Adventures of Mana Review: Third Time's the Charm

The third version of this 1991 Square Enix game finally gets it right

Adventures of Mana
Square Enix

Square Enix's action-RPG Adventures of Mana is a remake of the first game in the Mana series (Seiken Densetsu in Japan), with follow-ups including the classic Secret of Mana. This game dates back to 1991 on the Game Boy as Final Fantasy Adventure in the US and Mystic Quest in Europe. This isn't the first remake, either: Sword of Mana was a dramatic reboot for the Game Boy Advance in 2003. However, Adventures of Mana throws Sword of Mana out the window; this is designed to play just like the original game. We haven't played Mystic Quest in a long time – we somehow got the European version of the game from a Texas pawn shop – and immediately it felt quite familiar. 


In fact, what makes Adventures of Mana so compelling is that it manages to straddle a difficult line between retro and modern. It feels like a 1991 Game Boy game without the drawbacks of 1991 Game Boy games. We haven't touched Mystic Quest as we knew it in years, having sold the game a long time ago. It felt familiar right away, but without a lot of the clunkiness we recall the game having. And we didn't care for Sword of Mana enough to not keep it either. This just manages to feel like a fun action-RPG that's somewhat Zelda-esque with a splash of Final Fantasy RPG in there. It has its own unique flavor, and this remake finally brings it out in the best possible way to just be a fun game.

The weapons system is a bit weird, if only because weapons actually have different effects and some are necessary to progress through the game, such as the ax to cut down trees. So you'll be switching between them often. Thankfully, the 3 quick select icons make this a much easier job than it was on the original Game Boy. Still, it's kind of a weird system. You don't necessarily have to sell any weapons or any items at all; you should have enough gold to keep buying top-of-the-line equipment whenever it's available. Plus, you'll find enough restoration items to stay healthy. This is not a punishing game at all; you'll die a few times and get lost from time to time, but that's it.

The saving is a bit clunky in that it requires going two menus deep when it'd be handy to have it whenever/wherever. And it is quite possible to save at a point where you could trap yourself if you somehow run out of items and have low HP and MP. Though, it happening in practice is unlikely. The auto-saving is there if you forget to manually save over long periods of time, though this can trap you in a boss fight, too. Save often, just be smart.

The controls stick to their Game Boy roots in only requiring two buttons, though the game offers 3 shortcut buttons that you can assign items to, so you're not having to duck into the ring menu all that often. The game features controller support that lets you navigate the entire interface from the controller. This is a harder feat for mobile games than one would imagine. The game worked with a wired Xbox 360 controller we tested the game with, though your experience may vary. A controller mode setting in the game's options may help. The virtual joystick works well, and there are 4 different options you can use if the default isn't good for you. The game also isn't very resource-intensive; we were able to stream gameplay on Mobcrush without much in the way of crashes, even though high-performance games often struggle. The game came out simultaneously on iOS and Android, and it's clear the Android version wasn't an afterthought.

Adventures of Mana isn't a lengthy game, and you'll level up early and often. But it's a good length that you'll feel satisfied with how long it takes to get through it. The world isn't huge and there isn't too much in the way of exploration, but we'd rather a game be a short, concise length than overly long. There might be some concerns about the price, but this is Square Enix. They're one of the few publishers going for fair game pricing on mobile. 

Square Enix did a great job at remaking Adventures of Mana. It sets a high standard for remakes at both combining the need to make a game feel like the original, while still recognizing that modern games have modern characteristics to them. It's expensive for a paid mobile game, but it's well worth checking out.