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I think you have to beat the game on Normal difficulty to even be able to select Hard Mode. As soon as you start a new game, it should ask what difficulty you want, so from there, you're going to want to select Normal mode.
If that isn't working, then I suppose you've got a bugged out cartridge.
the Seikens Network - Coverage of the Mana series since 2001 (http://www.seikens.com/) Gamer Tag: Mister Moti