Hands on with Children of Mana – one of our DS most wanted

The smooth combat and spritely eye-candy of Square Enix's action RPG has caught our eye

Hands on with Children of Mana – one of our DS most wanted
| Children of Mana

For anyone with even a passing interest in roleplaying games, Children of Mana is one of the most anticipated releases for DS. I've more interest than most, and so it was with trembling hands I made my way over to Square Enix's E3 booth to stand in line for a hands on session.

Indeed, such was the demand from fellow showgoers that I ended up playing both Dragon Quest Heroes: Rocket Slime and Final Fantasy III (of which more another day), before managing to grab a free slot.

It was worth the wait though.

As we've previously highlighted, Children of Mana is all about heavy-duty action. You progress by fighting through increasingly dangerous and complex dungeons, aiming to kill the dungeon's boss and gain the much sought after Mana Egg, which you place in a pillar of light in order to materialise back to a central village hub – from where you start the whole process all over again.

It's a good thing the controls are so incredibly smooth and intutitive. In contrast to most RPGs, with their stilted, randomly triggered battle scenes, the real-time combat here feels almost as fluid as a beat-'em-up.

Four weapons – sword, bow, chain and hammer – can be equiped, with two being available at any time. Each weapon has certain extra properties – you can also use the sword as a reflective shield that bounces back arrows, for example – and each is also more efficient against different enemy types. Your weapons can also be charged for more powerful assaults using the Fever Gauge, which slowly fills up as you fight.

Your other main offensive power comes via one of eight elemental powers that you can summon with the 'B' button, having previously chosen which elemental to take into the dungeon when you were back in the warmth of the village hub. These elementals work a bit like smart bombs when activated; they automatically head off to destroy as many enemies as they can find.

Apart from the joys of its combat – and it really did play a treat in our brief test – Children of Mana is also worth getting excited about as one of the best-looking DS games currently in development. The character sprites are nice and large on-screen, the general design and colour scheme is very pretty, and the sound effects are particularly impressive.

In fact, it's going to be a very long wait until Children of Mana gets its UK release. The most precise we can be on current information is that it should arrive before the end of the year. Let's just hope we last that long.

Jon Jordan
Jon Jordan
A Pocket Gamer co-founder, Jon can turn his hand to anything except hand turning. He is editor-at-large at which means he can arrive anywhere in the world, acting like a slightly confused uncle looking for the way out. He likes letters, cameras, imaginary numbers and legumes.