Visions of Mana: The Origins (and Future) of the Legendary RPG Series

Visions of Mana is a game of many firsts. It’s the first entirely new mainline Mana game for more than 15 years. It’s the first game to offer such sprawling 3D worlds and freedom to explore them. And – perhaps most excitingly for the readers of this blog – it’s the first Mana game to release on Xbox!

Of course, that means that some of you may not be entirely familiar with this franchise. You may be wondering: What makes this one of the most beloved Square Enix series out there? Why did this announcement and trailer for Visions of Mana shown at The Game Awards 2023 – and its surprise appearance in Developer_Direct – make people so giddy and excited?

Let’s start by introducing you to this brand new adventure:

What is Visions of Mana?

This sprawling new single-player action RPG puts you in the shoes of Val – a curious and carefree young man and skilled fighter. One eventful night, his childhood friend is chosen as an alm – someone who must travel to the Mana Tree and rejuvenate the flow of mana power. Val joins her as the Soul Guard to protect her on her journey, and an epic adventure begins.

As Val, you’ll explore vast areas, battle monsters, gain allies, and uncover the many secrets of this expansive world. And what a world it is! As you can see from the screenshots and trailer, it’s a beautifully vibrant game with rich colors and expressive characters.

The beauty is matched by equally appealing combat. Aerial combat allows for physical and magic attacks in mid-air, and the grand and mysterious powers of the Elemental spirits can assist players in the form of specialized weapons.. It’s fast-paced, strategic, and endlessly satisfying.

In short, it’s a perfect entry point for those of you yet to experience a Mana game, as it brings together everything great about this incredible series.

What is the Mana series?

The Mana games are a long-running series of fantasy RPGs that typically feature fast-paced, action-based combat, appealing visuals and music, and stories that center around themes of nature and the majestic Mana Tree.

It’s one of the most immediately enjoyable series, with exciting combat, colorful worlds, and a desire to always innovate. Here’s how Mana Series Producer Masaru Oyamada defines it:

“There are different opinions on what makes a Mana game – as the Series Creator Koichi Ishii always tries to do something new with each game after all.

“I think we’ve managed to capture all of these elements in one consistent visual style for Visions of Mana, which really reflects the spirit of the series.”

Masaru Oyamada, Mana Series Producer

“But from my own perspective, I think there’s very much a distinctive Mana style that is easily recognizable to everyone. You can see it in the Tree of Mana illustrations by the great Hiroo Isono, in Mr. Ishii’s unforgettable monsters, and in the characters that inhabit these worlds.

“I think we’ve managed to capture all of these elements in one consistent visual style for Visions of Mana, which really reflects the spirit of the series.”

Each Mana game is a standalone adventure, with its own characters, stories and even gameplay mechanics. There’s rarely any narrative connection between them – instead they’re connected by elements like repeating monsters, such as the adorable rabites.

In other words, you can jump into any Mana game as if it’s your first, and Visions of Mana is no different. In fact, it’s a particularly great place to start as it’s the first entirely new mainline Mana game in more than 15 years!

A Brief History of Mana

Yes, it’s really that many years! The Mana series is one of the longest-running and most beloved RPG series out there, harking all the way back to the long-long-ago of 1991.

Introductions of Mana

Final Fantasy Adventure/Mystic Quest, from Collection of Mana (2019)

You’d be forgiven for not realizing the first game was the beginnings of the series, as for its North American release the first game was titled Final Fantasy Adventure, and – to make things even more confusing – in Europe, it went by the name Mystic Quest (Of course, that’s not to be confused with the 16-bit Mystic Quest, which is an entirely different game. And one that has an alternate name in Europe too – Mystic Quest Legend. As you can see, regional game-naming could get very convoluted back in the 90s).

Whichever name it went by, Final Fantasy Adventure can be considered the first Mana game. It put players in the shoes of a bold hero who must prevent the Dark Lord and his assistant Julius from destroying the Tree of Mana and thus the world.

Many of the elements that would come to define the series started here – action-based combat, themes of nature and the Tree of Mana, incredible music, and a strong visual style.

Secrets of Mana

Secret of Mana (2018 Remake)
Secret of Mana (2018 Remake)

Final Fantasy Adventure/Mystic Quest was a hit with players and critics alike and made a strong start for the series. But it was the second game in the series, 1993’s 16-bit Secret of Mana, where it truly defined its identity.

This incredible RPG introduced many of the familiar monsters and gameplay elements that continue into Visions of Mana, such as the ring menu for quickly selecting spells and items. It’s also overflowing with personality – this is a game where you’ll battle ducks wearing army-issue helmets, fast-travel through a cannon man operated cannon and meet and help Santa Claus.

It was followed up by the then Japan-exclusive Trials of Mana – another celebrated RPG of its time.

Generations of Mana

Legend of Mana
Legend of Mana (2021 Remaster)

The next game in the series, 2000’s (released 1999 in Japan) Legend of Mana, was another boldly experimental game, which gave players unprecedented freedom over how their adventure unfolded. Its beautiful visuals, sublime soundtrack and unstructured approach to storytelling made for a unique game that won many fans.

As the new millennium progressed, more Mana games would be released, including a portable remake of Final Fantasy Adventure titled Sword of Mana, dungeon-crawler Children of Mana, the last new Mana game to be released on consoles, Dawn of Mana, and even a real time strategy game for handhelds, Heroes of Mana.

Over the last decade, there have also been a number of rereleases and remakes, which introduced a new generation of fans to this incredible series. Even so, there was an appetite for something new – and now it’s arriving as Visions of Mana.

“It’s been around 10 years since I took over as Mana series producer, but one of my ambitions from the beginning was to put out a completely new game on consoles.”

Masaru Oyamada, Mana Series Producer

Producer Oyamada explains why it was finally time for a new console adventure:

“It’s been around 10 years since I took over as Mana series producer, but one of my ambitions from the beginning was to put out a completely new game on consoles.”

“However, there had already been quite a gap since the previous entry when I took the reins of the series, so I was a little unsure as to how many fans actually wanted to see a new Mana game.”

“So first, we decided to release various remakes and remasters to both renew interest among past fans of the series and give newcomers a chance to experience the series. Following the good reputation for the Trials of Mana remake, it became clear that we could realistically make the kind of game we’d long been imagining.”

Visions of Mana is that game.”

Which Brings Us to Visions of Mana

Visions of Mana Screenshot

Visions of Mana offers a fresh new take on the series, with large areas to explore and a rich story, all portrayed with a beautifully colorful visual style.

That was something that the team was particularly eager to capture, as Mr. Oyamada explains:

“I asked the development team to try to create character models that captured the atmosphere of character designer HACCAN’s illustrations, and experiment to see if they could make a world that incorporated the beautiful depictions of nature from the artist Mr. Hiroo Isono.

“During this process of experimentation, I also managed to secure the support from Mr. Koichi Ishii, the creator of the Mana series and designer of many of its classic monsters, asking him to oversee the updating of his past monster designs into 3D for current generation graphics. All this led to a world that I felt was recognizable at a glance as being from the Mana series.

“With the visuals and the setting decided on, the team was inspired to come up with many different ideas about what kinds of battle mechanics and gameplay elements would work best in this gorgeous world, filled with nature and overflowing with the power of the Elementals. These were gradually worked up into the final game.”

Visions of Mana will release in Summer 2024 on Xbox Series X|S and on Windows PC. To stay up to date with news about the game, be sure to follow the team on social media:

But we’ll had hand over to Mr. Oyamada for the final word:

Visions of Mana takes the core elements that made the Mana series, such as the warm and inviting world, monsters and epic tales of new encounters and emotional farewells and pushes them to a new level. And it’s coming the Xbox for the first time!

“We’re working hard to get the game ready, and I hope Xbox fans look forward to an awesome experience!”

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