Trials of Mana Review
After 25 years, Trials of Mana gets the remake treatment from Square-Enix. Does the game deserve to be remade, or should it have stayed locked in the vault? Check out our review and find out.
Trials of Mana Review
Trials of Mana starts with you picking one of six characters as your main character and your companions. Depending on who you choose, you will begin in one of three areas. I went with Duran, a soldier who lost his father when he was a young boy. After growing up into a strong fighter, you face off with the Crimson Wizard. In typical JRPG fashion, he blows you out of the water, and you can’t land a hit. From there, Duran has a new primary goal: get more powerful and defeat the Crimson Wizard.
Each of the characters has their own reasons for being on this journey, but they all end up on the same quest. The world’s supply of Mana is disappearing due to the Tree of Mana withering. To prevent this from happening, you need to find the Mana stones scattered across its world. For Duran, this is also how he can get the Sword of Mana to help him defeat the Crimson Wizard. For most players, the game will run you around 20-25 hours.
Trials of Mana is about the most generic RPG you will ever encounter. To be fair, we have to mention that it initially released in 1995, so maybe it wasn’t so generic back then. You have characters like the Hero King, Dragon Lord, Golden Knight, and Priest of Light. The world is doomed unless you help to save it. The game being generic may be comforting to some people; it isn’t overly complicated and can make for an easy time. On the other hand, it makes for a dull story, and it makes it difficult to become attached to characters.
The story isn’t the only dull part of the game. The combat is boring and will often leave you wanting to avoid battles when possible. It is a lot of the same combos repeated over and over until you charge your class move. There are only so many times I can use a combo of “quick attack, quick attack, strong attack” in a game before I just want to stop fighting. Magic users are a bit more different, but you burn through Mana so quickly that spamming spells isn’t an option. All of this is because of the class system in the game.
Each character has a class and can upgrade their class later. The problem is for someone like Duran, who is a melee fighter; upgrading your skills does not give you new moves. It just gives you passive buffs and upgrades, which means you will be spamming your basic combos for a long time. However, when you get your second class and eventual third class, things finally begin to open up. You don’t upgrade classes until about 12 hours into the game, and the second upgrade is in the final stretch of the game. The best parts of the combat don’t become available until you are almost done with the game. That absolutely should have been rectified in this remake.
The world of Trials of Mana is actually pretty good. You get to see a robust variety of areas and biomes during your playthrough. I enjoyed exploring it the first time around. It was probably around hour four or five when I had backtracked for the fifth time that it began to wear me down. Of the 20-25 hours, you will play, about a third is backtracking without fast travel. So that dull combat I was talking about? You are going through that twice because you usually have to walk back to town. You do eventually get the ability to fly, but just like the combat, this is towards the end of the game.
Side content in the game is lacking as well. There are these little cactus guys you can find that provide extra buff and benefits. There are no side quests to speak of, but there are item seeds to find. I enjoyed this quite a bit, probably because I am a degenerate gambler and the fact that the items were random. It was a fun but straightforward process. Plant some seeds, let them grow, get the items. Better seeds meant better rewards, and eventually even gave you items for your class change. At least I had that to look forward to during my constant backtracking.
I usually don’t harp too hard on voice acting. The game is dubbed in English, and oh boy, is it rough. Some of it sounds phoned in, and quality is all over the place. To top it off, they bait you with this healing girl at the start. Any RPG players worth their salt knows you need a healer, right? So naturally, you will pick her as a companion or as your main character. Then you hear her voice, and she does literal baby speak the entire game. This is a prime example of why people still think video games are for children. Enjoy 20 hours of that nonsense and question why you ever decided to pick a healer in the first place.
I didn’t run into any crashes, frame drops, or bugs. The music was also outstanding, though that could just be in contrast to the not so good voice acting.
Only the most die-hard fans of the Mana series should consider picking up Trials of Mana. While the remake may be faithful to the original, it doesn’t make for a good game or a good time.