flagship series. Rather the title was the originator of the SaGa series, labeled "FF" to appeal to uninformed overseas gamers. On the other hand, calling the first Seiken Densetsu a Final Fantasy game is not a complete misnomer. When it was released in Japan, Seiken Densetsu was appended with the subtitle Final Fantasy Gaiden. Not only did the game contain chocobos as a means of transport, but a straightforward comparison of the box art with that of the original Final Fantasy trilogy reveals that Seiken Densetsu was intended to be subsumed within the FF universe.
Final Fantasy III logo
ファイナルファンタジー外伝 = Final Fantasy Gaiden

Seiken Densetsu then was envisioned as Final Fantasy given the Zelda treatment. One of the defining features of the series is the bevy of selectable weapons, each of which has its own unique properties. The nameless protagonists can equip a flail capable of launching them across chasms ala Wild Arms, a bow for long range attacks, knuckles for rapid-fire close combat, along with bows, staffs, spears, axes and maces. Magic is obtained through meeting tiny spirits whose powers relate to elements like darkness, light, earth, fire, water, wind and ice. The heroes job is to attack cute woodland creatures directly on the overhead map, and these kawaii feral foes then spectacularly explode into skeletal shards of shrapnel before leaving behind treasure chests. Such gameplay elements have been retained and expanded upon as the series has matured to take on its own unique identity.
Final Fantasy Adventure
Sword of Mana

In bringing the action RPG to the Game Boy Advance, Square Enix has sought to reinforce the individuality of the series by retroactively differentiating the game?s design. Getting around by riding chocobos has been swept under the rug in favor of blasting out of the cannons introduced in the Super Famicom sequels. The revision also retroactively imbricates Final Fantasy Adventure within the Mana series by importing familiar graphics from the other games. Spot on replicas of enemy sprites from the various iterations of the Seiken Densetsu series show up. The developers even contaminate the original game boy title with elements of the mainly unrelated and highly flawed Legend of Mana for Playtstation. Hence, the title of the new game is ?Shinyaku? Seiken Densetu, roughly translated as Legend of the Holy Sword: New-Ass Version.
Final Fantasy Adventure
Sword of Mana

So far, the presence of Flammie the dragon serves as a reasonable indicator of the quality of a Seiken Densetsu title. In Sword of Mana, the character has yet to grace us with his inspirational presence, and the creature has left the scene while taking his charm with him by the time of "Legend." Hence, the story, characters, and music of Shinyaku Seiken Densetsu are a vapid precursor to the Super Famicom era games. The game mechanics and plotline get the job done, which is more than one can say for the bewildering misstep that graced the Playstation, but they are a dull imitation of the best games in the series. Dudbears, the talking cactus, and the anthropomorphic tree that appear inside the hothouse have been added in an attempt to legitimize the presence of the uninspired Playstation title in the series. Such additions attempt to make Shinyaku Seiken Densetsu more than a glorified 4-bit cartridge, but the effort is perhaps stretching the capacities of the portable classic too thin.
Scenic backdrops
Epic boss battles

The improved sound quality over the original does little to elevate the listening value of the uninspired score by Kenji Ito. This reviewer took an engineering approach to the problem by listening to themes from Seiken Densetsu 2 on his mp3 player while playing through the game. Little can be said in favor of Ito when one considers that he has taken over the job of composer for the series while the truly gifted Hiroki Kikuta lives on cat food. Considering that the most immediate impact of a game is found in its graphics and soundtrack, Sword of Mana manages to spruce up its visuals by ripping off the innovations of the Super Famicom games, but the score remains a bust. Calling the soundtrack mediocre is something of a flattering remark, seeing as the original score dolled up with better bleeps and bloops hardly stands as a miraculous feat. Kikuta's sublime themes remain available to my recollection years after playing the games in which they appear. Ito?s are instantly forgettable.

Shinyaku Seiken Densetsu is something of a noble effort and something of a lost cause. The most I can say for the title is that we need never return to Final Fantasy Adventure, since the game's potential has been stretched to its max. Until I can pick up Seiken 3 DS at my local Gamestop, I cannot help but contend that Square Enix of Japan picked out the wrong Mana to revisit, and is holding out on us Anglophone gamers. If however Sword of Mana turns out to be the precursor of Shinyaku Seiken Densetsu 2 and 3 for the Nintendo DS, and that they are localized along with Front Mission with respectable translation jobs, this will be one happy reviewer, indeed.
Editor's Grade
dotted line "The spruced up Sword of Mana remains less of a successful title on its own than a reflection of the brilliance achieved in its sequels: the excellent Secret of Mana and the astounding Seiken Densetsu 3."
B dotted line Average Reader Score (Based on 21 ratings) | Rate it Now
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