Dawn of Mana
|Dawn of Mana|
North American box art
Dawn of Mana, originally released in Japan as Seiken Densetsu 4 (Japanese: 聖剣伝説4?, lit. "Legend of the Sacred Sword 4"), is a 2006 action-adventure game developed and published by Square Enix for the PlayStation 2. It is the seventh game of the Mana series, following the 2006 Children of Mana, and the second game of the World of Mana subseries of games.
Set in a high fantasy universe, the game follows Keldric and his companions as they try to prevent the dark energy from the land of Mavolia from escaping and corrupting the world. Dawn has a distinct style of gameplay from previous games in the series, which were mostly two-dimensional action role-playing games, and is instead a three-dimensional action-adventure game.
The game was met with generally poor reviews, with critics praising the music and in-game cinematics but criticizing its awful controls, combat and camera systems.
Game elements seen in Dawn of Mana are quite different from Mana games of the past. While it can be classified as an action RPG, a more appropriate description is action/adventure due to the lack of RPG elements in the game. Dawn of Mana plays very similar to Kingdom Hearts in terms of design and style. The main difference lies in the Havok physics engine, which is used for the Mono system.
Dawn of Mana sports the Mono system, utilizing the Havok physics engine seen in Half-Life 2 that allows the player to greatly interact with their 3D environment. This system is essentially a high degree of environmental interaction offered by the Havok physics engine. With Keldy's whip function, the player can interact with almost any object seen in the surrounding area. The objects are used to Panic enemies, which is necessary as it is the only way to obtain stat boosting medals. Hitting an enemy will result in a counter appearing over their head, which induces Panic status. In this status, enemies are completely defenseless and more damage can be dealt to them. If the counter raises beyond 99, the enemy will be in full Panic and a gold crown replaces the numerical counter. Defeating an enemy in this state yields a greater stat boosting medal.
Dawn of Mana is structured into Chapters, each with 5 segments except for Chapter 8 (6 segments). There are 8 Chapters in total and upon the completion of one, the player is graded on their performance. The player may opt to do the Chapter, or segments of a Chapter, again in the Main Menu after beating it. Also, Keldy's stats and equipment are reset to 0 and Level is reset to 1 upon entering a new Chapter. This method of progression is constant in all Chapters.
Features such as using equipment or crafting items are not found in Dawn of Mana. Items are not available for stocking purposes and are used immediately upon grabbing them. The Shop feature seen in other Mana games are limited to non-battle items such as music tracks and movie clips. The only types of tools that Keldy can equip are Ribbons, which enhance Keldy's combat performance. Keldy can gain the use of special arrows blessed by the Mana spirits found in the game. These cannot be carried over upon starting a new Chapter.
Emblems, which are the only equipment that Keldy can use, are gained through various methods. Emblems can be unlocked by meeting grading requirements in the game, bought at the Challenge Arena Shop using the monetary value of Lucre, or beating optional and rare enemies. Ribbon functionality ranges from simple stat boosters to strengthening Keldy's basic abilities. Keldy's basic actions include the ability to roll, guard, run, and jump. Keldy's offensive actions utilize a sword, whip, and slingshot. Keldy can also use magic from the fairy Faye to aid combat through 7 spells.
Dawn of Mana has a Challenge Arena mode. In this mode, the player undergoes up to 32 challenges to defeat a set of enemies within a certain time period. The player can opt to fight alongside Pets, which are obtained through eggs found in the game or bought at the Shop. The recurring air transport of the series, Flammie; is this time not obtained, per se, as there is no world map; however, Flammie is present in the game as the Guardian of Illusia, the central island of the world. Keldric obtains Flammie's help after a certain chapter in the game. Since there is no world map, Flammie's use is drastically reduced, however, his presence in the game is notable.
Dawn of Mana opens on the fictional island of Illusia, a place where the giant Mana Tree lies dormant. Much of the story takes place on Fa'Diel, a continent composed of the five nations of Jadd, Topple, Ishe, Wendell, and Lorimar. According to producer Koichi Ishii, Dawn of Mana is the first game chronologically in the Mana series, showing the origins of both the Mana Tree and the Spirits of Mana. The game takes place 10 years before Children of Mana.
A village in the land of Illusia is attacked by the Lomarian king Stroud. Some residents of the village, named Keldric and Ritzia, try to go for help, but they are captured before they can get far. Stroud is looking for the key to Mavolia, a land of darkness sealed away for centuries. Keldric and Ritzia are able to escape to go for help; soon after, they meet Faye, a spirit child, who joins them for the remainder of the game. Unfortunately, Ritzia is soon recaptured by Stroud.
Before Keldric and Faye can rescue her, Stroud uses her to unlock the door to Mavolia, which is hidden in a tree. The energy from Mavolia causes anyone around the door to turn into an evil monster. To escape this fate, Keldric and Faye flee Illusia. They soon learn that if the door to Mavolia is not closed, the whole world will be consumed by the darkness spreading from Mavolia. They return to Illusia to stop this from happening.
They confront Stroud, who has been mutated by the energy of Mavolia. After he is defeated, Keldric and Faye learn that the only way to seal the door is to kill Ritzia, who has also been mutated. After an epic battle with Ritzia, she is killed, the door is sealed, and Illusia is restored.
Dawn of Mana was announced as part of the World of Mana project by Square Enix in September 2005. It was unvealed as the first true sequel for the series in a number of years, bearing the Japanese title Seiken Densetsu 4, and was also shown to be the first title in 3D. Although the game's use of the Havok physics engine was an early tidbit, it was only later revealed that Dawn of Mana was in development for the PlayStation 2. Before released, Dawn of Mana won an award of Future Division of Japan Game Awards 2006.
Dawn of Mana was directed and produced by Koichi Ishii. The script was written by Ryo Akagi, based on a story created by Masato Kato. The main objective of the development team was to convert the entire Mana world into a 3D environment, rather than just starting from scratch graphically and adding new elements to the gameplay. After previously encountering the Havok engine at E3, Ishii wanted to utilize the system to give players a visual link between environments, objects, and characters.
The game's score Seiken Densetsu 4 Original Soundtrack: Sanctuary was released on January 24, 2007. A large portion was composed by long-time series composer Kenji Ito. The game's boss themes were composed by Tsuyoshi Sekito, while some of the other battle music was contributed by Masayoshi Soken. In addition, a number of the songs used are remixed versions of songs from previous games, including pieces from composer Hiroki Kikuta. Finally, Ryūichi Sakamoto composed and arranged the main theme of the game. It was released as a 105-track set on 4 discs. One of the pieces, "Rising Sun," which has been a part of the series' music since the first installment, can be listened on the official North American website of the game.
A 5-song promotional disc titled Seiken Densetsu 4: Breath of Mana was released alongside the game. The songs "Breath of Mana," "Unforgotten Memories," and "Rising Sun (piano ver.)" were exclusive to this disc and were not included on game's official soundtrack.
|Seiken Densetsu 4 Original Soundtrack: Sanctuary tracklist|
|Disc 1 (70:35)
||Disc 2 (61:29)
||Disc 3 (64:37)
||Disc 4 (63:24)
Dawn of Mana sold over 229,000 copies in Japan by the end of 2006. It sold 340,878 copies in Japan as of November 2, 2008, nearly half of which was sold during the first week of release. It was the top-selling PlayStation 2 title in Japan during the week of December 22, 2006. The game has sold 70,000 copies in North America as of November 2007.
Reviews praised Dawn of Mana's graphics, music, and character design, but found fault with the unreliable controls and awkward camera. Many reviewers were disappointed that despite being the first numbered entry in the Seiken Densetsu series since 1995, the game abandoned the action-RPG gameplay style of previous titles. Game Trailers cited games gorgeous in game cinematics and its lush soundtrack present throughout the game.
IGN called the game "passable," noting its poor leveling system and radar but also the beautifully rendered graphics. Japanese gaming publication Famitsu gave the game a 30 out of 40. GameSpot said that despite a charming cast and some innovative gaming ideas such as vine shooting swords and the ability to make opponents panic by throwing rocks, the game had many shortcomings in its' gameplay and platforming system. GameSpy mentioned the combat systems difficult targeting of enemies, and since panicking enemies makes their defeat easier, combat became a "tedious struggle".
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