“Legend of Mana” is an action role-playing game (ARPG) developed and published by Square (now Square Enix) for the Sony PlayStation (PSX). Originally released in 1999 in Japan and North America, the game is the fourth installment in the “Mana” series, following “Secret of Mana” and “Seiken Densetsu 3” (released only in Japan). “Legend of Mana” is known for its beautifully hand-drawn graphics, non-linear storytelling, and unique gameplay mechanics.
Gameplay: “Legend of Mana” departs from the more linear structure of its predecessors, offering a non-linear, open-ended world where players can shape their own adventure. The gameplay features a combination of action-based combat, exploration, and a complex system for building and customizing the game world.
Key gameplay elements include:
- Artifact System: Rather than a traditional world map, players create the world of Fa’Diel by placing artifacts, which represent different locations, on a grid. Each artifact has its own unique quests, storylines, and events. The placement of artifacts affects the relationships between areas and influences the game’s narrative.
- Land and Dungeon Exploration: The game’s world is comprised of individual lands, each with its own theme and storyline. Players explore these lands, battling monsters in real-time combat, completing quests, and uncovering the mysteries of each area.
- Artifacts and Quests: Artifacts not only represent locations but also trigger quests and events. By placing artifacts strategically, players can influence the development of the story and unlock new characters, items, and abilities.
- Real-Time Combat: Combat is in real-time, and players control the main character with the ability to assign attacks, magic, and special moves to different buttons. Players can recruit allies, known as “Pets,” to assist in battles, each with its own unique abilities.
- Crafting and Item Synthesis: The game features a robust crafting system allowing players to combine items to create weapons, armor, and instruments. Players can also find magical seeds and plant them to grow unique artifacts and items.
Graphics and Sound: “Legend of Mana” is visually distinctive with its hand-drawn 2D art, vibrant colors, and imaginative character and creature designs. The art was created by a team of artists led by series illustrator Ishii Kōichi, and it contributes to the game’s unique and enchanting aesthetic.
The soundtrack, composed by Yoko Shimomura, complements the game’s atmosphere with a diverse range of tracks, capturing the whimsical and sometimes melancholic tone of the world. The music is considered one of the highlights of the game.
Story: The overarching story in “Legend of Mana” revolves around the Mana Tree and the quest to restore balance to the world. However, the game places a strong emphasis on individual stories and character interactions, allowing players to experience a multitude of unique tales and build relationships with a diverse cast of characters.
Reception: “Legend of Mana” received generally positive reviews for its beautiful art, captivating music, and innovative approach to storytelling and world-building. Critics and players praised the game’s artistic design and non-linear structure, but opinions varied on the complexity of the artifact system.
Legacy: “Legend of Mana” has maintained a dedicated fanbase over the years, and its distinctive art style and open-ended gameplay have contributed to its lasting appeal. While it may not have achieved the same level of commercial success as some other RPGs of its time, it remains fondly remembered as a unique and artistic entry in the “Mana” series.