While everyone else has been engrossed with a certain other Square Enix “remake”, I was one of probably 5 people not playing it or Animal Crossing and instead was waiting for the release of that other Square-Enix remake, one that actually deserves the moniker.
Yeahhhhh, I will be discussing THAT later, but now it’s time for a little history lesson….
Seiken Densetsu 3 was released in 1995 on the Super Famicom as the third game in the series following the success of its predecessor, known in the west as Secret of Mana. Sadly, by 1995 the SNES in the US was slowly fading away, with anticipation of the PlayStation and Nintendo 64 on the horizon and Square didn’t want to put in the time and money into localizing the title.
So for years afterwards, the title stayed in its native Japan until finally being smuggled in through the fan translation route of the early 2000s and for almost 20 years no one could agree on what to call it, there was Secret of Mana 2 for normal people and Seiken Densetsu 3 for the ones who like to think they are smart and cultured but just come off as complete prats, I believe it’s now called “Boku no Hero Syndrome”.
I’ve played the original Mana 2 a few times and was just engrossed by its brilliant orchestral soundtrack, 6 character arcs and vivid 16 bit design. I played it, confined to the fact that it will never see an official localization.
How wrong was I
When the Seiken Collection was announced for the Switch in Japan, on a whim I contacted the folks behind the compilation asking them about the likelihood of a localization, the answer was the popular, pass the buck “ask Square” tripe I am used to seeing these days. While the tweet and its response did go viral, there wasn’t any noise for another 2 years.
E3 2019 however, there was noise, LOTS of noise when not only was it confirmed Collection of Mana would be getting a worldwide release, but Mana 2 was getting localised alongside a full blown Remake. That, and a brand new official title for the game, TRIALS of Mana.
Diving into the Remake, a lot of work had to be done to take the 16 bit sprites into a fully fledged world, the character models stay true to the original designs and booting up the game for the first time, I got chills listening to the iconic theme again in all its glory. You start off like in the original by selecting 3 of the 6 characters to play with, including the swordsman Duran, the thief Hawkeye, the beastman Kevin, the magic princess Angela, the Amazonian Riesz and elf Charlotte, regardless of who you pick, the story always begins the same, with your character embarking on a boat towards their quest for revenge and redemption, before meeting your chosen co-horts and the fairy…..um….Faerie, you will also occasionally run into the other 3 as they continue their journey.
The plot is the typical, Square plot, unlocking several macguffins, while exploring several dungeons and giants bosses, while also finding time to visit local towns, sleep in Inns and continuously upgrading your weapon and armour as well as buying hordes of food and potions to keep yourself healthy on your journey. In this case, you set out to help save the dying Tree of Mana and claim its sacred Sword before the elusive “Benevodons” (no, I did not make that word up) reawake and destroy the world.
Gameplay is that of a hack and slash and Trials doesn’t set out to over complicate things, you are able to easily attack, dodge, switch party members on the fly and unleash special moves without too much hassle, however you may wanna adjust your party members strategy as in their default state they can be fairly useless, ignoring the obvious fact a boss will be unleashing a serious attack on them, but with a few adjustments they can mostly take care of themselves. However, there seems to be a limit of how many items you can bring into battles, even if you have like 60 Candy, which I did by the end, you can only bring 9 of any item into a battle at one time. Plus you can’t make Item Ring adjustments mid fight, so if you need to change, sadly reload a save.
That being said, the game seemingly has the same issues as Panzer Dragoon’s remake, the upgrades have made the game fairly easily in comparison to the original, with some bosses just feeling like a breeze. This highlights one of the game’s biggest changes, how streamlined everything is. Instead of a giant world to explore and people to meet, the game’s beacons highlight exactly who to talk to and where to progress the story, plus it is so much easier to find items littered all over the place. For some, this will bring comfort in knowing where to go next, but to others, it could feel like way too much hand-holding.
Graphically, when put up against a certain other Square remake, there is no comparison at all. While the other one seemingly spent 10 Million Dollars on the main character’s hair alone, Trials of Mana is more concerned with sticking to the original, and while towns surely have some life to it, they can feel slightly claustrophobic and if you’ve seen one shop or home you’ve seen them all. Plus, all that added detail in areas just make you earn to explore only to be met by our good friend invisible walls.
Now, you may be thinking about how it’s unfair to compare these two remakes, and you might be right. So instead, we’ll compare it to another remake, Secret of Mana’s on the PS4 back in 2018, and that one is the perfect example of doing the absolute minimum. Instead of getting a fully 3D overhaul as Trials did, the people behind Secret’s remake just took the original game and spray painted it HD, the game plays in the overhead perspective like the original except during the occasional cut scene, it honestly plays like a rushed mobile game and it was really undeserving of Secret’s legacy, hell even EVERMORE wouldn’t deserve this.
Now with that said, there are issues with this new version and the most glaring is the voicework, particularly the English is rife with hokey cringe. The worst offenders are Kevin, who being half man half beast, talks like a mentally handicapped caveman and it felt like a bone right to the skull, and Charlotte whose attempt at being adorable just comes off as obnoxious, I swapped to Japanese dialogue as soon as I could.
While we have all been drooling over FF7’s shiny new remake, you should give a moment to appreciate Trials as well. A title that just last year was still only available in Japan has now, not only finally gotten localised but a full-blown Remake as well. This also holds out hope for other classics like FF6 and Chrono Trigger finally getting a much deserved remake, but, with a company actually localizing a 25 year old game, I will just finish this review by putting this image of Mother 3 here for no reason.
Reviewed on Switch
The founder and Editor in Chief of UnboxedTV. Nintendo lover and not afraid to admit it, can always go for a good Indie Metroidvania with a nice cold Cider.