Trials of Mana
For almost 25 years, North American gamers had thought of Trials of Mana (AKA Seiken Densetsu 3) as the one that got away, but Square Enix surprised fans in a big way this past E3 by revealing it would be localized for the first time via the Mana Collection. Square Enix didn't stop there, though, it also announced a Trials of Mana remake complete with new 3D graphics. Recently, while on hand for Tokyo Game Show, we stopped by Square Enix's offices to chat with its creators and go hands-on with the remake, and were super impressed by what we played. Here's what you should know.
The Presentation Is Great
The Trials of Mana remake captures what has always made the series shine: its colorful backdrop. However, it also has received a graphical overhaul, going from 2D pixel art to modern 3D graphics. While the Secret of Mana remake struggled a bit with this transition, Trials of Mana swapped to the Unreal Engine 4, and the graphics look much more impressive as a result. The voice acting also sounds much more natural and in-line with the characters' personalities. The developers said they heard the feedback about the lip-synching being off in The Secret of Mana remake and want to improve on that aspect for Trials' remake. The rearranged tracks also do the experience justice, as I stopped many times during my demo just to comment on how much I enjoyed them, especially when I hit the boss battle. As a bonus, you can swap between these and the original score at any time.
Combat Has Changed For The Better
For Trials of Mana, the team had to rethink its battle system to fit with modern times, and there's more depth to it than ever before. The developers wanted to make it feel less like button mashing, which often plagued the original. But what really brought about the changes was, as they started updating the graphics, they realized some things just didn't make sense or feel right in a modern, 3D setting, like not having multiple attack types or being able to jump out of the way of enemies.
For the remake, you have weak and strong attacks to strike foes, and you can also charge up an attack for a more powerful wallop. Additionally, you have a special attack called a class strike, which you can execute by filling a gauge through regular attacks. However, nothing is quite as big of a game-changer as the ability to jump. You can execute aerial attacks, which come in handy for flying enemies, but this also means dodging isn't your only way to evade attacks.
Jumping comes in handy for obstacles or enemies with AoE attacks you want to avoid on the battlefield. From the boss battle I played, it looks like it will be integral to your strategy, as you need to avoid his laser eyes and he could launch himself into the air and land on you if you didn't move in time. Using aerial attacks give you a quick way to jump into action and then get back out.
Compared to the original, the controls felt smoother and faster, and I like being able to swap to party members on the fly as each feels a bit different. This is also depending on the class you pick, which determines their special attacks. The A.I., an area the series has struggled with, also received some major improvements. My teammates launched their special attacks when necessary and were much better about avoiding attacks. I didn't feel like I had to babysit them and could just focus on my character.
Producer Shinichi Tatsuke said the team worked on improving the character growth system as well, but said they're not ready to talk about that just yet.
It Still Keeps The Soul Of The Original
If you've been playing Trials of Mana on the recently-released Mana collection, you should still feel right at home with the remake. In fact, in my demo, I played the sequence where you first meet the beastmen and have to go out at night to avoid them, and it felt like a match to the original, right down to certain scenes and NPC dialogue. The only thing that feels different is the aforementioned combat. "We didn't want to do anything to [change] the characters, including the enemies and feel of the world itself," Tatsuke says. "It was a game made in 1995 and now it's coming up in 2020. We tried to imagine – with the same world and the same characters – how would this game have been made if it had been made for the first time in 2020?"
For instance, while the story hasn't been altered, the party members you pick can engage in "side talk" discussions. These interactions between the team you choose can let you see these characters in a new light. "You get to see different parts of these characters based on who they're in a party with. That's the sense in which we have delved further into the characters," Tatsuke explains.
Playing the Trials of Mana demo left me very optimistic about the remake. It does just enough new in terms of modernizing the combat while also not changing too much around. There's just enough additions and improvements to make the experience feel new and exciting. Trials of Mana launches on April 24 for PS4, Switch, and PC.