With all the excitement about Final Fantasy VII Remake, you’d be forgiven for forgetting that it is not the only remake of a classic Square RPG gracing our consoles this month. In fact, and I say this knowing that stones are going be thrown in my direction as a result, that’s not even the remake I’ve been looking forward to the most. No, the remake that has been on my radar for months now and whose release is filling me with anticipation is a slightly more obscure but no less exciting title.
I’m talking, of course, about Trials of Mana.
We’ve been following the release of this game for a while now. As with all remakes, there is a heck of a story about how and why this game is finally getting a Western release after all these years, so lets delve a little bit into what you need to know before you pick up this reimagined classic.
Trials of Mana is a Sequel (kinda)
Known as Seiken Densetsu 3 in Japan, Trials of Mana is the game that comes directly after Secret of Mana in the Mana series. However, despite following Secret’s success in both Japan and in the West, Trials never saw release outside of Japan until Collection of Mana, a rerelease of the first three games of the Seiken Densetsu series, hit the Switch less than a year ago, unless you count the fan translation that I absolutely did not play on an emulator at university.
Because this is most fans first chance to play this entry in the series, you might think you’ll be lost without having played the original, but that’s where you’re wrong. Unlike Final Fantasy VII Remake, which assumes you’re at least familiar with the original’s story and characters, Trials of Mana expects you to be going in fresh. And if you haven’t played Secret of Mana, no worries (except you really need to because it is amazing) because the plot and setting are mostly unrelated between entries. Spells, mythology, and enemies will be familiar to fans of Secret, but the game as a whole should be viewed as a separate entity. So no excuses for not picking it up now that you have the chance.
Trials of Mana is Made for Multiple Playthroughs
Probably the biggest innovation that this game brings to the series and to the genre as a whole is the concept of choosing your main character and two supporting party members. The first decision you will be faced with in the game is choosing whose story you’ll be following from a list of six. Each has their own motivations, backstory, and antagonist, so their stories will all play out slightly differently as you take on the mission to save the world. From the willful swordsman Duran to the simple and direct beastman Kevin to the princess Angela, every character has their own motivations for undertaking the journey and an enemy opposing them on that journey.
While some characters have a more interesting and engaging story, there is enough to each one to warrant multiple playthroughs. In addition to choosing your main character, you can choose who joins them on their journey. Different combinations will have different abilities in combat and contribute more or less to the main character’s plot, so its worth experimenting and seeing the story with a fresh pair of eyes each playthrough.
The Original is Probably the Best 16-Bit Game You Never Played
You can absolutely be forgiven for sleeping on this game. Its lack of a Western release meant very few people outside of Japan ever got their hands on it. A fan translation wasn’t available until 1999 and an official release didn’t happen in the West for another twenty years, well after the graphics and gameplay had become dated by the transition to a 3D world. Its often assumed that this was because of the shift in focus to Secret of Evermore that was in development around the same time, but in truth there were a number of technical issues in the translation and localisation that made it a mammoth task. By the time Square considered doing so, the Playstation was looming on the horizon and threatened to make the release of a 16-bit game obsolete and unprofitable, so localisation was abandoned for over two decades.
Despite this, the game has a small but passionate following in the English-speaking world. With its exceptional graphics for the time, the return of Hiroki Kikuta to compose the score, and the Choose Your Party innovation, Seiken Densetsu 3 was an exceptional RPG that was unfortunately released too close to the end of the SNES’ lifecycle. Trials of Mana brings all of these things to modern consoles, showcasing exactly why the original deserves to be on the radar of any JRPG fan.
With Trials of Mana’s release just days away, any fan of JRPGs or classic 16-Bit games should be excited for the chance to play this impressive game in all its reimagined glory.