Children of Mana Impressions
Time played: 2-3 hours
Thus far, it seems like "Dungeon Hack of Mana".
I'm a bit worried that it may be a game better suited for multiplayer, which I don't currently have the ability to do. When you start a game, you choose one of the main characters, and one of several colors. It seems this is the only character you'll be using in the main quest; the rest will be done through multiplayer. This seems to diminish the flexibility of a single player; no automatic party variance in play. I went with Tamber, for her quick attacking and decent magic capabilities, though her attacks aren't as strong.
A note on the localization. I'd read about how the characters had such action-sounding names as Flick, Tumble, and Pop. However, they're now named variants like Ferrik, Tamber, and Poppen. (Also Wanderer, who I didn't even realize was a playable character.)
Most Mana games have a connective overworld you fight on, but not here. Rather like Legend of Mana, you select a destination and go. Once there you either fight through normally, or if you're there for a return visit can choose between replaying it in its original form or performing a special quest. Once you're in you can't modify your equipment except for the chance it gives you before the boss or other final part. At any time you can use the Magic Rope to escape to town. Each location is set up as a series of floors. You find the Gleamdrop somewhere (in a pot, from a certain enemy, by killing all enemies), take it to the Gleamwell, and proceed to the next floor.
The special quests mentioned above come in two flavors. EIther a character in town can ask for a specific mission, or you can find what seems to be a limitless supply of similar random jobs at the Dudbears' shop. Maybe they'll get more complicated later, but thus far they've basically been "Clear out the enemies" or "Get to the end to find my missing item", with money or items given as payment.
Being a dungeon-heavy game, luckily the fighting seems done well enough. Both X and A are used for different weapons; since I've only got two yet I'm not sure if the sword if permanently in A's spot or if both are able to be switched (which R is used for). Anyway, each weapon has a regular attack you get by tapping it, or a secondary function you get by holding it. Hold down the sword, and projectiles bounce back to their senders; handy against enemies with bows. Hold down the flail, and when you release it shoots straight and can grab things, acting as a whip instead of its regular circular attack. B is magic. You take one elemental with you at a time. Hit B to summon the elemental, then either leave it alone for an offensive move, or walk into it for the healing/support magic. Y is used for curative items, which you cycle through with the L button. Overall it's a nice setup, and gives you access to plenty of functions at once without bringing up a series of layered ring menus.