Bloodworth takes an in-depth look at the remake of the first game in the Mana series.
Although, many people may not realize it, Secret of Mana was not the first in the Mana series. Released in the US under the name Final Fantasy Adventure, the original Seiken Densetsu game introduced a new legend with a mixture of Zelda and Final Fantasy style elements.
Moving ahead about a decade, Square-Enix has now decided to create a remake of the original game in the now classic Mana series, bringing in the graphical style and circular menu system found in the sequels.
The E3 demo focuses entirely on the opening of the game, starting with your main character as a prisoner doomed to fight battles against terrible beasts in a coliseum. He escapes only to be found by the dark ruler of the land, and is cast down from high off a bridge. His adventure begins in the world below.
So far the story seems to follow the original pretty closely, but with far more detail. There seem to be some slight changes though. It's been years since I've played Final Fantasy Adventure, but I am almost positive that Willy (your cell-mate) met some tragic fate before your escape. Now, he escapes with you, and it is unclear what happens to him when you are cast from the bridge. There also seems to be a new character who is a traveling merchant that teaches you your first ability when you awake in the countryside.
The game has fairly simple controls. You use A to attack, hold B to run, push L for abilities, and R for magic. The circular menu system from other Mana games returns with Status, Abilities, Equip Weapon, and Equip Armor options. It's likely you will gain additional options as the game progresses.
As with all games in the series, the battle system is more like Zelda in the fact that it's more action-oriented. However there are hit points and magic points displayed, and an attack meter beefs up the strategy as well. Whenever you attack, you'll use part of your attack meter, making successive attacks weaker. If you wait, the meter will slowly refill automatically. It really forces the player to come up with a strategy and decide between making quick strikes or saving up power and making stronger blows.
The magic system is absent from the demo, and the ability system is barely present with the sleep ability. Sleeping allows you to slowly regain hit points. You hold the L button to sleep, and regain 1 HP for about every two seconds you sleep. Fortunately, this is simply an addition to help you through the game, and there are still restorative items to find.
The demo is quite short. You rescue and team up with the girl soon after you begin, and make your way to the first town, Topple. Along the way, there seems to be some sort of day/night system in place. As I moved from screen to screen, I noticed the light change to sunset and eventually to night when the enemies fell asleep. Once you arrive at Topple, the demo ends, so I wasn't able to even check out our first town.
In all, Sword of Mana seems to be a great remake that holds a lot in store for both fans of Final Fantasy Adventure, and fans of the series who never played the original game.