Interview: Legend of Mana Producer Masaru Oyamada on Remastering an Oddball Classic - Prima Games

Interview: Legend of Mana Producer Masaru Oyamada on Remastering an Oddball Classic

by Lucas White

“Mana” is one of those series Square Enix kept in its back pocket for a while. But much like recent releases in the SaGa series, Mana has been making a recent comeback. From re-releasing the original trilogy to fully remaking Trials of Mana, there’s been a lot of activity. And there’s more to come! Just over the weekend, Square Enix announced a new mobile game (Echoes of Mana), a new console game and a new anime based on the PlayStation cult classic Legend of Mana. All these announcements just followed a modern re-release of Legend of Mana, speaking of, and you can read our review for that below to see what I thought of the experience.

Related: Legend of Mana Remastered Review | Rebuilt Rebuilding

Our readers may have noticed the current Prima Teama is really into conducting interviews. I was given an opportunity to interview Masaru Oyamada, who was a producer on the 2021 Legend of Mana remaster. Mr. Oyamada was not involved in development when Legend of Mana was new, so we’re getting a bit of perspective from someone coming into a project and touching someone else’s work. That can be an ordeal, especially in videogames. I got to ask a handful of questions about various “new” aspects of Legend of Mana (2021), but perhaps the biggest point of intrigue involves the Ring Ring Land minigame. Check it out:

Legend of Mana Interview

Lucas White, Prima Games: May we have insight into the timing of this release? What made now a good time to revisit Legend of Mana? Does the gaming audience seem more receptive to open-ended exploration in games like this?

Masaru Oyamada, Square Enix: The Mana series could no longer be played on current consoles, and some of its titles weren’t released worldwide at the time of their original release, so we’ve been working with the intention of making as many titles to become playable worldwide. 

Legend of Mana was one title that hadn’t been released in Europe back then, so we decided to remaster and localize it.

The original was released more than 20 years ago, but the system is unique even now, so there may be elements that today’s gaming audience might perceive as being innovative. (But I’m not sure about whether they’d be more receptive to it or not…) 

What can you tell us about Ring Ring Land, and why it was included? Were there any difficulties in localizing and implementing what started as PocketStation software into this release?

I can’t speak to why it was included in the original game, but I remember that sitting down for thorough play sessions at home, while also bringing your game data outside with you in between sessions and raising pets while out, felt fresh. 

This was content that was originally cut from the North American version, which was used as a base for this release. So there were parts that we ended up needing to re-create this time around. We don’t have the original game documents from back then on hand anymore, so there were some points that we were unsure whether they were bugs or indeed intentional. The task was more troublesome and tedious than you might expect, as we were verifying movements by visually comparing them against the original. 

What is the process of rearranging a soundtrack like at Square Enix? Or, if that isn’t applicable, what was rearranging this soundtrack specifically like?

We asked Composer Yoko Shimomura to share with us about any points that had been on her mind from the original tracks. Then, we discussed those points with the sound team to determine the direction we wanted to take with them. 

In a remastered game, the gameplay hasn’t been changed, so I was a little nervous that it might end up feeling awkward if the tracks were new, but those worries ended up being completely unfounded. They’re fantastic arrangements. 

Legend of Mana includes some pretty incredible background art throughout the game. How are assets like that “remastered?”

The data for the background art in Legend of Mana [was] originally created based on illustrations. 

We adjusted those to match HD resolution, and supplemented points that were too small to be discernable in the original resolution, while making sure to avoid interfering with how players had envisioned them. 

What’s the word on Mana as a series today? There’s certainly been a lot of activity recently. What kinds of factors lead to series like Mana getting more attention after a long quiet period?

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. 

I think the biggest factor that led to its resurgence is the fact that other fans, who’ve also loved the series for so long, were happy and excited about it. 

What are some of the team’s favorite aspects of Legend of Mana in general?

I think I would have to say Li’l Cactus’ diary – it’s so soothing.

Any messages for longtime Mana fans looking forward to the release, or potential newcomers approaching Mana or Legend for the first time?

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 wonderous world of Fa’Diel.

[quoting Duelle from the game] “Well then!” 

I don’t even want to think about what it’s like to recreate a PocketStation game based on just looking at the original. That sounds horrifying! But hey, the Legend of Mana (2021) did it, and that’s some real dedication. The Mana series seems like it’s here to stay, and Mr. Oyamada in the producer’s seat has clearly been a boon. I’m sure the Mana fans, new and old, have been thriving lately, especially with wild stuff like Trials of Mana finally being localized. We already know there’s plenty to look forward to in the near future, and probably more after that. With so many classic game series hitting their 30th or 35th anniversaries all at once, it’s great to see some of the less prolific ones (in North America) get their time as well.

As always, we’d like to express our thanks to everyone involved with the interview. Thanks to Mr. Oyamada for participating of course, but also to the PR teams and translators for doing the dirty work.

What do our readers think about the Mana series overall, or where it is now? Are you excited for the future? Did you enjoy the Legend of Mana remaster? Let us know your thoughts and opinions over at Prima Games’ Facebook and Twitter pages.

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