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Legend of Mana

video game review video game review video game review Video Game Review: Legend of Mana Publisher: Electronic Arts
Category: Role-Playing
Platform: PS1
ESRB Rating: Teen    Release Date: June 2000

Overall Rating: 3 Stars out of 4

Review by Tom Allen
3 Stars out of 4

While not designed for children, Legend of Mana is an excellent game through which to get younger players interested in RPG's other than Pokemon.

Two aspects of the game lend themselves to a younger audience. First, your health is completely replenished after each and every battle, making the game much easier than most.

Second, the game's technique of allowing players to design their own world maps as the game progresses really emphasizes creativity, however limited.

As you meet people and make decisions about with whom to speak, with whom to side in an argument, and which quests, chores, or favors you wish to tackle, various people will give you artifacts, essentially a gift for being a nice person.

A bit more strategy is involved than you might think. When given a choice, you may have to decide who is more likely to give you a gift as a result of your action.

The game also employs strategy elements along the lines of Harvest Moon. Your estate includes a monster corral where you raise pets, as well as a blacksmith and an orchard for planting. Eventually this orchard will be home to a gigantic, talking tree like the one in Disney's "Pocahontas."

Mana's many side quests, announced with large titles to avoid confusion, result in a lack of linearity, and thus a lack of real story, but in many ways this reminds me of some action games, so I will grant the game a free pass on this one.

Some of the earlier quests include finding a lost princess in a cave, selling lamps for a pair of lovers in financial distress, and defeating some mad pumpkins.

I am eternally thankful that the dialogue is short and to the point, with large text. Even better, the game doesn't feel diluted as a result.

Veteran RPG fans will quibble with the battles for their excessive frequency, as well as poor controls. The latter is an especially legitimate complaint. Fighters can only face left or right with their weapons, not up or down. Character movement feels stiff even if you ignore the limited animation.

Still, I enjoyed playing an RPG with real-time battles for a change. Moving around the enemy at all times gave me a sense of freedom after playing Legend of Dragoon.

The game's music is also well-done, though mostly not spectacular. In fact, the ubiquitous nature of the music did tend to annoy me on occasion, but the annoyance was slight.

Few, if any, RPG's have discovered either the use of understated scores in key scenes, or the use of sound effects or silence in the complete absence of music. Instead, RPG's tend to blast you with rousing sensationalism like James Horner's offensive score in "The Perfect Storm."

There's nothing like walking through the streets, selling lamps of all things, when the music is almost upbeat enough to accompany a scene from "Gladiator."

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