Legend of Mana - Retroview

Pretty. Plotless. Experience.

By: Red Raven

Review Breakdown
   Battle System 4
   Interface 4
   Music/Sound 9
   Originality 4
   Plot 1
   Localization 5
   Replay Value 2
   Visuals 10
   Difficulty Very Easy
   Time to Complete

15-30 hours


Title Screen

   This is not Secret of Mana. This is not a sequel to Secret of Mana. This game has almost nothing to do with Secret of Mana. It does not play, sound, or even look like Secret of Mana. If you liked Secret of Mana, there is no guarantee you'll like this game. In fact, if you liked Secret of Mana, then you'll probably come to hate this game with an undying passion.
I'll let that sink in for a moment.

   Now, you're probably wondering what exactly this game is, considering that it is nothing like Secret of Mana. Well, it is basically a very beautiful, interactive picture book, with nicely animated sprites and some very nice songs. When I say beautiful, I mean Saga Frontier 2-esque watercolor - backgrounds - that - are - probably - hanging - in - an - art - gallery - somewhere kind of beauty. This combines with some very, very, nicely done musical effects to create a pretty convincing illusion that you are playing one of the best games ever made. I mean, it's like the sequel to Secret of Mana too, right?
Oh no, not at all. Nothing like Secret of Mana.

   It doesn't sink in until you get about three or four hours into the game, that there is no plot whatsoever beyond "reviving the Mana Tree". You basically go from short pointless side quest to short pointless side quest, very reminiscent of the original Saga Frontier really; which leads me to the conclusion that some of those development members came over to work on this game as well. Anyway, you spend the game wandering around towns and dungeons, looking for more and more artifacts that you can unlock to find more and more towns/dungeons, etcetera, for the entire 25-odd hours you spend with this game. Which wouldn't have been quite so bad if the battles weren't so easy.

Who Knew You Could Do THAT With A Sword?
Who Knew You Could Do THAT With A Sword? 

   See, Legend of Mana actually had a pretty good battle system in my estimation, if it weren't for the fact that you are practically immortal, and probably a little too omnipotent to boot. Battles are started much in the same manner as Chrono Trigger; you encounter enemies in the field, but the screen does not change. Once battle begins, you are free to roam around the little battle arena in real-time and attack by mashing the action buttons, setting off a few combos in the process. It was actually pretty fun for a while--it kept the battles interesting with all the action going on--until you realized that you cannot die. Basically, at zero HP your character falls unconscious and a little meter fills back up, and then you come back with full health into the same exact fight. This process goes even quicker once you start getting some other people into your party (max of 2 or 3), and some of the more powerful combos. Wash, rinse, and repeat.

Must... Resist... Beautiful... Backgrounds...
Must... Resist... Beautiful... Backgrounds... 

   With no centralized plot to think about outside of combat or in-between quests, you are left with only the mundane raising of pets, creation of golems, or growing of fruit features. Soon, however, even they are not interesting enough to bother with, and you'll find yourself trying to finish the game as quickly as possible or turning it off in disgust, depending on your pain-tolerance. For all intents and purposes, this is a mere kiddy game that attempts to both cash in on (ultimately) flash over substance and all the convincing, yet very mistaken similarities to Secret of Mana.
Which, by the way, it is nothing like.

Choose-Your-Own-Adventure: Side-Quest Edition
Choose-Your-Own-Adventure: Side-Quest Edition 

   If you happen to be looking around a game store some day and are looking for a quality game to buy, don't let the watercolor box art fool you. Yes, it looks really good. Yes, it contains the words "of Mana" in the title. And, yes, it is made by Squaresoft. Just remind yourself that Saga Frontier was also made by Squaresoft and keep scanning right on by. There are better games to become nostalgic for, and they are guaranteed to leave a better taste in the back of your mouth than this one. Remember, your eyes and ears might tempt you, but listen to your head and heart and stay away.

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