REVIEW: ‘Legend of Mana’ is a Faithful HD Remaster (PS4)

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Legend of Mana

The last few years have brought a seemingly endless stream of remakes and remasters to consoles and PC alike. Legend of Mana originally released in 1999, so it is no surprise that Square Enix decided to bring the classic 2D action role-playing game to modern systems. I want to preface this review by saying I did not play the original Legend of Mana, so my journey with it on the PlayStation 4 was my very first time entering the world of Fa’Diel.

Legend of Mana allows you to choose between a male and female protagonist at the start of the game, though in keeping with the tradition of classic JRPGs both of them only speak through text options. If you came into this expecting a full voice-acted game, you will be disappointed. The premise of the story is simple: the Mana Tree was burned down long before the game began and the world then devolved into chaos. The different factions and races all fought each other and almost completely rid the world of mana, and so it is the duty of the main character to restore the Mana Tree back to its original form so the world can go back to the way it was. The game has three main story arcs, with plenty of side quests and adventures along the way, and it all culminates in one final story arc at the end.

Legend of Mana is an action role-playing game, which means combat is fought in real-time. While the world I had entered really intrigued me from the start, it was the first combat section that really began to show the age of this game that is legally old enough to drink. It can be tough to line up attacks correctly, and the combat overall just feels incredibly clunky. For newcomers to the series it can be incredibly shallow and gets old very quickly. Fans of the original release, however, will be glad the core of the game has not changed. There is an option to turn off enemy encounters, but I never felt the need to use it.

The other thing that I found most frustrating about the game was traveling around the world itself. You won’t find any quest markers or obvious “please go here” signs in Legend of Mana like you would in most games released nowadays. I know this is something else fans of the original love, but it can become incredibly tedious to keep going back to the overworld map of all of the towns and locations just to move to the next area only to find there is nothing there for you to do. Making the game accessible for new players should be the number one goal of any classic remaster. Making the magic that people who played the original game felt available to new players as well can only be a good thing. There may be guides available online, but that should not be necessary to enjoy the game to the fullest.

Enough critique, now it’s time to move into the things that still make Legend of Mana worth playing. What stood out the most to me was the incredible artwork in every scene. The attention to detail is breathtaking, and the hard work of redrawing every background was well worth it. Every location has its own distinct look and feel to it. The characters still appear in their original sprite forms, and they look great. I was initially on the fence about the pixelated characters against the beautiful scenery, but it did grow on me. I’m glad the characters still have their original feel instead of a more modern look. It retains and enhances the designers’ original intent and creations instead of changing them, something I personally always prefer.

As a musician, one of the most important things to me in any form of media is the music. Did the developers use the soundtrack to make the world feel alive? Did it add to the world you created? Legend of Mana is a resounding “yes” on both accounts. The game gives you the choice between the original score and orchestral arrangements created for the remake. I spent most of the time listening to the incredible orchestral arrangements, but the original soundtrack is still great. Like with the rest of the game, fans of the original will love that the classic music is still there. I’m just waiting for the soundtracks to become available on Spotify so I can keep listening.

For better or for worse, Square Enix wanted to make sure the Legend of Mana HD remaster was as close to the original as possible. Thankfully a beautiful world and good story help make up for the lack of guidance or varied combat. It may not be the most welcoming to newcomers, but fans of the original are in for a wonderful trip down nostalgia lane.

Legend of Mana is now available for PlayStation 4, PC, and Nintendo Switch.

This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher.


Legend of Mana
  • 7/10
    Rating - 7/10
7/10

TL;DR

For better or for worse, Square Enix wanted to make sure the Legend of Mana HD remaster was as close to the original as possible. Thankfully a beautiful world and good story help make up for the lack of guidance or varied combat. It may not be the most welcoming to newcomers, but fans of the original are in for a wonderful trip down nostalgia lane.