Squaresoft - Tested on the SNES by Necron in 2000, reworked in 2021.
The Seiken Densetsu series are well known among RPGers for its great graphics, great action/RPG battle gameplay, and great story development, too. These games form one of the greatest RPG series of all time, probably to the level of the FF series, the Dragon Quest series and others...
But when I played 'Seiken Densetsu 4/Legend of Mana,' I felt a strange thing.
I've played the previous games, and their stories develop in a nice way, with a well defined main plot and small subplots all around the main one, giving darker and lighter tones to the game, like a picture where the artist adds shinings and shadings.
But the case of SD4-LoM is strange. Instead of having a main story, the game revolves around lots of sub-quests that [are supposed to] tell you the story as you solve the mysteries and puzzles of the world of Fa'Diel.
...But truth be told, this is not what I felt. The plot itself, is similar to that of the other Seiken games: The Tree of Mana is being corrupted, and the Goddess of Mana is dying, as mysterious evil forces try to take the greatest power of the world of Fa'Diel. So you, the knight/knightress(?) in shiny armor, go on in a quest for the power that will save the energy of Mana.
Let's just get into the rest of the game...
The graphics are just beautiful. The game uses 2-D graphics all the time. The backgrounds are beautiful, they are hand-drawn and watercolors are used to paint the settings of the Fa'Diel world. Occasionally, some polygons are used, mostly for magic attacks and other special things (still, they remain 2-D, and polygons are used for very small details). And the bosses are just the bomb! They are huge, and their animations are amazing.
Sound... As usual, a great musical score is what this Squaresoft RPG features. Still, it lacks the 'memorable' tracks. There is no particular song that can be classified as 'great' or anything. The opening/ending song is not bad, though, and it can be considered as the most memorable song from the game.
The game world is not developed as in your regular game. Instead, the idea behind it is that you 'use your imagination- create your own world!'. So you are given (as you advance) various 'artifacts,' which are placed in the (initially empty) world map, and they transform into cities, caves, dungeons, and other settings. And depending on where you place these artifacts (how far from your home, and in what point of the 'grid'), enemies might be stronger, or certain kinds of spells might be more powerful. Thanks to this and many other features, each time you play the game, you'll have to use different strategies, making each replay different.
The game includes many features - as a matter of fact, I just don't have enough space to explain them all. You can create your own spells by using magic coins (acquirable through mini- games), you can create your own weapons (using elements that are acquired during your adventures), you can raise monsters that join you in battle (even when they aren't exactly the greatest assistants in the world), and many other goodies. Even with the strange case of the story, the game pushes you (for a long time) to play it till the end.
The battle system is not bad either - It's just like the B/S in Seiken 3, except that special moves always require the use of the same full bar (instead of the multi-level bar found in SD3), and there are 2 types of moves - Super moves and Spells. Each type of move is executed in a different way, and many moves are found in this game to be mastered. You acquire moves by gaining and mastering normal moves, such as jumping, crouching.... Each move opens the way to acquire newer and more powerful attacks, which makes battling just awesome!
Even if the original review is now over 20 years old, I never played the game ever. I like the score by Yoko Shimomura, I like the general idea of the game, but I never got my hand onto it.
For June 2021, Square Enix now announced that they would re release the game with new HD backgrounds (that you can see on the screenshots here on this page), and I'm surely going to give the game a try this time. This little info box will be updated then.
The original reviewer criticized SaGa Frontier a lot, which just also has been announced for release in 2021. So let's see how these games will turn out to be in this new day and age.