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Legend of Mana Remaster Review on PlayStation 4
A lot has changed in the JRPG genre since Legend of Mana first released. Gameplay mechanics have been refined, storytelling techniques have been honed, and tropes have risen and fallen in accordance with their popularity. Because of these factors, the newly remastered version of the Mana series classic finds itself in an interesting position. For better and worse, it’s now an unusual animal of a game with elements that JRPG fans will both love and hate.
Case in point: The game is set in a fairly traditional high fantasy world, albeit with the usual Mana series twist. Everything revolves around the Tree of Mana, which grants life and the power of creation to the world’s inhabitants. However, after the world’s inhabitants moved past their need for it, the tree disappeared.
Now though, the world is in need of the tree once again, and it’s up to the player to restore it. This can be done by placing artifacts on a world map which gives rise to different areas and quests. Completing each area unlocks a new artifact and the chance to move one step closer toward the Tree’s resurrection.
This all sounds fairly straightforward, right? Well, that’s because I’m summarizing what I pieced together over several hours of playing the game. Legend of Mana never explicitly tells you what the plot is or why you’re playing the game. Instead, it leaves it up to you to figure out what’s happening and why you’re doing anything. The point of completing quests won’t be immediately apparent, and you could go through the entire game without ever feeling like there’s a coherent through-line.
This in and of itself isn’t a bad thing. After all, several JRPGs are built around you crafting your own adventure and finding your own fun in a fantasy world. Likewise, the freedom of selecting when and where you engage in different quests offers some welcome freedom that feels fresh even by today’s standards.
However, the game can also be unclear and obtuse in a way that hasn’t been seen in games in a long time. This can make a first playthrough difficult unless you use a guide or walkthrough. Knowing where to go, what to do next, how to get party members, or even whether or not you’re progressing the game’s story can be nearly impossible otherwise.
This in turn could result in hours of frustrating experimentation and exploring for hints, only to realize the answer was hidden in plain sight, or behind some outdated game logic.
Fortunately, Legend of Mana Remaster’s other elements go a long way in making up for these shortcomings. On the gameplay front, the combat is deceptively deep, with a variety of attack types available to you. At any given time, you can string together light or heavy attacks to create combos. There are also special techniques that you can fire off at set intervals, allowing you to inflict heavy damage to foes while also triggering buffs and debuffs for good measure.
These combos and attacks vary a good amount between the many different weapon types too, making each feel like its own beast to tame. Dealing with a certain enemy could require completely different strategies if you’re wielding a Bow instead of a One-Handed Sword, and the positioning for a Staff wielder will be completely different from that of a Dagger user.
This helps keep the game feeling varied, and helps the combat stay fresh even 20 or 30 hours in. Bolstering this is are the revamped visuals. Legend of Mana’s original 2D environments and sprites have been touched up considerably for the Remaster, resulting in a feast for the eyes. Environments pop with color and detail, allowing the world to fully pull you into its imaginative setting.
This upgrade is fairly even across the board too. Aside from some character portraits, everything feels right at home in this improved portrayal of the art, helping to establish the remaster as a worthwhile interpretation of the game.
There’s also the exceptional music and sound design. Each new area comes with its own track or twist on established melodies. Though fairly simple, they all lend a sense of identity and personality to each locale you visit, whether it’s the millionth Jungle to appear in a JRPG or one of the game’s more original dungeons.
The sound design, meanwhile, will melt the heart of any classic JRPG lover. The bit tune-esque sound effects still maintain the same charm they had so many decades ago and help to bolster the feeling that this game is a product of its time through and through.
Overall, the Legend of Mana Remaster is a strong return for the classic title. Even if some elements haven’t aged well, it still maintains its novelty all these years after its release. So long as you have the patience to look past said flaws – and a walkthrough handy for all the points where its design isn’t clear – you won’t be disappointed with this touched-up fantasy adventure.
Reviewer: Keenan McCall | Award: Editor’s Choice
- Open-ended gameplay design
- Combat is deceptively deep
- Great touched-up art style
- Music is still great
- Doesn’t have a clear plot or story
- Requires a guide or walkthrough at points
June 24, 2021
PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch, PC