Dawn of Mana review

  • Beautiful character designs
  • Top-notch soundtrack
  • Cute and cuddly moments
  • Repetitive as hell
  • Maddening camera
  • Wounded lock-on targeting

Dawn of Mana trades RPG tradition for action, eschewing classic elements in favor of tired double-jump platforming mechanics. Its initial moments are filled with hope, as the colorful characters of Keldy and Ritzia are introduced. The basics of play are explained: knock inanimate objects like barrels, lumber, and boulders into enemies, and those monsters will panic for a few moments while you whack them with impunity. Since only panicked baddies drop upgrade items, and fully-aware opponents can knock you ridiculous distances, your only choice is a constant cycle of stun-and-kill.

As interesting as this indirect twist on hacking and slashing might sound at first, it grows old almost immediately, thanks in part to a camera that blocks the view whenever possible, and takes forever to orbit your character, leaving Keldy forever vulnerable to assault from off-screen. Worse, the physics are unpredictable, monsters sometimes won't panic at all, and target-lock obstinately refuses to latch onto nearby enemies in favor of those hopelessly out of reach. Granting the player a vine with which to whip objects around is pointless when controlling basic brawling is next to impossible.

This sort of nonsense will drive you to distraction before the end of the first chapter, and there's a nasty surprise waiting to add insult to that injury. The improved attack power, the hit point bar extensions, the elemental slingshot ammo? All stripped away, sending you and your spell-casting helper to square zero with each new chapter, effectively rubbing your face in the fact that all this rolling of rocks and bashing of enemies is an endlessly repeated and pointless grinding distraction from hoofing it to the next flashing yellow waypoint on the path to lame hit-the-weak-spot boss battles. Persisting in play earns you emblems that improve performance, but it's hard to imagine remaining interested long enough to earn 2 million lucre, or find more than 150 pet eggs for more desperately annoying combat in Battle Arena mode.

Nostalgic music and consistent art direction can't save a game from crippled controls, a mulish camera, and painfully tiresome reptition. Dawn of Mana is ultimately remarkable only for being such a bitter disappointment.

More Info

Release date: May 22 2007 - PS2 (US)
Available Platforms: PS2
Genre: Role Playing
Published by: Square Enix
Developed by: Square Enix
ESRB Rating:


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