Skip to main content

Visions of Mana paints a promising picture of the RPG series’ return

Red-haired girl with horns and dragon wing in Visions of Mana
Square Enix

The vibrant settings and character designs in Visions of Mana instantly alerted me that I’d be knee-deep into fantasy, riding on the back of a giant black wolf into the grassy plains of Fallow Steppe. A lush landscape welcomed me as I chatted with my teammates on top of my mount and tussled with little woodland monsters.

I had this experience at this year’s PAX East, where I went hands-on with a demo of the upcoming RPG. I never played previous Mana games, but I have enough experience with RPGs and real-time combat to name it one of the most gorgeous, action-packed games I played at the show. The shiny open-world and slick combat I experienced point to a strong comeback for the Mana series coming later this summer.

Producer Masaru Oyamada once spoke to Xbox about the distinct flavor of the series, mainly its nature-themed, high-fantasy aesthetic and connection to the titular Mana tree. In Visions of Mana, protagonist Val and his childhood friend Hinna attend a festival that determines the next “alm,” someone who journeys to the Tree of Mana to replenish its power. When Hinna is chosen as the Alm of Fire, Val becomes her “Soul Guard” to accompany her on the trip. They meet new allies along the way, including the aloof, cat-like fencer Morley and the rambunctious, one-winged dragon girl, Careena.

Val jumping between floating rocks using wind power in Visions of Mana
Image used with permission by copyright holder

In the demo, I had access to three playable characters that I could seamlessly switch between depending on the matchup: Val, Morley, and Careena. Val is the typical long sword user with controlled, heavy-hitting swings. His special attack hones in on an enemy and uppercuts them into the air. Morley swiftly slashes through enemies with his two daggers. Meanwhile, Careena has a slower-paced, martial arts-inspired fighting style. Each character has their own distinct skills and variations depending on the Elemental Vessel they have equipped. 

Elemental Vessels are special items that can change a character’s appearance and abilities. One of Careena’s forms equips her with a fan with a wider range of effects, perfect for slashing at enemies. Elemental Vessels can also affect what’s possible to do with exploration. The Sylph Boomerang, a wind-based Vessel, enables the wielder to create currents that carry them high above any double jump can. Meanwhile, the Luna Globe can affect the flow of time, similar to a certain Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom gadget. It excites me as a mechanic who nurtures both combat and exploration, though it’s hard to say how it’ll evolve as the story continues.

Red-haired hero riding black wolf Pikul through grass in Visions of Mana
Image used with permission by copyright holder

I had the chance to preview only a few settings, including the plains of Fallow Steppe and the snowy, mountainous Mt. Gala. However, when it comes to traversing the detailed settings, Pikuls stole the show. Just a ring of a bell will call these oversized wolves to your side so that you can ride them across the open world. You can ram through enemies, leap over ledges, and interact with objects while riding them, so there isn’t much of an excuse not to use them. If you’d rather run through the area to properly fend off enemies, you can easily eject yourself from the beast’s back and sprint instead.

Even without seeing much of the story, Visions of Mana left enough of a positive impression with its combat, progression, and world that it seems like the perfect comeback for the long-dormant series.

Visions of Mana is currently scheduled to launch this summer for PS4, PS5, Xbox Series X/S, and PC.

Editors' Recommendations

Jess Reyes
Jessica Reyes is a freelance writer who specializes in anime-centric and trending topics. Her work can be found in Looper…
Baldur’s Gate 3 includes a poignant Undertale Easter egg and more RPG nods
A character speaks in Baldur's Gate 3

Baldur's Gate 3 features more mind flayers, dragons, and lustful party members than you can shake a stick at. By the end of the 100-plus hour campaign, your main character will likely have gone through plenty of turmoil and -- depending on their relationship with the pesky mind flayer tadpole that was rudely inserted into their skull at the beginning of the whole shebang -- more than a couple of lifestyle changes.

That's why I was caught off guard when I walked up to a random mirror in the Blighted Village after spending 50 hours honing my unscrupulous Illithid powers to turn an entire colony of goblins into goblin steak tartare. As I gazed at my reflection, I got hit with some unexpected wisdom from another game: "Still me -- even after everything," my character said.

Read more
This breezy 3D platformer wears its simplicity as a badge of honor
Koa runs on an island in Koa and the Five Pirates of Mara.

My adoration for exploring and collecting in games is well-known to anyone who has ever heard me wax poetic about Soulslikes. Surprisingly, though, it's rarely the punishing bosses or deep role-playing systems that suck me in the most -- it's the "Aha!" moments of finding a well-hidden item on a ledge most folks would never notice or stumbling upon an illusory wall that leads me somewhere wholly new. But this love of thoroughly examining levels and finding their secrets was first sparked in me with the significantly brighter and cheerier platformer genre almost three decades ago. There's really nothing that makes me happier than becoming entranced in a happy, colorful adventure that lets me sink back into that childlike wonder I experienced all those years ago.

That's why I'm always thrilled to find indie games like Chibig's Koa and the Five Pirates of Mara that genuinely capture the playfulness of the titles I grew up with. Similar to other lovely platformers like New Super Lucky's Tale or A Hat in Time, it may lack some of the AAA flourishes of the genre-defining Super Mario Odyssey, but it makes its case by flawlessly nailing the fundamentals: a memorable and lovable mascot, diverse level design, tight controls, and a cohesive artistic vision. That attention to such core principles keeps it from suffering the same fate as the dozens of low-budget releases each year that often suffocate beneath the weight of their own ambition.

Read more
Square Enix commits to release more games on Xbox, starting with Final Fantasy XIV
A screenshot of Final Fantasy XIV running on Xbox.

During Final Fantasy XIV's FanFest today, Square Enix not only confirmed that its popular MMO would finally come to Xbox Series X and Xbox Series S in spring 2024, but that it will commit to bringing more of its games to Xbox going forward.

Over the past decade, Square Enix tended to partner with PlayStation a lot more than Xbox. In 2023 alone, Final Fantasy XVI launched as a PS5 exclusive, while other Square Enix games, like Octopath Traveler 2 and Theatrhythm Final Bar Line, avoided launching on Xbox entirely. That all seems to be changing, though.
Following a reveal at the Final Fantasy XIV Fan Festival in Las Vegas today that the Dawntrail expansion is coming in summer 2024, Head of Xbox Phil Spencer and Square Enix CEO Takashi Kiryu came out on stage to discuss Square Enix's future with Xbox.
First, we learned that Final Fantasy XIV itself is finally coming to Xbox Series X/S with faster loading and 4K support. An open beta test will be held alongside the launch of Patch 6.5x, while a full release is planned for spring 2024.
This partnership is not just for one game, though. "Starting with today's announcement and whenever possible, we are planning to bring our games to Xbox for players to enjoy," Kiryu said while on stage, according to X account Nova Crystallis. This sentiment is reflected in an Xbox Wire post about the port, where Square Enix PR director Luke Karmali states that "this is just the beginning of our journey together."
Final Fantasy XIV is available now for PC, Mac, PS4, and PS5. It comes to Xbox Series X and Xbox Series S in spring 2024.

Read more