The Mana series from Square Enix is a beloved part of their catalog of role playing games. Many games in the series have been released outside of Japan, but this one had not been till just recently. Trials of Mana, or Seiken Densetsu 3 in Japan, was released in 1995 as the follow-up to Secret of Mana. It never had a worldwide release until just recently as part of the Collection of Mana for Nintendo Switch in 2019.
As part of the release in the collection, Square Enix also announced that Trials of Mana would be receiving a complete Remake treatment and would be released for PC, Switch, and PS4 in 2020. At PAX East this year I had the opportunity to try an extended demo of the game and I was blown away by its quality and depth.
In a fictional world where Mana represents an ethereal, but finite, energy source, a war is brewing and the tree on Mana is withering. The only hope is to find the eight Mana Stones and the sword of Mana to put everything right again.
Off the bat I was incredibly impressed. There are six characters to choose from who each have their own origin story and paths to follow. The demo starts at the very beginning of the game and I was able to choose a character and two companions.
I chose Angela as my main protagonist. She is a magician, and the rebellious princess in the Kingdom of Altena. The story starts with her exploring the castle area, and this was when I saw the ease of movement possible. Running, jumping to get to hard-to-reach places, and quick dialogue options all made me happy.
Quickly things go sideways for Angela and she realizes all is not how it should be. Bumping into the magical Faerie creature brought me a lot more perspective and the real adventure started. Travelling through a treacherous cave, I stumbled into the first companion I chose: Charlotte, the young half-elf girl from the holy city of Wendel.
Meeting Charlotte showed me another really cool feature of the game: I was able to experience her history till that point via playable flashbacks. This really adds a lot of depth to the game and a chance to know the companion characters, which was very interesting.
Each character will have their own storyline and eventually they will all intersect, but this feature already adds a ton of replayability to Trials of Mana. Each character seems very interesting and distinct, so this will be a great way to explore the game multiple times.
Travelling through enemy areas I was exposed to the game’s combat systems. The action is real-time, with basic attacks triggered by button presses. There are plenty of special abilities to learn as the characters level up, which can be triggered with shortcuts or via an action menu.
The ability to really move around the battle area allows you to avoid or dodge enemies and time your attacks just right. There are also chain link abilities discovered along the way that let you team up with companions for stronger attacks. New abilities are unlocked as particular stats increase, which is a cool and strategic approach to leveling.
There are tons of items and equipment to discover, some of which are locked to classes and particular characters. Speaking of classes, the characters also have branching class upgrades that enhance their powers and abilities in different ways. There are even abilities that are available only in day or night cycles.
Once I got the hang of all the intricacies of combat, with Charlotte’s help, I got to the end of the demo and into a battle with the first boss, called Fullmetal Hugger. It was a great experience start to finish, grabbing me from the get-go with its interesting mechanics and engaging characters and story.
As the original game was a top down RPG made in 1995, the Trials of Mana remake here is a striking change. Graphically reminiscent of the recently released Dragon Quest XI, this is a beautiful game to experience. Brightly colored and lovely to watch, the artstyle is wonderful to see in action.
Trials of Mana is a true Remake akin to its much higher-profile brother Final Fantasy VII, with completely overhauled graphic style and gameplay mechanics, and tweaks to the story and flow to make it look and feel more modern.
I had a terrific time with the game in my extended demo and am looking forward to diving into the full game when it’s released April 24 for Nintendo Switch, PlayStaion 4 and PC via the Steam platform. Thankfully, to tide us all over, the demo I played will be released to consumers March 18, and progress will carry over to the full title on launch.