A Modern Dream-Come-True for JRPGs
Trials of Mana is the highly-anticipated, pleasantly joyous revival of the Mana series’ third game. Originally released in Japan as Seiken Densetsu 3, This game has been fully rebuilt, remade, and handcrafted in 3D in a way that caters to gamers new and old.
Seiken Densetsu 3 originally released for the Super Famicom in 1995. For those unaware, the Super Famicom was essentially the Japanese SNES. Fans abroad along with those following the success of the game’s translated copies were able to enjoy this wondrous rpg journey long ago. The replay value was a huge part of the original game, with six main characters to choose from, as well as the permutations of those team combinations. Needless to say, this is a remake that had all of the potential to be a modern-day hit, and it does not disappoint.
The Wonder of Mana
Revealed last year out of practically nowhere, Nintendo announced its localization of many of the Mana games as part of the “Collection of Mana” for the Switch. Alongside that was Square Enix, fresh in our minds for at the time being hot and heavy behind the Final Fantasy VII remake (reviewed here), announcing that Trials of Mana would have a nice, hefty multi-platform release shortly thereafter! That said, we have this miracle of a game, happily brought to many fans out west for the first time in a great remake to enjoy.
Welcome to the world of Mana, which at a first glance may seem to be your stereotypical fantasy JRPG. Now, in taking a second glance, we see that there’s a little more there. There is a beautiful fantasy world filled with many kingdoms, mountains, towns, lands and forests, and we quickly see the order in the world’s peace. Just as quickly, however, we’re introduced to the first pieces of conflict.
The storylines vary across the six; yes, SIX different main characters you can play as. The other two party members’ stories are also woven in nicely, and it helps to build a world that both works together just as seemingly as your party should fight together.
It’s A Party
The combat system of the remake has been completely revamped, and at this point it isn’t even worth mentioning how the original played. We are simply in a different time, with far different expectations as it pertains to the look and feel of JRPGs in 2020. The camera angles, the combos, the ability to jump, this is an action RPG that holds onto the spirit of its ancestors.
Party selection is simple and guided; you select your main character, and proceed to select two others that will serve as supporting. This is mainly related to the story, as you are most certainly able to control, customize, and specialize each of your characters to maximize their capacity to deal death to anything threatening the blissful Goddess of Mana. We went ahead with Riesz as our main, who has a great balance of attack, range, magic, and luck for critical damage. Duran and Hawkeye served as great mates to handle the heavy lifting, and rapid firing respectively.
Where this game shines is the combat system, and the sheer joy that it is to team up, deal damage, but also recognize damage from enemies. Enemy special attacks trigger a red indicator that slowly fills before unleashing the attack. Not only this, but it represents the area of attack as well. You may think that this somehow makes these easy to dodge, but the speed at which opponents throughout adapt, adjust, and mob your characters will certainly prove a challenge. Swapping between characters is seamless, and the combat menu allows your ability to set simple behaviors to your companions under simple scenarios. The brief pause in gameplay to select spells and items adds to the strategic aspect of crafting both stylish, and efficient fight combinations with your party, and serves to keep combat as a pleasure rather than a chore.
Leveling your characters up is a joy. You’ll spend your time in Trials slaying the many critters, demons, ghouls, and monsters that you come across in the vast lands. Your rewards? Juicy XP that you will use to level up any of the 300 PLUS skills available to your characters. This allows you to buff, nerf, or augment your teams to fit your combo, fight, enemy, and overall play type. To take things even further, your character each has class enhancements that are unique to them. Specifically, each character has a path of class upgrades that will grant them enhanced moves, a furthered cap for special movies, and active and passive abilities galore. The characters have “Dark” and “Light” class upgrades that each have their own unique pros and cons, so it’s worth reading into these skill and class trees to make sure you get your characters where they want to go. If you should pick anything wrong, not a worry - you can always respec.
The versatility in this simple to start, fun to get familiar, and tough to master game is as important as the story. What you see is what you get, Trials does not try to be something it’s not, it shows you its hand early on, and comforts you the entire way home.
Keeping that in mind, over time combat can get a bit repetitive - we found ourselves skipping fighting some of the peasantry opponents during the later stages of the game because some felt like simple pawns to be avoided. While the combat is fun and rewarding, you are also able to mash away at enemies and not be as HARSHLY punished as one might hope.
The 3D revision is a treasure to look at, and you will enjoy the look and feel of this game whether you’re running on PC, PS4, or Switch. That said, one gripe that this game has is the English dub for audio.
It’s practically unbearable, and we didn’t last too long before swapping out for the Japanese dub, which while it had its own hiccups was miles beyond the English revision. The reason we bring this up is because it has a heavy impact on the enjoyment of the story and overall game. It is our HIGHEST recommendation that you change the audio initially, and skip the English dub altogether.
Aside from this, Trials is a game that you can enjoy multiple playthroughs of because of the vast array of characters, and class upgrades. There are hundreds of skills to apply to the team members, various abilities and fight combinations, and several endings depending on the characters selected. Furthermore, there is a New Game + option that allows you to carry over many of your special items, characters, and essentials should you choose.
Trials of Mana is pure fun, and is a remake that honestly could have come out at any point in the last 20 years and been received with the warmest open arms. There is a “classic” anime feel to it, and even when you’re a high level’d max character, the customizable combat will keep you engaged.
There are some minor issues with the English dub audio, the combat has room for improvement in terms of keeping it fresh late in the game, and it’s not a game that will punish or break your heart beyond repair for mistakes of casual mashing. That said, Trials could be a sleeper bronze medalist for game of the year, and is worth picking up if you are looking for a simply awesome video game.
Final Score: 8.5/10
Reviewed By CorneredFOX