Trials of Mana Is an Ambitious Return to One of Square Enix's Long Dormant Series

Square Enix's Trials of Mana, or Seiken Densetsu 3 in Japan, has never looked so good.

I don’t have any strong affinity for the Mana series; Secret of Mana and Final Fantasy Adventure (a.k.a. Seiken Densetsu: Final Fantasy Gaiden in Japan) were way out of my generation, and the series has never made enough of a push in the west for me to pay any mind towards. That changed quickly though when Square Enix presented a remake of Trials of Mana as well as an immediate western release of the once Japan-exclusive Collection of Mana on the Nintendo Switch. During E3 2019, I got the chance to check out the newest version of Trials of Mana, built from the ground up by longtime fans of the series at Square Enix, and it looks like a really fantastic action RPG.

Undoubtedly, the Trials of Mana remake is and was overshadowed by Final Fantasy VII RemakeWhile the fanbase is smaller, it’s really interesting to see Square Enix taking this new initiative in the west. They are bringing series that are considered monumental staples in the RPG genre over to western fans who, in many cases, haven’t had a chance to go hands-on with them for years. First, it was with the western release various Dragon Quest titles, and now it appears to be the Mana series.

Trials of Mana is an outlier when compared to Final Fantasy and Dragon Quest as it’s the only one that relied on action RPG mechanics whereas the other games were turn-based. Masaru Oyamada, a producer on the game told DualShockers that “Secret of Mana was very popular, the original version, even before the remake. We knew that many fans wanted a new title and for Seiken Densetsu 3, as it was called originally, to come west. We wanted to challenge ourselves with providing the original version of Trials of Mana and the new version as well. We embarked on a new direction compared to Secret of Mana.”

He then delved into the thought process behind Collection of Mana and why Square Enix is bringing it west:

“For the Collection of Mana, when it was released originally in Japan, people wanted it to be on the Switch in the west as well. We wanted to provide it in a way that players could choose what method was the best or most accessible for them. That’s why we wanted to offer Trials of Mana on multiple platforms.”

My demo was hands-off but I got an extended look at cutscenes, gameplay, and three of the six characters in Trials of Mana. Players will begin their playthrough by choosing one primary protagonist as well as two additional party members who will act as companions. Each character will have different abilities and your chosen heroes will change the ways in which the story plays out. While these characters are all unique when compared to one another, choosing between one or the other will not affect the game’s overall difficulty.

One of the other producers on the game, Shinichi Tatsuke mentioned that “there’s not a major difference in difficulty depending on who you choose. However, they do have things that they’re strong at. For example, physical aspects, healing, or magic. Depending on who you choose, your playstyle may change.”

The story has six different beginnings and as each character progresses, they will run across one another. The overall plot is shared, but as previously mentioned, there are variations in the narrative depending on which of the three characters you have linked up.  The game will have three major endings, so multiple playthroughs are encouraged. In that regard, Oyamada-san had the following to say:

“The way that the story is structured so that no matter what three characters you choose, the other characters’ stories are moving forward in parallel to what you’re doing. Each of them have their own kind of role in this overall story, that’s why we only allow for the player to choose three characters. As far as replayability goes, a lot of players really loved the fact that they could play the original Trials of Mana again and again. This time around, we wanted to make players want to replay it more than the original version. By being able to choose your own combination for yourself, it might make the game even more fun to play again.”

Combat looks like it’ll be a lot of fun. As it is standard action RPG affair, you have access to your basic weak attacks and heavy attacks. You can also mix and match button combinations to pull off some really cool stull and learn various physical skills along with magical attacks. It didn’t look like anything too groundbreaking but it’ll certainly offer up a good time for fans of the genre. Finally, the demo ended with a boss battle that looked like a lot of fun, I’ll certainly be looking forward to trying it once the game releases.

If you had reservations about Trials of Mana after the Secret of Mana remake, this looks to be a much more ambitious project, and the team working on it truly cares about delivering a worthy Mana game in the west. Trials of Mana will be launching for PS4, Nintendo Switch, and PC in early 2020.

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Jordan Boyd

Jordan Boyd is a Staff Writer at DualShockers, specializing in indie games, RPGs and shooting titles. He's majoring in journalism at Stony Brook University on Long Island. During the 7th console generation, Jordan faced a crippling blow with the release of Aliens: Colonial Marines that scarred him for life.

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