Hands-on with Trials of Mana

Square Enix is releasing a remake of a classic title from their catalog in April of 2020 and they have released a demo of it for fans to get a tas…wait, didn’t I do this article a couple of weeks ago? Oh they have a second remake that they?re releasing in April…cool, cool, cool! Seiken Densetsu 3 which originally released on the Super Famicom was an action RPG where you can choose 3  characters (think of it as a somewhat predecessor to Octopath Traveller) as you travel to recover the sword of mana to save the mana tree. Deemed too expensive to localize, Trials of Mana remained a Japanese exclusive until the game was translated and included 2019?s Collection of Mana which included the first 3 titles of Mana series. Shortly after release Square also announced a 3D remake of the previously unreleased 3rd entry of the series to the PS4 and Switch.

For the purpose of this Trials of Mana hands on, I had played the title on the Nintendo Switch. When prompted to choose 3 characters I chose the following. Reisz, a warrior princess from the kingdom of Laurent. Duncan, a young swordsman desperate to live up to his father?s legacy and Hawkeye, who?s a thief character and I like thief characters. The order in which you choose your characters will determine the order of appearance, so since I chose Reisz, my adventure would start on Mt. Laurent. After a tutorial battle, Reisz laments the increase of monster activity, before returning home to train her younger brother Elliot in the ways of the warrior. Unable to locate the prince initially, we are treated to a little backstory of the family and how the pair lost their mother shortly after the birth of the younger sibling. Once the back story is uncovered, we switch to Elliot who have encountered a pair of covered men claiming to be magicians. These magicians convince the young naive prince to lead them to a chamber underneath the citadel. With the aid of the prince, they shut down the wind and are able to launch an attack on the citadel. With her father, the king killed and Elliot kidnapped, Reisz must go to the town of Wendel to seek the advice of the Priest of Light.

Reisz?s first stop is the town of Jadd, where she discovers the town has been occupied by beastmen. Unable to leave, she learns from the locals that beastmen transform and discard their posts to spar with each other at night. So we are forced to sleep in an inn to advance to night, this is where we are introduced to the game?s day night cycle which dictates when events can occur. Once out of the town she comes across another town and is forced to stay the night after finding the path to Wendel is blocked by a magic barrier. At night she finds a ball of light which reveals itself as a faerie. With her new faerie companion in tow the duo are able to undo the magical barrier, and it is near that entrance they meet the second character you chose (in my case it was the swordsman Duran). Optionally you are able to play Duran?s prologue to learn more about the character and his playstyle. Once down you will venture into the Cascade Cavern, where you will run into Charlotte another one of the playable characters. However since I did not choose her when I selected characters she would not join my journey.

Upon my arrival to Wendel we are granted an audience with the Priest of Light and are brought up to speed regarding the plight affecting the world. We need to collect the mana spirits to gain access to the sanctuary of mana to get the sword of mana so we can save the mana tree (yes the word mana is used…a lot). Our group returns to the Cascade Cavern to an area which was previously inaccessible and confronts the Full Metal Hugger. After defeating this giant enemy crab (we weren?t able to flip it over to do massive damage however), it was revealed the hugger had eaten Lumina, the light elemental. As the team makes their way out of the cavern they are ambushed by the beastmen who were previously occupying Jadd. It seems that the magical barrier was dispelled; they are free to march onto Wendel and take it over. Your two playable characters are knocked off the cliff leaving faerie to panic over their unconscious bodies. The demo ends on this cliffhanger (er…cliff fall technically) and without having met your third character. An option to save your progress is made available as you can take the progress made in the demo into the full game.

Besides the remake in 3D, the game is no longer a top down action game. The camera tends to focus behind your character, but you are free to move the camera around. A majority of the dialogue is voiced, although sometimes the delivery is quite stilted and cringey (I?m talking about Charlotte?s cutsey lispy voice in particular). There are a lot of quality of life improvements in the remake. Objectives are explicitly marked so there?s no confusion of what you need to do. The effective range of an enemy?s range attack is shown on the battlefield, allowing you to evade with ease. The font is infinitely more legible compared to the one used in the SFC version.

Given that the other two preceding titles in the Mana series were remade, Trials’ remake was a shoo in. Judging by the demo, this remake will likely introduce more folks to the unknown entry of the series (although I?m still holding out hope for a remake for the spin off that was made in the US, Secret of Evermore). While the launch date for the remake is about a month away (4/24). Players can experience the demo which was discussed in this article starting on 3/18 when it is released on the PS Store as well as the Nintendo eShop.