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April 28, 2020 1:22 PM   Subscribe

The Trials Of Mana Remake Proves Square Enix Can Faithfully Redo A Classic '90s RPG [Kotaku] “The second high-definition remake of a 90s-era Square Enix role-playing game coming out this month is much more faithful to the original than Final Fantasy VII. Beneath Trials of Mana’s cartoonish 3D makeover and questionable voice acting, it’s the same simple, satisfying action RPG it’s always been. Trials of Mana began as Seiken Densetsu 3, the 1995 Super Famicom sequel to classic action RPG Secret of Mana. Though Western fans have been playing for two decades via unofficial translations, the game did not see an official English release until June 2019 as part of the Collection of Mana compilation. Now, less than a year since the original was officially introduced to the Western world, we’ve got a high-definition 3D remake.” [Game Trailer]

• The other Square Enix remake [Nintendo Enthusiast]
“ Trials of Mana never feels overwhelming. Every choice feels like a good one, and there’s no harm in going back and trying new things, unlike in the SNES original. Frankly, everything in this remake is an improvement. The music is a gorgeous orchestration of the themes taken from the first three Mana games, and while you can switch to the 16-bit soundtrack, you’d be missing out on a lot of the more modern takes. Likewise, the graphics are a pleasure to look at. This is a colorful game, and the character and enemy designs stick close to the originals. While it doesn’t run at a full 60 frames per second, it’s every bit the pretty picture that the PS4 version is. The game systems move smoothly, and you always get a concise explanation for what you’re about to do. Combat is fun and engaging with just enough tactical depth to keep it interesting, but without requiring a PhD in strategery to get past common mooks. And the boss battles, my goodness. Each major encounter feels unique and makes you think differently about how to tackle it. There’s a sense of achievement when defeating a boss that’s directly proportionate to how large it is, and the reimaginings of most of these fights are a joy to behold.”
• The 2nd Best JRPG Remake Of April [The Gamer]
“The combat is similar to FFVII Remake, although not quite as complex. It's an action RPG which means you whack enemies with your sword while occasionally dodging, hitting them with moves or spells, and healing the team with items. As mentioned before, each hero has their own unique class, so you can create some interesting team-ups and synergies with your three chosen characters. When they level up, you assign points to one of the five attributes, and that unlocks new moves along with abilities that can be equipped to add buffs or stat boosts. It's quite an enjoyable system and it makes for a pleasant adventure. In fact, that's probably how I'd describe the game in general: pleasant. Trials Of Mana never becomes especially difficult. Throughout the journey, the game is absolutely littered with items, treasures, and money to pick up off the ground. You won't really need to worry about buying healing items, as your pockets will be overflowing with them. There are some challenging boss battles along the way, but for the most part, it's a pretty easy game on Normal difficulty. But I actually didn't mind this, as Trials Of Mana is fun and breezy enough that I had a great time even when I wasn't being pushed to my limits. There was just enough going on in the battles to keep my attention and engagement.”
• Trial and Error [Gamespot]
“Trials of Mana is not a bold reinvention. While it has been given a graphical overhaul and added systems that help flesh out and modernize the combat systems, this remake of a once-obscure RPG is very much rooted in its own history. And by some combination of that history and the modern enhancements, it has a bundle of great ideas that are often hampered by others that are obtuse or confusing. [...] Trials of Mana stands on the strength of its combat, and the fact that it's how you spend the vast majority of your time. That easy recommendation comes qualified with several elements that don't work nearly as well, from dull and hodge-podge storytelling to bewildering progression systems. Seeing a historical curiosity through the lens of a mostly modernized action-RPG was enough to pull me through the experience despite my quibbles, though, so there's certainly still life in the world of Mana.”
• Fun But Faithful To A Fault [Game Informer]
“The beloved Mana series hasn’t traveled an easy road. After earning accolades in the ‘90s, the franchise has struggled to capture the same magic in a modern landscape. People began to wonder if the series had seen its last days, but 2018’s Secret of Mana remake showed Square Enix still had a place for the fan-favorite property. That remake didn’t exactly do justice to the original, and now the team is trying again with a remake of Trials of Mana. Did they learn their lessons? Trials of Mana is definitely an improvement over the Secret of Mana remake, but it still comes with many of the same problems; I still noticed poor A.I., questionable voice performances, and technical hiccups – just to a lesser degree. Even so, this is probably the most fun I’ve had with a Mana game in a long time, and that’s thanks to smooth combat, amazing boss fights, and cool ways to upgrade your characters. Trials of Mana still retains its classic elements and feel. It’s a linear and straightforward RPG, and the remake sticks close to the original story and structure. Because players form a party of three from the six available heroes, I like the replay value in selecting different characters and experiencing their stories and different fighting styles. Seeing how the characters’ adventures intersect is intriguing, especially learning the tragic events that gave them something to fight for. However, Square Enix may have stayed too true to the original script, which creates issues in terms of presentation.”
posted by Fizz (14 comments total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
I really enjoyed Seiken Densetsu 3 via fan translation to English. The remake looks visually stunning and the soundtrack remaster sounds amazing from the trailers! But honestly I think the voice acting would drive me nuts pretty fast. I'm old school enough that I generally prefer my RPG dialog as text. Some of the questionably-written dialogue can come across as charming when read but cringe-worthy when heard aloud, and some of the lines heard in the trailer already made me cringe. I also just prefer the old top-down action RPG style of play in general, so this type of remaster isn't really targeted at me. Still, I hope it does well; I'd love for the Secret of Mana / Seiken Densetsu franchise to have a comeback. And the remastered soundtrack is definitely something I can listen to while working!
posted by biogeo at 1:41 PM on April 28, 2020 [6 favorites]

Just showed up in the mail today! :D
posted by xedrik at 2:08 PM on April 28, 2020

Secret of Mana was one of those games I didn't own but my cousin and I would rent and play like crazy in the 2 or 3 day window of the rental period in hopes of getting past... was it the desert? Well, past wherever we always got stuck. We never did.

We did luck upon a savegame once that was at the final stage/area and were amazed at things...

Great game. That game, FFIII (US nomenclature, no idea what that is in Japan number system, forgive me), and Chrono Trigger were the mainstays of gaming RPGs on the SNES system. I loved every minute.
posted by RolandOfEld at 2:14 PM on April 28, 2020 [4 favorites]

FFIII was FFVI in Japan. A fav! I played Seiken Densetsu on emulator in college; this remake sounds fun!
posted by zenzicube at 2:39 PM on April 28, 2020 [1 favorite]

FFVI/IIIUS, Chrono Trigger, and The Secret of Mana remain near the top of my personal list of all-time best video games. Add in Earthbound and enough electricity to keep the console running and my personal desert island is a pretty happy place.
posted by biogeo at 3:10 PM on April 28, 2020 [5 favorites]

Fingers crossed that FFVI is queued up next for a competent remake.
posted by schmod at 7:26 PM on April 28, 2020 [1 favorite]

I think I might be more interested in the new English port of the original. Definitley a high point of earlier action RPGs, I played the heck out of 1 and 2, and most of 3 except back then it was fiddly to get my laptop hooked up to a tv and get the emulator running and a controller mapped and...
posted by SaltySalticid at 7:54 PM on April 28, 2020

They did that too.
posted by wanderingmind at 9:04 PM on April 28, 2020 [1 favorite]

Secret of Mana was okay for me, but I much more enjoyed Secret of Evermore. A simple/complex magic system, great ambiance, fascinating worlds, and a solid boy and his dog/wolf/toaster story.
posted by Evilspork at 3:11 AM on April 29, 2020 [2 favorites]

I only played a little bit of the original Secret of Mana, so the series doesn't hold any nostalgia for me. But this has a very Dragon Quest XI kind of vibe with its art style. I know it's not turn-based like DQXI (this is action combat sequences), but it still has this very pretty art aesthetic that really pops on screen. Am also intrigued by how the decision to choose certain party members right at the start will shape how the narrative develops and what you see and do not see will be shaped by that choice.
posted by Fizz at 7:18 AM on April 29, 2020

Am also intrigued by how the decision to choose certain party members right at the start will shape how the narrative develops and what you see and do not see will be shaped by that choice.

So, the way it works is that there are three major villains, each tied to two of the heroes (Duran/Angela, Kevin/Charlotte, and Hawkeye/Riesz). Your main character decides who you fight ultimately in the end, as well as what portion of the main story you see (if you want to get all the details, you'll want to have both members of the pair in your party.) Any time a setpiece involves a member of your party, you get a more involved version than if you are just a bystander.

Also, from a mechanics point, every configuration is going to have gaps - the game is configured for this. However, the class system lets you lean into this by either reinforcing strengths or shoring up weaknesses (for example, Kevin as a Monk gains access to healing magic.)
posted by NoxAeternum at 9:05 AM on April 30, 2020 [1 favorite]

Also, having reached the post-game/NG+, the game does a lot to make replays go faster by giving you bonuses that just fundamentally break the game:

* Completing the Lil Cactus side quest gives you a number of bonuses that makes life easier - 20% off at shops, half price respecs, free inns, a boost to your Magic Pot, and the Cactus Bond chain ability, which gives you +200% CS at the start of every battle.
* On your first NG+, you get the Love Of Mana chain ability, which triples your experience gain. (Plus you can have random Lil Cactus triplings on top of that.)
* In addition, NG+ gives you character based chain abilities that massively boost stats (+50 to the target stat.)
* Finally, if you pass Rainbow and ??? Seeds on, you can get your team to Class 3 early as well as getting some of the best weapons/armor for them right out of the gate.
posted by NoxAeternum at 9:42 AM on May 4, 2020 [1 favorite]

NoxAeternum, how extensive/intrusive is the voice acting? Is it as bad as it seems from the trailer? Or can it be turned off? I'm not kidding that that's the one thing that would keep me from wanting to play this.
posted by biogeo at 10:52 AM on May 4, 2020

There are separate sliders for voice, music, and sfx volume, and subtitles for dialogue. You can also pick Japanese VA if that's less grating for you.
posted by Bangaioh at 3:59 PM on May 4, 2020 [2 favorites]

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