I wondered for a long time how I could get my friends to play Legend of Mana for themselves, and well, I need not anymore with the release of the Remastered edition that launched 24 June 2021. The game was originally released for the PS1 back in 1999, when Square Enix was Squaresoft, as the fourth title in the Mana series. The remaster also marks the first time the game is available in the EU region, despite having a Swedish main vocal theme song. Funny how that works. Bandai Namco Entertainment publishes the remaster in Asia, incidentally.
Well, that’s plenty of pre-amble for this decades old game, so let me dive back into this game I’ve loved for so long.
The options are pretty basic, with various toggles to default movements, vibrations and the choice to listen to either the arranged or original soundtrack which can be changed at any time. In-game, you’ll be able to check out Ring Ring Land, saving, the jukebox, gallery and some basic tutorials. The PC version will allow you to change your keybinds. Interestingly, it supports Steam Remote Play, which is handy as 2P is local only. Unfortunately, the Window Key + Shift + Directional Arrow trick won’t work to move the game to an alternative monitor if you have more than one, which is a shame.
Once you select a language for a new game, you can’t change it later. Languages supported are:
- Traditional / Simplified Chinese
The character and enemy models have been kept in the pixel style, while the various character portraits, event end-cards and backgrounds have been touched up. As someone who’s played the original multiple times over the years, I’m honestly taken aback by the details in the portraits, like how Pearl’s hair finally kind of makes sense! I’m extremely fond of the art, and the bright colours also feels quite nostalgic and somewhat stands out from the “realistic” styles other games lean towards to these days. Even putting down Artifacts have their own unique animations, as the Lands quite literally spring to life.
The arranged versions of the soundtrack have subtle touches to make them different from the original. Sometimes I wonder if certain tracks have been kept as is because the variation is so minor to my non-musically inclined self. As much as I love the style, I wish there was an option to speed up certain animations. I know I can’t expect a Lilipea to dash across the map, but it would have been nice.
There are no options for dubs as the game is not voiced.
As a remaster, there are basically no changes to the systems. You have your “Land Make” system, dropping down artifacts to create your own world map. You get to craft weapons, armours and magical instruments. You can either build your own golem buddy, or bring along a monster pet. Last but not least, there’s the Orchard, where Trent will grow the seeds you give him into fruit.
Combat is real time action, as you slide across the screen. You have Special Techniques (ST) that consume a bar, or you can equip instruments to cast magic. In both cases, casting will freeze you in place and make you invulnerable, which bosses can also do. STs and combos depend on your equipped weapon, while special actions – Jump, Defend, Crouch etc. – are not limited to weapon type.
You can only have three to a party, with the main character, a golem / monster pet, and a recruitable NPC. Through local co-op / remote play, a friend can control the NPC, but otherwise, your companions’ AI is horrendously stupid that you’ll probably only bring them for their Synchro effect, or to meet an Event’s requirements. Synchro Effects occur when you’re close enough to the other unit, so not exactly a very reliable bonus either.
Difficulty options are commonplace in games, but there are none in Legend of Mana. For the most part, the game is pretty easy if you keep up with the default gear you purchase from shops so long you play smart and keep moving around in combat. It can get a little dicey as RNG could stunlock you or you get boxed in on the battlefield, as the boss sprites can take up a lot of real estate and the environment you fight in varies. Regular monster encounters can be turned off, but this also comes with its own disadvantage. Enemy encounters are not random, and a lot of the time you can see their sprite on the overworld before you trigger the battle. This means that inactive monsters may be blocking your path. Oops. Standard status effects apply.
THE STORY AND OTHER THINGS
You will not be finding a singular, overarching story in Legend of Mana. Dubbed “Events”, many of the 60+ Events are one-off stories, with some being mini-arcs. There are three major story arcs, as indicated by their own title card: the Jumi Arc, the Fairy / Escad Arc, and the Dragon Killer Arc. Some of these other Events are also incredibly easy to miss, which hasn’t changed in the remaster. One of the biggest things for this game is needing to go back at the end of every Event to talk to Lil’ Cactus, where he’ll jot it down in his diary, that leaf on the pillar. You will want to do this to make the Events “officially” count, and depending on your tolerance, this can take you out of your steady adventuring pace.
As talked about in the interview with producer Oyamada, the save bonuses from the PS1 incarnation are available. Ring Ring Land is opened through the in-game menu and requires a pet, in which you send out your little friend through an RNG fest for items. I’m a little disappointed it’s not available as a separate pop-up. You’re not really missing out on much, at least.
In the Lands proper, there’s no mini map, so please, do have a walkthrough open. The monster corral remains limited to 5 pets, which can also be frustrating if you wanted to catch ’em all, so to speak. The systems of old, especially with regards to crafting and monster raising, are mostly still really obtuse, so min-maxers will want to research them in their own time.
A few of the translations have been updated, be it for dialogue or Event names, which depends on you whether you like it or not. Don’t worry, the mini-games are still in.
While various aspects of the game have been brushed up for the remaster, Legend of Mana keeps many, if not all, of its original flaws. As a long time fan of this specific title, I am absolutely delighted by its existence, while acknowledging there are various hiccups that can prevent others from fully enjoying this game.
For fans, I will say this is a definite must-get. For newer players, I will nonetheless highly recommend this unique experience, while keeping in mind its shortcomings. I honestly had never expected they would remaster Legend of Mana, and you know, I think I’m happy with just that. I’m back.
Legend of Mana Remastered
A nostalgic trip back home, with all the memories attached.
- Nice touch-ups and arrange soundtrack
- Old bonuses are now readily available
- Things remain easily missable and obtuse
- Could have done more with QOL features
- Combat is honestly not exciting
A true diamond in the rough.