Today’s topic : Seiken Densetsu or as it’s know in the western regions,Mana.
The Seiken Densetsu / Mana series was developed by Square and later as Square Enix as well as produced and published by Squaresoft / Square Enix. The games started coming out in 1991 and kept going up until 2007 for a number of systems of the time, but the future is incredibly bleak for the series currently. The series focused on Action-RPG games mostly.
A few stray genres here and there…
The series started as a spin-off of Final Fantasy…huh…so we get the reverse of what happened with Dragon Slayer and the Eiyuu Densetsu / Legend of Heroes series…anyway, it started as Seiken Densetsu : Final Fantasy Gaiden for the Game Boy in Japan in 1991, roughly translating the game as Holy Sword Legend : Final Fantasy Side-Story. It came in America under the title Final Fantasy Adventure and in Europe as Mystic Quest. Ishii Koichi is credited for creating the series and has worked in almost every game of the series. Later, it was remade as Shin’yaku Seiken Densetsu which came out as Sword of Mana in the western territories.
The series mainly tried to make a spin-off Final Fantasy Action-RPGs but quickly developed it’s own identity and it’s own mythos along with a universe that didn’t need to be dependent on the Final Fantasy mythos, effectively creating a great spin-off for the company. The series would often revolve around elements that came from the Norwegian and Arabian mythologies mainly, the most prominent being the Mana Tree[mirroring Yggdrassil, the Tree of Life] and the Djinns,known as Mana Spirits in the games among other and often they had subtle messages about nature[and in some cases the environment itself, via side characters] and how while it’s essential it’s also cruel. The stories have such a loose continuity, like the Breath of Fire series but these stories are linked on a karmic level on this world full of Mana, resulting in different characters taking part in slightly different adventures but always with different themes presented during these adventures.
The gameplay, aside from two games, is that of an Action-RPG taking very basic elements and crafting them to fit the story, something different than what Falcom did with their Action-RPG series Ys and Dragon Slayer where the characters and gameplay where thought first and the story was more mallable and was created after these two elements. That resulted in a dichotomy in the genre and perhaps the Seiken Densetsu series won at first by bringing most of their games over to the west while Falcom had to wait for years until something like that happened. Compared to Falcom’s fun, fast-paced gameplay and genuine challenge as well as additional modes that winked more to the action genre, Squaresoft and Ishii opted to follow the practices they knew better, following the RPG side of the genre thus creating extravagant stories with characters that had much development over just one game and presented heavy stories with epic storytelling for the time.
Story over action.Ishii’s model of Action-RPG.
The visuals remained on the minimalistic but featured grand illustrations, a model for visuals that was followed by Falcom as well for their series, but they had a certain charm in their colourfull presentation. While the graphics did not give as much atmosphere to the game, contrast again to Falcom’s games, they certainly kept the charm.
The music on the pther hand has been praised many times and has added to the overall narative of the series. While it amy not be a fast-paced action packed rock’n’roll adventure, it was a very dynamic yet sublime soundtrack that reinforced the storytelling in the series. It did a great job at setting the tone.
A sample of Square’s composing skills.
Unfortunatelly, due to the World of Mana series, three games of the series that came out as a united project with storyline ties between them didn’t go as well as the previous games of the series made the future’s series bleak, especially when their own worst competitors for console Action-RPGs was their own Kingdom Hearts series which was received much warmer at the time[Falcom was stuck with the PC peripherals for their games and at times crappy ports from other companies would happen…until recently thankfully]. It didn’t help that Ishii Koichi left Square Enix to create his own company, Grezzo Games. The series is currently in hiatus with possibly no plans at all for revival. The series is currently resting, like the Mana Sword is, besides the Mana Tree as it waits for the next hero to come and pick it up, to become the new Genma Knight of the Mana Tree and the Mana clan.
Unfortunately, Square Enix is too busy rubbing mainstream’d RPG titles in our faces to make any smart decisions…why is Wada Yoichi SE’s president again?
The series after Seiken Densetsu 3 had been mostly outsourced to other companies, only having Ishii Koichi guide the companies to create the games so…here’s an idea; why not let go of the mainstream RPG that your buyers and fans don’t like nor want anymore, they have Mass Effect for that and other western RPGs or vanilla J-RPGS, like Conception for that and focus on your good series. If you don’t have any team to spare for the series, then do the best thing you could have ever done : bring Falcom to the series and direct them only for the story portions.Let them handle everything, combine their actions, visuals and music with your own storytelling and characters Square Enix and believe me, there will be enough room for both Kingdom Hearts and the Seiken Densetsu / Mana series. Like in the Mana legend, the sword will respond to the one with strong feelings, something your fans have for this series. Listen to them and fill the world again with Mana.
When I said “Fill the world again with Mana” I didn’t mean it like that!
Seriously Square Enix, seriously? You have a really neat concept to revitalize the Seiken Densetsu / Mana series by combining the aesthetics of both the original aspects of the series with the art and music direction of the Crystal Chronicles series which take elements of the series and applying it to the unique aesthetic of Final Fantasy. With KOKIA singing the main theme!
This is the same type crap of Square Enix’s Wada and the new president pull with the new games, instead of putting legitimately good games as either expansions or new games for the portable consoles or the online services(PSN / Wii(Nintendo) Store / XBLA) they make them “Free-to-play” mobile games. Like with Final Fantasy Agito, a spin-off of Final Fantasy Type-0, which could easilly be a PSP or even PSV game they opted to go for the mobiles. Same with this new Seiken Densetsu / Mana game, instead of putting it on the 3DS or the Nintendo store to make a killing in profit and revitalize the interest of people, you pull this stunt. 😦
I…didn’t expect them to pull that :
Seems like the newest…Mana title is being ported to the PSV as well…and not only that, many recent titles that were for the iOS originally in Japan seem to be ported and enhanced for the PSVita, among them being Chaos Rings and Final Fantasy Agito now known as Final Fantasy Agito+. That’s good, I take it back, Square Enix, you can do nice things after all…you just are very late at that.