Long ago, in the ancient days when something called the Super Nintendo was the apex of game console technology, there was a CRPG called "Secret of Mana". It was a good game, oddly bright and almost cartoony on the surface (by the standards of the day -- by today's standards EVERYTHING was cartoony on the SNES, and pretty blockily cartoony, too) but with a serious, sometimes quite dark, storyline. It was considered one of the best of its era, following just behind its creator Squaresoft's other two great CRPG achievements -- Final Fantasy, and the immortal and still unequalled Chrono Trigger.
So when I heard that finally a sequel was in the works, I was very excited. Initial screenshots I saw were interesting, and when I finally got a copy and started it up, it looked good, maintaining the bright cheerful world overlay and a clear implication of darker deeds to come.
But after a few hours of play, I've become sorely disappointed. The imagery and so on is good, but, to sum up the problems in a single succinct sentence:
Dawn of Mana is not an RPG.
Unless something changes rather drastically farther into the game than I've been able to get, it's basically a chop-and-jump killfest. Given the imagery and kawaii graphics and sounds, it appears to really be nothing more than a Mana-inspired version of Spyro the Dragon. There's no roleplaying, no running around and talking to people and trying to figure out what's going on, no choices to be made, just cutscenes and then on to the next thing to kill. There's some amusing combat choices and skills to be mastered, but overall it's really not anything like what a sequel to an old RPG should be, could be, or appeared to be.
I was disappointed by Chrono Cross in a number of ways, but it was, at least, a large, expansive, and reasonably well-done CRPG. It wasn't really a sequel to Chrono Trigger (no matter what it claimed) and it certainly didn't reach nearly the heights of its predecessor, but it was a decent game of the same type. Dawn of Mana isn't. It's just a shoot-and-slash through multiple complex levels, of exactly the sort that I REALLY don't like (trying to solve these kind of puzzles really pisses me off if I don't have the ability to save at pretty much any point I want to; you can spend an hour struggling through some complex climb-the-mountain and hop over floating platforms puzzle, make one misstep, and have to start all over again.
Christopher seems to be having fun with it, but even he may be getting frustrated with the latter issue.
Ah well, maybe Wild Arms 5 will be good.