Visions of Mana hands-on preview [PAX] — KutieKatelyn Wrap Up Part 2

I was lucky enough to get a chance to try the upcoming Visions of Mana from Square Enix via a media-only session. This is the first hands-on with the game outside of the developers. We were given two different areas to play through: one was a more open grassy area, Fallow Steppe. The other was a more linear, windy cliffside of Mt. Gala. This demo event is, of course, a prerelease build so there will be more things added, changed, or tweaked. Going into this, I wasn’t quite sure what was in store, as I’ve not played a Mana game before. I bought the Collection of Mana and Trials of Mana remake with the intention to play them but they passed me by. But here comes Visions of Mana, the newest entry in the series looking to appeal to newcomers and fans alike.

Visions of Mana looks to bring the long running series to the modern era with a very flashy, colorful Action RPG. As I said before, the first demo we tried brought us to the Fallow Steppe, a sprawling grassland we were free to run around. We got to explore while collecting these little pick ups called Grizzly Syrups. We were told to think of them like collectibles in a platformer and while not plot important, picking them up is worth it. 

While running around the landscapes I actually came across an NPC. They asked me to dispatch some specific enemies but I never got around to finishing the quest as there was a time limit for our session. However, I did confirm with a PR rep at the event that more NPCs with similar quests will be in the game. Though I am unsure if they randomly generate or are individually made NPCs.

Despite getting this quest, I could not find a single critter in the overworld, at least not at first. The Fallow Steppe is rather expansive but there wasn’t much to do, something I assume will be more filled in around launch. There were plenty of Syrups and other collectibles to gather but enemies felt scarce. I eventually found some wildlife, and thus the combat tutorial commenced. It took a little getting used to as you’re asked to keep track of three characters at once for their HP and Specials. The demo started me out as Val, the sort of central hero archetype. But his big sword did not make for easy dispatch of smaller, more nimble enemies.

Luckily there’s on-the-fly swapping between party combatants. The d-pad up and down will cycle to that character’s location where you can immediately take over as them. I played as Morley, the blue-coated, cat-like person. I knew nothing of this man but his sword attacks were effective, so I won’t complain. Though I will point out that quite often I felt I could spam his heavy attack and it would kind of lock enemies in a loop while also dealing consistent damage than if I paired it with combos. I did feel like spamming got me “alright, but boring” results but combining the light attacks, heavy attacks, and then repositioning yourself to catch the enemies with a massive special attack felt way more fun.

Overall the game felt basic, but honestly, that made me enjoy it more. I just wrapped up a playthrough of Final Fantasy 16. I had a wonderful time, but that game has a very heavy and dark narrative. Both elements I enjoyed but going from that to Visions of Mana, it’s like a cozy blanket. It feels like if you took those SNES era RPGs and multiplied the scale by a thousand. The bright, vibrant colors and the flashy but simple combat feels like it’s mechanically still based on the older games with just enough modern design sprinkled in to keep it interesting and fresh. Especially the boss fight with the iconic Mantis creature in the Mt. Gala demo. The boss fight was actually kind of tough, but I pulled through and got a stylish finish using Val’s specials. 

Visions of Mana was an entirely new experience for me. Little to no Mana knowledge going into it, leaving more excited than I thought I would be. To wrap up everything I thought into a few brief statements, I thought the combat was pretty basic but flashy. The characters didn’t have much time to shine given how little of the game we got to experience, but the decision to make Careena have a stereotypical American southern drawl was the best decision ever because it’s so funny given the fantasy setting. Speaking of, yes, I saw a dual audio option during the second demo. The only text/audio related issue I had was that the item pick up quips do not have subtitles. I have a hard time parsing vocal audio when music and other sounds are playing. I had mentioned it to the reps but we’ll see if that shows up.

I’m honestly impressed, even with some frame drops here and there. I had a delightful little experience and I hope the full game delivers. Are you excited for Visions of Mana? Any burning questions about it? Either comment or reach out to me on Twitter and I’ll answer it if I can! Visions of Mana launches sometime this Summer for PlayStation 4 and 5, Xbox Series X|S, and PC. Thanks to Square Enix for giving us the opportunity to demo the game before launch!

Did anyone catch the reference in the thumbnail? :)

Katelyn is a self-titled queen of excitement. Whether for RPGs, gaming history, or stylish action, she's here to get hype and put it all to words.

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