Jeremy Parish revisits Legend of Mana

Jeremy Parish has recently posted at article at GameSpite.net discussing SquareSoft’s Legend of Mana, originally released for the PlayStation in 2000. It’s quite an interesting look at a game that was somewhat off-putting to players at the time of its release, but Parish argues that it’s non-linear design would be far more accepted in today’s gaming climate.  Of course, he mentions the involvement of Akitoshi Kawazu, a game creator that continues to intrigue him (and me), and relates it to Kawazu’s SaGa series:

None of this is at all like the previous Mana titles. The earlier games in the series became increasingly complex with each chapter, with Seiken Densetsu 3 offering a degree of narrative flexibility almost unthinkable in a 16-bit game, but they were nevertheless largely linear games, largely plot-driven, and largely built on the standard Square narrative structure — standard meaning, of course, “like their best-selling Final Fantasy games.” But if the first three Mana games were Zelda seen through the lens of Final Fantasy, Legend of Mana is Zelda as interpreted by SaGa.

This comparison certainly increases my curiosity about the game, although I’ve never had the means to play it, unfortunately. However, it is available on PSN now, so it has another chance to find an audience.

Check out the article here: Legend of Mana @ GameSpite.net

What are your thoughts on Legend of Mana? Post a comment and let us know!

Sonic the Hedgehog 4: Episode I (Wii/PS3/X360/iPhone)

Sonic 4: Episode I Logo

Episode I: The Eggman Menace

Sonic the Hedgehog 4: Episode I (Wii/PS3/X360/iPhone)
Pub: Sega/Dev: Dimps, Sonic Team
ESRB: E/Players: 1

 

Note: This review is based on the Wii version.

Some evil scientists just can’t take a hint. Dr. Eggman (or Robotnik) is up to no-good once again, stealing Chaos Emeralds, kidnapping defenseless forest animals, and using them to power his badnik creations. And you know what that means: it’s up to Sonic the Hedgehog to save the day yet again.

As you’re probably aware, Sonic the Hedgehog 4: Episode I is a 2D side-scrolling platform game similar to the classic Genesis Sonic titles. Sonic runs, jumps, bounces, collects rings, fights enemies, and basically sticks to all of his trusty Eggman-beating techniques.

Screen shot of Sonic 4.1

Is that corkscrew a natural phenomenon?

The game contains four main Zones, each split into three Acts plus one Boss stage. A fifth Zone contains a boss rush and the final confrontation against the persistent Dr. Robotnik (or Eggman). There are also seven Special Stages that you can enter by having at least 50 rings and jumping into the giant gold ring at the end of each level. These Special Stages are reminiscent of the rotating mazes from the original Sonic the Hedgehog, except that here you control the rotation of the maze instead of Sonic, himself. Each Special Stage contains a Chaos Emerald, and any Sonic fan knows what happens if you manage to collect all seven.

 

There is one element of Sonic 4.1 that seems to be a huge hang-up for a lot of fans, and there’s simply no ignoring it. The way Sonic handles in this new game is drastically different than in any of the original Genesis titles. That’s not to say it’s bad, but it requires a different set of skills and reflexes. If you begin playing Sonic 4.1 after having played the classic Sonic games, then the difference will be quite jarring. However, I suspect that after playing this game for a while, going back to Sonic 1 would feel just as awkward. Taken on its own merits, the control in Sonic 4.1 is actually quite good and well polished.

One “new” element added to Sonic’s repertoire for this outing is the homing attack (although it originated in Sonic 3D Blast). It factors pretty heavily into gameplay, with enemies and objects strategically placed within the levels so you can chain attacks together, reach new areas, or even use it as a stopping mechanism. There is a technique to using it, however, as it requires certain timing.

Screen shot of Sonic 4.1

Sonic's really got the ball rolling now!

The level design strongly recalls that of the classic Sonic games, with a good balance between platforming, speedy sections, gimmicks, and the occasional awkward puzzle. The levels are huge, and there are multiple ways of getting through them. I found that learning the levels and maintaining my momentum as I hurtled through them gave me the same satisfaction and exhilaration that the classic games did.

 

Although the graphics are clear and detailed, there were a few parts late in the game where I had trouble discerning the difference between a platform Sonic could stand on and graphics that were simply environmental decoration. This led to a few “fall throughs.” However, it didn’t take long to learn which was which.

This wasn’t a game that grabbed me immediately. My first impression was that it was a solid platform game, yet a little lacking in the “wow” department. But after a while, I realized that I was compelled to keep playing it. And it wasn’t because I was trying to collect a bunch of arbitrary items, get 100%, or some other form of artificial replay value. Rather, I continued to replay Sonic the Hedgehog 4: Episode I simply because it was a whole lot of fun. And really, that says it all.

Heartily recommended!

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