Jordan at SwitchWatchTV has played and reviewed a new indie game called Trials of Mana, and it looks to be a fun and interesting title. But is it worth your time and investment? Or is Trials of Mana just another RPG to add to the pile. Well, let’s find out what Jordan thinks in this review!
Hello, everyone, and welcome to our review of Trials of Mana, or as it was known for 20 years… Seiken Densetsu 3.
Now, before we get into it, I’m obliged to point out that a press code was provided to us by Square Enix and that the title and tags for the YouTube video say “Ad”. But no money was exchanged nor any promises of what will be said during this video. These are our thoughts. You will see all other content creators being asked to do the same thing.
With that in mind, let me tell you my true, honest thoughts about Trials of Mana, the 2020 remake. And boy, do I have a few things to say.
Trials of Mana is fairly unique in its story-telling department. Well, especially for the time of the original’s release. There are six characters, all of which can be the star of the show, and each have their individual story introductions and motivations. Of the three characters you need to pick, you’ll start with the main one and then bump into the other two along with way.
Like I said, they have their own introductions. I started with Angela, who was exiled from her Kingdom due to her lack of talent despite being the Queen’s daughter. When you meet up with the two other characters you chose, you can also play through their intros too. Each only takes around 20-30 minutes, so it’s nice to see their origins and how their motivations are quite different from each other. But the fact is, despite each of their issues, their problems can all be solved by the Mana Sword and summoning the Mana Goddess. These characters are different, but they are bound by the same end goal and the overarching threat that looms over the various kingdoms of this world.
As I mentioned, there are 6 characters, but only 3 will come along with you for the ride. You will bump into the remaining 3 along the way, but they will not follow or help you. This invites at least 2 playthroughs since the second time you play the game you can have a completely different team and experience quite the difference, even in the bosses. Yes, most of the beats are the same, but a lot of interesting points won’t be.
The overall story about evil conquering the land is slightly generic these days, but it’s a 25 year old game. You go from here to there, find the Mana stones and have a decent time. It’s certainly not the best narrative you will ever experience, but it was enough for me to enjoy myself without being totally engrossed in it.
So Trials of Mana is an Action RPG. It’s a surprisingly faithful remake of the Super Nintendo original, but with enough to make it feel like a completely new experience. This time it’s fully 3D rather than top-down. You walk around towns, fields, and dungeons, the latter two of which you will bump into a lot of monsters. It’s all in real time, so there’s no random encounters and as an arena-like boundary surrounds you when you do come close to an enemy, it’s time to go to town on them.
You can freely switch between the 3 characters in battle with the shoulder buttons. Those not controlled by the player will be controlled by AI. They are a little dumb at first, but you can go into the menus and tweak their strategies, which I highly recommend you do. Each of them has a standard attack as well as a stronger, barrier-destroying charge attack. These can be combined together in order to create more kinds of attacks. Think of it a bit like Dynasty Warriors in that sense. A couple of normal attacks followed by a press of the stronger one and you get the idea.
Now I came into this straight off the back of loving Final Fantasy 7 Remake’s combat system, and after playing that game, playing for 35 hours over 3 days, it’s fair to say that the battle system was in my brains and it was a bit of a struggle to adapt to the quaint one here. There’s no guarding, but there’s an essential dodge roll plus a jump button to deal with flying enemies.
You have special attacks which must be mapped to the Left shoulder button. Hold that down and then press one of the face buttons. That made sense to me and worked well enough, although I did often get it confused with holding the Right shoulder button, which you can map items and – most confusingly – attack spells. Yeah, I got very mixed up at times.
When I wanted to cast magic my instinct would always be to hold the left down, because that’s where the special attacks are, right? And it also happened the other way around. Even after playing for 10 hours, I was still holding down the wrong ones.
Despite that, battles are quite fun. They are simple but satisfying as you’re always doing something, and they’re very energetic. There’s no cool down period unless you’re waiting for your special attack gauges to fill up, but they are used for a rainy day anyways. The boss battles are especially fun. I really enjoyed most of them as they did present enough of a challenge. Although, this one boss can go die in a fire. I have no idea how they thought this one was acceptable. It might be the least fun boss fight I’ve ever played in a game.
In terms of being an RPG, you will probably think it’s a bit thin on the ground. Equipment, for example, is really under played. While you can buy new armor and weapons, there’s nothing to them aside from stat upgrades and even then there’s no variety. You go to a new town, you buy the one new weapon that’s available and that’s it. There’s nothing tactical about it. You can’t choose between the one that has more attack, or perhaps the one that gives you a bonus effect. Nope. Just buy the new one and be done. Rinse and repeat for each town.
You do have training points though which can add some strategy. When you level up you can assign points to each character in a sort of skill tree kind of thing. Perhaps boosting their strength and earning a new attack, or boosting their intelligence and earning a skill that will give you a constant buff.
Where the customization really comes out is in the class system; A fighter, a mage, thief etc. But at a couple of points throughout the game, you get the chance to change and enhance their class. As a brief example, the warrior Duran is given the chance to switch into a Knight or a Gladiator, which signify Light and Dark respectively. Perhaps one will give a bigger stat boost, while the other will give something more tactical. And later on you get to change again.
So the Gladiator can then choose between two more classes, different to the ones that the Knight can be. At the end, depending on how you developed your character, they’ll be one of 4 possible classes. Either light-light, light-dark, dark-light, or dark-dark. It sounds confusing, but it makes sense when you’re playing. Plus, they get nice costume changes too! Which, because I’m that shallow, is the best part of it for me.
I really like the traversal in Trials of Mana, the fields and the dungeons are quite linear, there’s generally only one way to the end or to another town, but I think they struck a good balance as it didn’t feel linear to me. There are lots of little secrets everywhere with chests and items, different paths to go around and some wider open areas that made it feel less linear than it actually is.
It is worth noting that this is a single player game only. The original was multiplayer but due to the new perspective Trials of Mana remake had to keep it to single player.
So, let me finally get something off my chest. I like Trials of Mana. I like it. But there’s no getting around the fact that despite doing everything well enough, this is 100% a game made on a budget. I think many people were hoping that this could be a top tier release for Square to bring the series back to the forefront, but the fact is, this ain’t no Dragon Quest 11. This is very much a game that would have been perfectly at home on the PlayStation 2. Now don’t get me wrong, that’s not an insult in the slightest for me personally as the PS2 is the golden era for me in terms of RPGs, but people need to get their expectations in check with this release. It’s fun and I had a good time with the gameplay and if you love RPGs of that era, you will love this, but don’t go expecting the world.
VISUALS & PERFORMANCE
And while the lower budget nature does show in the simple gameplay, it’s the presentation that shows its true colors as I’m sure you can see. The visuals are very simplistic and textures are quite poor in the environments.
The original game was perhaps one of the best looking games on the system this however, is not. Like I said, this game is pretty much a late PS2 game and is what Dragon Quest 11 would have looked like if it was on the system. Don’t worry, it doesn’t bother me too much. I think the art style shines over everything, but a little more polish would have been nice. If everything was in the same league as the character models, I think that could have gone a long way to ensure people about its quality.
In terms of performance. It’s not 100% perfect, but is mostly fine. I only found some frame drops when there were quite a lot of enemies in one battle and I performed a special attack when there was already a lot of effects going on. It’s not something you need to worry about. It is only 30 frames per second however, but for an RPG that doesn’t bother me in the slightest.
In terms of audio, the music is pretty decent. You get the choice between the original soundtrack and the remake, which is mostly entirely faithful to the original just with updated instruments. I found the music okay. Perhaps I was a little disappointed since I’d heard everyone fawn over the previous game’s soundtrack whereas I wasn’t quite so blown away with what was offered here. I guess I had really high expectations but that’s my own fault.
Now, there is voice acting. And oh boy let me tell you about it. I mean, I don’t know how they could have thought this was okay. The English voice acting ranges from generic to truly awful. As my main character, I chose Angela for… a couple of reasons. But I didn’t take into account the unbelievably bad voice acting for her.
Now, I get what they were going for. She’s a bit bratty, quite neglected, but also spoiled due to her family status. I get the personality. But that doesn’t mean they should drag in some random valley girl off the streets to do the lines. I mean, it’s baaad. Riesz is also truly awful. Thankfully I didn’t pick her for my party. If you want an authentic mid-90’s bad video game voice acting experience then I implore you to choose Angela, Riesz and Charlotte for your party.
However, if you want to have Angela in your party (and I know you do for a couple of reasons) but can’t bear the bad acting then you can thankfully switch the voices to Japanese which is 100 million times better, and that’s coming from someone who’s not a snob either way when it comes to sub or dubs. Once I met up with Riesz in the story, that was it. I had to change.
I couldn’t have Riesz and Angela having a conversation together in English, it made me want to jump out of a window. And I know I’m sounding quite happy while saying this, because it genuinely makes me smile at how bad it is. It might actually be a selling point for the game. It’s so bad, it’s good. But seriously, play on Japanese first so you can take the story somewhat seriously.
Trials of Mana is selling on the eShop for £44.99 in the UK, 49.99 in the US and Europe. That’s a triple A price. What you’re getting is a fun action RPG that’s built on a budget. With a 25 hour story, plus a big incentive to go through it all again and see different sides to it, I’d say you’ve got yourself something that I can recommend although I would totally see where you’re coming from if you wanted to wait for a sale.
Both Lost Sphear and Oninaki from Square Enix are priced the same as this one, but for me, Trials of Many is much better than those two. Of course you can go physically if you want and that’s available for a cheap price if you shop around. I’m sure you can knock 10-20% off the eShop price in the UK if you buy physically.
And by the way, it’s worth noting that the download size is a whopping 10GB. Which surprised me to say the least.
Alright guys, once again this review copy was provided to us by Square Enix, no money was exchanged. I’m not sure they’d be happy about paying me to take the piss out of the voice acting. But yeah, it says Ad because they asked us to put that.
I would like to give a big shout out to SwitchWatch’s Executive Producer Dane Wilkinson. Thank you for your support and all the people who have become members. Be sure to check out a couple of reviews that we’ve had out recently. We had a review for Hyper Jam plus a couple of visual novels that you may look to get into if you’re into fan service. I think they are well worth a look! Plus don’t forget we have our weekly bargains series from James on Sunday and my weekly physicals video on Monday. We’ll see you guys over there!
Story - 8/10
Gameplay - 8/10
Audio - 8/10
Visuals & Performance - 8/10
Value - 8/10
Overall, Trials of Mana is a game that I enjoyed playing. I enjoyed playing it for what it is. And what it is, is an Action RPG built on a budget. Thankfully the core mechanics were all in place from the original classic release, but now wrapped up in a 3D package with a few additions and rough edges thrown in for good measure. Yes, presentation isn’t exactly great but I still really enjoyed my time with Trials of Mana a lot. If you miss the days of the PlayStation 2 then I’m sure you will get a big kick out of this. If you were hoping for a modern top-tier JRPG, then perhaps you need to lower your expectations and wait for a small sale. For me, from what I played, despite it’s rough edges, it brought me back to my youth, I enjoyed it quite a bit despite its flaws.
- Fun action RPG gameplay
- Multiple stories
- Lots of gameplay
- Some bad voice acting
- A bit of a high price tag