✔️Awesome revisiting of an incredible tale. ✔️Redefines the Mana experience, with a modernised action-packed adventure. ✔️Everything you love about Seiken Densetsu is here.
❌Some design flaws can hold it back. ❌Minor bugs
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Daring to re-create an all time great from an iconic era of gaming, and to be courageous enough to lift the title from an important console generation – the Super Nintendo – is the equivalent of a movie director taking up the task of re-establishing a beloved film franchise from the 80’s. It certainly risks a patchy reception from fans, but could very well be the rebirth a dormant series has needed for quite some time. Trials of Mana (Seiken Densetsu 3 in Japan) The 2020 Remake, risks an endorsed reputation the legendary franchise had established for devotee’s of the original 16-bit classic, translating the entire core gameplay loop into a modern day JRPG with some minor mechanical upgrades. Doing a their best to remain faithful to the SNES version, Japanese developer Square Enix triumph in this charming remaster of an all time great.
I must admit, the thought of a title from a quarter of a decade ago, that promises to be true to form can sound archaic in delivery, but Trials of Mana overcomes this and redefines a generation of exemplary Japanese Role-Playing Games. Sure, it may be daunting to those who have never dipped their toes in the genre so to speak, but “Trials” sets a precedence on those who have never played a quality turn-based JRPG before, and re-establishes the title as a gateway into the category. It does an incredible job in displaying the outstanding qualities experienced from classic turn-based combat, but overhauls the entire core loop with a gorgeous overlay that will attract a younger generation, and draw them into the fantasy world. Sure, it’s no Final Fantasy VII Remake, but Trials of Mana does make good on its own promise of capturing the same beauty in gameplay and narrative that rang true in its original incarnation.
It will forever be stated, that the Seiken Densetsu franchise was crafted with love. Particularly its integral aesthetic design. While Secret of Mana may be labeled the fan-favourite for its flawless narrative, “Trials” does the complete opposite and minimizes its plot-point in favour of seamless campaign progression, relying solely on the amelioration of side-quests; hence the emphasis on “Trials”. Out of our six protagonists, you will be given a choice of three to form a party; Duran, a merc with a strong loyalty to his King. Orphaned as a child, he and his sister were raised by their Aunt Stella after their mother had passed away from illness and father was lost in battle to the Dragon Emporer. Angela, the Princess to the Ice-Kingdom of Altena. Hawkeye, a thief who decided to confront his Lord Flamekhan over his dictatorship, and betray him. Riesz, the Princess of Laurent and Captain of the Amazon Army.
Kevin, the prince of Ferolia, and son of the Great Gauser, a Beastman who had formed relations with a human lady making Kevin a Half-Beastman himself. Charlotte, the “famous beauty of Wendel”, and granddaughter of the Priest of Light. With each protagonist comes their own unique side-story’s that affect the way your campaign shapes itself. With each character’s classes comes their own unique array of skills. It sets extraordinary and unprecedented circumstances in each avenue, that ultimately leads to the story’s climax. Simply put, while you may be experiencing six separate story’s in the one playthrough, the destination will remain the same, leading each protagonist to their one common goal. It’s a genius strategy that keeps the player engaged and changes up each act, so when having to backtrack, you aren’t revisiting locations in a monotonous nature.
With different traits, come contrasting catalysts. While the endgame may stay the same, each characters goal almost sells the title as a redemption/retribution story, set in fairytale. It’s an amazing amalgamation of action and make-believe. Attributing to the apex of the entire narrative, there is no doubt that interactions between each protagonist helps the player gain a better understanding on each character’s idiosyncrasy’s. Whether that be a feature, a habit, a quality, or just their virtue in nature it sets the tone for how each individual’s magnetism, and how you will connect with their personality. Evil deeds and wrong doings, or kind-hearted and caring, these will be factors to how your story plays out. I will say it adds an element of surprise, which helps with the story’s pacing and continuity. So good.
Trials of Mana, remains an absolute classic in this gorgeous retelling and re-imagining for an entirely new generation of fans to experience.
Overhauling the mechanics from a traditional top-down 16-bit turn-based JRPG, to a completely reconstructed title that somewhat resembles the original can be a tough feat to master. If anything translating an entire game from 2D to 3D can be an arduous task, but Square Enix have proven that they are up to this challenge, and boy did it feel amazing to be playing this title in 2020. In the grand scheme of the title’s nature, it would be considered an uncomplicated task to copy the initial blueprint from Seiken Densetsu 3’s Super Nintendo format, however Trials of Mana 2020 deviates from a straightforward, leisurely remake and expands its scope to reassuring a cleaner, more original experience. While it may carryover many tropes seen in old-school JRPG title’s, it delivers due-diligence on remaining loyal to the original by architecture of level layout, and battle sequences.
Learning from prior mistakes, Square Enix had deviated from Secret of Mana’s Remake, that saw the adventure approach a modernised 2D top-down hack-and-slash approach that did not resonate well with its core fanbase. It felt dated, clunky, and the gameplay loop did not fit the general scope of the foundation established by the original. Trials of Mana 2020, does away with that and applies a wider landscape for gamer’s to roam free and experience traditional battle that feels right at home within the franchise. Like many turn-based remake’s, the seamless progression of integrating a hack-and-slash approach within a 3D realm, makes for a streamlined approach that lessens the “bottle-necked” pacing of a turn-based battle.
While there are many a franchise that continue to utilise the system, and present it with the style and grace the Persona series has, I believe there are some series that should steer clear of trying to apply the exact same formula, and for that I thank Square Enix in changing up the pace here. Setting forth a familiar approach, “Trials” has evolved from a moderate trot, to a blazing action title that harmoniously keeps its original RPG elements intact. With light and heavy blows, that string themselves with a flurry of combos that may damage any and all enemies, can make for some satisfying sequences. Sage advice throughout the title from different NPC’s will gauge how you will in-turn defeat hoards, or bosses with multiple techniques and tactics. Chargning heavy attacks can be a little slow at times, but will deal greater damage and could destroy an enemy’s barrier.
Applying this with a combination of light blows can gain advantage on a weakened, or stunned enemy. Keeping track of your Mana/MP allows the player to forward their attack, and appropriately apply timing and execution for strong magical maneuvers. Of course, each use of your MP will cost players just like any traditional RPG, so be sure to use with discretion during battle. While a single playthrough of the title may only run you 20-23 hours, replayability was intended here for gamers who are completionists. Once finishing a campaign, you will be given a choice of starting over, or heading right into New Game +, retaining your character’s upgraded abilities. This also gives you the chance to switch up your party, or replay the entire campaign to max out the entire collective’s stats, and to add a caveat, there is an original post-game campaign that has been created exclusively to the remake.
Eye of the Beholder...
There is an argument to be made that Trials of Mana has been designed aesthetically to resonate that of a PlayStation 3 title. Sure, that argument may seem somewhat valid, and while its environments may contain some questionable texture mapping, and polygonal model rendering, it does not sell itself short of overall presentation. Entering a world of gorgeous terrain and thoughtful level layouts, Trials does itself justice in seeking approval through its simplistic artstyle, and engaging gameplay. Character design does remind me of what we see in modern Dragon Quest title’s, but seem a notch under what has been conclusively labeled as “industry standard”. Its fair make these whimsical points, but I would suggest that the magic presented mutually with its gameplay and narrative enrich its presentation.
Yes, there is one minor critique I must mention, and that is the cardboard voice acting on display. It can be quite the task to sit through at times, but I will admit that you grow to love it. It’s nowhere near the performance we were treated to in Final Fantasy VII Remake, but I will mention my appreciation of a localised portrayal of each protagonist. It’s rare we see a smaller Japanese Role-Playing Game get given the English-dub treatment, due to localising costs especially in our economy’s current climate. Sure, exaggerated performances may disengage you at moments, but this can be an oversight to the incredible narrative that is on display here.
Trials of Mana is an incredible revisiting of a legendary franchise. Square Enix have done this remake justice by applying a mix of nostalgia and modernising the title to make it feel fresh, and engaging for a newer audience, and younger generation. While it can’t compare to many massive blockbuster JRPG’s we have been spoiled with this year, it can most certainly satisfy fans of the genre who are looking to scratch that RPG itch, while we await the next big title to be revealed. Its accessibility is consistent, and makes for a smooth and flawless experience. It’s fun and engaging to play, and would be a great entry point for those looking to experience a JPRG, on a smaller scale. Trials of Mana remains legenadary through its 2020 remake.
Trials of Mana - Square Enix
Trials of Mana is a 2020 action role-playing game developed by Xeen and Square Enix, and published by Square Enix for Microsoft Windows, Nintendo Switch and PlayStation 4.