Square Enix's method for remastering Legend of Mana is impressive, retaining much of what made the original game special – though it won't last long into 2021.
Of all the companies with a great catalog behind classics to use and abuse, Square Enix seems to be one of the more confident to dive into its former work. We’ve seen the rash bones of PS2 Kingdom Hearts games, previously unreleased Japanese versions like Final Fantasy 12: The Zodiac Age, and of course lore-bending, earth-shatasting remakes as with Final Fantasy 7. But a contender for the best remastering style, for the most eager drive of nostalgia can be on display in the new HD Remaster of the PS1 classic Legend of Mana.
Legend of Mana is always the next obvious Mana series to do-over, because here its direct predecessors, Secret of Mana and Tests of Mana, were both remade as 3D games. Legend of Mana takes a different approach – keeping the original visual -based to maintain a wonderful recreation of it as fans remember it – or at least, partially.
Characters, monsters and other ' active ' Elements of the game world are lovely sprites, innocent and shameless of their pixelated nature. Meanwhile, more static elements like backgrounds are given a high definition change where everything looks just a little … smoother. It’s like the kind of description that sets alarm bells – we see a lot of terrible vaseline filters in classic games – but these elements are beautiful, with little lost detail. Importantly, the part of the game you focus more on is maintaining its original look.
It's a combination I didn't think was a good one on paper – but in practice, it works well. The two styles do not clash; and while at first it may feel a little weird, the two come together pretty quickly and stop feeling like two separate art styles – they come together. The background artist undoubtedly looks better on modern displays than the original PS1 versions seen in their original presentation, while the sprites ' pop ' against those backgrounds thanks to their pixelated nature. It works, and looks damn good.
Better than visual luxury is the audio, which has also seen a significant upgrade. The original soundtrack from Street Fighter and Kingdom Hearts composer Yoko Shimomura has been lovingly redesigned – and the arrangements, ay, slap. There is no other way to put it. Those in it for an experience they remember have the option to flick back to the original PS1 versions of the tracks if they wish, however.
Then there's the game. Legend of Mana is a great, classic Japanese RPG – but it’s also undisturbed in its time, a game that can be said to have been released before the developer’s desire to streamline, simplify and refute the genre that really holds. It all holds enough – but with the same conversations and understanding one needs to claim in 1999. There have been some welcome changes in quality of life – but the more annoying aspects of the game that was polarized in the release will still remain in this re-release, for better or worse. If it were even replaced, it would not be Legend of Mana.
The fight is the same action -driven fare that the Mana series is known for, albeit in a form that is slightly slower in tempo and a bit tougher feel. It’s simple enough to understand and have immediate fun, but also undoubtedly rich in complexity and depth, especially when you dive deep into the minutiae of character growth and development.
The narration is delivered with a similar common sense This is the story of a world that has been broken, with the main character reconstructing and re-creating the world as you progress through the game. That progression is non-linear, with a large degree of player choice in what you do and when. It’s unique and effective, but it contributes to an overall feeling that sometimes this title is a bit too arrogant for its own good.
Probably the most damning thing I can say about this aspect of the game is this: if you're a completeist, you almost certainly can't do everything you want to do in this game without consulting guides, many of which will be decades, back from the original liberation. The original was released right at that time when games like this began to be unacceptable – and hasn’t improved significantly for this re -release.
I love some of the changes in quality of life, however. The ability to toggle enemy encounters usually allows you to make the process of fumbling around the world easier for your next step, for example. Saving can be done anywhere, which feels more fair and breezy, and especially more suitable for the Switch version.
To a certain type of player, Legend of Mana is likely to be considered the perfect remaster. It touches on the visuals, but not too much. It makes changes to the quality of life, but retains the original design and discomfort – warts and all. Some may find that disastrous to be destructive, with this twenty -year -old game showing its age – but it also makes it a new definite way to experience a classic.
Review code provided by the publisher. Tested on Switch (Main) and PC.
Legend of Mana HD Remaster review post: an honest, gorgeous recreation of a PS1 classic – Warts and All first appeared on VG247.