I really enjoyed this wonderful PSX game. Truly a unique RPGing experience. Even though this is the fourth game in the Seiken Densetsu series, the game (thankfully) bears almost no resemblance to its predecessors. The monsters may be the same, but that is about it. I was worried when I purchased it that it was just going to be a rehash of the rather boring Seiken Densetsu 3, but I was pleasantly surprised with something totally new. The totally reworked battle mode makes fighting much more enjoyable. A fantastic new cast of characters is introduced. A new mesmerizing soundtrack is included. A whole new world to explore is at your fingertips. Square outdid themselves this time.

This gameplay introduced by this game is totally unlike anything before. It feels a lot more like Square's SaGa Frontier series than the previous Seiken Densetsu games. There is no main "plot" that requires you to go through a series of linear events in order to continue the story. Instead it's more of a "Choose Your Own Adventure" game. There are nearly 70 short adventures your character can go on, each one containing it's own mini-plot. While none of the plots are particularly deep, they are intriguing enough for you to want to finish them. Each time you complete an adventure, you are given the opportunity for more adventures. They can be played out in any order you choose. There are so many adventures to choose from that it is almost overwhelming. And since there is no order to play them out in, each time through the game is a unique experience.

Unlike any other RPG, the world map of Legend of Mana isn't pre-decided. Instead, when certain adventures are completed you are given "Artifacts". You chose a location on the world map for the artifact, and out pop a new location to explore. There is no shortage of variety in locations. Jungle, ruins, caves, ships, even the Underworld all wait to be explored.

And finally I must include a little blurb about the graphics. This game takes 2D to the limit. It almost makes me sad to know that 2D games are a dying breed, because 3D really can't capture this kind of beauty. All the backgrounds and sprites are beautifully hand drawn. The art is very bright and colorful and looks very soft, almost like a watercolor painting. It really adds the "fantasy" feel of the game.

I wasn't much entranced by the actual gameplay of Legend of Mana. It had the feel of a lengthy side-scrolling action type, much like Final Fight or King of Dragons, and the battles themselves would only rarely have any sort of difficulty to them. and I wasn't much impressed by the lack of depth in the plot itself- granted, my own preferences lean towards massive, over-arching metaplots and intense character development, but nonetheless...

However, Legend of Mana wasn't designed as a role-playing game in the image of Squaresoft's more popular franchises- the player has the ability to direct his attention to whatever pleases her at the moment, to pursue whichever story arcs are more interesting. If two people have different games they're working from, the first player can load the second and journey together much like in Phantasy Star Online or Diablo II, allowing the second player to level while remaining at the same place in the story- this is in addition to any pets or secondary characters that the player totes around as extra firepower.

What really sells this game, in my opinion, is the quality of the graphics and the music. Hand-drawn two-dimensional sprites on a hand-drawn pseudo-3d background gives the game an almost etherial visual quality. While FMVs are few and far between, the game doesn't need or want them. The music is extraordinarily adept at setting the appropriate mood- slow and reverant, quick and snazzy, paced and stubborn, all of the flavors are excellently scored.

Legend of Mana is not a game for everyone, but those people that are suited to it will play it to death and beyond.

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