Square Enix is slowly bringing its classic JRPG series back to the latest consoles for a new generation to experience. Players had the chance to experience the SaGa series for the first time or relive epic moments from Final Fantasy VII.
Another series that has been brought back is the Mana series. From collecting the first three titles to the amazing 3D remake of Trials of Mana, it has seen a revival. The latest game to be revived from the Mana franchise is Legend of Mana in a remastered version.
Legend of Mana is the fourth game in the Mana series, it is also the first title that has not yet appeared on a Nintendo console.
The games take place in different worlds, with some titles supposed to play on the same timeline as others.
This time Legend of Mana takes place in the world of Fa’Diel, which lies in ruins. Centuries before the events of the current game, the mana tree burned down, resulting in a war between the different races.
When the war ended, the mana tree grew back and some of the civilizations were kept in artifacts. It is now up to the main character, who can be either male or female, to rebuild the world with the artifacts at will.
The story is then essentially divided into three different arcs, which consist of many quests. There may not be a main storyline, but this adds more depth with so many twists in each arc.
It may be different from what people are used to, but different is good.
Legend of Mana looked awesome when it originally appeared on the Playstation, but the remaster certainly raised the bar. The new hand-drawn, pre-rendered backgrounds look amazing with enhanced colors that really make any place on the screen appear.
The characters still keep their cheeky 32-bit character models, which helps the game retain the charm of the original.
Character designs are great, a lot of details are paid to the NPCs and enemies.
It can be difficult to decipher where exits and key positions are within the levels as everything tends to bleed into one another.
The original soundtrack by Yoko Shimomura, who is also known for her work on Kingdom Hearts and Final Fantasy, is being brought back in two different versions.
Players can choose between the original and the remastered version. The big orchestral pieces sound a lot clearer in the remastered version, but the original still sounds just as good.
Players can create their own adventure thanks to the Land Make system, which is one step away from the usual set story in previous titles. Here the players place artifacts on the world map to generate a “land” to explore.
Each new land has a main quest that rewards you with a new artifact and so on.
It can get quite complex as the world map is on an isometric grid and depending on how far you place the artifact from your home, what monsters and items will appear. You also get various elementary attributes.
Countries can vary from long dungeons with a boss or a city full of NPCs who can join you or give out quests.
The Land Make system can be confusing at first and requires some trial and error to get into the swing of things, but once players get used to it it’s a well-designed system with a variety of high replayable challenges.
The quest variant is fully welcome, as each country play through is very different. However, activating some of these quests can be tricky as the instructions in this game can be very vague and require a lot of trial and error.
I found talking to everyone is important as you don’t know who or what might trigger a quest or how often to talk to them.
There are a couple of nice additions, like the ability to turn off enemy encounters, make tracking a lot easier, and the auto save feature that eliminates the need for memory statues.
There’s a lot to work through, but since you don’t have to complete all of the arcs to get to the end of the game, it’s not that frustrating if you miss a few things.
The players form a group of three, with the two additional slots going to another character and a tamed pet. These monster companions can be found in the lands and added to your group.
Players can also raise them on their farm and even play the Ring Ring Land mini-game that was once exclusive to Japan. This was a handheld Playstation game that gamers could use to upgrade their pets.
Amazingly Legend of Mana allows two players to tackle the adventure, with the second player controlling the additional character. This makes a huge difference as the AI control characters can be hit and missed in combat while also apparently not knowing how to collect the XP crystals.
Each dungeon is full of enemies strategically placed in specific areas and players often have to fight them and the bosses.
Battles take place in real time and players must use various skills and abilities to take out enemies. Each character has access to a quick and powerful attack that has its own strengths and weaknesses.
Players can also assign defensive maneuvers that can be unlocked as the game progresses. Characters can switch weapons whenever they want, there is a huge selection to suit different fighting styles.
Each weapon learns unique skills which, once mastered, will result in the player learning a specific technique.
This system may seem overwhelming at first to newbies as there is so much choice to create the best character. However, I feel like the gameplay and enemies are initially simple enough for a second player to join in.
Legend of Mana Remaster is a great game that goes against traditional forms of storytelling to create a one-of-a-kind adventure.
With the monster taming and diversity within the Land Make system, completing this game is a whopping feat and requires a few pass-throughs to see it all. The addition of two-player modes makes this a must-have for JRPGs fans and newbies alike.
Legend of Mana Remaster is out now for Nintendo Switch, Playstation 4 and PC