Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Review: Legend of Mana

Genre: RPG
Year Released: 2000
Rating: T for Teen (Mild Animated Violence, Suggestive Themes)
Players: 1-2
Price: $25+ (PS1), $10 (PSN)

Back when I was in high school, I had a good friend that had a copy of this game.  We played the dickens out of it, and when I found out that it's available on the Playstation Network, I figured a review of this cult hit is in order.
Seiken Densetsu 4, or Legend of Mana, as it's known in the United States, released in 2000 for the Playstation.  Published by Squaresoft before their merger with Enix Interactive, Legend of Mana was a real visual treat.  It touted hand-drawn sprites, an emotional soundtrack, and it's one of a handful of PS1 RPGs to support 2-player co-operative game play.  The second player could take on the role of an NPC, or load their character from a second memory card and join in.  This was a rare thing for RPGs of the time, and I feel it's a good selling point.

The story takes place about 900 years after Seiken Densetsu 3 which never saw a stateside release.  The Mana Tree has fully healed, but wars and strife have ravaged the countryside.  You take on the role of the central protagonist, either male or female, and craft the world around you to save everyone in it.

Gameplay consists of quests, which can have conditions attached to them before they begin.  While you cannot fail most quests, there are some that you can fail.  Half the fun is seeing how fast or how much you can complete before you reach the final stage, the Mana Tree.
Like I said, you literally create your own world.
As you complete quests, you will receive items, money, or even artifacts.  These artifacts will have a name that starts with "AF" and are used to create new areas to explore.  In this way, you can essentially make a different play experience with each time you play the game.

Gamers familiar with Secret of Mana and Secret of Evermore on the SNES will quickly notice that the battles play out much differently that Legend of Mana's predecessors.  Battles have a more Arcade feel to them, and while you can't run away from battles, the game balances the enemies so that they're challenging, but not overpowered.

The soundtrack is composed by Yoko Shimomura.  Her work can be heard in other famous games like Super Mario RPG, Kingdom Hearts, and Secret of Mana/Secret of Evermore.  The soundtrack in Legend of Mana is beautifully pieced together and accurately sets the tone for the game's areas.  This is one of those soundtracks that I keep on my phone for playing in the car, it's that good.
Fighting rabites by yourself isn't fun.  Find a friend, neckbeard!
There are a lot of side-quests and diversions in Legend of Mana, too.  Players can craft weapons, magical instruments, even build mechanical golems!  You also get the opportunities to raise pets as you go, and feeding them different produce will affect their temperaments.  This changes how they act in battle.  It's a neat way to add a layer of strategy to battles.

Legend of Mana has always been a bit of a rare find, but now that it's available on PSN, you have no excuse to not play this gem.  Any fan of the older Final Fantasy games, Dark Cloud, or earlier Seiken Densetsu entries will love this game.

No comments: