Square Enix has brought back yet another title from the golden era of JRPGs. This time, it’s Legend of Mana, the fourth title in the “Mana” series of games. The original Legend of Mana released way back in 1999 and just like previous titles in the franchise, it received critical acclaim. Legend of Mana was quite successful in both North America and Japan. It never got a worldwide release though, until now in the form of the Nintendo Switch remaster.
As such, worldwide gamers can finally get to play this masterpiece of days long gone by, from the comfort of their own home or while on the go, thanks to it being available on Nintendo Switch.
In Legend of Mana, players will take on the role of a nameless hero. Selecting between one of two main characters, players will assign a name to them and then dive right into the game world. You’ll be presented with a world map and asked to place a mailbox. Upon doing this, the game’s introductory cutscene that sets up the backstory is shown off. This is quite flashy and explains to you that the Mana Tree was burned and wars ravaged the lands while its power waned. Hundreds of years have now passed and it’s up to you to restore the world to its former glory.
The story of Legend of Mana is not as cut and dry as it seems though. Players will be able to rebuild the world while playing through the storyline by placing artefacts onto the world map but your progression is not limited to a linear pathway. You can choose where to go, what to do and when you want to do it once the world opens up a bit and there are times where it does get a bit confusing. Players will easily spend hours just wandering around the game world trying to figure things out and while this isn’t new to JRPGs from the 90s, newcomers might find the task a little bit daunting.
This is compounded further by the fact that there are multiple storylines and story arcs to consider in the game. Players can also trigger an endgame arc and “finish” the game after completing one of the sub-stories. It’s rather convoluted so those who want to obtain specific endings or witness certain stories and side-missions will need to consult a guide or sink additional hours into the game. Legend of Mana is the type of game that you can easily spend up to 60 hours or possibly even more in depending on your playstyle.
Another important thing to consider with regards to Legend of Mana is that there is the absolute bare minimum explanation in the game about doing certain things which are related to the gameplay. Players will have to spend hours in this title before something finally clicks or they ultimately decide enough is enough and finally load up a guide. This is of course still true to the original title but modern gamers will definitely find their patience being tested by Legend of Mana.
The story of the game is great though with plenty of adventuring interspersed between. The tales each arc tells within the Legend of Mana world will keep you entertained for hours and hours and the stories can be quite emotionally heavy to process. While the main story itself might be cliched in that you have to save the world, the amount of effort put into world-building is quite high with even an in-game library being made available so players can learn more about characters, artifacts and lands. Legend of Mana’s overall story is therefore excellent and well worth playing through, especially the side stories and arcs.
Gameplay in Legend of Mana involves players engaging with enemies in dungeons or other locations on the world map. This triggers an immediate battle sequence where players will string together combos to deal damage to enemies. This isn’t a turn-based JRPG so if you wanted a more action-orientated title, Legend of Mana will definitely appeal to you. Attacks are fairly straightforward and special attacks can be triggered too.
You can play through battles with someone else locally via the co-op feature. Doing this, players will be able to pull off a “Synchro attack” with their partner and deal a lot of damage to foes. Stringing together quick attacks and power attacks while dodging enemy attacks is the core combat aspect of Legend of Mana. Special attacks round off the attacking and these are flashy moves that your character can pull off. Players can also use a range of different weapons which they will obtain throughout the game but may opt to stick to one specific type once they get used to it as is usually the case in games such as these.
The combat unfortunately is the most dated aspect of Legend of Mana and it does start to feel repetitive over time. Especially when you’re fighting a tonne of tough enemies out in the lands further away from your home. There’s also this feel of rigidity and stiffness to the combat which is a sign of the game’s dated design more than anything else. If you plan to button bash your way to victory, you most likely can but you’ll have to be sure to block and get used to the animation timings so that you can actually move out of the way of enemy attacks and take less damage in battle.
Graphically, Legend of Mana on Nintendo Switch is a visual feast for the eyes. It is absolutely gorgeous with all the locations, environments, characters, enemies and other aspects being updated, upgraded and looking extremely vibrant and detailed. While we never got to play the original title back in the PlayStation 1 era, the Nintendo Switch version looks fantastic and there isn’t anything to complain about regarding the visuals. The hand-drawn environmental graphics and sprites look flat out amazing.
The soundtrack in Legend of Mana is just as great as the visuals too with Yoko Shimomura’s orchestral themes and composing really shining through here. The main theme and multiple other themes in the game for that matter are extremely catchy and tie together the game’s story and visuals perfectly. Legend of Mana’s remaster on Nintendo Switch also thankfully includes the full soundtrack being freely accessible via the options menu so players can load up their favourite tracks and listen to them whenever they like.
The remaster also includes various quality of life improvements such as autosave which is a life-saver really when the game’s battles kick it up a notch in difficulty. There’s also the option to be able to disable all enemy encounters so players can wander around the world freely and take in the gorgeous visuals and story aspects without fighting waves of enemies.
Overall, Legend of Mana on Nintendo Switch is a great way for modern gamers to enjoy a classic title from ages ago with spruced up visuals, a newly arranged soundtrack (along with the original) and quality of life features such as autosave and disabled enemy encounters. It also helps that the game runs flawlessly with zero hiccups or crashing. If you haven’t played Legend of Mana previously, or even if you have, we can highly recommend Legend of Mana on Nintendo Switch. The remaster is great and while the game’s dated design and mechanics might be off putting to some gamers, playing with a guide will help alleviate much of the frustration that the game will cause.
Legend of Mana was reviewed on the Nintendo Switch which can be purchased here for £24.99.
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