Once one of the premiere franchises in role-playing games, the Mana series has struggled to keep with the times. Its glorious 16-bit days have been followed up by a number of games ranging from mediocre to poor. A bold change was definitely required for Mana, and that's exactly what we have here in Heroes of Mana. The action-RPG gameplay the series was known for has been replaced by real-time strategy. Sadly, this exciting new direction is marred by numerous gameplay flaws.
Heroes of Mana is incredibly rife with potential. Its new style of gameplay takes excellent advantage of the Nintendo DS' dual screens, the graphics are charming, the story is decent, and there's plenty of Mana flavor to satisfy longtime fans. The RTS gameplay is pretty well balanced and engaging to boot. Unfortunately, the game feels like it could have used a few more months of refinement to reach its full potential.
The biggest and most annoying problem in Heroes of Mana is your team's intelligence. As you're commanding units, building up resources, and strategically taking over a map, you'll inevitably have a unit that'll piss off and not follow orders. Your lonely soldier boy will suffer from some horrific pathfinding or simply forget what he was supposed to do. This is likely to happen a few times per mission, which gets quite annoying. The elegant control scheme is rendered ineffective because you'll have to do a lot of hand holding with some of your troops.