Review: Trials of Mana
Trials of Mana is a remake of the third game in the Mana series , known as Seiken Densetsu 3 in Japan and simply Trials of Mana in the west. Originally developed by Square (modern Square Enix). How does the faithful remake of Trials of Mana hold up in the current gaming landscape?
It's a golden time for the JRPG enthusiast. With blockbusters such as Final Fantasy 7 Remake and Persona 5, fans of the Japanese gaming art can indulge themselves. Trials of Mana fits very well into the back home list when we talk about a golden age for JRPGs. A faithful remake of a classic that we have unfortunately had to miss for decades. At the same time, the remake of Trials of Mana is a very strong, modern title that meets the standards of a modern video game, but at the same time brings all the charms of the old-fashioned Japanese RPG.
Until 2019, Seiken Densetsu 3 was not very well known to us westerners. Officially renamed Trials of Mana in the west, it wasn't until the Trials of Mana Collection for Nintendo Switch that we were first introduced to the third installment in the series. For many, the remake is the first introduction to the third story, or even the entire franchise. Don't let this put you off, because this is an excellent starting position for newcomers. Previous parts do not take place in the same universe, but more in a parallel universe.
Not comparable to nostalgia, but 'old charms'. You see a new game, with modern systems and visuals, but on the one hand it still feels old and familiar. You probably know the idea of old games that look much better in your head than in reality. The collective memory is often more beautiful than reality and Trials of Mana is exactly that realization of such a collective memory. Modern visuals, modern sounds, voice acting and a catchy soundtrack list, but all with still an old spirit.
You take on the role of one of the six protagonists. You take two of these characters with you as support characters. Each character is completely different with its own storyline, own powers, equipment and so on. The story you play is also completely customized based on your chosen characters, but also the combinations you make. Your second playthrough will therefore look completely different when you play with other characters.
They are not very subtle changes because even the final boss is different based on the characters you choose in the beginning of the game. For the full story you need to play through the game at least 3 times. That sounds like a lot of work and it's actually not that bad. Your first playthrough will take about 25 hours. At this point, you've completed the base game and played the post-game chapter that is not in the original game. Playing this chapter will unlock New Game +.
In New Game+ you keep your money, special abilities, items and so on. Your second playthrough can therefore be much shorter depending on choices you make. Maybe half, or even less than the first.
The Trials of Mana
In any case, the main line will be the same. Mana is the source of energy in the world you play in and that source is slowly starting to fade. The Mana Goddess summoned the powerful Sword of Mana to defeat and seal the eight beasts of destruction, the Benevodons, in their own Mana Crystal. As Mana's power is waning, a group of malevolents tries to free the beasts from the crystals in order to take ultimate power. You as the chosen one must ensure that it does not come to that.
The main story blends well with the personal stories of the six characters to choose from. Each one of them reacts differently to the people and events around you.
For my first playthrough, I went for a full waifu team with Riesz and Charlotte as support characters and Angela in the lead. Angela is a mage who can attack enemies from a distance with powerful spells. Riesz is a support character with a strong focus on strengthening teammates and defense. Charlotte is a healer and in addition to providing mild support with attacks, mainly for replenishing life points. But this is absolutely necessary and that applies to almost all characters.
Short but sweet
25 hours isn't exactly long for a JRPG, but as I said, those 25 hours are only part of the pie. For the duration of such a playthrough, the game is complex enough to be careful with the choices you are faced with. Perhaps the most important choices are the class upgrades. During your playthrough you will have the chance to perform a class upgrade at various times.
You can always choose from a 'Dark' or a 'Light' upgrade per character. Both come with different bonuses, attacks and play styles. With Charlotte, for example, you choose to focus more on healing, or damage. Each upgrade then forms the basis for your next upgrade. What this means is that after choosing 'Light', your next 'Light' and 'Dark' choice is different from the choice you would get if you had initially chosen 'Dark'. In this way, the game adapts very well to your personal playing style for your favorite characters.
Making choices doesn't stop here, because every level you get a number of points to make yourself stronger. These points should be carefully divided into categories for your characters. A certain amount of points unlocks new spells or passive bonuses that you can assign to your characters. You only have a certain number of places for these passive bonuses per character, so again a careful choice. The categories you can choose from will increase your stats, but will also unlock new special attacks.
All in all, character building is a big part of Trials of Mana and you notice this well in the fights.
It keeps getting better
Trials of Mana starts off a bit slow, but picks up the pace quickly. With 25 hours there is an excellent acceleration in the game. There are no side-quests, so you just follow a very linear story, but you have enough freedom to explore and so on. Because character building is such an essential part of the game, the first two to 4 hours can be a bit more boring compared to the rest of the game. You don't have spells and other cool things that make battles interesting yet. As you build up your characters you get more and more powerful options in battles. It's the real difference between night and day after all. Combat is therefore also becoming more fun and I was also very satisfied with the choices I made during my playthrough.
Trials of Mana looks and sounds like a modern JRPG, but comes with a classic heart in a modern shell. It looks very refreshing and entertaining. It's one of the Japanese titles that makes sure it hasn't looked so rosy…blossom colored for fans of this genre for a long time.
Tags: : review,