The Trials of Mana is a beautiful rendition of a 16-bit game being re-created in full 3D. While I typically don’t jump into many remakes or remasters, It delights me to say Square Enix did an outstanding job at bringing Seiken Densetsu 3 onto the global stage in full 3D.
For a game originally created for the Super Famicon and only released in Japan back in 1995, there was little hope fans of the series would ever see Seiken Densetu 3 outside of Japan. That held true until the release of the Collection of Mana last year for the Nintendo Switch. Western fans finally got to see the masterpiece deemed one of the best ever created for the Super Nintendo. The question is, can it get better? The answer is an astounding yes!
Bringing a 2D, 16-bit game into full 3D is no easy task, just from a graphical standpoint. Yet Square managed to pull of a full recreation of a game while staying faithful to the original. The story is identical, the world is identical, and even the soundtrack is identical only recreated in high fidelity. If you’ve played the Trials of Mana before, whether it was a fan translation or the official release, everything you know will be the same in the 3D remake, only much prettier.
While staying true to an original is a great thing, sometimes it can be a bit much. Let’s face it, the stories created back in 1995 weren’t the best. Many of them, like Trials of Mana, feature cliché tropes, and plot twists you can see a mile away. Most featured tedious text dialog that many just skipped. One thing Square could have done was at least change the dialog even slightly to get rid of some of the tediousness.
While it would be hard to modify the story to rid it of some of the tropes and plot twists, they could have done away with is Charlotte’s childish text. Why anyone thought it was a good idea to play-act a child, and then also write like a child is absurd. I found myself skipping every encounter with Charlotte simply because I couldn’t read what she was saying. My Japanese is okay, but I don’t fully understand everything they say, especially when she talks like a baby.
One thing that could easily have elevated the story ever so slightly would have been the addition of side quests. Yes, they weren’t in the original, nevertheless, it would have made a great addition to the remake. That said, the story was okay at best, with the Japanese voiceover to be the best offered.
Combat Makes The Game
Where Trials of Mana excels is the combat and exploration, with what little exploration you can do. It is very much an on-rails experience. There’s only one direction to go, forward. During the late game, you have a vast world to explore, but each map is the same: one direction. The fluidity of entering and exiting combat is what stood out the most to me, it felt very seamless. The action combat was punchy and satisfying. It wasn’t all hack and slash, eat battle was dynamic. Some required you to bust a shield, while others had flying enemies you had to knockdown. While the original was also action-oriented, the 3D world allows for much more dynamic combat, such as the dodge roll and jumping to attack flying enemies.
While the world is very linear there’s still an element of exploration to be had. Many areas hiding chests or lil cactus’ included pseudo jumping puzzles. I found myself searching for every lil cactus available, while the rewards are worth it in the end, I’m not sure the reward is worth it to rush finding them all immediately. Random equipment drops are non-existent. I found a single equipment item from a chest throughout my entire 22-hour playthrough. This was something I never expected from a JRPG, a genre known for throwing equipment at you left and right.
While random drops weren’t giving me items, Golden item seeds did. You can find some of the best pieces of equipment from these seeds in the late game. An example of one such item is my Dragon spear, it had 31 damage over my highest purchasable weapon prior to the final boss. This made me eager to plant those seeds as soon as I got them.
Class Progression Has Its Quirks
Class progression was a little confusing for me, as it isn’t plainly laid out. I wasn’t aware that I would be stuck to a “path” when choosing a class. When you reach level 18 you get your first class change, you get to choose a light or dark class. This decision will haunt you the rest of the game. Once you choose a light or dark class, you can then only choose light or dark classes, some of which have both light/dark attributes, this is where it got a little confusing for me. If I chose a light/dark combo for my third class, does this mean I can choose either light or dark for my fourth?
I was also disappointed that I couldn’t just slam points into whatever I wanted. Each class has a limit set on the maximum of each stat, such as Strength or Intellect. You can only increase those numbers by advancing to another class. That’s fine and all, until you get hit with RNG bad luck and get no ??? seeds that turn into the item you need to progress to Class 3.
It took until right before the final boss to get the item I needed to upgrade Angela, completely random drop rate. I also had to choose a class I didn’t want her to be, just for the stat and spell improvements it brought to the table. I didn’t want to go into the final boss with her stuck as her second class.
Decent Performance On The Switch
I played Trials of Mana on the Nintendo Switch and performance was a major concern for me. Most of the time it had a smooth 30 FPS. Unfortunately, even in docked mode, the hardware struggles in places. Mostly during very intense battles with a lot of stuff going on at once. I also noticed the differences between the Switch, PS4, and PC are stark in comparison.
The Nintendo Switches version seems to be a bit washed out in color. There’s some kind of haze effect going on that neither the PS4 nor the PC version have. The models are nowhere near as sharp as either of the other platforms either. Due to this, I think I would have much preferred to play on the PC or PS4 Pro rather than the Switch. With that in mind, I had no issues completing the game on the Switch, and only had slowdowns in very few instances.
One glaring issue I had with the game is the interaction button. Any time you wish to pick up an item, open a chest, or talk to an NPC, you use the A button, which happens to be your primary attack button. I found myself constantly attacking while trying to interact with objects or NPCs instead of interacting. To ensure this doesn’t happen, come to a complete full stop before attempting to interact, as any movement whatsoever will cause you to attack instead. I’d like to see them fix this, as I love to move around as quickly as possible, forcing me to stop for a full second to open a chest or talk to an NPC is a huge pain in the neck.