1999 PlayStation game Legend of Where, recently remade for the Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, and Windows PC, is a bit of an acquired flavor. This is an aggressive weird fantasy game that is also half a dozen other games in one, and it’s not that great in whatever it is tried. Yet I have nothing but a fondness for this strange little experiment, as it has been very interesting all along. Except about Niccolo, the rabbit salesman. He’s shit.
Niccolo is one of the first characters you can meet Legend of Mana. He is a salesperson with a keen interest in making all his customers smile thanks to the value he brings to their lives. There is nothing true about this. He’s a cunning bastard, and he’s also racist towards the Sproutlings, the little cabbage -loving brooches that also inhabit the world. (There are humans in Legend of Mana, but also storybook creatures that resemble anthropomorphic flora and fauna.) I knew he was racist because, not long after meeting him, he told me.
“I hate plants,” he told me. So blunt that I laughed out loud. Then I talked to him again. “They’re trash from the Earth,” he repeated.
“Holy excrement, “I swear on my TV. What a little skewer!
Impressed by this brazen bigotry, I decided to help him get the job done (beating some bandits) because I was just … really curious where Legend of Mana will go with this friend. (This is the first time I’ve played this game for over a few hours, based on the HD remover.)
It turned out that Niccolo’s expression of prejudice was very blatant in line with the others Legend of Mana; this is not a very nuanced game or written with art. Doing a quest with Niccolo is a shameless vortex tour of deception. For example, he will ask you to stop until he can offer to sell the wheel to someone for 50 thousand, and when they say they can’t afford it, the rabbit will give it to you for free, just to make them feel bad because it will not get a low price.
As you read this, please remind yourself what Legend of Mana looks like. It looks like a storybook. Maybe Little Prince. And here’s Niccolo, this noble little girl, plotting his hateful path through this cheerful world full of sweet creatures who seem to barely register their food.
I’d love to see another Niccolo story, but it’s hard to follow. Legend of Mana feels like playing a board game at the same time as building it; you build a fantasy world map one location at a time, visiting each location once you find an artifact that adds it to your map. Due to this free form structure, there is no overarching story Legend of Mana, only a large number of short collections, some of which combine various installments in a less obvious way. Players just have to keep building their map and revisit old places to see where characters appear or run away. Some helpful stories and add new characters to accompany you; others are hardly worthy of being stories. There is a possibility of stumbling at the end of a story without seeing the beginning. You can also find a dead end, with the entire search line cut off from you. This is a messy game!
A quick online search told me that Niccolo’s story continues in the game, but I don’t know when or how to proceed. In the meantime, I might be distracted by other diversions, like raising my little baby monster (things you can do in this game). Maybe Niccolo did reform and found out that plants are people too and that greed is bad, which would be the end of the storybook. Or maybe he didn’t learn anything. That would be a storybook ending as well, because storybooks often involve good people learning to deal with just ordinary people.
Legend of Mana ‘ideals far exceed its elegance; it’s a video game that forever looks minutes away from collapsing, but is also very worth thinking about. What excites Niccolo is not his evil bigotry or exploitation, but the way the game world bends or doesn’t bend his presence, making it seem more complicated, a little more intimidating. Legend of Mana resembles a board game with all its pieces scattered on the floor, that’s true – but it’s also a board game that succeeds in convincing players that all its parts are important. In other words, I’m amazed that this 22 -year -old video game has crossed time and space to present me with the cute bunny bunny I so desperately want in my face.