Legend of Mana is one of those games from peak era Squaresoft, and by “peak era” I mean riding off the success of Final Fantasy, Squaresoft was dropping new titles left and right. This was also an era of experimentation, giving us games like Xenogears, Vagrant Story and Parasite Eve among others. Legend of Mana lies in a strange spot between the classics and that experimentation of the time.
What does this mean? In a nutshell, it means by today’s standards Legend of Mana is a “weird” game. It defies convention in a lot of ways, and even did so when it was new. I’ve seen essays or videos in which even fans of the game call it a “black sheep.” Legend is a game that stands alone in a lot of ways; there isn’t much else like it.
Legend of Mana Remastered Review
Legend of Mana Remastered is, like SaGa Frontier Remastered before it, a pretty straightforward translation of the PlayStation original to current platforms. The game at its core is the same - the art direction, mechanics, storyline, everything that makes Legend of Mana itself is untouched. However, things like UI elements, the background art, localization, etc are all updated. There are also a few small updates compared to the original North American release.
For example, you can turn regular enemy encounters off. It’s a toggle option, meant to make backtracking easier. You can also play a PocketStation minigame inside the software, one of the few of its kind available in North America since the PocketStation was never released here. You can also save anywhere, which is great because a ton of time passed in-game for me before I stumbled upon an actual save point. That’s terrifying!
I say “for me,” because Legend of Mana’s biggest identifier is its wide open structure. You’re just dumped into the game with little explanation on how anything works, and are expected to figure it out as you go. That includes building out the world map. You receive “Artifacts” as you play, which create points on a map. Game events can change based on where you put things and when, but unless you’re using a guide there’s no way to know.
In that respect, you can make comparisons between Legend of Mana and something like SaGa, which says a lot about this being announced alongside SaGa Frontier Remastered. These games are very experimental and explorative, asking a lot of the player to be motivated by their sense of discovery rather than being directed through a story in linear fashion. This kind of structure isn’t for everyone, but as The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild proved, the scales have tipped in these kinds of games’ favor in recent years.
Due to its age and technical limitations, there are some fundamental issues with Legend of Mana. Combat in particular feels off, due to its weird perspective. It isn’t quite linear, nor is it isometric like earlier Mana games. It’s almost like a really sluggish beat ‘em up, making it difficult to line up hits or defense properly. You don’t have to heal up between encounters, which feels necessary for this game to work.
Overall, I think the appeal here is how explorative Legend of Mana is. You stumble upon nearly everything the game needs to progress. By exploring, trying new things, talking to people, flagging various events and stories is how to make this game tick. It requires a certain mindset, but if that’s your wheelhouse then you’ll have a great time exploring this world one Artifact at a time.
- HD updates look great
- Save anywhere, localization, etc
- Intriguing, outside the box structure
- If you’re a completionist, RIP
- Combat is awkward
- Hardly anything is explained to you in-game; you’re mostly on your own
A copy of this game was provided by the publisher for review