Review: Legend of Mana - The Best Way To Play A 21-Year-Old RPG Experiment (2023)

It’s interesting to see how the Mana series has been treated over the years, both by Square and the general public. Secret of Mana was widely considered one of the best RPGs of its time and even today carries quite a bit of clout, but many of the other titles either didn’t get localized or arrived overseas years after their initial release. Legend of Mana—the fourth entry in the series—was one of the earliest to be localized, but it was met upon release with middling reception. Now, over twenty years later, and following on from 2019's Collection of Mana and the Trials of Mana remake the following year, Square has finally seen fit to bring this misfit classic back into the light, and while many aspects of it still hold up, it is unmistakably a very weird game.

The narrative of Legend of Mana is… confusing, to say the least. You begin as a nameless, self-insert character, and you’re tasked with effectively creating the world as you explore it. The story goes that the legendary Mana Tree burned down centuries before the events of Legend of Mana and the world of Fa’Diel was subsequently broken up into fragments called “Artifacts” which were then scattered. Broadly speaking, there are three ‘arcs’ to the story, but they can be experienced in any order you choose and are each comprised of a series of sidequests that can also be played in a very loose order.

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Considering this non-linear approach, it’s certainly advised that you approach Legend of Mana with an open mind. If you come into this expecting a typical RPG story (or even a ‘normal’ story in general), you’re going to be sorely disappointed. Legend of Mana plays more like a collection of loosely connected fairytales all set in the same world, connected to each other in various thematic ways. And while you can tease out a ‘main’ quest over time, it’s so esoteric and airy that it could hardly be described as gripping. That’s not to say the storytelling is weak, however, as topics like love, war, genocide, and persecution are all explored in ways that can be shockingly hard-hitting.

Gameplay is much the same in its structure, which is to say that it’s often hard to grasp and poorly explained, but not necessarily low quality. The basic loop consists of placing “Lands” on various nodes of the world grid, which then allows you to enter that land and interact with any towns or dungeons that might be contained within. Every Land has at least one quest for you to fulfill, and most quests will award you with at least one new Artifact to place a new Land and repeat the cycle. As you can probably guess, this means that there’s quite a bit of player agency to toy around with. The flipside to this, however, is that there is next to no direction about what to do next.

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Some quests are good about pointing you in the right direction, while others give only the vaguest of suggestions as to where you should go. In the latter case, it can then be quite frustrating when you basically have to trial and error your way through until you finally find the NPC you needed to speak with to get things moving again. This is by design, of course, as it’s clear the developers want to encourage you to engage with more of the world and really dig in, rather than simply sprinting from point A to B as efficiently as possible. Still, those of you who don’t have the patience for this more hands-off approach to quest design will find that Legend of Mana can more often than not be a challenging experience to parse.

Similarly, this isn’t exactly a game that we’d recommend to completionists, as there’s plenty of missable content along the way that you can unknowingly lock yourself out of if you don’t have a guide open on another screen. Again, this is by design, as it’s clear that Legend of Mana expects you to play through multiple times via new game plus if you want to see all that it has to offer. Not only are branching paths and dialogue options plentiful among the dozens of quests here, but the order in which you complete quests and place new Lands also affects the kind of content you can engage with later. This isn’t strictly a good or a bad thing, but it is at the very least an interesting one.

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Of all things, combat is probably the most straightforward aspect of Legend of Mana. Enemies roam the map in dungeons and can trigger a live-action encounter that takes place right there. Once in battle, things feel a bit like an upgraded take on a beat ‘em up, as you string together myriad combos and special attacks to lay waste to your foes. If you have a friend nearby, you can also have them hop in and take control of one of your many party members, which can add a fun dimension of co-op to the experience.

The main issue, however, is that it’s rather clear that this title released a couple decades ago. The mechanics of the combat are good, but actually executing these moves feels quite rigid and clunky, which can make the moment-to-moment action feel sub-par. Now, the Mana series was one of the first notable examples of live combat in an RPG, so it’s hard to expect too much out of a pioneer, but it’s tough to look past the flaws when many years of iteration in other games have vastly improved upon this foundation. Combat is certainly playable and still fun, but we’d advise you to manage your expectations coming into it.

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In case you haven’t yet gathered, Legend of Mana is consistently and amazingly strange in how it presents itself, but perhaps this is where our main criticism of the experience lies: it’s far too opaque for its own good. There’s nothing wrong with turning RPG tradition on its head and trying bold new ideas, but it’s critical that a game teaches the player about those ideas. Case in point, your stat growth via leveling up is strongly tied to whatever weapon you use most, but the player is never told how or to what extent. Outside of reading detailed guides from the internet, you basically just have to fumble along and hope that you aren’t making things needlessly difficult for yourself down the line when the enemies start hitting back harder. Legend of Mana is full of things like this, which can lead to a bizarrely disappointing experience when you realize hours later that you’ve been doing something wrong or completely missed a semi-important part of the gameplay loop.

One thing that’s impossible to miss, however, is the stellar audiovisual presentation Legend of Mana has to offer. Despite using pre-rendered background for most of the maps, it’s hard not to be awestruck by the thoroughly detailed vistas you explore. Whether it be a sprawling castle town or a lush jungle, the environments are colorful and positively packed with all manner of tiny things that make the world feel like a ‘lived-in’ place. This is all strongly supported by the similarly whimsical soundtrack by Yoko Shimomura, whose gentle and fantastical style perfectly matches the fairytale aesthetic here.

(Video) Legend of Mana Review

We feel it also needs to be mentioned that port developer M2 has done what it can to make this feel like the definitive version of this classic. Alongside the remastered soundtrack and touched up visuals, little quality of life things like the inclusion of autosave or the option to toggle enemy encounters on and off help to make Legend of Mana feel a little less dated. There's even the Ring Ring Land mini-game thrown in, which was previously exclusive to the dinky Japan-only PocketStation peripheral.

While there’s no mistaking this version of Legend of Mana for a full on remake à la the recent Trials of Mana, this is nonetheless easily the best way to play this game now.

(Video) Legend of Mana (Remastered) Review - A Return To A More Experimental Time

Conclusion

It’s easy to see why this was such a polarizing title upon release. There’s a lot to love here, but Legend of Mana can be tiring in how much it likes to play ‘hard to get’. All the ingredients and individual pieces of a strong, impressively innovative RPG are present, but it feels like the developers simply tossed all these ideas in a bag and shook it vigorously, rather than taking the time to lay out all those ideas in a coherent and curated fashion. We’d give this one a recommendation, but only to fans of the genre, specifically those who prefer more experimental titles. If that doesn’t describe you, there’s still a good chance you’ll find something to like about Legend of Mana, but just be aware it may be more of a mixed bag.

FAQs

Is Legend of Mana a good game? ›

Legend of Mana was never an innovative adventure, but it was a charming one packed with immersive gameplay, a quirky cast, and beautiful visuals. If you want to experience this celebrated game, there's no better place to start than here.

How long does it take to complete Legend of Mana? ›

Steam
Single-PlayerPolledAverage
Main Story3817h 52m
Main + Extras4427h 2m
Completionist1952h 12m
All PlayStyles10128h 19m

Is Legend of Mana hard? ›

The other stories weren't exactly memorable during my play through in the past, they were just as forgettable in this current play through. The good news is that the Legend of Mana Remaster isn't too difficult and could be completed in less than 20 hours depending on how many endings you wish to view.

Is Trials of Mana easy? ›

All of this is introduced pretty slowly, but certainly not slower than some of the tutorials in today's most complicated games. And the game is easy, even on its “hard” difficulty.

What is the best weapon in Legend of Mana? ›

For those who don't like shields but prefer strong attacks to fast ones, the 2-handed axe is the go-to weapon. Hammers follow the same logic of axes, being slow to swing and strong to hit. Finally, spears are pretty good due to their reach and damage. Remember, your starting weapon choice ultimately does not matter.

Who is the best character in Trials of Mana? ›

Angela. Angela is the most powerful mage in the Trials of Mana. Her spells do great elemental damage, but you don't unlock them all until the midgame. She also has very low attack and defense so she pairs well with support characters who can provide her with buffs or debuff enemies.

Can you play with all 6 characters in Trials of Mana? ›

You're locked to 3 characters per play-through. There are three stories based on your main character. You can't get all achievements in one play-through.

What is the max level in Trials of Mana? ›

easiest way to max level 99? :: Trials of Mana General Discussions.

Does it matter who you choose in Trials of Mana? ›

The characters you choose will affect your strategy, fighting style, and the story that gets uncovered. You'll choose a Main Character, a Companion 1, and a Companion 2. The main villain and story line will correspond with who you choose as your main character. It's really up to you to choose who you want to play as.

Which Mana game should I play first? ›

If you would like to start the series with the beginning of the story, Dawn of Mana is the game to play first.

Which class is best Trials of Mana? ›

The Vigilante is the best choice for players because of his Dark Zone ability which will allow him to decrease enemy attack power right at the start of a battle.

What is the point of Legend of Mana? ›

Set in a high fantasy universe, the game follows an unnamed hero as they restore the land of Fa'Diel by creating the world around them and completing a number of interrelated quests in order to restore the Tree of Mana.

Is Trials of Mana grindy? ›

Trials of Mana is a classic JRPG, and that means grinding.

How do I get the best equipment in Trials of Mana? ›

Note that these equipment can only be obtained by farming item seeds, particularly rainbow item seeds which grant the best chance of yielding rare items.

What is the best mage weapon? ›

Playing as a Mage in Terraria is a lot of fun, and the weapons are extremely powerful. Here are the best magical weapons in Terraria 1.4.
...
2/2 Best Early And Pre-Hardmode Magic Weapons.
WeaponDamageHow To Get It
Magic Missile27Found in Gold Chests.
Flower of Fire48Found in Shadow Chests.
1 more row
16 Aug 2021

What is the strongest weapon in Horizon? ›

Banuk Powershot Bow

Best at long range, this bow can deal amazing damage with just one hit. Considering that The Frozen Wilds also offers a lot of powerful modifications, it's easy to turn this into the strongest weapon in the game. Those looking to take down the fearsome Fireclaws will want this in their loadout.

How many endings does Trials of Mana have? ›

There are 12 possible ending combinations in the original Trials of Mana. Each character has one ending, plus a variant that occurs if a specific person is also in the party. Angela and Duran's endings will have variants if the other person in the pair is in the party. So do Charlotte and Kevin.

Does Trials of Mana have replayability? ›

High Replayability

Trials of Mana has six main characters, and with every playthrough, players are only allowed to choose three characters in their party. Depending on the characters you choose, you'll have a totally different setup.

Who is the final boss in Trials of Mana? ›

Your final boss will be the Crimson Wizard's master, the Dragon Lord.

How do you get class 4 in Trials of Mana? ›

Unlocking Tier 4 Classes. Trials of Mana Remake features the addition of tier 4 classes which represent the final paths for each of the six playable characters. To unlock tier 4 classes, you must clear the new story episode added for each character after beating the game.

Should I play the other Mana games before the Trials of Mana? ›

No. The Mana series takes place in the same universe, but the plots do no connect in a way that makes playing previous games mandatory.

What is the difference between Trials of Mana and collection of mana? ›

TRIALS OF MANA is a full remake of the third entry in the Mana series, while COLLECTION OF MANA lets you experience the first three titles in all their original glory.

Can you reset class Trials of Mana? ›

Trials of Mana also allows players to reset classes. This brings the character back to Tier 1 so they can change their paths from light to dark or dark to light. This is great feature for players who are worried that they won't like the classes they've chosen. It's one of the best upgrades to this new Mana game.

Is Trials of Mana a good game? ›

Trials of Mana is a great game and an excellent remake. It remains faithful to its roots, while greatly improving and expanding upon the groundwork laid down by the 2D original.

Is Angela good Trials of Mana? ›

Angela is the most powerful spellcaster in Trials of Mana. She may not have very strong physical attacks, but she more than compensates for it with her magical prowess as we will demonstrate with these Trials of Mana Best Angela Classes.

How do you make money in Trials of Mana? ›

A typical way to earn Lucre is by selling items such as unwanted equipment and offensive items. These can be obtained from planting item seeds. Sell as many unneeded items as you can if you do not get the desired weapons, armor, and accessories you want from item seeds.

How old are the characters in Trials of Mana? ›

Angela is stated to be the eldest of the six protagonists, being 19 years old. The second-eldest are Duran and Hawkeye at 17 years, the second-youngest is Riesz at 16 years, and the youngest are Kevin and Charlotte at 15 years with the latter looking much younger than she really is.

Are all the Mana games connected? ›

A remake of the original game, Sword of Mana (2003), was published for the Game Boy Advance. All of the original games were action role-playing games, though they included a wide variety of gameplay mechanics, and the stories of the games were connected only thematically.

Why is Mana used in games? ›

Magic or mana is an attribute assigned to characters within a role-playing or video game that indicates their power to use special magical abilities or "spells". Magic is usually measured in magic points or mana points, shortened as MP. Different abilities will use up different amounts of MP.

Is Mana free to play? ›

Mana is completely free to use and offers 3x points from select gaming and entertainment subscriptions, 2x points from gaming products in the Mana Shop, 1x points for all other purchases, and up to 100 points a month from gameplay.

Is Charlotte good Trials of Mana? ›

Although half the characters in Trials of Mana have access to decent healing abilities, Charlotte fills the role of the strongest healer in any party as she always gains healing regardless of her class. Choosing her class upgrade is just a matter of choosing what secondary focus a team is seeking.

What type of game is Trials of Mana? ›

Trials of Mana is an action role-playing game in which the player controls a selection of three out of six protagonists; while each begins with their own narrative, they are drawn into a single quest to defeat the Benevodons and save the Mana Tree.

What is Mana and why is it so important? ›

Mana is the word that represents the idea of a personal, sacred force or spiritual essence. It exists in almost all things including people, animals, land and even inanimate objects. Mana is integral to each being and it is incredibly powerful.

How many missions are there in Legend of Mana? ›

Legend of Mana has 68 total 'missions/quests'. The game refers to them as Events.

Is Mana a God? ›

Mana (also called Lady Mana) is a Dark God who was sealed in the deepest layer of the Underworld, and one of the antagonists of Volume 4. Her main objective is to resurrect her deceased brother, Dark God Albagarma, by engulfing the entire world into a giant flesh womb.

Is Trials of Mana like Kingdom Hearts? ›

Speaking of the AI, Trials of Mana has you using a three-man party at all times, kind of like Kingdom Hearts. Though unlike Kingdom Hearts, especially the first one, the customisability of your allies' AI is great and you can count on them healing you in times of need.

How do you get flawless in trials? ›

Going Flawless

So what exactly is "Flawless?" Flawless is when a player wins seven Trials games on a Passage without a single loss. A player that achieves a Flawless Passage will be able to visit The Lighthouse, a unique hub area that has exclusive rewards.

What happens after you beat Trials of Mana? ›

After beating the game, go to the beginning of the penultimate dungeon. That's the Cave of Darkness for Riesz or Hawkeye, the Jungle of Illusions for Kevin or Charlotte, or the Crystal Desert for Angela or Duran. There you will find a Black Rabite statue.

What are the best weapons to use in trials? ›

Destiny 2 best PvP weapons: Top 10 Competitive guns
  • Beloved.
  • Austringer. ...
  • The Jade Rabbit. ...
  • Piece of Mind. ...
  • Ace of Spades. ...
  • Riiswalker. ...
  • Le Monarque. Bungie Le Monarque is about the only bow you'll want in Trials. ...
  • Without Remorse. Of the best Destiny 2 PvP weapons, one shotgun reigns supreme right now. ...
22 Sept 2022

How many trials are sufficient? ›

The more trials you take, the closer your average will get to the true value. Three trials is usually considered to be a bare minimum, five is common, but the more you can realistically do, the better.

How do you get a Class 3 Mana trial? ›

If you're at a Mana Stone location, you'll need to meet a few requirements before you're able to upgrade. To switch to a character's second class, they will need to be at Level 18. To switch to a character's third class, they will need to be at Level 38 and they will need to have a special class item.

What does dexterity do in Trials of Mana? ›

Dexterity is compared against an opponent's Agility to determine the chance for hit success. Dexterity is only provided through quartz.

Is Magic Legends a good game? ›

Magic: Legends is a fun action RPG that has a clever deck building twist with a solid foundation, but it can't quite stick the landing amidst a deluge of performance issues, heavy focus on grinding to unlock game features, and a less-than-ideal cash shop.

Is Legend of Mana remastered worth it? ›

To a certain type of player, Legend of Mana is likely to be considered the perfect remaster. It touches up the visuals, but not too much. It makes quality-of-life changes, but preserves the original design and difficulty - warts and all.

Is Sword of Mana worth playing? ›

Sword of Mana is certainly one of the top RPGs on Game Boy Advance. It shines most in its subtleties, but unfortunately those are all too easy for many players to miss. If you're a fan of the series, Sword of Mana is certainly worth checking it out.

Is Magic legends shutting down? ›

It is with heavy hearts that we announce Magic: Legends will be shutting down on October 31, 2021. All players who spent money in-game across Arc and the Epic Games Store during the Open Beta will be refunded their full purchase amounts.

What is the best legend for new players? ›

Out of all of the original Legends, Bloodhound is the best one for beginners to use. Bloodhound has one of the best tactical abilities of all Legends. It can be easy to get ambushed by an enemy squad and killed within seconds of dropping into the map, so having this advantage is game-changing.

Is Magic legends like Diablo? ›

Magic: Legends, a new action role-playing game, looks a bit like Diablo on the surface. But the new free-to-play multiplayer game from Cryptic Studios has a pace and style all its own. The hook is in how it applies the mechanics of its original source material, the Magic: The Gathering collectible card game.

Should I play Trials of Mana first? ›

No. The Mana series takes place in the same universe, but the plots do no connect in a way that makes playing previous games mandatory. The plots are all sort-of the same anyway, as the Mana universe has a cyclical history.

Did Trials of Mana sell well? ›

It's definitely impressive that Trials of Mana managed to sell over one million, and it deserved it. The original game was pretty good in the first place (except its lagging menus). The remake includes several good ideas. First, both the original and rearranged OST by Hiroki Kikuta are included.

Is Trials of Mana a Final Fantasy game? ›

Not only did they finally release Final Fantasy 7 Remake as a modern update to the original 1997 version, but they also released Trials of Mana as a modern update to the original 1995 game.

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