VISIONS of Mana | Teaser Image

Publisher: SQUARE ENIX
Platform(s): PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X|S, and PC
Release Window: Summer 2024

If there is one takeaway you should take from my hands-on demo from Visions of Mana, it is this: Visions of Mana takes the best of Dawn of Mana (Review) and Secret of Mana (HD Review) gameplay and blends them together into something that is amazingly fun and easily accessible for modern players. Masaru Oyamada’s decision to bring back Hiroki Kikuta, Tsuyoshi Sekito, Ryo Yamazaki, HACCAN, Airi Yoshioka, and Koichi Ishii to create Visions of Mana meant that a legendary pedigree of Mana creators — who truly know what makes a good Mana series game — all had a hand in creating what will hopefully be an insta-series classic.

The basics of the story fit in with any other mainline Mana series game: Hinna is anointed the Alm of Fire at a festival held every four years by the Faerie, and she is charged with going to the Tree of Mana, along with other alms, to rejuvenate the flow of mana power. Her friend Val is appointed Hinna’s soul guard, and acts as the protagonist of the game while accompanying her on her pilgrimage.

Visions of Mana | Val, the protagonist in a close-up
Val (seen above) is the lead protagonist in Visions of Mana, alongside a cast of characters that includes (below, from left to right) Ramcoh, Morley, and Hinna. (Images courtesy of SQUARE ENIX).

Visions of Mana | Characters present in the game

In my hands-on Visions of Mana demo, I visited two different parts of the game: Fallow Steppe and Mt. Gala, which are set at two different parts of the game and provided a contrast in gameplay experiences.

Fallow Steppe felt like a real fulfillment of SQUARE ENIX’s assertion that players would get to experience a semi-open field in the early December 2023 announcement. I purposefully ran all over the map and found myself discovering treasure chests, enemies, side quests, buildings, and more all over the place. I was honestly surprised at how much it felt like that was to see and do, and I kept walking all over and stumbling over something new to check out every few moments. The graphics are classic Mana with a cheery and natural aesthetic. The grass blows, the peach trees wave in the wind, and the river waters look lively and bubbly. Fallow Steppe looks like a place that is lived in, and one that perfectly fits the aesthetic of Secret of Mana from the Super Nintendo or its (fairly!) recent remake.

Visions of Mana | Fallow Steppe
Fallow Steppe (above) and Mt. Gala (below) both share the delightful, somewhat-whimsical, Mana graphical style that players know and love from the series. (Images courtesy of SQUARE ENIX).

Visions of Mana | Mt. Gala

Mt. Gala, in contrast, is somewhat linear, but still has plenty of secrets to find on its own, too. I kept finding treasure chests to grab and enemies to fight among the snow-topped mountains. It was also an excellent opportunity to use one of the Elemental Vessels — in this case the Vessel of Wind — to jump across large gaps with the wind or to summon floating platforms to help me. The integration of the Elements into the action-adventure gameplay did not feel forced, but instead felt like a natural inclusion into the adventure because of course the alm and her soul guard would have the elements at their disposal to complete their adventure. Furthermore, the platforming elements were well done and I found that I only had myself to blame when I made a bad jump across floating platforms.

Of course, a Mana game would not be complete without combat, so let’s talk about it.

Much like Dawn of Mana, the combat takes place in the active world through real-time combat. While you can only control one member of your party of three at a time, the other two will continue attacking on their own. Thankfully, you can switch between everyone at any time with a button press. While hitting things with a sword is nifty, the real showstopper in Visions of Mana is how magic and items are integrated into the game. You can set items and magic spells to the different buttons and arrow keys that are brought up when holding down the appropriate menu button, and it felt incredibly natural to use. Fire, wind, and more elemental spells are all available to use — alongside spells that will change the stats of player characters or enemies. When I wanted to use an item on another character and take my time doing so, I could also bring up the Mana-classic Ring menu.  This would pause combat and allow me to select and use what I wanted to use and who I wanted to use it upon.

Visions of Mana | Combat against enemies.
Fights in Visions of Mana take place in real time where you encounter the enemies, though it is contained within a fairly large battle area. (Image courtesy of SQUARE ENIX).

To add to that, there are a variety of jobs you can utilize per character by equipping relevant Elemental Vessels. While I was only able to use two Elemental Vessels, I was surprised to see how both job options play vastly differently and how no two jobs are the same for anyone. What this means is there is a real incentive to try out all the different Elemental Vessel classes for each of the characters to try to find out what is the best fit of jobs for you. I actually played through the demo twice because I wanted to see what other combat options there were to try — and I found out that Val’s combat speed and fighting style actually seems to change based upon what Elemental Vessel he has equipped.

While you cannot have two buddies join you (at least, as far as I know!) to play the other two members of the party ala Secret of Mana with the SNES multi-tap, I found it incredibly easy to hop from character to character and utilize them to their fullest in combat. Sometimes, I would direct one character towards a particular enemy and then switch off again, or I would start unloading multiple magic spells on a different enemy until I decided to switch again. Visions of Mana’s combat all felt very natural and organic in the moment and was something I genuinely enjoyed.

Visions of Mana | Vessel of Moon
The different Elementals, including Moon (above) and Wind (below) play an integral role in Visions of Mana‘s gameplay. (Images courtesy of SQUARE ENIX).

Visions of Mana | Val using Elemental of Wind

There are a couple other battle mechanics to mention: at the end of the Mt. Gala segment, I encountered a boss fight. If you’ve ever played FINAL FANTASY XIV Online, then you are most likely familiar with circles or cones that show where the enemy is aiming a special attack. This revisited battle mechanic allowed me to move my character(s) out of the way as needed in order to continue fighting, and I found that I had plenty of time to respond. Additionally, with every attack, a Class Strike bar will fill up. When it is done, you can unleash a special attack that will act as a mini-cutscene and do a lot of damage to the enemy. These Class Strikes were fun to utilize whenever they popped up, and it turned out that I got an EXP bonus for killing the final demo boss with a Class Strike! In fact, you can achieve certain EXP bonus percentages for killing enemies quickly enough, with a Class Strike finisher, etcetera — and it functions to really encourage you to experiment with battling in order to level up more quickly.

Visions of Mana | Boss Fight
The boss fight at the end of the Mt. Gala section (above) used a variety of battle mechanics that made the fight more of a challenge than your run-of-the-mill foes. (Image courtesy of SQUARE ENIX).

At the very start, I said that my hands-on demo of Visions of Mana is like an amalgamation of the best of Dawn of Mana and Secret of Mana, and I truly do mean that. This game has the gameplay-inspired style of Dawn of Mana mixed with the heavy magic usage of Secret of Mana, and it has both games’ amazingly gorgeous and distinctive art style. It may have been 16 years (and counting!) since we last got a mainline Mana entry, but Visions of Mana seems to be worth the wait, and I cannot wait to get fully into it when it is released in Summer 2024.

What is your favorite entry in the Mana series?

Are you excited about Visions of Mana?

Let us know in the comments below!

Quentin H.
I have been a journalist for oprainfall since 2015, and I have loved every moment of it.