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.