Title: Legend of Mana
Developer: M2 Co
Release Date: June 24, 2021
Reviewed On: PS4
Publisher: Square Enix
When I was 12 years old, I went to the library to get tips on completing quests in a game. Printing at the library cost 10 cents a page, and I had my allowance with me. However, the library didn’t know that I just printed out a complete strategy guide for Legend of Mana, and I ended up using all of their ink. Consequently, I was banned for a week. Still, I just set myself up for a memorable RPG adventure. It’s a game as niche as they come and nothing like any other Mana title, making me love it even more.
Fast forward 20 years, and here I am, playing Legend of Mana again, and the nostalgia is overwhelming. There are layers of added quality-of-life improvements, but this isn’t the most accessible RPG around.
there are dozens of self-contained stories within this overarching plot led by three main quests
Legend of Mana is set in the world of Fa’Diel that takes place after the war destroyed the Mana Tree. The player is tasked with restoring the land and gathering any traces of Mana left. This setup doesn’t really prepare you for what’s ahead, as there are dozens of self-contained stories within this overarching plot led by three main quests that take you to the conclusion. However, it’s the quests that the player discovers along the way that makes this game so memorable. Each play-through is essentially a brand new adventure and can vary drastically when compared to another’s experience.
However, this creates confusion as nothing is explained to the player outside of “here’s a piece of land, place it down and go find adventure.” As you make your way through the towns and dungeons, you’ll meet characters who may join your party or offer you a quest. These quests will reward the player with new areas to explore or in some way progress the narrative. Quests vary from setting out to fight a boss to playing a detective. There’s no actual limit to what a quest will require of the player, but some are exceptionally vague.
Some quests just don’t provide enough direction as the player needs to talk to the character multiple times, backtrack, or do things in a specific order to trigger an event. It can be highly frustrating when you feel you have all the pieces in place but can’t progress because you forgot to talk to one character. Still, you don’t really need to complete all the quests to beat the game, so it’s totally possible to pass some up if you want.
Players can have two characters in their party. However, only one slot can be filled by another character as the third slot is used for pets and golems. Pets are found during gameplay and can be raised at your farm. It’s a fun mini-game that has been expanded in this entry with an option game called Ring Ring Land. This seems to be a PlayStation Pocket game where players can level up their pets easier. It’s based on luck, so don’t let it take too much of your time.
Dungeons are maze-like, but they’re also easy to navigate. Without the direction from the quests, you’ll know early on if you’re somewhere that you aren’t supposed to be yet. Each character is so charming and has their own reasons for requesting your help. There’s story’s of love, loss, and vengeance that require the player to invest themselves in returning the land to greatness. It’s exceptionally rewarding to complete a quest because you get to tell your Cactus all about it at home.
Every new area created is a new adventure waiting, and every character met provides a unique perspective on storytelling.
The remastered version of the game gives us completely recreated pre-rendered backgrounds, and it’s beautiful. I liked that they opted to leave the characters largely untouched in this remastered effort as their designs contrasted with the scenes well. It’s much better this way than what we’ve seen in games like Final Fantasy VII Remastered, where the characters are touched up, and the backgrounds stand out like a sore thumb.
Further, the audio now has the newly arranged version, and the loading screens between areas and been reduced. Thankfully, lag is not an issue either, as I remember fights, special moves, and some scenes inching by in the original version. You can also turn off the encounters in this version, making backtracking a bit easier if you’re just trying to find your way through one of the maze-like dungeons.
The battle system takes some getting used to because, similar to the quests, there isn’t much direction. Thankfully, you can probably get through the game without really messing with too much. Players choose their starter weapon, but characters can change weapons whenever they want.
Each weapon learns skills independently, so if you use a sword, learn some skills and then equip a two-handed sword, you’ll need to fight to learn new skills. There’s a quick and strong attack, and players can assign two defense maneuvers unlocked through battle. This is important because you’ll want to have options like counter and backflip set up for easier maneuvering.
Navigating a battlefield can be difficult as it’s tough to gauge where the enemy is, sometimes resulting in a missed attack. Special moves are assigned to the shoulder buttons that require a quick charge but cause significant damage. The AI characters do an okay job of staying alive, but they sometimes have trouble collecting EXP gems and money. This is what makes this game such a good 2 player experience. The battles are relatively easy for the most part, making for a great first RPG while teamed with a seasoned player.
Legend of Mana is all about the memories you make from the moment you start playing to the credits. Every new area created is a new adventure waiting, and every character met provides a unique perspective on storytelling. Its non-linearity allows it to stand out in the series, but it comes at the expense of a few confusing quest lines. The remastered backgrounds, improved loading and attack animations, and additional options make it such a charming RPG to play over and over.
Luckily, our phones now have the internet on them, so after your first playthrough, check out one of the guides made in the early 2000s to 100% the game.
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