Legend of Mana has been brought back to modern platforms by Square Enix thanks to the recent remaster.
This is just the latest of many initiatives to give a new lease on life to several classic games in the publisher’s beloved lineup.
To learn more about the choices behind its development and catch a glimpse of what the future holds for the series, we interviewed producer Masaru Oyamada.
Giuseppe: Remastering or remaking games that have been a relevant part of many fans’ youth is certainly a huge responsibility. How do you approach this task, and is it more pressure than making a completely new game?
Masaru Oyamada: After Koichi Ishii, the creator of the Mana series, left SQUARE ENIX, the Mana series took a break for a while. I took over the role of series producer from 2014 and onwards. I had always been a fan who loved the Mana series, so I’ve been working on remaking/remastering with hopes of making titles that I’ve loved since long ago, become playable on current consoles all around the world.
Giuseppe: What was the most challenging aspect of upgrading Legend of Mana for modern platforms?
Masaru Oyamada: There was just a real lack of documentation from the development of the original game. Even without documentation, we do the best we can and get started on making the game. Once it gets to the debugging stage, though, we always get questions like, “Is this how it’s supposed to be?” And, sometimes we end up with a situation where don’t know whether it’s supposed to work like that either. Every time, I’d get in touch with Mr. Ishii or some of the old developers and ask them, “We’ve got this issue, but do you know what it might be?” And they’d say something like, “I’m sorry, it’s been decades, I really don’t remember.” But then three days later, I’d ring them again and pester them like, “Have you remembered!?” I can only apologize for pestering him so much.
Giuseppe: 2D games have seen a renaissance in the JRPG genre, with a lot of successful games sticking with it. Do you think this trend will continue?
Masaru Oyamada: I believe 2D games have their own merits, as do the 3D games, so I believe that they will continue to coexist.
Giuseppe: Was remaining faithful to the original 2D sprites always the plan or there were other options on the table?
Masaru Oyamada: Beautifying the sprites was on the table as one of our ideas and we did try to explore this design direction. However, since this was a point in which the team was divided in their opinion, we had trouble making up our minds until the very end.
Giuseppe: Now that you’ve done 3D with Trials of Mana and 2D with Legend of Mana, have you started to think what’s the best road ahead for the future of the series?
Masaru Oyamada: We are constantly thinking ahead, but it also comes down to the ideas, so we hope to live up to the sort of gameplay the players are enjoying and what they are looking for at that particular time.
Giuseppe: Is online co-op something you’re willing to look at for the future of the series?
Masaru Oyamada: From a technical standpoint, this is possible in this current era, but to do so, we would first need to create gameplay elements for the multiplayer mode. Up until Secret of Mana and Legend of Mana, the multiplayer mode was based on sharing one screen between the players locally, but with the camera angle of titles like Dawn of Mana and Trials of Mana, we would need an online-game structure.
So somewhere down the line, we would like to create a multiplayer system in which players can share the same experience. Before that, however, we would like to set a firm goal of first creating interesting gameplay elements with Mana as the basis. Then with that proper foundation, the game should be enjoyable in multiplayer mode as well.
Giuseppe: Square Enix has been supporting Xbox and Game Pass quite actively with popular franchises. Is that something you may be considering for Legend of Mana now that it’s out on other platforms?
Masaru Oyamada: We aren’t considering it at the moment, but if there is demand in the future, we’d like to consider this option.
Giuseppe: Now that we know that a brand new Mana game for consoles is in the works, is there anything at all you could share about it?
Masaru Oyamada: Unfortunately there isn’t anything I can share right now. It’d be great if you could wait until we are ready to share more information.
Giuseppe: The announcements made a few days ago definitely look like Square Enix has big plans for the Mana series. Did the results achieved by Trials of Mana give the company confidence about the future of the franchise?
Masaru Oyamada: Trials of Mana was originally one of the stepping stones for the franchise, but the game exceeded its performance expectations, so I believe it garnered great results for both players and the development team. In that sense, I believe we now have more comrades who cheer us on, along with the capacity to make various ideas come to fruition.
Giuseppe: Do you have anything else that you’d like to share with our readers?
Masaru Oyamada: This remaster is balanced exactly as the original game was, using the North American release as a base with a few systems added in to make it easier to play as a modern game.
The original background art was beautifully drawn, and as I mentioned earlier, these have been converted to high-resolution without compromising the original image.
The remaster also includes the mini-game, Ring Ring Land, which wasn’t included in the original release in North America.
So I hope those who haven’t played Legend of Mana before, as well as those who played the original, will be able to dive in and immerse themselves in the wondrous world of Fa’Diel. “Well then!”
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