When I was but a wee child, I looked forward to summer vacation as much as any kid; but instead of running around in the hot sun like a normal child, I sat in front of my television all summer, controller in hand, conquering every Playstation game that sat on the shelves of Family Video. The hot summer sun was for losers as far as my younger self was concerned, I was much more content sitting in my air-conditioned room saving various worlds with nothing but the touch of a button.
I am an old-school gamer — I’m all about the nostalgia — and out of every console I grew up with, the titles on the original Playstation were by far my favorite. With rumors of a new Sony console on the horizon, I felt it best to mention a few of the titles that hooked me right from the start, ultimately launching me head-first into the world of gaming. A majority of these have not been given the praise I feel they so rightfully deserve, hence why every so often, I’m going to introduce you to some of what I consider to be the best Playstation games to ever hit the market.
Today, I’m going to tell you about Legend of Mana; an epic RPG where you are entrusted with complete control over almost every aspect of this game – ranging from which gender your hero should be to building the entire world itself as you see fit.
Legend of Mana
IGN’s rating: 8.3 out of 10
This game is set in the universe of Fa’Diel. You, the player, have been tasked with the tedious responsibility of restoring the Mana Tree (essentially, the source of all life and Mana in the world) to its former glory. In order to do so, you must reintroduce the concept of love to those who have forgotten it by budding into everyone’s personal lives and resolving their issues for them, because, evidently, they are not smart enough to do it themselves.
Restoring the Mana Tree requires you to complete one of the game’s 3 main plot lines by collecting items known as ‘artifacts’ and placing them on a map of your choosing so that they may permit you access to the locations they represent. There are 26 different artifacts, meaning you have 26 different locations to explore and conquer. Some are mere towns where you can chat with the locals and buy materials for forging and tempering your weapons, while others are run by monsters that you must annihilate in a real-time battle system.
The first central storyline is about a race known as the Jumi. They are a dying clan of humanoids recognizable by the jewels embedded in their chests (dubbed their ‘cores’). A Jumi is essentially immortal unless their core is scratched, damaged, or removed, and can only be repaired by ‘Tears of Healing’. Throughout the ages, Jumi’s were sought after and slaughtered by ‘Jewel Hunters’ aiming to create jewelry from their beautiful cores. As the hero, you accidentally discover the few remaining members of this race and inevitably are chosen to be the one to save them from extinction, even if doing so means possibly sacrificing your own existence. This is, by far, my favorite plot line; it is choc full of bosses you must strategically defeat as well as compelling character development from all parties involved – including the bad guys.
The second story arc regards a badass half-demon named Irwin who is forbidden to pursue a romance with his childhood crush – a high-priestess named Matilda. He is enraged by the laws of humanity that consider this taboo, and ultimately vows to destroy the world that has torn them from each others arms so he may create his own utopia where he and Matilda can live peacefully together. Two of Matilda and Irwin’s childhood friends put themselves right in the center of this mess and you are pulled into it unknowingly and forced to pick a side in this war. Daena, a cat-like creature, wants to settle everything in a reasonable manner so that everyone comes out of the situation happy and unscathed. Escad, on the other hand, is a man born into a family of famous sword-weilders who desires Irwin’s death for the greater good, regardless of Matilda’s feelings for him. You must decide who you agree with, and, even if you choose to stay neutral, every decision you make in this story affects who ultimately lives and dies.
Finally, we have the tragic tale of the dragoon siblings Sierra and Larc. Both are eternal servants to their own respective dragon masters; Larc serves Drakonis, a dragon who claims he was wrongfully banished to the Underworld. He asks your help in restoring his true form so he may rise again to the surface, but the only way this can be done is if you agree to kill the dragon masters that guard the world’s Mana Crystals. You are to bring said crystals back to the Underworld so that he may absorb their power and regain his strength. In the middle of your murdering spree, you run into Larc’s sister, Sierra, who serves the white dragon Vadise. Sierra claims Larc is ignorant for believing Drakonis does not have a darker intention in mind when he reaches the surface world, and proceeds to knock some sense into you for helping out in the first place. This story line is by far the hardest one to complete, especially when you reach the final dungeon. Navigating through it takes much longer than defeating the final boss, and you might as well have a strategy guide in handy because believe me, you’ll be getting lost on more than one occasion.
The beauty of this game lies not only with its hauntingly epic soundtrack or its artistic scenery, but with the immense amount of customization the player is allotted. In order to beat the game, you must save the Mana Tree, but by no means should you make that your only mission. There is plenty to do in the meantime. There are 68 total quests, with only 21 that have anything to do with one of the main plots. For those of you who aren’t doing the math, this means there are at least 47 side quests that you can do for the fun of it. In these, you can even control the outcome of the some of the minor characters; including a centaur addicted to women of all species, a traveling rabbit merchant hell-bent on scamming everyone out of their hard-earned cash, two sorcerers-in-training looking to be your apprentices, a pirate ship full of penguins constantly on a search for treasure, and many, many more. You can also lure and control magic held by the various Mana Spirits that wander throughout the dungeons, hatch and raise your own plethora of monsters to aid you in battle, and even invite different characters to room with you in your home.
Basically, this is a game where the fate of Fa’Diel is entirely up to you. You are given every opportunity to shape this world and when you finally complete the game, you can choose to play again in ‘Nightmare Mode’ or REALLY challenge yourself in ‘No Future Mode’, where every single enemy is level 99.
Definitely one of my favorites. If you can find the game in its original casing, you’re looking to pay at least $30 for it used. My recommendation? Go boot up your emulator and download a ROM; you won’t have much luck tracking down this rare classic in any old used game store!