I was in secondary school when the original Legend of Mana came out on the Playstation. Coincidentally, that was also the era where Square Enix (then known as Squaresoft), ruled the roost as the King of RPGs. Hit after hit came out from the company during that era and 99% of them are still as great today as they were then.
Hell, I’m still sitting here wishing for a Xenogears remaster, if not an outright remake. Then again, I’m still also waiting for Final Fantasy X-3…so there’s a ton of stuff I’m expecting from Square Enix!
One thing I wasn’t expecting was a remake of Legend of Mana. The original was decent on the Playstation, but I never really felt like I wanted to play a remastered version of the game. I just didn’t connect to it like I did to many of Square Enix PS1 offerings.
Obviously, somebody at Square Enix disagreed with me and here we are.
So…decades after its original release, how does the remaster of Legend of Mana play?
Read on to find out!
What is Legend of Mana?
Legend of Mana is a remaster of Legend of Mana from the Playstation 1. Like the action RPG original, the remake can be played cooperatively with another player, with an A.I. controlling the pet. The Legend of Mana remaster is available on the Playstation consoles, PC and Nintendo Switch and is developed and published by Square Enix.
Our copy of the game was graciously provided by Square Enix Asia. Thanks a ton for the code you guys and gals!
As a remaster, 99% of Legend of Mana is unchanged…at least with regards to gameplay.
Unfortunately, that means that it also brought forth the original’s flaws.
If you’ve never played the game on the Playstation, know that while it was a good effort by Square Enix, it didn’t actually come with a good story. In fact, it’s pretty non-existent. If you thought SaGa Frontier was pretty hands-off in its story telling, wait till you play Legend of Mana.
Unlike Trials of Mana, Legend of Mana isn’t shy to pretty much ignore you and leave you to your own devices.
You’re barely given any clue whatsoever on how to progress, making you wander the available areas until you hit the trigger (be it a cutscene or a boss fight) to progress to the next step of your quest. Legend of Mana prides itself on letting you create your own world by allowing you to unlock and place new areas as you discover them.
While its open ended nature was charming back in the day, that’s no longer the case now. Instead, Legend of Mana’s overreliance on you to create your own fun backfires due to the archaic game design the game still retains. Many times you’ll be left wondering where to go or what to do…which means you’re going to be bumbling around until you stumble on how to progress. That’s honestly not fun and it kills any sort of momentum the game builds.
The action battle system too shows its age, though its still quite fun in a mindless way. It’s no Dynasty Warriors, but the simplistic combos and moves you can pull off does still fit in perfectly with the game’s tone and style.
I do however feel that it’s a bit too stiff and awkward, especially with the slower weapons.
The worst thing about it is that combat drops disappear! Whether it’s your hard earned loot or XP crystals, they vanish in a couple of seconds with no warning. No blinking or anything…one second they’re there and POOF! They be gone. Needless to say, this is incredibly frustrating, especially if you’re too busy fighting to stay alive and have no time to get to the drops!
Skills too are problematic to execute. The problem is that they take a loooooong time to pull off and enemies are free to roam around while you’re stuck doing the attack animations. That means that what was once a sure hit (when you triggered the skill) can turn in a sure miss because the enemy has moved out of range by the time the skill is executed. It’s incredibly frustrating to whiff when it’s not even your fault!
The New Stuff!
The biggest piece of new content (if you didn’t play the Japanese version or had a Pocketstation) is Ring Ring Land. The original was only available on the Japanese version of the Playstation version and never made it into the English copies. That’s due to the Pocketstation (a portable device with a screen that slots into the Playstation’s memory card slot) never having widespread support in the West.
Other new additions to the game affect it more directly.
You’re now able to turn ALL encounters off (except for those you need to fight), which is great for speed running through the game. On top of that, there’s also a newly remixed version of the score.
As a returning player, I prefer the original score over the remixed tunes. Don’t get me wrong, the remixed ones are pretty good but nostalgia demands me to use the old school tunes!
Visually, there are even more changes.
Background art has been completely redone and are now incredibly high resolution. In fact, the art style is one of the reasons you should be getting the game. It’s a bit of an acquired taste but it’s undeniably gorgeous in its remake form. Characters remain as sprites, though they’re much improved over the originals.
Unfortunately, the contrast from the sharp backgrounds don’t really flatter the sprites, making them look incredibly pixelated in comparison. In that regard, I wished Square Enix had opted to nix the sprites and replace them with totally new HD ones instead. Not only would they fit in with the background better, they’re look nicer too!
I’d even take some of the ultra smooth animation and sprite style used by Capcom for its Street Fighter III games.
The game also has a couple of quirks from its old school Playstation days.
Loading screens are still present (though they’re now mercifully snappy). Weirdly (even on the PS5), the game takes a couple of seconds to transition from the town/dungeon map to the world map. It’s a bit puzzling but nothing too major or concerning.
Perhaps Square Enix will even patch the game in the future to make use of the SSD in the PS5 to get faster loads.
The Bottom Line.
If you’ve never played the original on the Playstation, you might be interested in trying out the game in its remastered form. However, since it’s a remaster and not a remake, all the flaws from the original are still present. In the light of the present day, those flaws are even more magnified because let’s face it…gaming and game design has evolved a ton since the 90s.
For those who’re thinking of getting the game for nostalgia, go for it! The soundtrack alone is worth the purchase, though you may or may not like the remixed tunes. The game’s still as obtuse as you remember but the nostalgia factor alone (along with the impressively redone backgrounds) should give you the incentive you need to play again.
Ultimately, Legend of Mana is a great remaster of a decent game. Hopefully now that this is done, Square Enix can get on remastering other more deserving Playstation 1 classics! Xenogears, Brave Fencer Musashi, Parasite Eve I and II are just some of the games I’d love to see remastered or remade!
Beautiful artwork and stellar music but old flaws still remain.
- Backgrounds are beautiful.
- The music.
- Character designs are great!
- Gameplay mechanics feels outdated.
- Needs more guidance on how to progress.
- Combat system is stiff, XP and items disappear, skills take too long to execute.