Same Legend, Now In HD

HIGH Solving a mission that ends with a great boss fight.

LOW Wandering around for thirty minutes trying to figure out what to do.

WTF How exactly are these towns trapped inside the artifacts!?

Over twenty years ago, the GameCritics crew gave the Legend of Mana lukewarm reviews. An HD remaster has now been released and, other than a few small tweaks, not much has changed.

Legend of Mana is a 2D hand-drawn action RPG that follows a quest to locate the mythical Mana Tree that helps keep peace in the land. There’s a slight problem – the map has been cleared of towns, jungles, and caves to explore! Players will set off to locate artifacts, which when placed on the map, will unlock new areas.

Upon opening these areas, characters will meet residents seeking help, monsters looking to pick a fight, and treasure chests to unearth. Most locations have at least one mission to complete, often ending with a huge boss battle. Many missions are straightforward, but there were a couple, including one at the very beginning, that felt as if I was wandering around accomplishing little.

As an action RPG, battles take place in real-time – press buttons to attack, jump, and unleash magic to take down foes as those enemies simultaneously try to do the same. Part of the reason I generally avoid RPGs is the turn-based combat, so even twenty years later, Legend of Mana’s battle system is a welcome change of pace from the more common ‘you-go, then-I-go’ systems.

There are other common RPG tasks to keep players busy – weapon upgrading, fruit farming, and even monster raising are just a few of the additional tasks players can partake in. But, like the original reviews stated, it feels like there is just too much included. Most of this peripheral content feels like bloat, and most of it can be skipped altogether with no impact on the main story.

Fortunately, Legend of Mana still looks great. Even before the HD upgrade, this game was always a feast for the eyes. The watercolor landscapes have never looked better, and while the sprite characters still look slightly out-of-place on top of the backgrounds, they retain their unique charm.

Honestly, not much has changed in this remaster past the visual polish. Outside of the now-HD graphics, only two quality of life additions have been included — players now have the option to turn off the battles, bypassing all but the final boss in each area. This is great for gamers looking to focus mainly on the story and since most areas can be completed in various orders, it does not appear to have a huge impact on completing later levels with more challenging foes.

Players can also choose between rearranged music (now the default soundtrack) or flip back to the original version of the score.

One other inclusion is the Ring Ring Land minigame, which was never released in the West. This was originally a PocketStation (similar to a Dreamcast VMU) game that expands the monster raising activities in Legend of Mana. Monster farming is something I only skimmed so Ring Ring Land had little appeal for me, but I’m glad this feature is now available to a wider audience.

Sporting only a few minor upgrades, the Legend of Mana is largely the same game it was over twenty years ago – lots to do, but doesn’t really excel at any one aspect. The story and graphics are still delightful, but gameplay feels unpolished compared to today’s standards. That said, it’s still always great to see older games receive re-releases making them more available to larger audiences.

Rating: 6 out of 10

Disclosures: This game is developed by and published by Square Enix. It is currently available on PS4, Switch, and PC. This copy of the game was obtained via publisher and reviewed on the Switch. Approximately 7 hours of play were devoted to the single-player mode, and the gamewas not completed. Zero hours of play were spent in multiplayer modes.

Parents: According to the ESRB, this game is rated T and contains Blood, Fantasy Violence, Mild Language, Suggestive Themes, Use of Tobacco. This is the official summary from the ESRB: This is an action role-playing game in which players assume the role of a hero on a quest to restore a mythical tree. From a side-scrolling perspective, players explore environments (e.g., caves, forests, beaches), complete quests, interact with characters, and engage in melee-style combat against fantasy creatures (e.g., giant eyeballs, sirens, vampires). Players use swords, spears, bows, and magic spells to defeat enemies; some attacks cause splashes of blood to appear as characters are hit. Battles are sometimes frenetic, with impact sounds, explosions, and screen-shaking effects. A handful of sequences contain suggestive dialogue (e.g., “I hear ladies sunbathe here with their bikini tops unlaced”; “I’m getting h*rd! So h*rd for you, baby”; “I hear your pupils are back in the loving bosom of your classes!”). A fish character, described as “lecherous,” can be seen dancing for characters next to what appears to be a stripper pole. Some characters are depicted smoking pipes or cigars. The word “bastard” is heard in the game.

Colorblind Modes: There are no colorblind modes available.

Deaf & Hard of Hearing Gamers: This game offers subtitles. The subtitles cannot be altered and/or resized. Character dialogue is separated within a text box and includes a picture and name of the character talking. There are no noticeable sound cues. This game is fully accessible.

Remappable Controls: Certain functions are remappable. All action buttons can be remapped, however movement is restricted to the left control stick or left directional buttons.

Brian Theisen
Latest posts by Brian Theisen (see all)
Notify of

1 Comment
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Ash martin
Ash martin
1 year ago

Hi mate let me be the first to just say i can understand the points your making but I think you missed a major plot point in the game. it isn’t your mission to fix the mana tree. like you the character in the game no clue what a mana tree is that’s why the story is how it is it’s for you to discover the world as it is ‘building’ around you that’s why the little leaf guys talk about drams and imagination and all that mumbo jumbo. I understand the combat sucks it’s like a early idea of… Read more »

Last edited 1 year ago by Ash martin