By Rae and TheJewphin
We’re a little late on this thanks to post-PAX insanity, TheJewphin and I got an awesome experience at PAX to check out the remake of the 1995 sequel to Secret of Mana. First off, thanks so much to Square Enix for letting us check this out! I’ve separated our thoughts to keep things a little cleaner here.
Trials of Mana was very hit-or-miss for me. I loved the aesthetic of the game with its adorable enemies (and actually squealed with delight at the adorable boss crab when he appeared – no shame). In fact, the most depressing part of the game for me was killing all of these adorable enemies who just wanted a small nibble of my face.
Aesthetic aside, I am not sure what to make of the gameplay. The controls are very similar to Final Fantasy VII’s (the other demo we played) with attacks, dodges, and time freezing for special abilities. But where switching between characters in Final Fantasy VII was a strategic or fun choice, switching between characters in Trials of Mana feels necessary in the worst of ways. During that giant crab fight, I would run behind the crab and whack him from the safety of his back side. But while I was hurting him, my allies were standing in front of him just soaking tons of damage. So I constantly had to switch to different characters just to move them out of the way of damage, knowing that whatever character I wasn’t controlling was just waiting to die.
Trials of Mana is 100% new to me, so I had no idea what to expect from this remake of the 1995 Super Famicom game. To be honest, the demo is the only impression of it I’ve had at all!
To start, Trials of Mana has a cute anime/manga look that I really enjoyed. The characters have a handdrawn quality, despite the 3D graphics. The result is a pretty, somewhat nostalgic aesthetic.Most of the enemies are surprisingly adorable – even the massive crab boss we faced down at the end – and the scenery is pretty lovely if you enjoy the classic 3D cartoon look. I really liked this mix – it brings 2019 graphics capabilities to the table, while still giving a hefty nod to the often beloved art that we’ve seen in JRPGs throughout the years.
The demo started us off in the town of Jadd, deep under the invasion of the beastmen. No one is allowed to leave, but luckily the beastmen are relatively easy to escape during the nighttime. I’m a little iffy on the story past this point (really, it just sent us off to find another area), though much of it felt like your standard classic JRPG.
I enjoyed the battle system well enough – combos were easy to figure out, and switching between characters was fairly seamless. The one thing I didn’t like was escaping from trash mobs in the overworld. Each time you enter battle, a ring appears around your location. To escape, you’ll have to run to the edge and keep trying to run through until it lets you escape. It’s a somewhat odd mechanic to have in a real-time battle system – usually you can get away from enemies quickly and easily if you really need to in this type of setup. It made me feel like I was taking up too much time on small enemies as I made my way through the world.
Like the FFVII remake, Square has brought a more active battle style to a traditional party based system. However, this felt a bit awkward in boss fights. I found myself switching back and forth just to keep people alive – at some point it felt less like fighting with various abilities and more like babysitting. I’d like to see a bit more utility with switching between characters – make it enjoyable instead of necessary for not so enjoyable reasons.
In the end, I enjoyed the demo, though I might give a longer try to the game before purchasing it.
Trials of Mana comes out on April 24th, 2020!