Square's Seiken Densetsu series has seen a few excellent entries so here's a remake of a spin-off that's definitely worth checking out.
At the turn of the millennium, Square released some truly unconventional RPGs for PS1 and I was there for all of them. Whether I was playing SaGa Frontier 2, Threads of Fate, or Vagrant Story; I had a lot of fun diving into new and imaginative worlds when I was a teen. However, the game that stood out as the most imaginative was Legend of Mana and at the time, I actually found its open-ended approach to be a bit off-putting but over the years, I've grown to appreciate such games because let's face it; video games really like to hold your hand nowadays and half of the time, I don't even feel like I'm playing anything at all. Thankfully, Legend of Mana puts you in control of its entire world which slowly opens up as you progress through its mini-stories and meet its delightful cast of characters.
Specifically, Legend of Mana tasks you with collecting Artifacts which you place on the grid-based world map in order to create towns and dungeons. They have elemental properties, too, so you may get bonuses for combining certain elements or you can just do whatever you want because Legend of Mana isn't here to punish you for merely making decisions. As you progress, the world becomes quite populated with memorable areas that are enjoyable to visit and revisit to your heart's content. Not only that; you'll also discover oodles of rewarding mechanics such as growing your own produce, forging weapons and armour, making musical instruments, creating robotic golems, hatching pets from monster eggs who join your party, and mastering new combat abilities. There's a lot to do! 😅
Anyway, I'm getting a little ahead of myself. The core gameplay of Legend of Mana is what you'd expect from a Seiken Densetsu game as you run around dungeons with a partner and a pet. The former can either be controlled by AI or a friend which is cool. When you're confronted with monsters, you basically mash the attack button and can unleash special attacks by tapping the shoulder buttons after equipping them. Once the enemies are defeated, you scramble around while picking up experience points, gold, and items.
All of this is fairly fun but it's really quite simple at its core. Outside of combat, you explore areas while talking to any NPCs that you come across because you never know what to expect from them. Sometimes, they'll join you while other times, they'll fight you. They may even give you a cool item! I thoroughly enjoyed seeing what the charming cast was up to but the lack of direction can definitely get a bit annoying at times. Thankfully, you're treated to a brand new musical score and gorgeously-painted backgrounds that really elevate the already lovely game world to new heights. So, even when things gets tedious, at least the presentation will make you smile.
On the downside, Legend of Mana has some old-school baggage that unfortunately carried over. For example, you may end up fighting a monster who's obscured by the foreground which makes it very difficult to aim. Heck, I was sometimes facing the wrong direction without realising it. Also, menus can be confusing because they're rather generic and often don't provide you with enough information. This is especially problematic in the shops because you'll see a list of items but not know exactly what their purposes are.
Legend of Mana is a beautiful game that anyone who appreciates creative gaming experiences will absolutely love. Those who prefer more structured adventures may be put off by it but there's no denying just how gorgeous of a game it is on nearly every level.
- + Imaginative open-ended game world allows you to have fun at your own pace
- + Gorgeous redone visuals and music
- + Loads of rewarding mechanics to discover
- - Its open-ended nature isn't for everyone
- - Could use more informative menus
- - Has plenty of old-school baggage