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Legend of Mana - Retroview

"Is that all?"

By: Paul Koehler


Review Breakdown
   Battle System 4
   Interface 7
   Music/Sound 7
   Originality 4
   Plot 3
   Localization 9
   Replay Value 8
   Visuals 9
   Difficulty Incredibly Easy
   Time to Complete

15-25 Hours

 
Overall
number
Criteria

Title Screen

   

The Playstation is still the best console system for RPG's, and much of this is due to Square. The self-proclaimed king of the genre deserves credit for many of its games, and due to their success, they have some room for experimentation. One of their best series of games comes from the "Seiken Densetsu" saga, otherwise known as "Secret of Mana" in North America. After receiving complaints from loyal RPG fans for not releasing Seiken Densetsu 3 stateside, Square supposedly learned from their mistake and sent the fourth game of the series, "Legend of Mana" for an international release. After playing through the game, I'm not impressed.

   Legend of Mana (LoM) falls under the category of an Action-RPG, and as such, the battle system is central to the game. Each character in the game comes with a wide array of combo attacks, and while they look pretty, they are almost too good. What makes things even more ridiculous is the way the system handles death. LoM characters don't die; they're knocked out, and revive to full health in a few seconds. I'm serious!

With a three-character party, this makes battles a minor annoyance, or a plot device. Unfortunately, a minor annoyance is a more accurate description. Sure, there are higher difficulties in the game, but the blandness of the plot makes it all the more unnecessary.

   For continuity sake, the Seiken Densetsu saga is the same: a thousand years have passed, and the Mana Tree starts to bloom again. Well, I understood that much from playing the previous games, as the references are hard to catch. LoM has a distinct "kiddie" feel to it, both in the plot and the character text. Fortunately, the localization effort done by Square was excellent; it's a shame that it only brought out the pointless events that are necessary to win LoM.

 


Silly Little Comment on Screen
What's worse is moving through this area...  

   Those events are explained in a "diary", and each event is like a story within a story. Many of these must be completed in order to get certain "artifacts", which are used to build the world. That's right, you build the world you live in. Various FAQ's explain the way the system is done in detail, and it's a great concept that really does affect game play. The concept would work greater if only some of the events had a specific purpose…most of them don't. Humor aside, the story, while containing elements found in previous SD games, serves no purpose whatsoever.

   So what's left? Are the menu's stupid-friendly? Yes…LoM is no Star Ocean. However, considering the genre of the game, that was a smart choice. In the higher difficulties, weapon construction is very important, but the interface is detailed enough where the important information is explained, and equipment is handled easily.

   Did I mention the stuff looks good too? Despite the flaws of the game, LoM looks the part of a fantasy game. Unlike some, I didn't mind the backgrounds, as they were done in retro 2D style while taking advantage of the Playstation's hardware capabilities. The combo attacks, while overkill, were fun to watch, and sounded good. For the sake of the "old school vs. new school" RPG argument that many gamers like to argue with, LoM showed that 2D did not die with Final Fantasy 6 and the Super Nintendo. Throw these in with competent sound effects, a killer title song, and Square's usual FMV skills, and you have a game that looks impressive at the very least. Too bad the rest of the game is not impressive. In fact, it was a little insulting.


Cutesy or Realistic Name
In most cases, this is all you'll need.  

   

 

While the SD games are not serious epics, the game play was a challenge. LoM was anything but a challenge. In fact, the game took less than 14 hours for me to complete, and I still had time to finish studying for an exam the next day. Even with increased difficulties, and nice add-ons like custom weaponry and monster breeding (hmmm… where's that from?), there is no real challenge to the game. It's a great diversion, no doubt, but to say this lives up to the reputation of Seiken Densetsu? I don't think so. Let's hope Square releases Seiken Densetsu 3 stateside before their loyal fans throw up their hands and yell, "Is that all?"





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