by Maddison Leeding
reviewed on PC
Love for JRPGs
Now, who doesn't love a good JRPG? Throwing tens of hours into a game just to get that small increase to your stats in a single-player game so no one will ever see the fruits of your hard work. Ah, you can’t beat it. I’ve heard of the Mana series of games by Square Enix but had never gotten round to playing any more than a minor dabble here and there. So I was pretty excited to dip my toes finally into the franchise with Legend of Mana.
Starting up the game post menu screen, you choose between either a male or female character and pick your weapon, although neither of these really matter going forward in the game as you won’t get locked into the weapon choice for the rest of the game and the gender of your character has no real impact on the story in any way. Weapons do make your stats grow differently but you can just swap weapons after character creation. You also choose the starting area on a large map for where you wish to place your starting artifact. Artifacts are given to you during events, which are pretty much the quests of the game, and allow you to further build up the world around you and continue the storyline.
The plot of the game, without spoiling too much, is that many years ago, the Mana Tree burned down and caused a war for the last pieces of Mana. Now it’s up to you, dear reader, to revive the tree and help the world. You know, the usual Friday afternoon. As you collect artifacts and complete events you meet a host of weird and wonderful characters and help them with their problems, as is the rite of passage for every silent protagonist in an RPG setting.
Beautiful, Fun, and Flawed
The game can be played with either a controller or a keyboard, but I had an easier time playing with a controller than I did playing it with my keyboard. Even then I wound up rebinding the keys to make more sense to me. Combat honestly is a pretty big pain even though it’s one of the main facets of the game, with both you and your enemies able to move in whichever direction desired on the combat screen but you are then only able to hit in front or behind of yourself. This can lead to you being locked into a combo whilst the monster you're fighting winds up wandering around like they’re worried they left the oven running back home.
The boss fights were fairly lackluster all in all and mainly ended up with me just running around the fight just taking quick potshots at the boss between their attacks rather than a lot of strategy or planning. Which, to be fair, is a bit of a relief since the companion AI is utterly useless and drop-dead every ten seconds only to then get up and repeat the process over. Once the enemies have been defeated, you have to awkwardly stumble around trying to collect all the experience, cash and fallen items and hope to Gaia that either the items don’t vanish into the ether or that the leftover enemies don’t start taking out their grief for their fallen comrade on you.
The game doesn’t just include battling bosses and getting lost for all eternity after forgetting if you took a left or a right at that tree earlier though. After doing a certain amount of the events players will start to unlock more things to do around the home base. There are monster eggs you can encounter, which you then keep at your corral where you can take them out and have them battle by your side. There’s the option to plant seeds you pick up whilst on your travels and grow various produce at the orchard to feed to the critters now residing in the corral and help them gain stats. Another part of your base has a forge for crafting weapons and armor and then also improving them further with different upgrades. You can also make Golems in the forge with the weapons and armor you make, and different combinations make better and more interesting and powerful golems that you can then use to fight beside you. I dabbled in these during my playthrough of the game and honestly never really needed to use them as the fights were all quickly dispatched with just using my primary weapon.
Legend of Mana is visually stunning, with these amazing painted landscapes and environments to trawl through. This is mixed in with pixelated sprites for the player character and NPCs which can feel quite jarring at first but you do become used to it quite quickly. As is the case with a lot of Square Enix games, the soundtrack is a treat for the ears, with its sweeping orchestral sounds. You can either change the soundtrack in the game to the original versions to the more updated sounds depending on what you prefer.
The game is fun and does have some moments that made me genuinely laugh out loud. Legend of Mana isn’t perfect and can get a little bit monotonous in the combat sections, but the story has a lot of heart. If you’re a fan of JRPGs then there’s probably a little something in here to interest you.
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Beautiful soundtrack and visuals
Combat is rather dull