Square's classic action RPG franchise is making a comeback and with this new Mana collection, you can play the first 3 iconic Seiken Densetsu games in one convenient and comprehensive package.
Collection of Mana contains the first 3 games in the Mana series: Final Fantasy Adventure (Seiken Densetsu), Secret of Mana (Seiken Densetsu 2), and Trials of Mana (Seiken Densetsu 3). First, Final Fantasy Adventure is a Game Boy game that features gameplay very similar to The Legend of Zelda yet with more RPG elements, a variety of spells and weapons, and a nifty attack gauge that determines your strength and resets after each attack. It may be old but it's still a ton of fun. Next, Secret of Mana originally released on Super NES and it's a top-notch action RPG. You play as a hero and you'll have a girl and a sprite join you as well that can optionally be controlled by local cooperative players. It also introduced the handy Ring Command menu system, a refined power gauge mechanic, 8 upgradable weapons, and the ability to fly across the world map via Flammie. It's a timeless classic and it holds up beautifully to this day.
Finally, we have Trials of Mana which never saw a western release back in the day as it was only available for Super Famicom in Japan. I must say, even though Secret of Mana is excellent, Trials of Mana manages to raise the bar for action RPGs even higher. One of its greatest features is that you can choose 3 distinct characters (1 main and 2 sub characters) from a selection of 6 to play the game as. The core gameplay is very similar to Secret of Mana yet some notable additions include the ability to change classes, assign points upon levelling up, and perform special attacks. The graphics are stunning complete with gorgeous sprites, fluid animation, satisfying visual effects, and a gradual day / night cycle that incorporates elemental spirits in a very clever way.
Completing all 3 of these games will take you anywhere from 50 to 70 hours total so you're looking at one lengthy collection. That being said, I can't help but feel a little disappointed that other games in the series weren't included. I would have loved to play through Dawn of Mana (Seiken Densetsu 4) again, the very fun spin-off Legend of Mana, the Game Boy Advance remake of Final Fantasy Adventure (Sword of Mana), or the 2 DS spin-offs (Children of Mana and Heroes of Mana). Another addition that would have been welcome is an in-game help system or guide that you could reference. These 3 games can be exceptionally confusing at points and wandering around aimlessly is never fun. To prove this; although I've played these games before, I had to regularly look up what to do next.
Collection of Mana does an excellent job with emulation whether you play docked or portably. Everything is super-responsive and the graphics and audio are always spot-on. The only slight issue that I noticed is that the game seemed to pause at certain points in order to load the next song but it was barely noticeable and didn't occur often enough to be a substantial problem.
Each game in Collection of Mana has a lovely border and grants you the ability to switch between showing a pixel-perfect representation or fill the height of the screen. One thing that I found weird is how Final Fantasy Adventure's border image is bright and colourful while the other 2 games have much dimmer and less appealing images. Anyway, Final Fantasy Adventure also includes 3 colour palettes to choose from and each game has its full soundtrack available which is awesome considering how amazing the music is in these games. Although this is cool, I wish there were more extras such as interviews, images, etc. Also, there aren't many available options. Heck, you can't even turn off the border images or implement scanlines but being able to save whenever is definitely welcome.
If you've ever wanted to play the first 3 Seiken Densetsu games in a comprehensive compilation then Collection of Mana is definitely worth purchasing. Just don't expect many bells and whistles.
- + Each game is fantastic, especially the newly translated Trials of Mana
- + Great emulation with responsive controls
- + Includes a soundtrack menu for each game
- - Only 3 games are included and many Mana games are missing
- - Could use in-game help and guides
- - Not much extra content or options