Heroes of Mana (DS) review
"It's been proven time and time again that Square-Enix cannot make anything that isn't a Final Fantasy style RPG. They had Ergheiz, the horrid FF-based attempt by Square to make a fighting game. They had Final Fantasy Tactics Advance, where 99% of the fun value was drawing bad MSPaint comics portraying Marche as a villain. And now, finally, Square releases a third abortion, based off Secret of Mana and it's sequel. Heroes of Mana is at best Starcraft with a thin Squaresoft shell over it. At worst..."
It's been proven time and time again that Square-Enix cannot make anything that isn't a Final Fantasy style RPG. They had Ergheiz, the horrid FF-based attempt by Square to make a fighting game. They had Final Fantasy Tactics Advance, where 99% of the fun value was drawing bad MSPaint comics portraying Marche as a villain. And now, finally, Square releases a third abortion, based off Secret of Mana and it's sequel. Heroes of Mana is at best Starcraft with a thin Squaresoft shell over it. At worst, it's a game with terrible controls and irrefutable proof that RTS games belong on the PC, not on a console or a handheld.
Heroes of Mana takes your classic Blizzard-style RTS (Starcraft, Warcraft) and turns it into a Squaresoft brand abortion. You play as Roget, a metrosexual green-haired "man" dressed in Square's usual belts and zippers. Roget gets involved in a war between a bunch of countries that happens for no apparent reason, and uses his magic spaceship and squad of other "hardcore mercenaries" (by which I mean more gay men in belts and zippers) and monsters to fight off enemies. Every map begins in the Night Hawk, the aforementioned magic spaceship. The Night Hawk can use "Gaia Stones" and "Treant Berries" (which certainly is not a ripoff of Warcraft at all) to make structures and units, respectively. You start out only being able to make Rabites, which are HoM's equivalent of SCVs or Peons. Rabites go to Treants or Gaia rocks to harvest them, and bring back the minerals and vespene gas... no, sorry, Gaia Stones and Treant Berries, to allow you to further expand upon the miniature empire in your spaceship. From there, you mass-produce units in order to defeat your enemies and win the map.
Now, you might ask "Well, if it's a direct ripoff of Starcraft, how bad could it possibly be?". The answer here is unplayably bad. Why? The controls, and the arbitrary unit limitations. In Starcraft, you could have up to 200 units on screen at any one time, and controlling them was as easy as selecting your twelve zerglings and moving them at the enemy base. Heroes of Mana takes this and replaces it with the DS stylus. That's right, every single motion of every single unit is controlled by the stylus. And moving is ALL you can do - there's no micromanagement here. Units will automatically attack enemies they are moved onto, and Rabites will automatically harvest berries and stones when they get close enough. The problem here is the extremely limited field of view, which causes a need to constantly be using the D-Pad to change the camera's position, and then holding the stylus down to move your units. The other major problem is that your units have some sort of mental retardation that causes them to follow your stylus strokes in a bizarre fashion that usually winds up with them not moving in straight lines to wherever it is you want them to go. This is especially bad with gathering units, as they will sometimes go across half the map to get to a resource node, only to run around in circles until you manually correct them.
The other major problem with Heroes of Mana is the speed and scale of the game. Units move extremely slow, taking several minutes to go across half a map. On top of that, construction and unit production are a very long, very slow process. What makes no sense is that the game essentially pauses while you make units or buildings, but still has a construction time on them. This defeats the purpose of pausing the game to allow you to build. It's overall painful to watch, especially considering there's literally no point for the massive timesink. The scale of the game is extremely underwhelming. HoM only allows for 25 units on any given side, leading to very small-scale and boring battles. In multiplayer matches, the same rule applies. Note that Rabites and the main characters count twoards this 25 unit limit, meaning that your army is very likely going to consist of fewer than twenty units. Of course, that leads to one other problem - it is not possible to sacrifice or get rid of units, meaning that to kill all those Rabites you made early game that are now useless due to all the resource nodes being depleted, you have to march them into your enemy's base, giving them points. Resource nodes are also extremely limited, meaning that there won't be any long fights over the course of the game, as eventually one side or the other is going to run out of resources and get crushed. It also makes Rabites essentially useless after the first few minutes of the game, where they quickly deplete the few nodes that exist.
Heroes of Mana has one final shortcoming that most people wouldn't expect from a Squaresoft game - that being a total lack of any kind of good music. Most areas have either very quiet music or none at all, and units make no noises. There's no voiceacting or anything else in HoM, much like every pre-PS2 Square game. Graphics are also horrid. All of the units are sprites, and all have very little to no animation. Considering how few units there are availible, you wonder what the Heroes of Mana developers WERE working on. It wasn't the game itself, it wasn't the music, and it wasn't the graphics.
Heroes of Mana is simply not worth buying. It's a failure of an attempt at making an RTS, and is not worth $30. It's not even worth the whopping 128MB it takes to put on a flashcart (and you wonder how they got 128MB with sprites and no sound). Avoid this game like the piece of trash it is, and go play a real RTS. Leave Squaresoft and their belts and zippers to rot.
Community review by timrod (December 21, 2007)
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