Another month, another remake, and yet another one coming out from Square Enix in the form of Trials of Mana. Originally released as Seiken Densetsu 3 in Japan only back in 1995, we only really got our hands on the original 3rd entry in the mana series back in 2019 on the Switch. Developed by Xeen, who has worked on Mario & Sonic AT Tokyo 2020 Olympics, Samurai Spirits and FINAL FANTASY XV EPISODE ARDYN to name a few, Trials of Mana seeks to bring the company into the spotlight with a fan favourite series.
Trials of Mana (2020) follows the same story as the original title, with some translation updates and minor name changes, for example, Carlie is now called Charlotte. As you select new game you will be given the choice to select the main protagonist and 2 companions, the main choice also choosing your main antagonist as well as some beginning and ending scenes. While the choice of potentially 6 protagonists may make the game seem huge, it instead is around 8-14 hours of repeated story content and 2-4 hours of specific content geared at the protag you chose. The protagonists also come in pairs when it comes to dungeons and changes, with Hawkeye and Riesz sharing the Belladonna antagonist, end-game dungeon and boss fights.
After selecting your team you will be met with your antagonist rather quickly, either attacking your castle, controlling the minds of your friends or generally moving the plot to their own dark deeds. Escaping away from whatever situation your protagonist is in, you’ll soon meet up with Faerie, one of the last of her kind as the Mana Tree has begun to wither. Tasked with retrieving the Sword of Mana, and saving the world, you’ll meet up with your 2 companions to then go on a grand adventure across the lands.
With a unique approach to storytelling, with only Suikoden 3 and some Tales of (Bandai) titles following the same idea of different protagonists for the story, to name a few, Trials of Mana offers some replayability with the other characters. While they aren’t overly long changes, as most dialogue is just copy-pasted in the middle portion, the introductions and final areas can make a 2nd playthrough quite enjoyable. However, on the flip side, that lack of diversity in the middle of the game can lend to it being a bit boring unless you’re like being overpowered in New Game+.
A casual run of the story will land you at around 15 hours, with around 3 hours for all side-content, collectables and post-game. Another run with NG+ will take a much shorter time at around 8 hours if you skip all the repeated dialogue. With a true NG+, a 2nd playthrough can be quite enjoyable with all your items, levels and unlocks without the added difficulty of more modern NG+ approaches.
The gameplay of Trials of Mana (2019) has seen a vast upgrade and modernisation since the original Trials of Mana (1995), moving away from the pixel top-down with little control over the 2D environment. With the remake, we have a full 3D version of the original, feeling much more akin to a Tales of (Bandai) game or even Ys. You have a weak attack that can be spammed for combos, a strong attack that can be held to charge it and deal more damage, and combine weak and heavy strikes for finishing moves.
As you hit enemies with strong attacks they will start to drop CS shards, collecting them will fill up your CS gauge. At 100% intervals, eventually capping out at 400%, you can activate a class strike against your foes. CS range from single-target barrages, wide-area explosions and sweeping slashes. Aside from CS you also have a multitude of spells that unlock as you progress the story, ranging from normal elemental attacks to healing and buffs.
From winning battles, which transition seamlessly from normal movement within dungeons, you will gain experience to level up your characters. Levels grant you higher stats and training points which are used to unlock new attacks, stat boosts and passive abilities. Getting to certain levels and story moments you will be able to progress your class into the next stage, unlocking new CS, abilities and passive boosts. As a change from the original, a 4th post-game class was added to the game which adds even more power and moves.
The soundtrack of ToM has been lovingly remade, keeping true to all of the original tracks. While some songs can sound devoid of bass, or energy at times, they are amazingly redone in a more modern fashion. As an added extra you can also select the original OST if you want a more bit crunched sound to accompany your adventures.
One of the major faults in this remake is the English voice acting, serving as a horrible reminder of early 90’s gaming Vas. There are too many times where NPCs just have terrible voice acting and an alarming amount within the main cast. The worst of these examples is Reisz, who changes between a robotic and emotionless voice to that of high emotion in 2 lines of dialogue. This permeates throughout all playthroughs and characters, with some lines delivered amazingly by Hawkeye to only be terrible when done by Duran.
The difficulty of ToM has a steady incline as you progress through the story, with additional exp gain granted for skilful battle. While some dungeons can feel like a trudge at points, due to high hp or defence enemies, it never feels too unforgiving. Sadly the difficulty takes a nose dive towards the end and post-game. The final bosses are laughably easy to defeat, being defeated within 1 or 2 minutes without too much difficulty. This also continues into post-game, and an optional super boss who I was able to beat in 1 try. I wasn’t too over levelled, at least to my knowledge, and didn’t have all the best gear or traits at that point in the game. For those who are veterans of action combat, or games in this style, I highly suggest playing on hard mode for a better challenge.
The faith paid to the original in this remake is outstanding, maps and bosses are recreated wonderfully with an updated style but retaining almost all parts perfectly. There are some issues here and there, but I have to applaud the studio for delivering a proper remake and not a retelling or reimagining of Trials of Mana. The only real changes made are found in the gameplay that still keeps close to the original while reviving it with a modern twist, as well as the post-game content and collectables.
Overall, I give Trials of Mana a 9/10, it is a wonderful experience if a bit short for RPG fans who are used to 40-100 hour epics. The gameplay is engaging, rewarding as well as flashy and great to look at. Sadly the voice acting takes centre stage as the worst part of the game, alongside some poor balancing towards the end of the game and a story that is deeply seated in 90’s storytelling. For fans of the Mana series, this should be a no-brainer purchase and at £40 it is cheaper than most AAA releases, though that could be due to the short runtime of 15-18 hours.
Trials of Mana is available on PC, PS4 and Nintendo Switch
This Review is based on the PC Version of the game
You can purchase the PC version of the game here for £39.99.
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Trials of Mana
Trials of Mana is the 3D remake of the hit classic RPG released in 1995 as Seiken Densetsu 3
Product Currency: GBP
Product Price: 39.99