Publisher: Square Enix
Composer: Hiroki Kikuta
Engine: Unreal Engine
Genre: Action role-playing game
Platforms: Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, Microsoft Windows
Developers: Square Enix, SQUARE ENIX CO., LTD.
Links to Purchase
Trials of Mana or Seiken Densetsu 3 was a cult classic that was never released in the West on the Super NES until the Nintendo Switch exclusive Collection of Mana that was released last year which gave us the first official translation of the game after 24 years of having to deal with unofficial translations. We were finally given the chance to experience the game in its intended original format and, like the Secret of Mana, Trials of Mana has been given a full on remake yet unlike Secret of Mana this is a from the ground up remake of Trials of Mana in the same vein as Final Fantasy VII Remake. The question that many are asking is does Trials of Mana remake live up to the legacy of the original game in this all new remake or does it become as hated as the Secret of Mana remake?
The story of Trials of Mana isn’t necessarily deep or profound but that’s not shocking nor should it be given the era of which this title comes from. If you are familiar with the original then this is an almost point for point remake in regards to the story with some key differences of different things getting more fleshed out than others. At times you can tell this game didn’t have the robust budget of Final Fantasy VII Remake to allow the developers to go crazy and do a lot of things too differently from the original release. In traditional fantasy RPG fashion, you have a set of chosen heroes that have to rise up against an unyieldingly evil villain with no redeeming qualities that only they can stop and………that’s about as deep as it goes. It isn’t bad that the story is simple as honestly simple works; but for many they may want a more motivating and 4th wall breaking plot than this game will offer. The main saving grace of this games story is the fact that of the 6 selectable heroes you get 6 different prologues and deviations in the story to accommodate who is in your party and who and what you encounter as well as a few differing plot points based on your selected heroes which gives this game both replayability and a extra levels of depth separating it from other games of it's era.
The biggest thing to get out of the way here is to let you all know that this is NOT a point for point remake of the SNES original as this is a from the grounds up fully realized remake of the classic without the multiplayer aspect. The game retains its charm with its new direction and gameplay and it kicks off with you having to select 3 of 6 characters before you embark on your journey to mix and match and each of the characters have their own story arcs and motivations for being on this adventure. The characters that you didn’t choose for your party end up being integrated into the story in an assisting role. Ultimately, this adventure is a by the books oldschool JRPG…..and that’s a GREAT THING!
In tradition JRPG fashion: you will run into various dungeons and areas with progressively stronger enemies and find shops with progressively stronger weaponry and so on. It’s definitely something that works for a remake of an older game in our current era when many games try hard to do new and experimental mechanics for gameplay whereas this one stays close to the original in how it progresses and unfolds. When in dungeons you should definitely explore off the beaten path as in doing that you will uncover new and varied equipment and items so its always worth your while yet you should pay attention to your surroundings due to dungeons having their own set of gimmicks such as poisoned floors, lava, and more.
Compared to the original, this remake does a lot to both modernize and improve on the way that dungeons and towns are designed with major improvements in the levels of detail to make each area feel unique and distinct from the previous.
The gameplay has taken a complete change in how it plays out compared to the original game with its modernized action focused gameplay that plays a lot like Final Fantasy VII Remake meets Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII with the ability to lock onto your enemy and run around the battle arena, attack, jump, dodge, block, and more as you learn enemy patterns and so on. Like most modern games enemies will telegraph their attacks with a red glowing aura and more often than not it lets you know that its an unblockable attack and in typical action as well as action RPG formula: you have patterns to memorize where enemies, including bosses, will attack and then retreat back giving you an opening for you to punish them in a weak point or area and then rinse and repeat.
With each level up you are given training points to utilize for unlocking new skills and passive abilities which become more frequent as the journey continues with many of them being accessible during gameplay with the usage of the shoulder buttons for the sake of simplicity, and you know what? I like simplicity in a game like this.
The game retains the class system of the original with its Light and Dark classes which each have their own benefits and specialties along with an unlockable 3rd tier of class which opens up 6 new classes that players can utilize. If you want to have a character be a Warrior Monk with healing capabilities or a fighting mage then you can certainly have that. Given the changes to the combat system, the utilization of magic is a much more useful method of attack given the removal of locking your characters in place to cast magic which is a real boon.
When it comes to lentgh, overall the game should take you around 30 or so hours to complete if you play It through without much if any exploration and 40- - 60 hours if you do. There is also 100's of hours of replayability given the different combinations of characters as well.
This game is STUNNING! It is every bit what I would want a fantasy style JRPG to look like in modern times with the amazing attention to details in little things on each character such as their clothing, armor, and knick nacks, all the way down to the different nuances and more. The team responsible for this remake kept the designs faithful to the original all the while actualizing them into 3D.
Everything from the towns to the dungeons to the overworld look incredible and detailed and vastly disctinct from one another. Each character you meet and interact with feels wholly different from the last and just as in the original each has their own personalities and characteristics.
Now I have to touch on the difference between the PS4 and STEAM ports vs the Nintendo Switch port because there are some key differences worth mentioning. The PS4 and STEAM release run at 60FPS with STEAM giving you higher than 1080P graphically customization and the ability to boost the framerate a bit more. The PS4 version runs similiar to the STEAM version being able to run at 1440 and 4K (ish) based on if you're using the PS4 Pro with a TV or monitor capable of those outputs and the base PS4 and Slim running at 1080P 60FPS. The Nintendo Switch version, however, runs at 720P both docked and undocked and for some reason in handheld (and on the Switch Lite) dips to 540P with instances of slow down not to mention running at a variable 30FPS dipping down to 24FPS. This is something that I don’t understand as this is not a graphically intensive game and yet for some reason it runs like this on the Switch which is baffling given that this is another example of games being ported to the Switch from Square-Enix that are not being as well optimized to run on par with the other releases and again has Square-Enix doing the same thing they did with both Lost Sphere and I Am Setsuna (both of which were equally none demanding games) running at lower resolutions and framerates compared to the PS4 counterparts.
The game sounds as beautiful as it looks with an orchestral majesty of an OST that takes the original games music and takes it up several notches in often times the same ways that Dragon Quest 11 took classic themes and redid them in a grand way or even better, how Final Fantasy VII Remake did. Even with this superb soundtrack you are still able to switch back to the classic OST if you so choose if you want to retain some of the nostalgic charm of the original.
Many have lamented the voice direction of the English cast but I personally liked what they did with It as it’s a very varied experience with the English cast taking a lot of unique approaches to bringing these characters to life and while you always have the option of switching to the Japanese voices, I personally have never been able to gauge if they sound good or not in the way of how we judge English dubs so I just leave it as it is in English and play from there.
The only downside I see in this remake aside from the graphical and framerate downgrades if you decide to play this on the Nintendo Switch is the fact that you no longer have multiplayer capability as this is now a solely single player experience and while it’s a great experience in a single player style it also loses a lot fo its charm of being able to play the game with up to 2 extra friends as that opened up levels of depth and strategy that are sadly missing from this one given how the computer AI does the bare minimum when it comes to many scenarios.
We are in an era where many classics are being remade time and again either in the format of from the ground remakes or 1 to 1 touchups and while many can argue that this is showing a lack of creativity and originality in the gaming industry I’d argue that it’s a great thing that we have so many classics being made on modern hardware for modern gamers to be able to enjoy and Trials of Mana does the original game justice by paying homage to it and its fans while bringing in new fans to enjoy this timeless classic. Despite its aged story and cliché story beats and archetypical heroes and villains, what you are left with is a game with an easy to follow story and lovable characters combined with solid gameplay and an engaging adventure and while its simple for simplicities sake; its still a damn good game and thats’ why it’s a game YOU NEED in your library!