You always hear people complaining that JRPGs just aren’t what they used to be. It’s been like that for many console generations and will continue for future ones. However, it seems like Square Enix is listening to fans and wants to do something about it. Mainly, by returning to their classic IPs and putting resources to bring them to a modern generation.
The Mana series is arguably one of my favorite adventure RPG franchises, but I wouldn’t be surprised if you’ve never heard of it. In North America, it’s best known for Secret of Mana on Super Nintendo which was released back in 1993. A few other English localizations found their way to handhelds and then the series went quiet. It wasn’t until the 2018’s Secret of Mana Remake where it took on new life. While I ended up liking the remake, many didn’t think it lived up to the series’ potential. This history lesson is now being rounded out with this new release.
Collection of Mana came out a few months ago for the Switch and contained the first official English release of Seiken Densetsu 3, the sequel to Secret of Mana. Fans such as myself were in for a second surprise this year when we found out that not only was there a complete overhaul of the above game called Trials of Mana in development but that it was also coming to the West.
I had a chance to go hands-on with the game and it was easy to see how much work had gone into the remake. It was obvious that the devs are set on having this JRPG resonate with the current gamer generation while simultaneously playing homage to the strengths of the earlier titles.
The demo placed me in the role of Duran at the beginning of a larger adventure. As I started at a nearby town, my first thought was how alive it felt. As I explored the lush environment, I came across chatty townspeople and other travelers. I learned more about the state of the kingdom and the world around me. I found out that Duran is a servant of the Kingdom and was out for revenge after a bloody attack on his homeland. In typical JRPG fashion, his resolve shows in his skills as a swordsman.
From the town, I went to the castle and then I was able to roam about a field. The area had a dungeon-like map and plenty of enemies. The battle system felt responsive and rather fun as longer combos added extra buffs to the party. Using special abilities and skills was as easy as a pressing a button and the overall experience was quite enjoyable. This was made even better with the addition of my other party members: Reitz and Charlotte. They each had a completely different playstyle than Duran and provided even more depth to the already engaging battle system.
Graphically, Trials of Mana knows what it’s doing: utilizing a more cartoonish look that accents the game’s high fantasy themes. The game may seem colorful and happy but don’t let that fool you. The story delves into serious waters and will appeal to those looking for a more retro-styled adventure. I think that the work that they put into bringing this title to modern consoles pays off immensely and it’s honestly more than I could have asked for. Hell, I was fine with just getting the game through the Collection of Mana.
The music that I was able to hear while playing was enough for me to want more and the recorded audio was also a nice surprise. One of the things that I specifically went out to look for was the dancing Innkeeper, who is a mainstay in the series. I can confirm that he is back and still dancing in this modernized adventure.
Trials of Mana is definitely for those fans begging for an old school RPG adventure on modern consoles. This is also the perfect way to experience a brand new yet “classic” game in the West. Since Seiken Densetsu 3 only released properly in English a few months back, there’s very little nostalgia for this title. It’s a Mana adventure that we can all enjoy together for the first time. I can’t wait to meet all six playable characters and learn more about this world. In the meantime, I’ll finish the Collection of Mana as I await Trials of Mana’s release.
Trials of Mana is coming to PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch, and PC on April 24, 2020.
This post may contain Amazon affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate Noisy Pixel earns from qualifying purchases.