Trials of Mana Interview – How the Team Retained the Fantasy of This Adventure
Growing up in the west during the Super Nintendo era was tough for JRPG fans as the releases in the genre were few and far between. Many games didn’t even make it west, which is what happened with Seiken Densetsu 3, the sequel to Secret of Mana. Now renamed Trials of Mana, Square Enix released it as part of the Collection of Mana, which includes the first trilogy of titles in the series.
However, Square Enix wouldn’t be finished the Trials of Mana as the team is now gearing up to release an entirely remade version of it on April 24. The update includes new graphics, a streamlined battle system, dual-audio, and more.
Twenty-five years after its original release, we had the chance to speak with Trials of Mana producer Shinichi Tatsuke and Collection of Mana producer Masaru Oyamada as they discuss their approach to developing this fantasy RPG.
Azario Lopez: The Seiken Densetsu trilogy is known for its high fantasy and imagination, what was it like returning to Seiken Densetsu 3 after 25 years and how did you retain that same level of fantasy and imagination?
Masaru Oyamada: Though this is the first time it’s being remade, Trials of Mana is a title whose world was already complete in the original even looking back on it today, so we had little to worry about with respect to building it.
For example, the original featured a world map that took the spatial relationships on the actual field into account. Climates were already firmly in place for each location as well. There weren’t many contradictions there.
For this reason, we were able to focus our efforts on capturing the distinctive fantastical qualities of the Mana series and the hues and shades of the plants that color its landscape during both night and day, perfecting the details in things like the natural elements by imagining, for example, that a higher altitude would have less vegetation, or that a cave with water flowing through it would be moist.
AL: When updating the classic to the current version, would you say it’s difficult to put yourself in the mindset of what RPGs were like 25 years ago while trying to appeal to a new generation of players? Or does it all come naturally?
Shinichi Tatsuke: The original game’s world and story were solid, so it wasn’t that difficult. We planned things by imagining how it would have been as a modern-day game. We thought about things that were depicted in a certain way due to the technology that was available back then, but that could be depicted in this other way using modern technology. We also thought about additional features, which remakes often have.
AL: Trials of Mana almost comes off as a completely new game when you compare it to its Super Famicom version. What steps did you take during development to have it retain that classic RPG appeal, but modernize it enough to stand on its own in this new console generation?
ST: We started by clearly defining what we would and would not change: we would change the graphics as well as the battle and growth systems, but we would not change the original world and characters. For example, looking at the battles, the original action battle was enjoyable, but in bringing the action battle system to the remake in 3D, I wanted to add even more, with actions like evasion, aerial attacks, and combo attacks.
Additionally, we incorporated features designed to expand upon the strengths of the original as much as possible. The biggest draw of the original was its story, which would play out differently depending on the combination of characters you chose. We wanted to dig deeper into that feature, so we added more dialogue between party members during battle and travel.
AL: Can you let me know how you approached the character’s updated designs as well as their additional job class alterations?
MO: In this title, we started from Nobuteru Yuki’s illustrations and pixel art, and we worked on fleshing out the details of those depictions but in a modernized way, achieving complete looks for the 3D models without compromising the feel of the originals. I think that this was only made possible by how successfully each of the designers (starting with HACCAN) was able to translate that imagery.
When we approached class 4, there were many characters for whom class 3 was already complete, so we found ourselves ruminating about it quite a bit.
We proceeded by first solidifying our envisioned class names, and then having the artists design based on what images those names evoked.
AL: Secret of Mana also received a remake in 2018, but it didn’t quite gain the same fame as the original, what did you learn from this release and how did you apply that to Trials of Mana?
MO: Because their systems differ greatly, it’s difficult to compare exactly what learnings were applied. However, development for Trials of Mana began while the Secret of Mana remake was still in development, and considering that the original was never released outside of Japan, we entered production already with the intention of creating Trials of Mana so that it could also be received as the newest title in the Mana series.
Amid all that, Secret of Mana was also released, and the feedback that we received in terms of positives and negatives, as well as the expectations voiced toward the Mana series, all served as strong driving forces in development.
AL: Would you suggest playing the classic Trials of Mana before playing this new title? Or can they each be played as separate experiences?
ST: I think players will find Trials of Mana more than enjoyable enough just by playing the remake, but playing the original first will help deepen their understanding of the game and will offer the additional fun of seeing how the title has evolved.
AL: Is there anything you’d like to say to fans awaiting the release of Trials of Mana?
MO: Although you can now also play the original version through Collection of Mana, I hope that all the Mana series fans around the world will take advantage of the fact that this new game is being released simultaneously worldwide and exchange your thoughts and excitement about the game with each other.
ST: We created Trials of Mana by imagining how the game would have been like if it had first been released in 2020. We pored over the details through and through all the way until the very end, so I hope you all enjoy it.
Trials of Mana coming to PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch, and PC on April 24.
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