Legend of Mana - Retroview
"Is that all?"
By: Paul Koehler
The Playstation is still the best console system for RPG's, and much
of this is due to Square. The self-proclaimed king of the genre deserves
credit for many of its games, and due to their success, they have some
room for experimentation. One of their best series of games comes from
the "Seiken Densetsu" saga, otherwise known as "Secret of Mana" in North
America. After receiving complaints from loyal RPG fans for not releasing
Seiken Densetsu 3 stateside, Square supposedly learned from their mistake
and sent the fourth game of the series, "Legend of Mana" for an international
release. After playing through the game, I'm not impressed.
Legend of Mana (LoM) falls under the category of an
Action-RPG, and as such, the battle system is central to the game. Each
character in the game comes with a wide array of combo attacks, and while
they look pretty, they are almost too good. What makes things even more
ridiculous is the way the system handles death. LoM characters don't die;
they're knocked out, and revive to full health in a few seconds. I'm serious!
With a three-character party, this makes battles a minor annoyance, or
a plot device. Unfortunately, a minor annoyance is a more accurate description.
Sure, there are higher difficulties in the game, but the blandness of
the plot makes it all the more unnecessary.
For continuity sake, the Seiken Densetsu saga is the
same: a thousand years have passed, and the Mana Tree starts to bloom
again. Well, I understood that much from playing the previous games, as
the references are hard to catch. LoM has a distinct "kiddie" feel to
it, both in the plot and the character text. Fortunately, the localization
effort done by Square was excellent; it's a shame that it only brought
out the pointless events that are necessary to win LoM.
|What's worse is moving
through this area...
Those events are explained in a "diary", and each
event is like a story within a story. Many of these must be completed
in order to get certain "artifacts", which are used to build the world.
That's right, you build the world you live in. Various FAQ's explain the
way the system is done in detail, and it's a great concept that really
does affect game play. The concept would work greater if only some of
the events had a specific purpose…most of them don't. Humor aside, the
story, while containing elements found in previous SD games, serves no
So what's left? Are the menu's stupid-friendly? Yes…LoM
is no Star Ocean. However, considering the genre of the game, that was
a smart choice. In the higher difficulties, weapon construction is very
important, but the interface is detailed enough where the important information
is explained, and equipment is handled easily.
Did I mention the stuff looks good too? Despite the
flaws of the game, LoM looks the part of a fantasy game. Unlike some,
I didn't mind the backgrounds, as they were done in retro 2D style while
taking advantage of the Playstation's hardware capabilities. The combo
attacks, while overkill, were fun to watch, and sounded good. For the
sake of the "old school vs. new school" RPG argument that many gamers
like to argue with, LoM showed that 2D did not die with Final Fantasy
6 and the Super Nintendo. Throw these in with competent sound effects,
a killer title song, and Square's usual FMV skills, and you have a game
that looks impressive at the very least. Too bad the rest of the game
is not impressive. In fact, it was a little insulting.
|In most cases, this is
all you'll need.
While the SD games are not serious epics, the game play was a challenge.
LoM was anything but a challenge. In fact, the game took less than 14
hours for me to complete, and I still had time to finish studying for
an exam the next day. Even with increased difficulties, and nice add-ons
like custom weaponry and monster breeding (hmmm… where's that from?),
there is no real challenge to the game. It's a great diversion, no doubt,
but to say this lives up to the reputation of Seiken Densetsu? I don't
think so. Let's hope Square releases Seiken Densetsu 3 stateside before
their loyal fans throw up their hands and yell, "Is that all?"