Following the recent trend of remastering older titles, Square Enix has once again joined the party — after the amazing Final Fantasy VII Remake — and released Trials of Mana, a remake of a classic game from 1995. Trials of Mana, or Seiken Densetsu 3, is the third installment in the Mana series, and puts the players in control of three heroes — out of six to choose from — and their goal is to save the Mana Tree and of course, stop the great evil that’s looming. While the story doesn’t offer anything groundbreaking, the reimagined gameplay and additional content is enticing.
The story doesn’t stray too far from the “destroy the bad guy, save the world” plot, and it feels like a mistake. Square Enix missed out on an opportunity to further flesh out the world with the remaster. The possible addition of new side quests or extra dungeons could have pushed the game further beyond what was already a beloved game.
However, the way the story is told through the characters adds charm and a sense of warmth to the game. This makes the characters one of Trials of Mana’s stronger points. The honest and goofy nature of the characters makes it easy for players to connect and become invested into the story as a whole.
Players get to pick one of six heroes — fighter, thief, amazon, mage, berserker, cleric — and then two companions to make their three-hero squad. For my playthrough, I went with Hawkeye, the lovable thief, Angela, the mage seeking acceptance, and Riesz, the duty bound amazon. Whomever the player picks first determines the trajectory of their story. It also decides who the final battle will be with. The characters are charming and add a level of heart to a pretty basic story.
The main issue I had is that when players start the game, they are asked to pick their team. When circling between all of the characters, their in-game model is shown along with a small snapshot of their story and their stats. These are new characters, and players aren’t going to know the ins and outs of the story yet.
There is barely enough information to make sure that the characters they players have selected are going to match their play style. I got lucky with my team, but Trials of Mana asks players to take a leap of faith with bare bone information.
The jump from 16 bit pixels to 3D can make or break most titles, but Trials of Mana pulls through on top. The models look great with nice and vibrant environments. Trials of Mana looks like it was conjured up from the ’90s with its vibrant greens, deep purples, and a slight haze to all of the colors.
And the visuals aren’t the only thing Trials of Mana pulls from the ’90s. The voice acting is hit or miss, with some lines sounding like a high school play. But that adds character to the experience. Regardless of the delivery, the voice acting is charming and full of heart. It adds a layer of goofiness to the game and reminds the player to not take everything too seriously.
The soundtrack is gorgeous and bombastic. In the middle of battle, I found myself rocking along and humming the tunes. Unfortunately, once the battle was finished, the songs vanished from memory. That’s common with the soundtrack for Trials of Mana. It sounds great, but is somewhat forgettable.
The meat of any good JRPG is how players can overpower their characters. Trials of Mana has a training point system and a class system. Each of the six heroes starts out with a base class and has the ability to change class up to four different times. When picking classes, players can either pick a light or a dark type.
Light types tend to have class abilities and spells that support their team while Dark types have abilities and spells that debuff the enemy. If players end up picking a class that they don’t like, don’t worry too much. There is an item to reselect classes.
Think of the training points as stat points.The points can either go into strength, stamina, spirit, intelligence, or luck. Players can unlock boons, spells, or stat increases based on how many training points they put into a category. They have the ability to look at all of the unlocks and see what they do before investing points into any one section, and again don’t worry. There is a way to reset a character’s training points to fit the player’s needs.
The combat in Trial of Mana is different from the original. Instead of waiting for an action bar to fill, Trial of Mana plays like an action game. Players are able to string together combos, dodge out of incoming spells, and use abilities on the fly. The combat is simple but feels robust. Through my playthrough, I had just as much fun at hour 20 as I did at hour one.
But the simplified combat doesn’t allow a lot of room for finesse. The combos available are the same through Trials of Mana. I quickly found that spamming the area of effect (AOE) attack makes most battles almost negligible.
Don’t get me wrong, the combat is fun. But the lack of flair and deeper level of complexity takes away from the experience. I didn’t expect to be using the same moves I used in the first dungeon on the final boss.
Once players have saved the world and credits roll, they will get a cutscene suggesting that their journey isn’t over just yet. Trials of Mana has decent post-game content that culminates with a solid dungeon and one of the harder boss fights.
Overall, Trials of Mana is a nice 20-hour journey. The game isn’t something spectacular, but it offers something for everyone. It’s a great bite sized JRPG with plenty of heart. Trials of Mana was my first experience with the Mana series, but I am so excited to see where the games are heading.
Trials of Mana is available now on the PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch, and PC. This game was purchased by the reviewer on the PlayStation 4 and the review is based on that version. All images in the article were taken in game.