Gaming News

Visions of Mana Preview: A Summer JRPG Delight

As a fan of both Japanese role-playing games and Square Enix, I absolutely jumped at the chance to preview the newest game in the Mana series, Visions of Mana. The first brand new, mainstream Mana game in 18 years (17 for Western fans), Visions of Mana is the first semi-open world game in the series. It follows the story of Val accompanying his childhood friend on a pilgrimage to the sacred Mana Tree.

The first part of the Visions of Mana demo dropped me down in the Fallow Steppe area, and to be honest, I’m still not quite sure why it’s named that. The party consists of protagonist Val, as well as Morley and Careena, with accompanying characters Ramcoh and Hinna as helpful but unplayable assets. Val, Careena, and Morley can all be switched through at any time, even mid-battle, which I found extremely helpful. Each had different weapons equipped – I loved Careena’s gorgeous and deadly flower fans – which worked better against certain enemies.

For those of you not familiar with the Mana series, a common theme running throughout is the heavy use of elemental magic, particularly when fighting enemies. Val is equipped in both parts of the demo with Sylphid magic, and Morley uses Luna magic. While it was difficult to master the uses of either of these magics in such a short time, Morley’s magic aided in giving his critical hits extra effects, which was extremely useful. Thankfully, unlike some of the more annoying enemies in Final Fantasy, it wasn’t strictly necessary to fight using elementals, as chopping them up with a Great Sword also worked just fine.

My favorite part of the Fallow Steppe was wandering around, enjoying the gorgeous scenery, and riding on the Pikuls. These giant fluffy dog/fox hybrids are absolutely adorable and ridiculously useful. Simply summon them at any time using the Beckon Bell from the quick menu, and ta-da! Presto, now you have an adorable creature that you can galavant around on, much quicker than simply walking, and can jump higher and further distances as well.

Fallow Steppe is an absolutely gorgeous reason to explore, Pikul or no Pikul. It’s a bright, open area with loads of room to wander around and enough enemies to make it interesting but not enough so as to feel like you’re constantly getting stopped – plus, you can scoot around and avoid them if you really want to. The entire region is colored in bright shades of blues and greens and brilliant, bold hues, and the background design makes it feel a little like an idyllic, fun fantasy setting. I wouldn’t be entirely surprised if a My Little Pony were to show up, aside from the obvious issues with licensing fees, because it feels like that sort of a place.

Similarly, in the Mt. Gale portion of the demo, your party of three playable characters and two tagalongs make your way hopping through a fun, bouncy portion of the world, though Mt. Gale is substantially colder than the Steppe. However, I was attacked by fewer Molebears, aka Sonic the Hedgehog impersonators, so it’s a bit of a zero-sum.

Mt. Gale introduced what I consider to be the most interesting mechanic of the demo (sorry, Pikuls) in the Elemental Triggers. Certain parts of the path forward to continue the story are impassable unless you have the correct element equipped. In this case, the Sylphid element equipped on Val’s boomerang made it possible to travel up the mountain by lifting earthen paths into the air and by acting as extreme magic trampolines for Val and the rest of the party. You activate the Elemental Trigger, jump into the updraft, and get sent soaring forward to the next piece of solid ground. The game is also generous in its assistance to clumsy players – I definitely mistimed a jump and fell down a ravine and was just bounced right back.

The variety of elements used in the Mana series opens up a whole host of unusual possibilities for progressing forward, especially given the game’s emphasis on exploration and the semi-open world. I’m really hoping this is capitalized on in the full game.

The biggest drawback that I had with the Visions of Mana demo is that fighting enemies, even low-level ones, seemed to take forever. You would have to keep chipping away at their HP in little doses, which made fighting the boss of the molebears quite tedious, even when I was a few levels ahead of the enemy. And, of course, you weren’t able to constantly use magic in your attacks either, even though that was generally more effective.

Visions of Mana is set to be released in summer 2024 for PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox Series S and X and Steam.  

Source link

0 0 votes
Article Rating
Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments