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Mana (series)

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The Mana series, known in Japan as Seiken Densetsu (聖剣伝説 lit. "Holy Sword Legend"), is a console role-playing game series from Square Enix, created by Kōichi Ishii. The series began as a handheld side story to Square's flagship franchise Final Fantasy, although most Final Fantasy-inspired elements were subsequently dropped, starting with the second installment, Secret of Mana. It has since grown to include games of various genres within the fictional world of Mana, with recurring stories involving a world tree, its associated holy sword, and the fight against forces that would steal their power. Several character designs, creatures, and musical themes reappear frequently.

In 2003, the series comprised five games; since 2006, it has experienced a revival through the World of Mana campaign, with five new games released in the span of one year. As of 2008, the Mana series comprises eight console games and two mobile games, in addition to four manga and one novelization. The Mana series reception has been very uneven, with Secret of Mana earning wide acclaim, such as being rated 78th in IGN's yearly "Top 100 Games of All Time", and being highly praised for its musical score, while the games from the World of Mana series have been rated considerably lower.

As Koichi had left Square Enix in 2006 to operate his own company, Grezzo Games, the Mana series' fate is unknown.

Video Game ListEdit

Original title (Japanese) Localized title (English) Release Console
Seiken Densetsu 1: Final Fantasy Gaiden Final Fantasy Adventure 1991 Game Boy
Shin'yaku Seiken Densetsu 1 Sword of Mana 2003 Game Boy Advance
Seiken Densetsu 2 Secret of Mana 1993 SNES
Seiken Densetsu 3 (n/a) 1995 SNES
Seiken Densetsu 4 Dawn of Mana 2006 Playstation 2
Seiken Densetsu: Legend of Mana Legend of Mana 1999 Playstation
Seiken Densetsu DS: Children of Mana Children of Mana 2006 Nintendo DS
Seiken Densetsu: Friends of Mana (n/a) 2006 Mobile phones
Seiken Densetsu: Heroes of Mana Heroes of Mana 2007 Nintendo DS

DevelopmentEdit

HistoryEdit

Square trademarked the title Seiken Densetsu: The Emergence of Excalibur in 1987, intending to use it for a game project led by Kazuhiko Aoki for the Famicom Disk System. According to early advertisements, the game would consist of an unprecedented five floppy disks, making it one of the largest titles developed for the Famicom up until that point. Although Square solicited pre-orders for the game, Kaoru Moriyama, a former Square employee, has confirmed that management canceled the ambitious project before it advanced beyond the early planning stages. In October 1987, customers who had placed orders were sent a letter informing them of the cancellation and had their purchases refunded. The letter also suggested to consider placing an order on another upcoming Square role-playing game in a similar vein: Final Fantasy.

In 1991, Square reused the Seiken Densetsu trademark for an unrelated Game Boy action role-playing game directed by Kōichi Ishii. Originally developed under the title Gemma Knights, the game was renamed Seiken Densetsu: Final Fantasy Gaiden (published in North America as Final Fantasy Adventure and in Europe as Mystic Quest). Beginning with Secret of Mana, Seiken Densetsu was subsequently "spun off" into its own series of action role-playing games distinct from Final Fantasy, with four titles released between 1993 and 2003. Legend of Mana was made 2D because the PlayStation could not handle the full 3D world he envisioned where one could interact with natural objects. In 2005, Square Enix announced plans for the World of Mana, a new series of titles in the Mana franchise, whose titles would span more video game genres than the original series. Kōichi Ishii decided even before he worked on Final Fantasy XI about creating new Mana games, but first wanted to create a goal for the new series, and eventually decided to make it about exploring how to add "the feeling of touch" to a game. After he saw the game Half-Life 2 at E3 in 2003, he felt that its physics engine was the one he needed. As of February, the World of Mana comprises five games and one manga, with the possibility of a Wii game under discussion. Ishii has served as director or producer for all Mana games.

Creation and designEdit

The Mana series is the result of Kōichi Ishii's desire to create a fictional world. In Ishii's opinion, Mana is not a series of video games, but rather a world which is illustrated by and can be explored through video games. When working on the series, Ishii draws inspiration from abstract images from his memories of childhood, as well as movies and fantasy books that captivated him as a child. Ishii takes care to avoid set conventions, and his influences are correspondingly very wide and non-specific. Nonetheless, among his literary influences, he acknowledges Tove Jansson's Moomin, Lewis Carroll's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, and J. R. R. Tolkien's Lord of the Rings.

While some titles of the World of Mana series do share direct connections with other installments, the games of the series have few concrete links. There is no overall explicit in-game chronological order. Furthermore, according to Ishii, the games do not take place in exactly the same world, and characters or elements who appear in different titles are to be considered alternate versions of each other. Instead, the connections between each title are more abstract than story-based, linked only on the karmic level.

Common elementsEdit

A common element of the series is its seamless, real-time battle system. The system was developed by Kōichi Ishii and improved upon by Hiromichi Tanaka, out of a desire to create a system different than the one featured in the first few Final Fantasy titles. While action-based, the Mana battle system is intended to be playable even by newcomers as well as veterans. The system is coupled with the distinctive hierarchical "Ring Command" menu system, featured prominently in Secret of Mana and Seiken Densetsu 3, and to a lesser extent in later installments. Each ring is a set of icons with a textual infobox explanation which, upon selection, allow the player to use an item, cast a spell, look up in-game statistics, or change the game's settings. Navigation within a menu is achieved by rotating the ring through the cursor left or right, while switching to a different menu is achieved by pressing the up or down buttons. Although not part of the series, the spin-off Secret of Evermore, developed by Square USA, was also built upon the "Ring Command" system.

The Mana series features several recurring characters and beings, including Final Fantasy creatures such as Chocobos in Final Fantasy Adventure and Legend of Mana, as well as Moogles in Secret of Mana and as a status ailment in Seiken Densetsu 3 and Sword of Mana. Watts is a dwarven blacksmith who upgrades the player's weaponry. Usually, an anthropomorphic cat merchant is found outside of town areas and allows a player to save the game and buy supplies at higher-than-normal prices. This role is played by Neko in Secret of Mana, and the rabbit-like Niccolo in Legend of Mana and Sword of Mana. In the Japanese games, these merchants share the name Nikita.

The Mana Tree and the Mana Sword are recurring plot devices which have been featured in every game of the series. The mystical Mana Tree is a source of magic which sustains the balance and nature of the series' world. The Mana Sword is typically used to restore this balance when it becomes lost in the games. Final Fantasy Adventure explains that if the Mana Tree dies, a member of the Mana Family will become the "seed" of a new Tree. A sprout of the Mana Tree is called a Gemma, while protectors of the Tree, who wield the Mana Sword, are called Gemma Knights. In Seiken Densetsu 3, and Sword of mana a goddess is said to have turned into the Mana Tree after creating the world with the Mana Sword. The Mana Tree is destroyed near the endings of Final Fantasy Adventure and Secret of Mana, but a character becomes the new Mana Tree in the former game.

Mana spiritsEdit

The Mana Spirits, also known as Elemental Spirits, are beings who govern the magic elements of the series' world, and are at the core of the games' magic system as they are used to cast magic spells. Eight types of spirits have appeared in the series since Secret of Mana, and each embodies a different element. Their names are homonyms of mythological beings or phenomena. In Secret of Mana and Seiken Densetsu 3, usage of their power is enabled upon the main characters' meeting with them. In Legend of Mana, the spirits serve as factors in the Land Creation System. In Legend of Mana and Sword of Mana, multiple spirits of the same elemental type appear. In terms of storyline, in Seiken Densetsu 3 and Heroes of Mana, the spirits are charged to protect the Mana Stones in which the Mana Goddess sealed eight elemental benevodons. In the English dub of Dawn of Mana, each spirit speaks with a particular European accent, such as French or Scottish.

RabitesEdit

Rabites, known as Rabi (ラビ) in the Japanese versions of the games, are cute, fictional, rabbit-like creatures appearing as a common enemy in the series since its beginning. The Rabite has become a sort of mascot for the Mana series. The Rabite resembles a bodiless, one-toothed rabbit with large ears that curve upward and form a point at the tip and a round, puffy pink tail. Rabites move by hopping along the ground. They are most commonly yellow, but there are also variants in different colors, such as pink, lilac, black, green, and white. Rabites are most commonly simply minor enemies, but some variants are "superboss" characters and even friendly units and pets. Rabites have appeared prevalently in several pieces of Mana merchandise, including plush dolls, cushions, lighters, mousepads, straps, telephone cards, and T-shirts.

FlammieEdit

Flammie, sometimes spelled "Flammy", is the name of a species of flying dragons, as well as the proper name of some its members, featured in several games of the series. A Flammie's appearance is a mixture of draconian, mammalian, and reptilian features, and its coloring has varied throughout the series. Flammies typically serve as a means of transportation in the game by allowing a player's characters to ride on a Flammie's back to different locations in the game's world. In Secret of Mana and Seiken Densetsu 3, the SNES's Mode 7 graphic capabilities allows the player to control a Flammie from either a "behind the back" third-person or top-down perspective, and fly over the landscape as it scrolls beneath them. In Children of Mana, the player selects on a world map a number of destinations he or she wishes to fly to with a Flammie. In terms of story, the Flammies were created by the Moon Gods, and are part of an endless cycle of destruction and rebirth as the stronger versions of Flammies known as Mana Beasts ("God Beasts" (神獣 Shinjū) in the Japanese versions of the game) destroy the world and the Tree and Sword restore it.

MusicEdit

The Mana series has had several different composers. Final Fantasy Adventure was composed by Kenji Ito; it was his second original score. Ito's music is mainly inspired by images from the game rather than outside influences. The scores for Secret of Mana and Seiken Densetsu 3 were both composed by Hiroki Kikuta. Despite difficulties in dealing with the hardware limitations, Kikuta tried to express in the music of Secret of Mana two "contrasting styles", namely himself and the game. This was to create an original score which would be neither pop music nor standard game music. Kikuta worked on the music for the two games mostly by himself, spending nearly 24 hours a day in his office, alternating between composing and editing to create an immersive three-dimensional sound. Kikuta considers the score for Secret of Mana his favorite creation. In 1995, Kikuta released an experimental album of arranged music from the two installments, titled Secret of Mana +, which features one 50-minute long track.

Legend of Mana's score was composed by Yoko Shimomura, and of all her compositions, she considers it the one that best expresses herself. Kenji Ito returned to the series with Sword of Mana. He also composed roughly one third of the Children of Mana soundtrack, while the rest was composed by Masaharu Iwata and Takayuki Aihara. Ito was the main composer for Dawn of Mana, assisted by Tsuyoshi Sekito, Masayoshi Soken, and Junya Nakano, as well as main theme composer Ryuichi Sakamoto. In North America, purchasers of Dawn of Mana from participating retailers were offered a sampler disc, titled Breath of Mana, which features a selection of tracks from the game.

Printed adaptationsEdit

A 5-volume manga based on Legend of Mana was drawn by Shiro Amano and published in Japan by Enterbrain between 2000 and 2002. It features a comedic story about the game's main character, here named Toto. A German version was published by Egmont Manga & Anime in 2003. A collection of 4-panel comic strips, drawn by various authors and titled Sword of Mana Yonkoma Manga Theatre, was published in Japan by Square Enix on 16 January 2004. It included a questionnaire that, if sent back, allowed participants to win illustrations signed by Kōichi Ishii and Shinichi Kameoka, as well as special T-shirts. Enterbrain also published a Sword of Mana manga adaptation in Japan on 25 February 2004, drawn by a collaboration of authors led by Shiro Amano. Two days later, Square Enix published a two-volume novelization of Sword of Mana in Japan, written by Matsui Oohama. An original manga, named Seiken Densetsu: Princess of Mana, was drawn by Satsuki Yoshino and published in the Japanese magazine Gangan Powered on 22 February 2007.

ReceptionEdit

The Mana series has been mostly well received, though each title has seen varied levels of success. RPGFan called Final Fantasy Adventure one of the best things to happen to the Game Boy, while IGN considered it the best action RPG on the console after The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening. GameSpot referred to Secret of Mana as "one of Square's masterpieces on the SNES". The game has appeared on several list of top games, including ranked number 97 on Famitsu's top 100 games of all time. Famitsu rated Legend of Mana at 31/40 and Children of Mana at 32/40. The NPD Group ranked Legend of Mana as the top seller the week of its release, and in 2006 was re-released as part of the Ultimate Hits series.

Many of the World of Mana titles have not been as critically successful as the original five games in the series, and though the franchise has been praised for their attempts at trying new ways of experiencing the games fictional world, there have been various gameplay design flaws that have hindered the later games. GameSpot commented that despite the game's excellent presentation, Legend of Mana did not match the level of gameplay of its predecessors. Prior to the World of Mana games, RPGamer called the series a "treasured favorite". After the release of Heroes of Mana, they commented that the World of Mana series is "cursed", and the future of the series looked "bleak".

The music of the Mana series, especially Secret of Mana, has received wide acclaim and fan enthusiasm. The Secret of Mana soundtrack was one of the first official soundtracks of video games music released in the United States, preceding the mainstream interest in RPGs. The Secret of Mana's opening theme, "Angel's Fear", was rated at number 7 on IGN's 10 Ten RPG Title tracks, calling it a "magical title song that captures our hearts". It was also featured in the third Orchestral Game Concert. Secret of Mana is also the number 6 most remixed soundtrack on the popular video game music site OverClocked ReMix, with Seiken Densetsu 3 tied at 18. The music of the other titles have also been well received. RPGFan called the music to Final Fantasy Adventure "addictive", despite its low, MIDI-like quality. GameSpy called Children of Mana's music some of the best Nintendo DS music yet and referred to it as "beautiful". Game Informer complimented Dawn of Mana's music, calling it good. IGN referred to Legend of Mana's music as "beautiful" and stated the background music brought "intensity", "suspense", and "subtle nuance" to the game. Other reviewers echoed similar praise with GameSpot calling it "excellently orchestrated" and RPGFan calling the music one of the game's good points.

External linkEdit

Smallwikipedialogo.png This page uses content from Wikipedia. The original article is at Mana (series). The list of authors can be seen in the page history. As with Wiki of Mana, the text of Wikipedia is available under the GNU Free Documentation License.

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