Legend of Mana
|Legend of Mana|
North American box art
|Developer(s)||Square Product Development Division 2|
|Artist(s)||Shinichi Kameoka & Kouji Tsuda|
|Genre(s)||Action role-playing game|
Legend of Mana, known in Japan as Seiken Densetsu: Legend of Mana (聖剣伝説 LEGEND OF MANA?, lit. "Holy Sword Legend: Legend of Mana"), is the fourth game in the Mana series. The game was released for the PlayStation in Japan on July 15, 1999 and in North America on June 7, 2000, with a delayed release in Canada.
While incorporating action role-playing elements from the three games which preceded it, Legend of Mana has its own distinct style of gameplay. Most notably, it gives the player the ability to shape the game's world of Fa'Diel according to his or her desires, a system which was incorporated through the use of "artifacts," which are gained as the player progresses through the game. The player uses the artifacts to create different towns, dungeons, etc., called "Lands", to venture to and explore. This creates a non-linear gameplay, since the game is driven by a series of what would be considered side-quests in other games. Legend of Mana features three different plots which can occur simultaneously, and which do not necessarily need to be completed for the player to finish the game.
Legend of Mana was a financial success in Japan & North America. While the game garnered considerable praise for its graphics and presentation, many critics disliked the game's unclear main storyline.
Legend of Mana features a different gameplay style from the three previous games of the Mana series. Although it incorporates role-playing elements like the prior games, it does not feature a set journey through a fixed world. Instead, it features a unique "Land Make" system in which the player creates the structure of the game world by placing an Artifact (AF) on up to 36 empty square plot of ground, presented from an isometric viewpoint. Different Lands are generated from different Artifacts, each containing a quest which upon completion gives the player another Artifact to place. Lands can contain additional quests, some of which require revisiting the area. Each Land is ranked from 0 (no presence) to 3 (strong presence) in its strength in each Spirit of Mana; this in turn causes magic of that element to be stronger in that Land. Land rankings can affect adjacent Lands, and can be affected by the location they were created in. Many locations have non-player characters (NPCs) for interaction such as progressing the story or buying equipment. Other areas feature enemies and bosses with which the player can battle.
In the game, the player controls the unnamed main character, and is assisted by two companions. These companions are selected by the player out of a roster of support characters, monsters, pets, and golems, and are typically controlled by the game's AI, though like in the previous game, a second player can take control of one of the companions (with the exception of pets and golems). The main character and companions each have their own set of numerical attributes including HP, strength, and luck. These stats grow whenever the player advances a level, after gaining enough experience points from battle with enemies. The main character can equip a variety of weapons, armors, and accessories. Weapons grant the player the ability to perform abilities in combat. Referred to as Special Techs (STs), these are powerful attacks by the main characters and NPC sidekicks that can be used when the special move meter is full. Each weapon has a set number of special attacks to learn, which can hit single or multiple targets and can be assigned to different buttons on the controller.
In addition to the main game, after certain quests are completed Legend of Mana gives the player the option to delve into optional gameplay aspects centered around the hero or heroine's house. The player also can forge or improve weapons and armor using raw materials found throughout the game, or combine equipment with items to change their power or add special effects. They can grow different types of fruit in the orchard, raise pets to use as adventuring companions, create items, and build golems. Pets can also be raised with the Japan-only PocketStation peripheral, and two players can battle each other in an arena.
Legend of Mana is set in the fictional world of Fa'Diel. The Mana Tree, the giver of mana and life for the world, burned down nine centuries prior to the events of the game. A war erupted between faeries, human, and others seeking the scarce power of mana that was left. When the war concluded, the drained Mana Tree slept and the many lands of the world were stored in ancient artifacts. A hero, controlled by the player, is self-charged with restoring the world, and its mana, to its former self. The Lands of Fa'Diel are populated with a large number of different creatures, including humans, faeries, demons, the jewel-hearted Jumi race, plant-like Sproutlings and Flowerlings, miner bears called Dudbears, and shadowy beings of the Underworld known as Shadoles. Fa'Diel is also the home of a host of anthropomorphic animals and objects, as well as monsters from other Mana titles such as Rabites, Chobin Hoods, and Goblins. The player controls the protagonist of the game, who is either a male or female silent protagonist. The character is unnamed and no information is given about their past; their history and personality is meant to be determined by the player.
Characters and story branches
Rather than a single, over-arching plot, the story of Legend of Mana is composed of a multitude of quests split into three main quest arcs, numerous other quests, and a final quest arc. Each main quest arc contains optional side-quests in addition to the main quests, and whenever the player completes the required portions of one of the quest arcs they are allowed to begin the final arc and finish the game, even if the other arcs have not yet been started or completed.
The first main arc is the story of the Jumi, a dying race of people who have external jewel hearts which are considered valuable. The Jumi have long been a persecuted people, and many magic characters in this game refer to them as "dirt" as a pejorative on their jewel cores. This branch focuses on Elazul and Pearl, who are among the few survivors of the Jumi. Elazul is a Jumi Knight, and the mission of his life is to protect the Jumi Guardian Pearl at any cost, even in the face of the jewel hunter, Sandra. The player assists them in helping the Jumi.
The second arc is the story of Larc and Sierra—brother and sister dragoons who serve different dragon masters and fight on opposite sides of the same war for power. Larc, who serves the dragon Drakonis, blackmails the game's protagonist to help him in his quest to kill the other three dragon masters, so that his own master may have his power unlocked and rule the world. Sierra, a dragoon for Vadise the White Dragon, wants to stop Drakonis without hurting her brother Larc. In the end, Drakonis is defeated again and banished to the underworld.
The third arc is the complicated love story of four childhood friends: Matilda, Irwin, Daena and Escad. Irwin, a half-demon dissatisfied with the rules that society imposes on him which prevented him from being able to have a relationship with the holy leader Matilda, seeks to destroy the world in retribution, while Escad seeks to destroy him and Daena tries to act as a mediator between all parties. The conflict eventually escalates into a war between humans and faeries. Depending on the choices of the player, either Daena or Escad will die, while the player helps bring an end to the conflict.
Regardless of which path(s) the hero decides to take, they begin the game's final story, titled "Legend of Mana", which concerns the re-appearance of the Mana Tree. The player journeys to the Mana Tree and scales it, but upon reaching the top they find that the Mana Goddess has become corrupted and the tree is rotten. The player is forced to fight the Mana Goddess, and after winning a Sproutling plants itself in the Mana Tree's rotten trunk. Calling upon the other Sproutlings to join them, they restore the Mana Tree.
Development and release
Legend of Mana was directed by Mana series creator Koichi Ishii, who had worked on the three previous games in the series. Many of the other developers were new to the series, including producer Akitoshi Kawazu, the director and producer of many games in Square's SaGa series, and designer Akihiko Matsui, who had been the director for Chrono Trigger. The game's character designs and illustrations were done by Shinichi Kameoka, who was also new to the series. Retro Gamer, in 2011, stated that although Ishii kept the game tied to previous titles in the series, Kawazu had a heavy influence on the design of the game. Legend of Mana was designed as a 2D game, despite the PlayStation's 3D-focus, as the console could not handle the full 3D world Ishii envisioned where one could interact with natural shaped objects.
Legend of Mana was first announced by Square in March 1999 just before its debut at the Tokyo Game Show. The game was released in Japan with considerable hype, packaged with demos of Square's future releases Vagrant Story, Chrono Cross, Front Mission 3, and Threads of Fate. It was planned to be released in North America late in Summer 2000 alongside Chrono Cross and Threads of Fate, but was instead released early on June 6.
|Seiken Densetsu / Legend of Mana Original Soundtrack|
|Soundtrack album by Yoko Shimomura|
|Released||July 23, 1999
October 20, 2004
|Genre||Ambient, Breakbeat, Classical, Electronic, Symphonic rock, Video game soundtrack|
Square Enix (reprint)
The score for Legend of Mana was composed by Yoko Shimomura. She had previously composed for several Square games including Live A Live and Parasite Eve and had originally joined Square for the purpose of composing music for fantasy role-playing games. Shimomura said in 2002 that she considered the soundtrack to Legend the one that best expresses herself. Shimomura claims that she prefers "passionate music that comes from the heart", and that she has to "feel the emotions of a piece in the extreme before I am able to write" the music by putting herself in the same mood as the piece is supposed to be in. Legend of Mana featured the first vocal track of any Mana game, "Song of Mana", which also serves as the game's opening theme. It was sung by Swedish vocalist Annika Ljungberg, who was chosen by Shimomura because she "wanted to stay away from working with someone popular that everyone already knows". After hearing a sample of Annika's music, she flew to Sweden "straight away" to do an analog recording of the song.
The soundtrack album Seiken Densetsu / Legend of Mana Original Soundtrack collects 55 tracks of music from Legend of Mana on two discs. The music covers many styles including piano, hard rock, and techno. The soundtrack was published by DigiCube on July 23, 1999, and was reprinted by Square Enix on October 20, 2004. The album reached #65 on the Japan Oricon charts and stayed on the charts for one week. "Song of Mana" was later made available on the Square Vocal Collection album in 2001. Four of the game's tracks were released as part of Drammatica: The Very Best Works of Yoko Shimomura, an album of arrangements highlighting the composer's work: "Legend of MANA ~Title Theme~", "Hometown Domina", "Colored Earth", and "Bejeweled City Ruined". Shimomura carefully chose the songs to be included on the album based on their apparent popularity among fans and how suitable they were for orchestra.
"Song of Mana" was performed by the Australian Eminence Symphony Orchestra for its classical gaming music concert A Night in Fantasia 2007. Sinfonia Drammatica, an August 4, 2009 concert performed by the Royal Stockholm Philharmonic Orchestra in Stockholm, Sweden, featured several Legend of Mana songs as part of a combination of Yoko Shimomura's album Drammatica and the previous Stockholm Symphonic Shades concert. These tracks, all from Drammatica, were "Colored Earth", "Sparkling City", "Title Theme", and "Hometown Domina". Music from the soundtrack has been arranged for the piano and published by DOREMI Music Publishing. The second edition of Seiken Densetsu Best Collection Piano Solo Sheet Music contains tracks from several games in the series, including Legend of Mana. All songs in each book have been rewritten by Asako Niwa as beginning to intermediate level piano solos, though they are meant to sound as much like the originals as possible.
Upon the game's Japanese release, several promotional items were made available from Square. They include rabite plushie dolls, a necklace, and lighters, among other products. As a promotion for Square's "Summer of Adventure" release schedule in 2000, those who preordered the game in North America were given a free music CD with select tracks from the game. As part of the Square Millennium Collection, Legend of Mana was re-released at a budget price and included a special music box and two character figurines. A companion book titled Seiken Densetsu: Legend of Mana Ultimania was released as part of Square's Ultimania series. It was published by DigiCube in 1999 and later reprinted by Square Enix in 2004 after the subsidiary's closing. Seiken Densetsu: Legend of Mana: Making of Mana, an artbook, was also published.
Shiro Amano, best known for his popular manga and novel adaptations of the Kingdom Hearts series, created a five-volume manga adaptation of Legend of Mana. The main character in the story is named Toto, a very brave yet foolish hero. Amano also included the female main character named Imu, though she was not involved in the first three volumes' story. The manga, published by Enterbrain, started in the year 2000 and ended in 2002.
In Japan, Legend of Mana was a bestseller at the time of release, and sold over 400,000 units in its first week alone as the highest-selling release that week in Japan. By the end of the year, it had sold between 500,000 and one million copies in Japan. Legend of Mana was also the top selling PlayStation game during the week of its release in North America. These sales were lower than for Secret of Mana, which sold over 1.83 million copies between 1993 and 2004. Legend of Mana received mixed reviews from critics, and generally received lower scores than its two immediate predecessors, Secret of Mana and Seiken Densetsu 3.
The game's presentation was almost universally praised, especially its use of vibrant and colorful hand-drawn graphics were. David Smith of IGN claimed that the game's graphics were one of its best points, and RPGamer's Andrew P. Bilyk noted that the visuals "may be the most impressive 2-dimensional graphics ever to grace an RPG". Andrew Pfister of Electronic Gaming Monthly praised them even more, calling them "The most impressive 2D artwork ever seen on a console". RPGFan's review likened the graphics to Disney animation for having "a very storybook, cutesy cartoony feel to them", while Andrew Vestal of GameSpot said that the graphics were some of the most lush and ornate 2D graphics ever made. The game won an award for best graphics at the 4th annual Japan Game Awards from the Computer Entertainment Supplier's Association. The music in Legend of Mana was also a high point in many reviews; the reviewers for Electronic Gaming Monthly called it "fantastic" and "wonderful". Smith of IGN's review stated that the soundtrack is "as good as any you'll hear today" with a good mix of intensity, suspense, and subtle nuance, and Vestal of GameSpot termed it "excellently orchestrated" and a perfect fit for the game in each environment.
Much of the game's criticism stemmed from its substitution of mostly unrelated quests over a main storyline. The reviewer for GamePro found that the "focus of Legend of Mana is obscured by the over-abundance of subplots". Similarly, Game Revolution's Johnny Liu commented that the game lacked depth and felt like a collection of short quests rather than a single game, while Vestal of GameSpot noted that the game's use of miniquests will likely disappoint those seeking an action-RPG classic, and said that, although fun, the gameplay had a "schizophrenic and disjointed nature". A reviewer for Next Generation agreed, saying that the Land Make system was an "innovative feature" but that it left the game disjointed without a solid plot to keep everything together. Gary Steinman of Official U.S. PlayStation Magazine said that the lack of a plotline gave the player no incentive to keep playing through what they felt was a poor combat system. Both of those criticisms were repeated by Electronic Gaming Monthly's Sam Kennedy in his review. RPGamer's Bilyk felt that the smaller plots, while sometimes simplistic and not focused on the player, were enjoyable experiences. IGN's Smith concluded that while they enjoyed the game, they felt that it was not a complete game like Secret of Mana, but instead a collection of fun experiences.
In November 2000, Legend of Mana was ranked number 48 on Weekly Famitsu's list of top 100 PlayStation games of all time. The game was re-released on February 21, 2002 as part of the PSone Books best-sellers series in Japan, in 2006 as part of Square Enix's Ultimate Hits collection, and re-released on the PlayStation 3 PlayStation Network store as part of the PSone Classics series on March 22, 2011.
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