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An unextraordinary, run-of-the-mill adventure

Gameplay: 2/5
Battles are pretty standard RM2k DBS fare. The game is billed as having "strategic twists" to make the battles more interesting, but aside from the fact that certain weapons do more damage to certain enemies, I didn't find there to be anything outside the DBS. Battles weren't overly difficult and weren't too easy. There's not a lot more to say about the battles.

The reason for the low gameplay score is the minigames. At a certain point early in the game, you're required to undergo "training" which consists of a series of minigames. Although the idea behind them is fine, the minigames themselves are an exercise in tedium.

One of them teaches you to avoid monsters by having you run through an obstacle course filled with monsters. Should you touch any of them, you're sent back to the beginning. Simply put, there is no way to find your way through this obstacle maze short of trial and error. You have so little room to move around in that you normally have a split second to move past an enemy, and more often than not, doing so will put you immediately in the path of another enemy with another split second opening to move on. There are sometimes chains of 4-8 of these, giving you no time to stop and relax. Should you slip up even once, you're sent back to the very beginning.

Even worse, there's a point where you're in a three tile tall hallway and three enemies (one for each of the three vertical tiles, of course) launch at you with only one or two tiles between them for you to slip through. Once you finally get past them and to the end of the corridor, surprise! They turn around and shoot back at you from behind from off the screen. It took me over a hundred tries to complete this minigame and it was infuriating. Because I promised to play the game for at least 2 hours, I was determined to get past this minigame. It was completely unfair and unfulfilling and had I not been set on playing the game so I could review it, I would have quit after the 20th or so try.

After the twitch dodging minigame, the player is confronted by yet another one: a quiz game. To complete your application into the knights order, you must pass an examination of 10 questions and get at least 80% of them correct. However, the game fails you the instant you get a single question wrong, sending you to the game over screen (requiring you to reload your game and start over from the beginning). This wouldn't be quite as horrible if it weren't for the nature of the questions themeslves. One of the ten questions on the royal knights' final examination is "What is the name of the town you're in now?" Seriously?

I realize that the point of this game is to make sure you've been paying attention to the story, but the story isn't really that interesting and it seems like a really cheap ploy to force you to learn names (or rather, the spelling of names). After the first five multiple choice questions, you're required to input the rest of the answers using the RM2k enter hero name command. Because of its bugs, the game requires an extremely strict format for entering the answers and allows zero room for freedom. Some answers require you to put a space at the end of your response. If you omit the space, it's wrong. If you put a space at the end of an answer that doesn't require one, it's wrong.

It was this minigame that forced me to break my 2 hour gameplay promise. After struggling through the free response questions, I finally got stuck on a question whose answer I didn't know. The question asked the name of a certain NPC which was probably mentioned once but I had long forgotten. After making a couple attempts, I started to scour the town trying to find someone that would mention his name. The NPC himself was nowhere to be found. After talking to everyone in town several times, I had gotten no closer to figuring out his name. At this point in the game, you can't leave town, there are no sidequests to do, and there's nowhere to explore. As I had no way of finding out the NPC's name, I had no choice but to drop the game due to being incapable of continuing.

Since I got no further, I don't know if minigames like this are frequent and if not, it's a shame that they're so frustrating to beat. They severely brought down my enjoyment of the game and made the game into an agitating chore.

Story/Writing: 2/5
The story is standard fare: You play as heroic everyboy Rolf who has his home obliterated by the villain in record time (about 5 minutes). The villain, Theo, came to Rolf's village in hopes of exacting revenge upon Rolf's war hero father who has since passed away. Infuriated at being unable to get his revenge, Theo kills everyone in the village and spares Rolf, hoping that he'll grow strong enough to prove a satisfying challenge in the future. He's accompanied by a girl whose name I honestly can't remember, who is nearly killed by Theo when Rolf tries to stop him.

Rolf feels powerless at being unable to do anything about his village's destruction and blames himself for nearly getting That Girl killed. He vows to become stronger and to get revenge on Theo. The premise has been done before, but I don't rate a story down just for being cliche. The writing itself was acceptable, although there were a few noticeable spelling and grammar errors. They were relatively infrequent, though.

However, the characters are completely uninteresting. Rolf's only personality is his melodramatic anguish after the destruction of his village. The fact that he's upset about the incident is believable, but his monologue about it is too drawn out and over the top, making him seem whiney and annoying.

That Girl is just as bad. She has no personality and goes from being Rolf's close friend to her wanting to go to "the ends of the earth" with him literally overnight. I understand people are brought closer together by tragedy, but it's completely unbelievable that they develop that strong of a bond over the course of a few hours. Or maybe they were always that close together, I don't know. Their exchanges early in the game don't reveal anything about the nature of their relationship.

Graphics/Level Design: 1.5/5
Each important character has their own face graphic, but unfortunately, they're pretty poorly-drawn and colored. Most important characters also have their own sprites, but the sprites are lacking character and stand out starkly from the otherwise RTP rest of the world. They lack consistency and are pillow shaded. I suspect that whoever made the character sprites didn't have much experience with spriting. I would suggest recoloring and frankenspriting RTP sprites instead, since it's easier to make something consistent that looks good for someone who isn't an accomplished spriter.

The mapping is also pretty mediocre. While there aren't many noticeable flaws in the maps, the interior maps are huge and spacious, a problem which plagues many unexperienced mappers. Aside from that, it's sometimes hard to figure out where the borders for a map are. Sometimes there are teleports in places that aren't obvious. There are many cases where there is no path leading to a teleport, so it looks like any other piece of grass. Nothing else stands out about the level design. It's fairly simple and accomplishes its purpose.

Audio: 2.5/5
The game features an original soundtrack. I have no strong opinion about the soundtrack either way. The tunes were all forgettable, but there were never any moments where it grated on my nerves. A forgettable soundtrack is better than an annoying one.

The only other aspect of audio worth mentioning is that each character has battle cry sound voiceovers. They're fairly mediocre, but very repetitive. From what I could tell, it's the same sound effect over and over for each character. The sound quality for the recordings is pretty poor and the voices are not necessarily bad, but not very good either.

-Recruit a spriter to do the original sprites or do RTP edits to maintain consistent quality
-Recruit a spelling/grammar checker
-Condense your maps, especially the interiors
-Make it more clear where teleports are, either by making paths that lead to them or by adding an indicator
-Add more variety to battles and skills
-Get someone better to do the face portraits
-Have beta testers play the minigames. I honestly can't believe that anyone tested those minigames without voicing their frustration.
-Give the characters more defined personalities

Bottom Line:
Mana Conquest is a pretty standard RPG Maker project that suffers from a couple minor design flaws. There's nothing that stands out about it as being particularly praiseworthy or demanding of criticism, aside from the downright unfair minigames which are required to progress through the game.


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I'm going to review this game. While I agree with some of the things in this review, I'm hoping to point out a few things that will be more helpful in future exploits. I'm not finished it yet, however, so give me some time.
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