Trials of Mana: The most faithful remake of April 2020

Last night I began playing the remake of Trials of Mana. With that other big remake that came out last month, I can’t help but feel like Square-Enix just kind of sent this one out to die. Because, man, Trials was definitely given to the B team.

I should probably set the stage before I get into this, though. Trials of Mana is generally better known as Seiken Densetsu 3. It’s the sequel to divisive SNES classic Secret of Mana that had never been released outside of Japan, until last year when an official translation was included in the Collection of Mana. It’s really too bad that it took so long, because it improves on Secret of Mana in pretty much every way. I spent a lot of time playing a fan-translated ROM of SD3 back in the day, but never finished it despite liking it quite a lot. To say that I was hype for this remake would be to put it mildly.

So now the remake is here, and if my memory can be trusted, it’s shockingly faithful to the original. Which is a nice contract to Final Fantasy VII Remake and Resident Evil 3, which diverge significantly from their source materials. I actually prefer when developers use a remake as an opportunity to do something new with an established game, but there’s also a certain charm in seeing a beloved game from your past being brought up to modern standards.

Or, modern standards of the early 2000’s, where Trials of Mana is concerned. The fact of the matter is that it feels a heck of a lot like a Wii or PS2 game. It runs really smoothly, but it just feels off. Character animations are a little clumsy (at best) and the controls are stiff. If only one game I’ve played recently could qualify to be called “janky”, Trials of Mana is a strong front runner.

But despite the jank, the hour or so that I’ve played has been fun. Combat is a little stiff, yes, but it still works very well and it’s satisfying. It’s actually not too far removed from FF7Remake, just with less polish. The character models are lovingly rendered and the environments look pretty darn good too. Again, I also really appreciate the care taken to recreate the original game, but in a 3D space. The voice acting has been mostly good, though it seems like some characters may have been voiced by localization staff when the budget for professional voice actors ran dry. And last but not least, the remixed soundtrack has been an absolute delight so far. Even if it wasn’t, there’s an option to switch to the classic (and fantastic) original SNES soundtrack. Everyone wins!

One really strange thing I’ve noticed while I explore the opening areas is that I’m getting a really strong Xenoblade Chronicles vibe. It’s hard to pinpoint why, exactly, because the two games aren’t especially similar. It may just be the general vibe; the combination of exploring a pretty world while pretty music plays in the background.

Obviously these are just my very early impressions, so I don’t know how it’s all going to roll out. I haven’t even really begun to dip into the character customization options. But I’m having fun so far! If you’re looking for a AAA-style game, you might want to mosey past this one, but I’m thinking that there’s still plenty to appreciate about Trials of Mana.

Oh man, and despite the lack of care put into almost all the other animations, the shopkeeper dance in Trials is epic.

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