Legend of Mana was released by Squaresoft in 2000.
The purpose of this article is to tell you some of its strong points and weak points so you can make an informed decision, as well as to offer some gameplay advice. This article is an opinion. It contains facts and draws its support from them, but it is only one man's viewpoint. It's /v/-specific; if you want the Wikipedia article, go there.
The game has a unique, painterly art style, with each area's background being a single, hand-drawn image. This means that there aren't any "tree" or "rock" sprites that get reused repeatedly; every object in the background is unique to that background. (The dungeons to tend to reuse backgrounds, but that's the price you pay.) It also has some smoothly animated sprites for characters and objects.
The soundtrack is composed by the legendary Yoko Shimomura, who lists it as her favorite of her own works. It covers a broad range from somber to exciting, and everything in between. It helps bring the vast and varied world of the game to life.
Although the game is composed entirely of sidequests (called events), there are three major plotlines that occur as sequences of events. These stories are self-contained, and very good. All three of them feature conflicts between other characters, and the protagonist plays little more than a supporting role in any of them. This helps the world feel complex and genuine, rather than like a show put on for the player's sake. In one of the plotlines, you are forced to choose to side with one of two characters--both are well-intentioned, but have differing views on how to resolve the conflict. It's the only real choice in any of the plotlines, but that's still one more interesting ambiguous moral choice than what games like Knights of the Old Republic have to offer.
The other events consist of short stories. Some of them are humorous or cute. There are some longer subplots that span a few events, but nothing as long or as serious as the three main plotlines.
The player starts by placing his home on an empty map. As events are completed, he recieves more artifacts, which he can use to place more lands on the map. The way you arrange them and the order you place them in affect what shops sell, how hard monsters are, what mana levels of each element there are, and a few other things. This allows the player to go thtough the game's content in virtually any order, with the difficulty progressively rising regardless.
The player explores the world looking for sidequests to complete. Some of them are very basic--"Hey Hero, let's go beat this dungeon together y/n," for example. Others are more complex, requiring the player to perform a series of tasks.
This game is highly customizable in many aspects. The arrangement of lands of the world map, as described above, is one of them. The protagonist is also highly customizable. You can select a male or female protagonist, name him or her, and select one of many weapon types. You can learn a variety of combat skills, magic, and devastating weapon-specific special attacks. Don't worry, you can always pick up a new weapon type, and the special attacks aren't hard to learn.
The fairly basic combat system is reminiscent of a 2D beat-em-up. The other party members are controlled by AI. You can use a variety of basic skills, such as Jump or Slide, in addition to performing combos with your weapon or using special attacks or magic.
You can have three party members, the hero, a guest NPC, and either a golem or a pet. The NPC cannot be customized, but your pets and golems can be.
You can also use raw components to forge weapons and armor. With a little effort and research you can produce good stuff, but if you're serious about it you can spend hours gathering materials and use hundreds of ingredients in a specific order to make hilariously overpowered and unecessary equipment.
Just wander around and have fun. Normal Mode is really quite easy, with no grinding required to complete it. It is very difficult to fuck up in this game. If you can't figure out how to complete an event or progress in one of the plotlines, consult a guide.
If you think it's too easy, you can replay it in a New Game+ on Nightmare Mode, which raises the level of all enemies by 30, or No Future mode, which raises the level of all enemies to 99.
If you are a perfectionist and you must see every event in a single playthrough, use a guide such as this one. It imposes a highly strict and rigid order, so unless you're a perfectionist, you'll probably have more fun doing it at your own pace and you'll permanently miss only about five events tops. However, only use it for land placement and event order. It gives you a linear path that ignores pretty much everything that isn't necessary, so don't mindlessly follow it word for word--go out and explore the towns and dungeons, talk to people, find treasure and shit. If you accidentally start a quest too early, it's no big deal; you can do multiple quests at once. Just don't complete it until it tells you to, just in case. The only exception is, don't go to Geo until it tells you to. It's serious about that.
Equipment, Pets, GolemsEdit
I found monster raising and golem making to be fairly tedious and unnecessary, so I didn't do either. I'm sure that's dynamite in a handbag for some brosephs, so feel free to find a guide for either of those things. I also didn't really bother with making any instruments (used for casting magic.)
Tempering equipment is nightmarishly complex, and it's hard to find good information about it. However, forging equipment is easy and rewarding. All you have to do is select a base material (which you only need one piece of) and the weapon/armor type, and bam. You find progressively better materials as the game goes on, and it gives you stuff that's much better than what you'll find in a shop. You can find guides on what materials to use for what.
You can also temper a few items on if you're feeling adventurous. You can make a weapon sharper by adding up to four Bumpkins, or heavier by adding up to four Holy Waters. Obviously, which one you want to do depends on whether it's a slashing weapon or a bashing weapon.
Honestly, I did just fine the first time I played using a Stargazer (fairly common dropped spear,) so none of this is necessary. But if you're in love with it and want to get serious, check out the LoM Kitchen (you need to have Yahoo ID and join the group to see the guides, blah.)