The Mana series makes up some of my earliest gaming memories. There’s a sense of fantasy and wonder about them that makes it stand out in the sea of other action RPGs available. Even so, due to some reasons, the third entry in the Seiken Densetsu trilogy, 1995’s Seiken Densetsu 3, wasn’t released in the west until 2019 as part of a collection of the trilogy. With this localization also came a name change to Trials of Mana.
However, Square Enix didn’t stop there; the publisher is also remaking Trials of Mana for current-gen hardware and applying updated features and mechanics to the 25-year-old game.
After going hands-on with Trials of Mana in an extended demo, I found that this adventure presents a perfect blend of traditional and modern RPG systems, and I’m excited to play more.
Trials of Mana begins by allowing players to pick three of six heroes. The first hero chosen will be the main character, while the following two will be companions in the quest. The opening of the game differs between each character as you witness how they started on this adventure and what events led to them meeting the others. After meeting the other two characters later down the line, you can also witness their beginnings as well.
Each character has a reason for being on this adventure, and the flow of events during the early moments of the story happened naturally. It was easy for me to get wrapped up in this world and want to help these characters who have seemingly put everything behind them to complete their quest.
While my time with the game had me playing as the three female characters, Angela, Riesz, and Charlotte, I got the general idea of what the game was trying to do. The resolve for the adventure is similar no matter which team you pick, but getting there and the events that happen along the way depends on the party you chose.
I ended up enjoying how well these characters got along and the chemistry between them. Sure they’ve just met, but given that their quests align and they know how to hold their own in battle, they each fill an essential role here, especially during dialogue.
Trials of Mana is an adventure RPG. Players will explore dungeons, discover new towns, and fight dozens of monsters along the way. There was always a quest marker informing me of where I needed to go, but going the other direction always led to a treasure or an NPC to speak with. Events in the game alter the environments, so it’s possible to miss things if you don’t spend time exploring, but this also depends on your playstyle.
In a dungeon, players control one character at a time and can switch between them throughout the battle. Each character has a few different attack combinations, with light and strong attacks. Additionally, they also have a special attack to cause massive damage to the surrounding enemies. Battles are quick and rewarding as they offer experience, items, and money. However, I felt the respawn time of some of the enemies was a little unforgiving as they would reappear moments after you left the surrounding areas.
The battle system is action-based, where players can swing their weapon around at enemies. However, a layer of strategy is also here, as players will need to dodge out of the way of enemy attacks and pay attention to their HP. As straightforward as battles are, there’s a layer of a challenge here that kept me on my toes.
I should point out the attention and care that has gone into crafting the world of Trials of Mana. The characters and environment have a nostalgic look to them, but there is so much quality here to be discovered. The towns and dungeons are full of life rewarding those who take their time to look around. I was impressed with how far the developers took this remaster visually and how they made this their own. It provides a sense of imaginative and playful fantasy that is often lost in modern RPGs.
During my time with the game, I was able to explore the job class system. This is where each character can change their class, which also changes their costumes. Also, I was only able to fight one boss, and I’m curious to see how future bosses test your skills in later parts of the game.
If it wasn’t clear, Trials of Mana is a game that I’m definitely looking forward to. My time with the game only solidified it as one of my most anticipated titles of this year. The chemistry of the characters and their drive to achieve their goals creates an excellent foundation for this fantasy adventure. Throw in a responsive battle system and exciting world to explore, and you’ve got the makings for a familiar, yet brand new, Mana title.
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