Legend of Mana just popped into my head lately. I re-read the storyline again  and I was like “Holy sh*t, this game had a really cool storyline.”
It was about love, and all its beauty and nastiness. It was a pretty mature take on a topic as cliched as they come. I sort of got to relate to it back then, but I was too immature to really appreciate the message.
In retrospect, it was easy enough to lose the storyline as you get involved in the minutiae of killing monsters, picking up exp/gold/items and solving puzzles. The grind to this game was really endless.
Gameplay-wise, it was pretty unique. The battle system was kind of like a side-scrolling beat ’em up. It was also the first time I encountered farming, pet making/raising, and item crafting in just one game. I haven’t seen anything quite like it in recent times.
I’ll probably get around to buying a PS3 within this year because of this.
Simply put, and fairly obvious given the introduction speech, this 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 Fairy 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 *cough*POKHIEL*cough*. 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. I think the Mana Goddess’s final speech is the best way to conclude this, so I’ll leave it in more capable hands :-D
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.