— Square Enix

Indiana Jones may have been the headlining star of January’s Xbox Developer Direct, but a surprise guest stole the show as soon as he appeared on screen. That’s right, I’m talking about the beautiful dog from Visions of Mana.

Technically called a pikul (which is an objectively great name for a dog) Visions of Mana’s best new character serves as the player’s mount in the game, and is just the most adorable thing I’ve ever seen. I’m a cat person myself, but even I’m powerless to resist the charms of this fluffy hero.

Visions of Mana wasn’t announced as part of the showcase at all, beforehand. As series producer Masaru Oyamada points out in the segment about the game, it’s the first Mana title ever on Xbox, so it’s not the kind of game anyone was likely to see make an appearance. Even seeing the Square Enix logo pop up at an Xbox event at all was a bit of a shock, given how often its RPGs are exclusive to PlayStation and Nintendo.

As with the rest of the games the show highlighted, Visions of Mana got a substantial timeslot — about seven minutes packed with new information about its combat and music. But the biggest chunk of its presentation was devoted to Koichi Ishii, creator of the Mana series and monster designer for the upcoming game, who appeared in a sick leather jacket to talk about all the critters that will show up in Visions.

That’s where our beloved pikul appears, too.

“When I had to invent a new animal companion, I had the vague idea that it needed to be adorable enough to be a mascot for the game,” Ishii said. Check.

As Ishii explains, the pikul is a combination between a Yorkshire terrier, a pangolin, and the Egyptian god Anubis, which is an inspired design choice if I’ve ever heard one. (If you haven’t had the fortune of seeing a pangolin before, here you go. It’s sort of like if a pineapple were animated and adorable.) You can see the Anubis influence in the pikul’s long ears and snout, and as for the Yorkshire terrier — well, it’s a dog.

Apparently, a lot of teamwork went into deciding how long pikul’s legs would be and how it would look when it curls up into a furry little ball. Having seen it in action, I can confidently say that was time well spent.

I’m not going to say that pikul is what sold me on Visions of Mana on its own. I was already on high alertwhen the game’s artwork popped up on Xbox’s stream, as it’s a project I’ve been looking forward to since it was first announced. I’m by no means a series diehard fan — I loved Secret of Mana as a kid, but only returned Trials of Mana remake in 2020 — but the cheerful, gorgeous art of Visions combined with its action combat already had me hooked. Still, I’d be lying if I said pikul didn’t immediately become the most interesting part of the game the second he showed up.

If you have a heart of stone and pikul just didn’t hold your attention, there was one more reveal that might still be of interest to you. Up until now, Visions of Mana only had a vague 2024 release date, but during the showcase, Square Enix revealed a slightly more specific summer 2024 window for the upcoming game. In a year that’s already absolutely stacked with promising RPGs, pikul just brought Visions of Mana even close to the top of the list.

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