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Seiken Densetsu 3 known as Trials of Mana in the west, was released in 1995 for Japan. It was often acknowledged as the best JRPG to never get a western release. Finally, last year it was ported to Nintendo Switch for western audiences. A year later, ‘Square Enix’ and ‘Xeen’, the devs of the original have managed to put out a fully-realized 3D remake. ‘Trials of Mana’ Remake was released on April 30, 2020, for PlayStation 4, PC, and Nintendo Switch.

Trials of Mana

Trials of Mana is the third entry in Square’s long-running JRPG series and it is the sequel to the second entry in the series, Secret of Mana. If you are a fan of old-school JRPGs, this may be your huckleberry. Square’s take on this remake vastly differs from what it did with Final Fantasy VII Remake. This transition from a 16-bit top-down perspective to a 3D one looks and feels great. Despite having the visual overhauls, it has the heart of the old.

Story & Narrative

Trials of Mana

“World of Mana is in peril as the Goddess of Mana nears her end”

The story follows six possible protagonists in their respective quests, which lead them to obtain the Mana Sword and fight a world-ending threat. Out of these six characters, you are supposed to choose one main protagonist and two companions. For my playthrough, I went with ‘Duran’ as my protagonist, ‘Angela’, and ‘Kevin’ as his sidekicks.  Your chosen main lead acts as the ‘chosen one’. The plot features different antagonists as per the characters you have chosen.

“Optional Backstories are a Time Saver”

The structure of the plot remains a strong reminiscent of the original. Each character of your chosen party features almost an hour-long backstories. When you meet another member of your party, the game presents you with a choice of treading or skipping through their backstories. I appreciate the devs for implementing this option, this saves you up to 2 hours in your playthrough. After finishing every backstory you will be having all your chosen characters within the team. At this point, I had almost spent 4-5 hours in my playthrough. From here on out, every quest you undertake is the chunks of individualistic stories paired with the story of depleting ‘Mana’. The overall campaign lasts over 20 hours.

Trials of Mana

” Grinding for stories”

Almost every JRPG is guilty of grinding and Trials of Mana is no exception. Almost every chunk of the story is buried beneath layers of grinding, similar to Dragon Quest X. Most of the grinding takes place while your party is seeking different elementals belonging to eight different mana stones, to obtain the ‘Sword of Mana’. However, the game does give you the option of escaping random encounters, minimizing the tedious grinding considerably.

“Seems like the idea of Side-Quests didn’t exist in the 90’s”

The plot is decent, but it has a fair share of issues. Besides the main missions, there isn’t much to do in the game’s campaign. I would have liked to have a few departures from the main action. However, that doesn’t mean it lacks content in any way. To overcome its shortcomings, the game introduces several character cameos. These cameos give you a peek inside the stories of the other three heroes besides the ones you chose at the start of the campaign, indicating that there’s another side to these stories. It gives you the very reason to fire up an additional playthrough.

Gameplay and Mechanics

Trials of Mana

A good balance of Melee and Magic

Most JRPGs have a cliched ‘Turn-Based Combat System’ embedded into them, but Trials of Mana does not, at least not entirely. Thankfully, the melee combat has been fully realized in real-time with special attacks available via the command menu, similar to what Square did with Final Fantasy Remake. Besides these, the combat also involves several types of elemental magic attacks available via the ‘Ring Menu’, which was also a major part of the original.   

The melee combat featured within the game is quite simplistic. You can perform strong and light attacks or use attack combos. In total there are only 3-4 combo moves, which remains the same for every character. You can also Jump, Dodge, and Roll for fortifying your defenses. It could have been better if there was an option Block, Defect, or Parry attacks when paired with the timed Dodges.

Besides the melee combat, you can also take advantage of magic. For this, the game features a ‘radial menu’ which makes it easy to switch back and forth between melee and magical combat. Implementation of the ‘ring menu’ comes in handy if you’re trying to use the magical ability of one character while taking the enemy head-on in melee combat. This came quite in handy while I taking on the enemy as Kevin and trashing his defenses by using Angela’s magical moves. This also came in handy for Duran’s healing light move, sustaining my odds of survival in the battle.

“Training Points and Class Switching are an integral part of the experience”

The allocation of training points is crucial as it unlocks several moves and abilities for the character. Moves are the magical powers that each character posses, these require Mana Points for usage. Mages/Sorceresses have numerous moves that can tip the odds of the battle in your favor. In my case it was Angela, her power grew exponentially as I stumbled upon more elementals. Besides these, Abilities prove helpful in boosting HP, MP, or increasing attack power likewise.

There are also class changes to unlock, with battle techniques and abilities varying depending upon which one you pick. Each class change has two options – Light and Dark – each with their strengths and weaknesses. There’s no penalty for choosing Dark over Light, they just present different options as you progress. You change your class at level 18 and again at level 38, so you can have a Light-Light, Dark-Light, or Dark-Dark character.

The types of enemies in Trials of Mana somewhat resembles ‘Pokemons’. There’s ‘Rabite’ which resembles that of a Rabbit and ‘Pikachu’, even though they’re adorable these things can bite your nails off. Likewise, there are Kid Dragons, Golems, Mushrooms, and many more. Most of these creatures can impose elemental passive effects, draining your heath during the combat considerably. Even though I enjoyed waging wars on them, in the long run, it became quite tedious as I was encountering them too frequently and they kept on respawning whenever I was backtracking the map. Besides these, variety is abundant among the bosses featured in the game. I liked the variety in the boss encounters and the way I overcame them.

“16-bit Worlds realized into fully fleshed out environments”

The original featured the 16-bit world design for its time and remake succeeds in realizing them in their fully-fleshed out 3D modeled worlds. From ‘Burning sands’ to ‘Frostbite fields’, everything looks gorgeous in these worlds. I particularly liked ‘Crystal Desert’ as per my taste. Every world differs from one another due to the type of elemental they belong to. From castle dungeons to mountain caves, everything has been well realized. All these worlds feature large open areas connected with a series of linear paths.

Visuals, Sound, and Performance

The visuals of Trials of Mana are simplistic and reminiscent of what Dragon Quest XI looked like. The art-design is that of what most anime-featured video games use. There is proper lighting, ambient occlusion, and reflection. The console version is almost identical to the PC port running with high presets.  Besides these, there are a few low-texture assets in the game that diminish its visual fidelity. It is nothing too major but quite noticeable. Overall when compared to original, the remake does feature a major overhaul in terms of graphics.

The remake features both the original and remake OSTs. I liked both of them and gives you the option to switch between both effortlessly. The background scores bear a child-like whimsicality and remain enjoyable throughout. The only issue here is that the background score does not seem to be that fitting when the party switches to battle mode. Overall, in this department, this title is fairly decent and holds up quite well throughout.

The performance of ‘Trials of Mana’ on PS4 is remarkable. I could barely notice any fps drops and my PS4 Slim was able to maintain a stable framerate of 60fps at 1080p during all times. However, I did encounter a major issue with TV while running the game and I still haven’t been able to fix it so far. For some reason, the game appears to have a ‘Cropped Display’ and about 5-10% of the display area is not visible at all times. I tried enlarging and shrinking the Display Area of my PS4 using the ‘Screen and Sound Settings’ option in the settings menu but it did not affect the game.

The Verdict

Trials of Mana is a faithful remake of the original in almost every aspect. If you are sick of JRPGs due to their turn-based combat, you should consider picking this up. RPG elements like the radial Menu and skill trees give depth to its combat and desired character customization. Its Combat system has a well-balanced melee and magical abilities implementation. Despite its cringy voice-acting and display issues, it remains enjoyable for the most part. it is one of the few JRPG titles that I have finished in a long while.

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