On the whole, Dale and I agree on the major positives and faults of the game. The watercolor illustration quality of the graphics is simply amazing. In fact, it's so good that it made me think that if more games of this visual quality were continually produced on the PlayStation, the system could be a viable platform for years to come. I felt similarly about the music as well, but I did take issue with one area of the presentation—the character designs. All the characters looked like lavishly dressed Cabbage Patch dolls with tiny indistinguishable faces buried in the layers of clothes.

Where we differ in opinion is that Dale was much more forgiving of Legend Of Mana's flaws. Being a long-time fan of Secret Of Mana, Dale probably wanted to like Legend Of Mana so much more. I too was a fan of the original, but not so much so that I was dying to get my hands of the latest one. With that said, I can honestly say that I despised playing Legend Of Mana.

From my experience playing the game, it would appear the developers were clueless as to exactly what kind of game they were trying to make and took a throw-everything-against-the-wall and see-what-sticks approach. Legend Of Mana has every kind of trendy gaming convention you can think of (i.e. monster training, forging weapons, Bot buddies, sim-like placement of lands), but none of it was tantamount to a complete gaming experience. The non-linear episodic approach is original, but everything feels disjointed. Scenarios are way too short and uninvolved. Regardless of the 60-plus different missions, most of them are monotonous in design and almost always have the same continually-fight-to-the-end-boss approach.

The worst part about Legend Of Mana is that all the elaborate features and systems—which is supposed to make up the bulk of the substance in the game—are unnecessarily complicated and obviously self-serving. They don't make sense onto themselves or in the greater context of the game's concept (which is also a mystery). Why are memories trapped in artifacts? Why do artifacts become environments? Why can environments be placed anywhere a player chooses? Why do other characters have artifacts in their possession to reward players? Just what the heck is the player-controlled character trying to accomplish anyway?

Would a strong concept and clear direction alleviate many of these problems? I am sure it would have helped, but given the game at its current state, perhaps the developers wanted gamers to turn their brains off, or they were relying on their notoriously hardcore fans to blindly play through Legend Of Mana and just accept it for what it is. Unfortunately for Squaresoft, I don't fall into either category, and I'm left to review the game solely on its merits. Based on those merits, Legend Of Mana gets three points for its presentation and nothing more because everything else in the game is a wash.

Chi Kong Lui

Chi Kong Lui

In the 1980s, Chi grew up in small town on the outskirts of New York City called Jackson Heights. Latino actor, John Leguizamo referred to the town as the "melting pot of the world," and while living there, Chi was exposed to many diverse cultures, as well as a bevy of arcade classics such as Pac-Man, Space Ace, Space Harrier and Double Dragon. Chi's love of videogames only seemed to grow as his parents finally caved and bought him an 8-bit Nintendo Entertainment System (after being the only kid in the block without one). In the 1990s, Chi finagled his way into the prestigious Fiorello H. LaGuardia High School for the Performing Arts.

Somewhere between all the gaming, Chi some how managed to finish high school and get into the New York Institute of Technology. At the same time, Chi also interned at Virtual Frontiers, an Internet software consultancy where he learned the ways of HTML. Soon after acquiring his BFA, Chi went on to become the lead Web designer of the Anti-Defamation League. During his tenure there, Chi was instrumental in redesigning and relaunching the non-profit organization's Web site.

Today, Chi is the webmaster of the American Red Cross in Greater New York and somehow managed to work through the tragic events of September 11th without losing his sanity. Chi considers GameCritics.com his life's work and continues to be amazed that the web site is still standing after the recent dotcom fallout. It is his dream that GameCritics.com will accomplish two things: 1) Redefine the grammar of videogames much the same way French film critic Andre Bazin did for the art of cinema and 2) bring game criticism to the forefront of mainstream culture much the same way Siskel & Ebert did for film criticism.
Chi Kong Lui

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