Secret of Mana's HD remake is set to release in just a few weeks on PS4, Vita, and PC, but one of the more puzzling aspects of the upcoming game is the fact that it's not on Nintendo Switch. After all, the Japanese version of the original trilogy was released on Switch last year. So, with this new version's graphical upgrade, added sound and voice options, and gameplay improvements, why isn't it getting a wider console release? To get the answer to that and a wide range of other Mana-related questions, we talked recently with Masaru Oyamada, the game's producer, during a demo session in San Francisco.
If you don't want to dig into the full discussion, the answer to the headline question is: the Nintendo Switch wasn't a known quantity when this remake started development. However, that doesn't rule out the possibility of a Switch remake in the future. Read on for our full interview.
GameSpot: The producer, especially in Japan, encompasses a lot of different roles. Depending on the company and the project, that can mean something different. Day-to-day, what kinds of things do you do on the project?
Oyamada: I kind of come up with a proposal for the project as well as manage the progression of the project itself. Also, when it comes to the Mana series overall, I'm responsible for figuring out how we operate, deploy, and plan for the series moving forward. So that's the type of role I have in the company.
Were there any particular challenges in remaking a game like this?
The visuals are now in 3D, and so bringing it into that kind of 3D visual world was a little bit of a challenge. That said, looking into the future and where we need to take the series, we felt like it was the necessary approach, which is why we converted the visuals into 3-D for the remake.
I feel like, in some ways, there's kind of been a renaissance of that 16-bit, old-school feel in games. Why did you feel it was necessary to make this look more modern?
Of course, the opinion on that specific matter differs among people. But personally, looking at the younger generation--people in their 20s or even the new hires that join the company--a lot of them haven't had the opportunity to play games back then in their original form. So on a yearly basis, I have some of the younger crew members play it in its original form, but you can see that a lot of these players are more used to playing games in 3D. A lot of people aren't familiar with that 2D style anymore, it seems.
When looking at the future of the series, we felt like it was necessary to make the title a little bit more accessible for the newer generation, which is why we felt the need to accommodate and support those types of graphics as well.
There was kind of a chance for players to play Secret of Mana in that original form recently with the Nintendo Switch, but that only came out in Japan. Do you feel like that's more a market for the Japanese audience? And do you think something like that could catch on in the States?
Yeah, I think if there is a desire and a demand from the consumer base, we do believe that it is our job to try to respond to the needs of the consumers. Specifically with regards to the collection that was released in Japan, they were the market--the audience that played all the games in their original form. We understood and knew that the demand was there and, we were a little bit surprised to see the demand and feedback that we received--the positive sentiment--from North American/European fans when we announced the collection. It's actually the first time we realized that there was such a following for the original works.
So, of course, if there is the desire, that's something that we'd love to consider. That said, we don't want to completely ignore the younger generation and what their needs are, so to speak. The ideal scenario would be to be able to cater to both recurring fans as well as the newer generations and release games in that fashion.
That sounds like confirmation of a Seiken Densetsu collection in the US to me! [laughs]
[laughs] Of course, we don't have [Seiken Densetsu] 3 over here, so it might be a little more difficult than we'd want that to be.
More seriously, I was a little surprised when this was announced because there is that collection on Switch, but the HD remake is only coming to PS4, Vita, and PC. Why is this version skipping Switch?
With regards to the Secret of Mana project, we started planning for it almost two years ago. At that point in time, the Switch in itself wasn't officially or publicly announced, so there wasn't really much information in terms of the specifications. We weren't completely sure if we'd be able to do it because we didn't know that information. And there was always a question of, "Is it going to come out or not?"
Our development progressed in tandem with everything, and so the Switch platform was removed from our targets. That said, once we announced this title around TGS--a couple of people in Japan, but more so among North America and European players--they were requesting a Switch version. So the amount of feedback we received at that point in time was actually quite surprising.
Looking to the future, figuring out and making considerations for what's possible or not, we're definitely open to that.
Please. That would make me very happy. I just want to play everything on Switch. It's so handy.
I know the title is different in Japanese and English, Seiken Densetsu versus Secret of Mana, but do you have an answer to, "What is the secret of Mana?"
[laughs] Yeah. Unfortunately, I don't have the answer to what the secret of mana is. We'll have to reach out to the original producers for an answer on that.
So, it does feel like there is a lot added to this version of the game. Does it feel like you're getting to do as much as you wanted, or did you wish you had more time? Does this open up the idea of, if you did another remake, maybe you could expand the scope even further?
Specifically with regards to this particular title, when I reached out to the original developers, Hiromichi Tanaka as well as Koichi Ishii, I informed them that we wanted to be true to the experiences that players had back in the day when the original was released, but bring it to the modern platforms.
This remake was done within the restrictions of the overall direction of the project, and within that restriction, we felt like we were able to do everything in our capacity. That said, for all the things that I would like to try to introduce or bring to the series or whatnot, I would like to try to tackle those in a new title, if it were ever to come to fruition.
With regards to the remake, it's really about what the players desired while also making it more accessible for modern-day players on modern-day devices and whatnot. And it's also tackling all the issues and concerns that people had experiencing the game back in the day. Those were the focal points in tackling the remake.
In terms of future remakes, of course, upon playing this game, if there are any opinions or feedback or things that consumers want us to be mindful of for any future products, that's always helpful because at least we have something to reference and consider to bring to future products if at all. So if there's anything that you feel the need to improve upon, we'd be more than happy to receive any type of feedback from everyone.
When you remake a game like this which, did you have a lot of access to the original concept art? Did you know exactly what you wanted each object to look like, or did you have to figure some things out based on just the 16-bit sprite?
In terms of the documents and references that remain from back then, we only had the pixel art and the sprites to reference off of. There wasn't anything additional in terms of documents. But aside from that, we would get further context from Ishii-san and other developers about certain aspects. For example, what type of country and what type of elements they were referencing. From that kind of information, we would try to expand our imagination and build upon that.
With regards to the 16-bit graphics, obviously, it's a little bit more symbolic in that it really kind of draws on the player's imagination too. We understand that there are going to be certain people who feel like it differs from what they had imagined back then. That said, what we are depicting here is kind of an extension of the expression that they sought to realize back in the day. So our approach is to build on that and utilize it as an extension of what they had as a vision back then.
Is there anything else you wanted to touch on?
We already kind of mentioned this, but the original concept for the remake was to recreate this experience for people who have played this game in the past, as well as whoever will be playing it for the first time; they'll be able to relive the experience and the fun that they had back then playing the original game, but also making it a little bit more accessible for modern-day gamers.
We would love to see people get together and play the game together once again. It'd be great if we can see that happening. Also, we try to respond to the needs and desires of the consumers to the best of our ability. In that respect, we included two versions of the BGM, which you can switch as well as the Japanese and English VO. You can also adjust all the volumes in the game. So we hope that people will be able to find their own gameplay style and enjoy the game in their own ways.
Editor's note: This transcript has been edited for clarity, and Oyamada's responses were provided through a translator.