Visions of Mana will have the series’ largest world to date, producer says

A red haired figure stands with his clenched fist raised in Visions of Mana
Square Enix

The Secret of Mana is one of my favorite games of all time.

Square’s blend of traditional RPG elements with real-time action was remarkable, and the story of unlikely allies forging bonds and taking on an empire is equal parts epic, heartfelt, and hilarious. It was the second title in the Final Fantasy spinoff series that is known as Seiken Densetsu in Japan, and it became the hit that spawned over a dozen games and millions of copies sold. Despite that success, the series has laid dormant for 15 years, with no new mainline entry released in that time. That changes this year with Visions of Mana.

At PAX East 2024, I spoke with Mana series producer Masaru Oyamada about the upcoming RPG — and much more. Our free-flowing conversation centered on the legacy of Mana, advances in modern games, and how Visions of Mana looks to unite both to create an ambitious new title that seeks to recapture the magic that put the series on the map.

So, just to start off: What do you want to accomplish by returning to the Mana series?

It has been 15 years since the latest mainline game launched previously. We hope that his game is something that many longtime fans of the series will be able to pick up and love. As for newer fans, we do hope that this is a game that once they pick up and start playing that they’ll also be able to really understand right away what the core charm of the series is and be able to understand that to the full extent. And so that’s kind of our biggest hope.

How do you decide what makes something a ‘Mana’ game?

In terms of being able to retain that core identity of the Mana series, we felt that being able to express and capture the feeling of the Mana Tree was important, as well realize the graphics for the expansive feel that’s introduced in this game. And what really became a guiding factor for us was actually the artwork that was featured for the cover for Secret of Mana, which is illustrated by Hiroo Isono and is basically a depiction of the Mana Tree. The technology has advanced as well as, there’s been many advancements made in terms of hardware specs. We felt that it would be possible to actually create gameplay that incorporates that.

A sword wielding boy rushes towards a rural village as a volcano erupts in the background in Visions of Mana.
Square Enix

And, you know, it was really through that process that we sort of created the field and the landscapes of the world. But within that, we also wanted to make sure that in this world, you can really feel the breadth of the elemental spirits that reside inside of it. Being able to really respect and adhere to that element of the lore felt [like it] would really be important to retaining the core identity of the Mana series. 

The moment I really felt that this latest installment is true to what the essence of the Mana series is was when we brought in our character designer Haccan. When we were able to recreate his character designs with our 3D models, that was really the moment that I knew that this game was worthy of the latest and newest installment in this series.

What elements do you feel needed to be updated the most? 

You know, the Mana Series originally is thought of as an action RPG. But the original concept of this series was to be able to create a seamless [turn-based] RPG experience as an action RPG. When you think about the fact that there’s been so many advancements made in the hardware, and just the fact that, in general, within the market, there has been a greater number of games that are released that blend the action RPG elements together, I did feel that it was important that the Mana series also needed to be comparable to those games, while still retaining what I mentioned as the core identity of the series overall.

From an action perspective, we wanted to make sure that players can move around and play the game in a way that feels natural. But we also wanted to incorporate things like the ring commands and command inputs, which we felt were sort of the core elements of the RPG side of the series. We felt that by doing that we can retain the core identity of the game that has been inherited and seen in past games too.

A circle of fire launches flames at a giant mantis boss in Visions of Mana
Square Enix

Something in the series that always stood out to me has been the humor. There’s a lot of comedy throughout the series, in addition to the adventure and the action. Is is that something that we can expect to see as we play through this story

You know, just as another big fan of the series, it really does feel as though everyone who’s a fan of the Mana series has that same sort of opinion, is on the same wavelength.  

This game within the Mana series has the most expansive and largest world ever presented.

In terms of the story, there’s going to be elements and themes that have been explored in the past games, which really delves into the concept of meeting and encountering new people while also having to bid farewell and part ways with others. And there are going to be thematic elements that kind of deal with grappling with carrying a heavy fate if you will, but also as you’re kind of exploring that, being able to see the characters themselves still living very vibrant, happy, energetic lives. So that’s something that we definitely wanted to incorporate with this game too

Unfortunately I can’t share too much about the story at this current stage, but I hope you look forward to finding more about the story, as well as the additional gameplay information that we’re hoping to [share] very very soon.

When you have a world where it’s big and there’s a lot to explore and there are many sidequests, it can feel overwhelming. Obviously, we only saw a small part of it, but what really struck me was the feeling of curiosity of what’s over the next hill. How do you approach building that curiosity for the player?

This game within the Mana series has the most expensive and largest world ever presented yet in this series, but as a really longtime fan of the series myself, I’ve always really had an ambition of wanting to make a game that explored this whole big, giant world.

A man with a sword on his back approaches a treasure chest on the edge of a cliff overlooking the sea and a lighthouse in Visions of Mana
Image used with permission by copyright holder

And in order to really capture that feeling of curiosity in the journey, we really want it to be able to capture just the unique characteristics of each of the regions that the players will encounter, as well as capturing the feeling of nature being abundant within each of those characteristics I presented. Through those, we really wanted to be able to draw out the curiosity and interest that the users might have.

And within that environment, we wanted to incorporate gimmicks where you can feel the power of the elemental spirits, as well as scattering about the familiar monsters that are unique to the series too. And by doing so, we really felt that we will be able to create a game that feels at its core like a true Mana series game and maintain that while still kind of having an experience that would be fun and enjoyable for anybody.

Can we talk a little bit about how weapon upgrades potentially work? 

We have a system where there’s several different weapons within one category. A one-handed sword, for example. There’ll be separate versions of many different iterations of one-handed swords that you can pick up and get better and better ones as you go along your journey.

A pair of warriors fight of a group of slimes in a snow covered battlefield in Visions of Mana.
Image used with permission by copyright holder

These weapons are something that you’d be able to encounter through your field explorations, or maybe come across in certain shops, but they’re scattered throughout the game for you to be able to encounter. The way we treat it in this game is it’s of one the ways to change your parameters and stats, but it’s just one of many different ways that you can customize and build and grow your character. There are many more features that we are hoping to reveal very, very soon that will kind of dive into the details for this further. 

Visions of Mana is planned to release in summer 2024 on PlayStation 4, PS5, Windows, and Xbox Series consoles.

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