The Mana series has been receiving a lot of love lately from Square Enix, with Legend of Mana being no exception. Experience the classic PlayStation era JRPG classic, now remastered for the Nintendo Switch boasting updated visuals, an orchestrated soundtrack, and new quality of life features allowing a new generation of fans to dive into the game.
Legend of Mana is a very different beast of a JRPG unlike any other I’ve played, even compared to the other games in the Mana series. Unlike traditional games in the genre, this one really leans into player freedom, which makes everyone’s experience with this title entirely different, while still feeling similar. Like most JRPGs, the game starts with the player choosing a silent protagonist of either a boy or a girl as their main character along with what weapon they will use, which is about as much as the game has in common with other games in the genre.
From there, Legend of Mana presents a blank world map where the player can choose where to begin their journey by planting an artifact that creates the player’s home base. Completing quests grants new artifacts and the player can then plant them to create new areas, such as towns and dungeons to explore.
This style of gameplay was initially confusing for me even though I’ve played other entries in the Mana franchise, but once I got the hang of it the game became less confusing. Because there’s not much of an overall story I didn’t really know which quests I should have been completing or even when the game was close to being over or even if I was even progressing the main story.
The only way I knew I was making my way through the game was the Mana Tree icon that appeared after completing each quest grew little by little from a tiny sapling into the full grown tree. Other than that, the game feels like an eclectic collection of side quests having little to do with each other until late in the game. This lack of an overarching story really impacted my enjoyment.
Likewise, combat is unlike any other JRPG I’ve ever played. Enemies appear on the map and combat feels like a side-scrolling beat’em up arcade style game, albeit much clunkier than the games it tries to emulate. There are skills and magic abilities that the player can utilize, but in my time playing they were not any more effective than just spamming the A button.
AI-controlled party members are fairly useless, spending most of the combat standing in front of monsters waiting to get attacked. Despite the lack of decent party members the battles are not exceptionally difficult and don’t require much thought even during boss encounters.
Even with the gripes I have with the combat and story progression I found that the game was still rewarding to play due to the bite size chunks of gameplay it offers with the quests. Each quest was roughly 20-30 minutes long making it a perfect game to delve into while traveling or on break at work.
Furthermore, the art direction is simply beautiful. Each of the background environments have been updated to be crisper and more vibrant than the original game’s. Character sprites seem to be mostly unchanged but they were already easy on the eyes.
The soundtrack for Legend of Mana has also been rearranged updating the already amazing tracks for a new generation. The game also allows the player to switch between the original soundtrack and the new one. Other new features like a music player, artwork viewer, and the ability to turn off enemy encounters help update the game for 2021.
Legend of Mana is an interesting game with a world and story progression system unlike any other JRPG I’ve ever played. It sometimes feels like a clunky mess with its weird combat and barely there story, but the art and music made it enjoyable for me. I don’t think I can recommend this game to those new to the series or new to the genre as it doesn’t represent the best of either. If you’re looking for a game that offers a unique experience this may be it, but not it’s certainly not for everyone.
Legend of Mana Review
- Graphics - 8/108/10
- Sound - 8/108/10
- Gameplay - 6/106/10
- Lasting Appeal - 6/106/10
Final Thoughts: WORTH CONSIDERING
Legend of Mana is a confusing and, at times, clunky mess of a game that is carried by its beautiful visuals and a stellar soundtrack.
Tony has been gaming ever since he could walk. Pokémon Blue Version helped him learn how to read. His greatest accomplishment is not just having played the entire Kingdom Hearts series but also understanding it.