So JRPG’s are not really my thing, I’ve played Final Fantasy VII and a few others but the turn based systems and all the text put me off them for a very long time, to the point of not playing them at all in the last console generation. However Christmas 2019 I got a Nintendo Switch and that changed, I have since started playing FF VII again and have started Ni No Kuni….but what does any of this have to do with Trials of Mana, well you see the switch Collection of Mana was available, and for the first time I was able to play Secret of Mana, an action RPG with beautiful music, art work and a fantastic story, I hadn’t quite got around to playing Trials yet when the demo for the 3D version was dropped (of course I downloaded it immediately) but I didn’t get round to playing it, but on Friday the 24th April 2020 Trials of Mana was officially released and Square Enix were kind enough to give us a copy for the PS4 (thank you very much).
Before I was able to play the 3D version I had to wait for it do download and install so I broke out Collection of Mana and played for a while so I had an idea of the scale of this 3D remakes differences. I didn’t get too far but I did pick a party that I was going to pick again for this fancy new version of the game…I picked Duran (I named Duran Duran) a Warrior of the Kingdom of Valsena on a quest to bring some self honour and destroy the red wizard who defeated him. Next was Riesz (Riesz’s pieces) a warrior princess and captain of the guard from Laurent on the search for her kidnapped little brother and avenge the death of her father. Finally there was Charlotte (no new name here I thought a regular name in amongst fantasy name was funny) she is a young girl from the city of Wendel with a speech impediment who is also the granddaughter of the priest of light, she is on a search for the one person who can help her save her “gwandpaw”. Each of these Characters (and the other 3 you can choose from) are all tied together with the common goal of saving the Mana Tree and thus the world. The SNES (Super Nintendo) version of the game is a charming beautifully realised world full of silliness and great action, and fully prepared me for the 3D rendition slowly downloading on my console…I had reached Wendel and received a notification that it was ready to go.
Immediately this game was showing me what it had in-store with a remastered opening cut-scene showing the beautiful locations you’ll be visiting throughout the game, unlike the original there was an option of difficulty (which is welcome), I picked normal as I’m still green around the gills when it comes to these types of games. then we see our heroes fully rendered in Cel-shaded graphics brightly coloured and now with voice acting. After seeing the pixelated originals I have to say these new character models are just gorgeous if a little too “sexy” for my tastes. But here’s your first negative to this game…you can’t change the names as you could on the SNES, but this is minor because as soon as you start the game you realise why this sacrifice was made, every character is fully voice acted and say the names of the protagonists so I’ll let slide, for now… You start as the first charter you picked (in my case Duran) and you play the prologue solo (party members to come later) but as a new and welcome feature when you meet the rest of your party you can play their prologues too but with two draw backs, any items you collect do not carry over and you cannot save the game during this time. If you decide not to play their prologue you get a nice cut-scene explaining what they have been through.
Combat in this game is in real time which for me is an absolute winner, full 3D maps mean you can dodge, jump or plain runaway. You can use skills to enhance you party and switch between them on the fly meaning you can utilise your power moves whilst cool downs are in effect for another party member. You can combine strong and weak attacks by hitting square and triangle, dodge out of the way with circle, hold R1 and tap a button for a special attack…this is my kind of game. In the original you would have to wait a small amount of time to have you attacks deal any significant damage where as now you can chain attacks together for heavy damage…it’s a lot of fun. There are tons of systems in place too that can increase you parties aggression in battle or have them hang back healing whilst getting in some pot shots to boot. You level up and increase stats tailored how you want it…if you want Duran to focus on strength and counters there’s an option for this, if you want change your hot keys you can do this too adding what ever item you believe to helpful for you that can be used with a quick button combo. “Training” is how you level its basically grinding and adding skill points to where you want them to go.
There is a level of exploration in this game too, you’re given an over world map for you to explore at will…its not huge but it is stunning. In any location you can find items chests and pots that give you gifts such as money, item seeds (seeds you plant that give you…Well… items) or health and other related drops. The map itself is exactly the same layout as the original game…some people have said this is the games slight downfall but me personally I really like that. The original is a top down game and your party couldn’t reach certain locations and for the most part this is true of Trails 3D. For instance there was a point I could see a chest across a lake on an island so I decided I’m going to jump over there only to be hit with an invisible wall (I was slightly miffed) and couldn’t get there the way I wanted but then I realised I couldn’t do that in the original, so fair enough and that was another minor negative put to one side. I’ve had fun going to one location turning around to see items I’ve missed due to the geometry of the world. There is nice side quest that can net you some sweet booty in the form of Li’l Cactus a cute little cactus man that wants to play hide an seek, you find him you gain a stamp, the more stamps you get the better your reward…I love this little guy, I’ve only met him twice in game and he’s already up there as one of my favourite things. One downside to all the chest being placed around the world and not appearing after battle is the lack of the roulette wheel where you could get arrows magically attack you or receive bonus health, or my personal favourite the polterchest a magical demon chest that attacks you for stealing its loot, I love that thing abut understand why its no longer in the game as its just not needed anymore.
Now this game is presented in gorgeous Cel-shading which has been perfected over the years to get that anime look and let me tell you this is probably the most brightly coloured game I have ever seen and I played Viva Piñata endlessly back in the day, even in the last few weeks I’ve played Super Mario Odyssey and Borderlands 3 and this game out colours them all. Seemly every male character has Abs for days and every woman has…ahem assets. This is what I mean by “a little too sexy”. This is the biggest gripe I have with the game every woman is overly sexualised with outfits that barley cover them and seem far too impractical especially for someone that’s supposed to be a warrior (Reisz) and most of their flesh is on show, a character later turned up to break me out of prison but she just wouldn’t stop bending over infront of the camera constantly showing her cleavage. Even the VERY young Charlotte has moments like this, some of her dialogue just doesn’t seem appropriate and she will slap her bum before a special move, I get that this is supposed to be cheeky but it comes across kinda creepy. The issue I have with all this is that the original game was pixel art and these characters couldn’t do any of this, the story was about the characters and not their bodies plus the 16-Bit added to the charm of the game keeping things in the realm of fantasy without “smut” seeing this happen in the 3D game takes away form that. The voice acting is fairly good each charter is fully realised though I think Duran comes across I little whinier than they may have wanted, but not having to read a novels worth of text is nice.
The Music in this game is orchestral version of the 16-bit tunes we hear in the SNES game and they are perfectly lovely capturing the atmosphere of world we are exploring, a lot of it is reminiscent of Final Fantasy which is no surprise as the Mana series kinda started off in the FF universe and you know it’s Square Enix.
Sadly though a few things have changed due to the overall 3D-ness of the game, for instance even though these characters are fully animated they are not as animated (in the expression sense), so When Duran meets Faerie and she goes inside him, instead of flailing his arms and acting kinda grossed out (like in the OG game) he just seems more confused and this is expressed by his face rather than his whole body. This is clearly due to the limitations of the original hardware and how characters could get emotions across but it was sad to see this not happen as it did in the original. A Similar situation happens with the fortune teller, where she used to literally slap you off the table she now just scorns you a bit.
This game has several different interwoven stories to explore with different characters seeing it all unfold from a different angle, replaying this game is a must if you want the full experience and I intend too do just that, its a stunning looking game it plays very simply and is easy to get the grips of with drip feeding tutorials that you can figure out all on your own though with a few minor gripes and the fact I’ve not gotten amazingly far (second boss by this point) I can tell this is a game that anyone could enjoy and I am excited to see what the rest of the game has to offer. I cant give a true final score until I’ve at least finished the main campaign but as of now this game is getting a solid 8 out of ten from me, it seemly has improved on all the mistakes made in the 3D Secret of Mana and won me over to the joys of JRPG’s.
Thank you for reading my review have great day and be nice to each other.