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Of Glittering Tears...
The Seiken Densetsu series has always been one of square's most famous titles. While the third game in the series has (unfortunately) never been released outside of Japan, at least we would get to play the first Seiken Densetsu game to be released on the Playstation; Legend of Mana. The expectations of this game were very high, but the result was a huge disappointment for many.
What is probably the biggest flaw in this game, is the plot. As usual in the Seiken Densetsu games, you are to revive the mana tree, thus saving the world once again. This time, you also have to find lost artifacts to restore the world to what it once was, after it was destroyed during the great war a thousand years ago. Once you find these artifacts, you place them out on the world map to create new cities and dungeons (thus gaining access to more quests). However, the player does not need to enter any of these places in order to proceed with the game... almost everything in this game is optional. Aside from reviving the mana tree, there are few things to care about plotwise. A few of the all too many sidestories were interesting and quite touching at times, but overall, they were just boring experiences.
Moving on, we have the battle system, that looks very familiar. If you have played the other Seiken Densetsu game before, you will recognize most things here instantly. Battles are fast and in real-time. Depending on which weapon you have chosen in the beginning, you earn different battleskills each time you level up, as well as HP etc. The bad thing about the battle system, is probably that you don't really need to care about it at all. From the beginning of the game, your character is already practically immortal. It is HARD to die in this game. I never cared much for blacksmithing (forging new weapons, creating stronger equipment etc), and I still never even got hurt in battles. This way, a lot of the things included in the battle system and menus just felt unnecessary. The controls could also be a bit confusing at times, especially in battles. Although, as soon as you got used to them, this wasn't a huge problem. Menus and interface overall was pretty, but nothing special. Everything in the menus was very detailed, but once again, it wasn't really necessary as you didn't have to look at it (or care for it at all) to get a hold of the battle system. Every time I found a new weapon in a chest or something, I simply changed to that and kept hacking away at the enemies, hardly ever getting hurt myself.
Perhaps one of the best parts in Legend of Mana, is the music. The soundtrack is composed by Yoko Shimomura, who also did the music for huge titles such as Parasite Eve, Kingdom Hearts, Front Mission, Super Mario RPG and Live a Live! to name a few. The music in Legend of Mana is spectacular. There are all kinds of tunes, and they are so well composed that they stayed in my mind for months after I was finished with the game. I even got myself the soundtrack afterwards. The only thing I can complain on, is the intro theme of this great soundtrack. I guess it sounds a lot better over in the United states or in Japan, but a Swedish song as an intro theme in a Squaresoft RPG made me feel sick (hint: I'm from Sweden). It was so unfitting that I felt like I'd rather be deaf for the rest of my life than hearing it again. Other than that, the music in Legend of Mana is spectacular.
The translation is also good, but that is no news to any RPGamer who is used to playing squaregames these days. I couldn't find anything special worth picking on, and there weren't that much talking in this. It was a little annoying that the main character never spoke though.
The graphics in Legend of Mana are beautiful. The game has the very different and rare pastel colored backgrounds that gives it a whole new touch compared to other RPGs released at that time. What also impressed me quite a bit, was the effects in battles. The different combos you can perform later on in the game are simply stunning. Unfortunately, you can manage well without them through the entire game.
Some people claim that Legend of Mana is one of those RPGs that you can play over and over again. Why? I have no idea. I don't see any reason returning to this game, just to see the same boring small quests once again. I could do it with the second selectable character though, but the only difference here is the looks of the player. Most players would probably put this game away after they finished it, and never ever touch it again.
Since most parts of the game are optional, you could easily finish it in 10 hours, maybe even less if you're fast. Although, if you want to stick around and do all of those small quests, you would probably end up playing this game for 30 hours or more. As I mentioned earlier, the game is extremely easy. I have never, ever died in Legend of Mana. I don't even know what the Game Over screen looks like. The older Seiken Densetsu games were actually quite hard at times... but this is a joke. Not even the final boss was hard, what's up with that anyway?
Legend of Mana is not your typical RPG. Everything about it is different from other RPGs, even when comparing to the earlier games in the same series. The world map system, the graphics, the weird way of telling the storyline, everything is new. It certainly is original, but at the same time, it is also a failure. If you want to, rent this game and finish it, you probably won't regret it that much. You might even enjoy some of the longer quests. However, buying this game is something you'll probably regret for a long time.
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