Visions of Mana returns to series roots, but is yet to flower into a truly original experience

March 28, 2024
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I have quite distinct memories of SNES classic Secret of Mana, despite not playing it too much. It’s the visuals that stick in my mind: the bright greens of its forest environments, the electric yellows and pinks of its cute plant and bug enemies, and of course the colossal tree and its tangled roots seen in the game’s iconic box artwork.

All of this came flooding back to me as I played a demo of Visions of Mana, the next game in the long-running series. Its key artwork alone is a callback to the original, its heroes looking out at another giant tree as the sun sets behind, bathing its autumnal growths in a warm light. And that’s before you step into the game’s open world.

It turns out, this artistic callback is deliberate. “The key art [of Secret of Mana], or the package art, was illustrated by an artist named Hirō Isono,” series producer Masura Oyamada told me. “And so, [in Visions of Mana] we really wanted to be able to create a field design that captures the mana tree that was depicted in the artwork. With the advances made in modern platforms, being able to adhere to these key components still helps retain that feeling of this being a Mana game even as everything is getting modernised.”

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