Trials of Mana is a 3D remake of the Japanese Super Famicom game and the third game in the Mana series. The Super Famicom game was never released outside of Japan until 2019’s Collection of Mana. And, the fan interest for a Trials of Mana remake came about from the successful 2018 Secret of Mana remake in the West.
Whereas the Secret of Mana remake was faithful to the original, Trials of Mana is developed to be a new game and offer a familiar experience. Having seen Trials of Mana for myself at E3 last year, I’ve been eager to get my hands on it and spend some quality time with it.
Trials of Mana Details
Platform(s): PlayStation 4 and Switch
Reviewed on: PlayStation 4 Pro
Developer(s): Square Enix, Xeen
Publisher(s): Square Enix
Genre: Action role-playing
ESRB Rating: T (Teen)
A story of overlapping and interwoven destinies
When you begin Trials of Mana, you are presented with six very distinct and varied characters to choose from. You must select a main character, and two companions. While each of these characters have their own unique backgrounds and stories, the overall mission for your merry little band is the same—defeat the Benovodons and save the Mana Tree.
The story begins with the tail of the Goddess of Mana and her creation of the all powerful Sword of Mana. After defeating and sealing the eight Benevodons in Mana Stones, the Goddess turned herself into the Mana Tree and fell asleep as peace covered the land. Trials of Mana takes place at a time when peace has ended, the Mana Tree’s power is fading, and a plot is set in motion to free the Benevodons to gain their powers for no good.
You start out playing as your main character of choice. In my case it was Duran, a swordsman and young soldier from Valsena, Kingdom of the Plains. A short while into the game, I met the first of my companions Charlotte. And, this is when a big smile came across my face. I was given the option to either view Charlotte’s backstory via a cutscene, or play through it. As simple of a choice as it is, giving the player the option to play the companion’s backstory is a brilliant idea. It’s a great way to get to know the characters first hand and also help build an on screen relationship.
Quality of life improvements made to gameplay
One of the first things I noticed when playing was the shift from the top/down view in the original to a third-person fully 3D view. Aside from this shift, I’d have to say that battles are the biggest gameplay element to get an overhaul. While they are still in real-time, the entire fighting process has been optimized and feels more modern.
Our heroes now have strong and weak attacks against their foes, the ability to change weapons in battle, jumping and dodging, and combos. And, the introduction of the class system. As a result of all these changes, Trials of Mana‘s gameplay feels fresh and new while at the same time staying true to its roots.
Character AI has been improved upon but there still leaves a lot to be desired. For the most part, you carry the burden of battle on your shoulders. Sure your companions are there to help out but the further you get into the game the more help they need in defeating enemies.
Bright and colourful 3D cel-shaded graphics
Trials of Mana is bright, colourful, and its cel-shaded graphics are a sight to behold. With its cartoony graphics, Square Enix has eloquently captured the essence of the 1995 original with updated and modern graphics. Something that I couldn’t help but notice was texture pop-in. This is extremely noticeable in cut-scenes and while walking around the world.
Switching from 2D to 3D brings an issue with the battle camera. More often than not, I found myself fighting with it to get it centred properly on the enemy I was attacking even when locked on. At first it was a pain but I got used to it after a little while.
Trials of Mana‘s soundtrack is a fantastic reimagining of the original and is a great compliment to the action on the screen. While I am happy that the majority of the dialogue in the game has voice acting, it leaves something to be desired. Conversation often feels exaggerated and some character’s voices are down right annoying—I’m talking about you Charlotte.
Trials of Mana is a 3D remake of a classic game fans will enjoy
Overall Square Enix did a fantastic job with Trials of Mana. While the majority of the story stayed the same as the original, new additions help to fully flesh out the story and the characters. Gameplay feels familiar and new at the same time. The battle system got a much needed overhaul, which makes gameplay feel fresh and new.
Trials of Mana is meant to be played through more than once. There is plenty to see and do and you can expect to spend at least 15 hours to complete the main story. I did have a few quibbles with the game’s combat camera, character AI and voice acting. Though, at the end of the day, they don’t put an overall damper on the game.
In the end, Trials of Mana is an enjoyable adventure and one that I recommend to action role-playing fans.
+ Combat system has been updated and modernized
+ Expanded story that helps to flesh out characters and add to plot
+ Lots of character tweaks and party customizations
+ Lots of replayability that add hours more of gameplay
– Combat camera can at times be downright horrible
– Occasional texture pop-in
– Voice acting feels exaggerated and unnatural at times
OVERALL ASSESSMENT OF TRIALS OF MANA
Lasting Appeal/Replayability: 4.5/5
Overall Rating 4.1/5 (82%)
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