After fantastic remakes of the first 2 Mana games and a collection of the original trilogy, we finally have a remake of Seiken Densetsu 3.
Back in 1995, Square released Seiken Densetsu 3 for Super Famicom. Although its predecessors arrived in the west as Final Fantasy Adventure and Secret of Mana, Seiken Densetsu 3 remained a Japanese exclusive until the release of Collection of Mana on Switch which contains the original 3 games in the series. Upon experiencing Seiken Densetsu 3 for the first time, I was blown away with how imaginative and fun it was. Plus, the non-linearity element of being able to choose a party of 3 characters from a selection of 6 really knocked my socks off. Thankfully, everything that made it a special experience is present in this Trials of Mana remake. Well, except for a multiplayer component so if you were looking forward to adventuring with a friend then you may be slightly disappointed.
On the plus side, Trials of Mana looks absolutely wonderful. Whereas the first 2 remakes were certainly colourful, Trials of Mana goes above and beyond by providing gorgeously animated and expressive characters as well as beautiful and varied environments. The music is top-notch, too, as it features delightful orchestral arrangements that lend themselves well to dire situations and lighthearted scenes. Each character is voiced in English and the cast does a fantastic job of fleshing out everyone's distinct personalities. All of this comes together in an extremely imaginative game world that'll have you traversing enchanted woods, complex caverns, and even shrinking down to explore a tiny village. Having just completed Final Fantasy VII Remake, this whimsical world makes for a welcome change of pace.
Trials of Mana's combat is simple yet enjoyable. All you essentially do is perform light and heavy attacks (the latter of which you can charge), jump and dodge, swap characters on the fly, and unleash powerful special moves. When you start the adventure, you'll find that combat is exceptionally basic but as you progress, you'll discover that regularly swapping characters while dodging effectively and using each party member's unique traits and abilities is the key to success. Unfortunately, it takes about 10 hours before the combat becomes fully engaging in this sense but once it does, it's an absolute blast. I chose Duran, Hawkeye, and Riesz for my party and found that they worked together impressively well but if they ever don't, you can alter their artificial intelligence with some basic Strategy options.
Character progression in Trials of Mana involves basics such as buying and finding better equipment and levelling up but there's much more to it. For starters, you can assign Training Points to any of 5 categories for each character which unlocks stat boosts as well as passive abilities that you can equip. Also, when you reach a certain part in the campaign, you can change character classes which not only alters characters' capabilities; it makes them much more powerful. Anyway, the main campaign is impressively lengthy as it will take dozens of hours to complete and there's a solid amount of replay value, too, as you can play it through using various character combinations which changes the story as well as the party dynamic. In other words, it's the kind of game that you can enjoy for a very long time.
Even though I absolutely love Trials of Mana, it does have some downsides. For starters, many parts of the campaign have you retreading the same expansive areas multiple times which becomes monotonous rather quickly, especially considering the fact that you'll encounter enemies that no longer pose much of a challenge. Later in the campaign, this isn't much of a problem but it can be tiresome in the early goings. Finally, I found that many locales became tedious much sooner than I wanted them to simply because they lack variety. Solving puzzles and facing unique enemies help break things up from time to time but there are moments when you'll desperately want to see and do something other than hacking and slashing through the same monsters while running down similar-looking corridors.
Trials of Mana is a gorgeous and delightful action RPG that's full of imagination and heart. In fact, it's so captivating that it made me fall in love with Seiken Densetsu all over again.
- + Rewarding combat and character progression
- + Outstanding visuals, music, and voice acting all set in a wondrously imaginative world
- + Lengthy adventure with loads of replay value
- - Combat takes a while to get interesting
- - Retreading the same paths becomes tiresome
- - Some portions could use more variety