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Legend of Mana

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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 Legend of Mana was the fourth installment released in the series, the next console-based Mana game, Dawn of Mana, is the official fourth game (in Japan, it is known as Seiken Densetsu 4).

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 & America. While the game garnered considerable praise for its graphics and presentation, many critics were turned off by the game's lack of stating the game's main storyline.


Legend of Mana features a unique "Land Make" system in which the player chooses plots of land to organize various locations within the game. The game world is divided into an isometric series of empty square plots of ground from which there are 36 possible in total. Depending on the Artifact (AF) which is placed on the plot, a different Land is generated on it. Each area placed on the map contains at least one quest within it, which upon completion rewards the player a new Artifact, and the process is repeated. Lands can be revisited, which is sometimes necessary to initiate more quests. Each Land has a certain level of strength in each Spirit of Mana on a points scale of zero (no presence) to three (strong presence). A high number of points on one square can add points to adjacent squares. The spirits—excluding Shade and Wisp—each represent a day on which the coordinating element becomes more powerful. Also, placing locations in given places affects the spirit rating of that particular area. Within each Land, players can explore numerous locations including towns, dungeons, and ruins. 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.

File:Legend of Mana - battle 1.png

Legend of Mana features several role-playing elements as well. The main character and sidekicks each have their own set of numerical attributes including HP, strength, and luck. These stats grow whenever the player gains a level, after meeting a set experience point requirement. By defeating enemies in battle, the player can collect experience point crystals that spill out. 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 "STs" (Special Techs) in the game, these are the powerful attacks of the main characters and NPC sidekicks that can be used once the special move meter is filled. Each weapon has a set number of special attacks to learn, ranging from single-target to area to the full field. The player is able to customize his or her attack repertoire by assigning them to certain buttons.

Legend of Mana offers the option for the player to have two sidekicks—characters which are controlled either by the game's AI or by another player using the second controller. These sidekicks serve the purpose of making the game multiplayer to a degree by helping the main character while in battle, and also indirectly enhance the gaming experience if a human player takes control over the sidekick. Sidekicks consist of support characters, demi-humans, pets, and golems. The support characters include the Jumi Elazul and the merchant Niccolo. Demi-humans are monsters that have the ability to speak, and appear in certain areas, willing to join the player on his or her quest. Pets and golems can also accompany the protagonist, but cannot be controlled by a second player. Using a memory card, it is possible for two players to play together simultaneously using their main characters, but there are some limitations to this. The game also has an arena for two people to fight against each other in.

File:Legend of Mana Screenshot.jpg

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. While weapons, armor, and accessories may be bought from stores, the player also has the option of forging or improving them using raw materials found throughout the game. Tempering occurs when any of the game's items is combined with the equipment, cumulatively raising or lowering its power or adding special effects. In the backyard of the players house is a small orchard, where the player is able to give some seeds to the orchard keeper, Trent, to grow fruit. What grows depends on the number of seeds previously given to him, the Mana levels of the Home Land and the kinds of seeds given him. The player can also unlock the monster corral, which can be used to raise pets via feeding them, letting them graze, or taking them out adventuring. They gain levels only if they are taken out with the hero, or if they are left to graze. They can also be raised using the Sony PocketStation, a peripheral only released in Japan. Finally, workshops can be used to create instruments and build golems. Instruments are created using elemental coins and raw materials (such as metal, wood, or bone), whilst utilizing the Mana power of a specific region. Different types of instruments, as well as different tunes, can be made depending on materials, as well as the melody and harmony gameplay mechanics of the workshop. Golems are built using weapons and armor as parts. The golem's attacks are determined by logic blocks, which are created in an urn in the workshop. It is done by combining two items, and the blocks are placed in a grid. All of the blocks must fit in, and for the golem to use attacks, the attack's respective logic blocks must be in the grid.



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.

Characters and story branches

The player can choose to be either a male or female silent protagonist. The gender has no actual bearing on gameplay, other than humorous comments made by NPCs regarding the fashion sense of the character. It is not really explained who either protagonist actually is or what their past was like before their Home became an Artifact, as their history and personality is meant to be determined by the player.[3] A myriad of characters meet the hero or heroine during the course of the game's numerous quests; these characters join the player on more than one occasion and drive the game's split storyline, which is divided into three main plot branches. Each branch holds a series of related side-quests, which compose a part of Legend of Mana's story. Upon completion of any of these branches, the player is given the choice of finishing the game, even if quests from other branches have not yet been started or completed. There are 67 quests in total (excluding the final quest).

Jumi Arc

The first is the story of the Jumi, a dying race of people who have external jewel hearts which are considered valuable. The Jumi have apparently long been a persecuted people, as many magic characters in this game refer to them as "dirt"—a nasty comment 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.

Dragon Arc

The second 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, banished once more to the underworld.

Faerie Arc

The third 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, whilst 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, the latter dying before your final confrontation with Irwin at Lucemia (should you not ask him to join you on your journey to fight him).

The remaining adventures concern the rest of the game's considerably large cast, including such stories as:

  • The adventures of the unscrupulous rabbit merchant Niccolo
  • The melodrama of the troubadour centaur Gilbert who seeks love in mostly the wrong places
  • The sisterhood of the two sirens and a mermaid: Elle, Monique and Flameshe (a story often in relation to Gilbert's)
  • Treasure hunting with boisterous pirate penguins and their walrus captain;
  • The escapades of Diddle and Capella, two itinerant entertainers
  • The story of Rachel, an angsty teenager who resents her parents' treatment of her
  • The studious journey of the young rascal Bud, who wishes to meet all of the "Seven Wisdoms"

Regardless of which path the hero decides to take, the game's final story is called "Legend of Mana." It concerns the re-appearance of the Mana Tree. As such, this story seems more fitting with the series than any other, as the Mana Tree is a central icon of the Mana games. Once the hero scales the Mana Tree, he or she must fight the Mana Goddess. The tree, quoting the game, is "rotten with evil." Nonetheless, a Sproutling plants itself in the Mana Tree's rotten trunk after the Goddess falls. Calling upon the other Sproutlings, the Mana Tree is restored and what was wrong is righted.

Main Storyline

The game is about love. More specifically, its about both the positive and negative effects of love, and if it is worth the struggle to bring love back in to the world. This is first hinted at in the introduction with the story of the Mana Tree burning down and mankind growing afraid of love. The purpose of the game is then given with the line "I am love! Find me, and walk beside me." Thus you begin your quest to bring love back into the world.

Now, rather than just bring love back in, the Mana Goddess apparently decides that you need to see all sides of love, good and bad, before you can make the decision to bring it back. This is the purpose of the three major story arcs that you must complete- each one is an example of the dangers of one specific type of love. Listed below are the three arcs and the aspect of love they best represent.

The Faerie Arc- Romantic Love

The main focus of this arc is the romantic relationship between Matilda and Irwin, and the resulting havoc it wreaks on the world. Nearly all of Irwin's destructive actions are based on his relationship with Matilda, from stealing her power to Matilda refusing to stop him because she loves him and respects his decision, even if it means the end of the world. Irwin sums it up nicely at the end when he says he needs to be freed "from a spell named Matilda".

The Dragon Arc- Familial Love

In contrast, the conflict in this story arc arises from Larc desiring to be reunited with his sister, Sierra. The sole purpose of him helping to bring Draconis back into power is so that he can once again walk the mortal world, even if it means threatening the world with destruction. Finally, at the conclusion of the quest line, he decides to suffer through his punishment, even if it greatly delays his reunion with his sister.

The Jumi Arc- Communal Love

The Jumi arc is probably the most complicated, but best implemented, symbol of the harmful effects of love. Prior to the beginning of this quest, Florina had been sacrificing her own life for the benefit of her people. Had this continued, there would have been no conflict. However, Sandra, who had a close relationship with Florina, grew to hate the Jumi for sacrificing someone she loved for their own survival, and kidnapped her. Enter the hero, who, after the quest is completed, sacrifices his/her own life out of love for the survival of the Jumi. The consequences of this sacrifice are brought home to the audience when they see Bud and Lisa's response to the hero's supposed demise.

Other than these three arcs, this theme is referred throughout the game by many different characters. Once the character witnesses one of these arcs, the path to the final test opens.

The final battle of the game is merely a symbol of the character deciding that Fa'Diel is once again ready to welcome love to the world, despite the darkness that it brings. The character's fight with the Mana Goddess's "dark half" shows that life is once again ready to embrace love. The game concludes with the Mana Goddess's final speech:

I am the light. I am the darkness. Half of myself is what you have fought in the past. I create, I destroy, and I create again. I am love. Not all of me is just. Not all of me is pure. That is only half of myself. Those who desire my other half cross their swords. People's freedom is lost, and my truth is buried. I shall show you my darkness. You must defeat me. You will become a hero. Open the path to those who search for me.


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Legend of Mana was directed by Mana series creator Koichi Ishii. It was produced by Akitoshi Kawazu, the director and producer of many games in Square's SaGa series. The game's character designs and illustrations were done by Shinichi Kameoka, who would later design characters for his company Brownie Brown, including the next game in the Mana series, Sword of Mana.

Legend of Mana was first announced by Square in March 1999 just before its debut at the Tokyo Game Show.[4] 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.[5]


The game features music composed by Yoko Shimomura. She had previously composed for several Square games including Live A Live and Parasite Eve. A soundtrack was released under the name Seiken Densetsu: Legend of Mana OST in 1999 by DigiCube with a later reprint in 2004 by Square Enix. It includes Song of Mana, sung by Swedish vocalist Annika Ljungberg, credited on the CD simply as Annika. The song was later made available on the Square Vocal Collection album in 2001. Four of the game's non-vocal tracks were released as part of Drammatica: The Very Best Works of Yoko Shimomura, an arranged album highlighting the composer's work.[6] Shimomura carefully chose the songs to be included on the album based on their apparent popularity among fans and how suitable they are for orchestra.[7] The game's title theme was also performed by the Australian Eminence Symphony Orchestra for its classical gaming music concert "A Night in Fantasia 2007."[8]


Upon the game's Japanese release, several promotional items were made available from Squaresoft. They include rabite plushie dolls, a necklace, and lighters, among other products.[9] As a promotion for Squaresoft'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.[10] 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.[11] 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.[12]


Aggregate scores
Aggregator Score
GameRankings 73 of 100[13]
Review scores
Publication Score
Electronic Gaming Monthly 6 of 10
Famitsu 31 of 40[5]
GameFan 84 of 100
GamePro 4 of 5
Game Revolution C+
GameSpot 7 of 10
IGN 83 of 100
Official PlayStation Magazine (US) 2.5 of 5
RPGamer 97 of 100
Japan Game Awards Graphics Award (1999)[14]
PlayStation Gold Award (2000)[15]


In Japan, Legend of Mana sold over 400,000 units in its first week alone[16] and sold over 706,000 copies by the end of 1999, making it the 12th best-selling game of that year.[17] Passing the half-million unit sales mark earned Legend of Mana a Gold Award at the 2000 PlayStation Awards.[15] According to IGN, it was the top selling PlayStation game during the week of its release in North America.[18] The game was re-released on February 21, 2002 as part of the PSone Books best-sellers series in Japan, and in 2006 as part of Square Enix's Ultimate Hits collection.[19][20]


Critically, the game overall received mixed reviews. Legend of Mana currently holds a 73% on Game Rankings, based on 23 media outlets.[13]

The game's use of vibrant and colorful hand-drawn graphics were almost universally praised. RPGamer noted that game boasts visuals that "may be the most impressive 2-dimensional graphics ever to grace an RPG."[21] RPGFan likened the graphics to Disney animation for having "a very storybook, cutesy cartoony feel to them."[22] Legend of Mana even won the 4th annual Japan Game Awards "Graphics Award" from the Computer Entertainment Supplier's Association for the year of its release.[14] The music in Legend of Mana was also a high point in many reviews. IGN stated that the soundtrack is "as good as any you'll hear today" with a correct mix of intensity, suspense, and subtle nuance.[23] Honest Gamers stated that diverse musical score is what will drive the player forward to want to experience all the game's locales.[24] In November 2000, Legend of Mana was ranked number 48 on Weekly Famitsu's top 100 PlayStation games of all time.[25]

Much of the game's criticism stemmed from its substitution of mostly unrelated quests over a main storyline. GamePro found that the "focus of Legend of Mana is obscured by the over-abundance of subplots."[26] Similarly, Game Revolution comments that the game lacked depth, while GameSpot noted that the game's use of miniquests will likely disappoint those seeking an action-RPG classic.[27][28] The Land Make system within the game also drew disapproval from critics, such as Gaming Age, which calls the mechanic a novelty.[29]

See also



  1. GIA staff (June 14, 2000). Canadian Vagrant Story, Legend of Mana release update. Retrieved on 2008-06-07.
  2. 聖剣伝説 ~LEGEND OF MANA~. Sony (2010-07-28). Retrieved on 2010-09-06.
  3. Studio BentStuff, ed (1999) (in Japanese). Seiken Densetsu: Legend of Mana Ultimania. DigiCube/Square Enix. p. 14. ISBN 4-757512-50-3. 
  4. IGN staff (March 18, 1999). Square's New Legend. Retrieved on 2008-07-20.
  5. 5.0 5.1 Kennedy, Sam (July 12, 1999). Japan Prepares for Mana. Retrieved on 2008-12-14.
  6. Drammatica. Square Enix. Retrieved on 2008-03-27.
  7. Jayson Napolitano and Justin Pfeiffer (May 28, 2008). Interview with Kingdom Hearts composer Yoko Shimomura. Retrieved on 2008-07-20.
  8. Cam Shea (April 3, 2007). A Night in Fantasia 2007 - The Track List. Retrieved on 2008-07-20.
  9. Stahn Mahn (September 5, 1999). Legend of Mana Products. Retrieved on 2008-06-07.
  10. Doug "Stom" Hill (April 11, 2000). Square announces a Summer of Adventure. Retrieved on 2008-06-07.
  11. IGN staff (September 11, 2000). New Square Millennium Collection Goods. Retrieved on 2008-06-17.
  12. Legend of Mana (manga). Retrieved on 2008-06-07.
  13. 13.0 13.1 Legend of Mana Reviews. Retrieved on 2008-06-11.
  14. 14.0 14.1 The 4th Japan Game Awards List of awarded games (Japanese). Retrieved on 2008-07-21.
  15. 15.0 15.1 IGN staff (June 29, 2000). PlayStation Awards 2000. Retrieved on 2008-07-19.
  16. Simon Carless (August 6, 1999). Gamasutra - MGT Report "Litigation Time". Archived from the original on May 29, 2008 Retrieved on 2008-06-10.
  17. 1999 Top 100 Best Selling Japanese Console Games. Retrieved on 2008-06-07.
  18. IGN staff (June 16, 2000). Legend of Mana Tops Sales Charts. Retrieved on 2008-06-07.
  19. PSone Books. (May 2002). Retrieved on 2008-07-06.
  20. Square Enix Adds 16 to Ultimate Hits Series. (April 26, 2006). Retrieved on 2008-07-06.
  21. Andrew P. Bilyk. Legend of Mana - Review: Different is Good. Retrieved on 2008-06-14.
  22. SenseiPhoenix (June 6, 2000). Legend of Mana review. Retrieved on 2008-06-14.
  23. David Smith. Legend of Mana: Welcome to the mystical world of Fa'Diel. Won't you stay a while?. Retrieved on 2008-06-14.
  24. HonestGamers staff. Legend of Mana review. Retrieved on 2008-06-14.
  25. IGN staff (November 20, 2000). Famitsu Weekly PlayStation Top 100. Retrieved on 2008-07-05.
  26. 2BARRELFUGUE (November 12, 2000). Review: Legend of Mana. Retrieved on 2008-06-14.
  27. Johnny Liu (June 2000). Legend of Mana review. Retrieved on 2008-06-14.
  28. Andrew Vestal (June 7, 2000). Legend of Mana (review). Retrieved on 2008-06-14.
  29. Marcus Lai (July 17, 2000). Review: Legend of Mana. Retrieved on 2008-06-14.

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