Introducing the Hero of Legend: Kevin
I absolutely adore Trials of Mana. When I first played it, it was only ever known as Seiken Densetsu 3, the sequel to Secret of Man. I ran it on an SNES emulator with a translation patched over it. The only game that ever came close to it in terms of how it effected my feelings about games and their design is Chrono Trigger. The multiple player characters, the intricate class system, the engaging combat and incredible music — it had literally everything, and it made my ten-year-old brain explode over how amazing videogames could be.
All this to say, I had incredibly high expectations for the remake of Trials of Mana, especially considering how...well let's just say people didn't exactly love the remake of Secret of Mana. Now that I've played it, I can say that my fears have mostly been laid to rest.
Trials of Mana is an Action-RPG that lets you pick 3 of its 6 characters to place in your party. Who you pick can drastically affect how you go about the game — roll a party without Charlotte, for example, and you find yourself missing a crucial healer. That said, the three characters you pick will be able to pick from branching classes to cover their weaknesses, or specialize even further. Ries, for example, can pick up white magic with the right class, while even a bruiser like Kevin can be a healer under the right circumstances.
All six characters have their own motivations that set them on their journey, and three pairs of the characters each have their own final boss. I'll leave who's who a secret, but I will say it's a lot of fun replaying the game with different combos to see what changes. You'll see the three characters you didn't pick go about their own journeys as well. The remake has the added benefit of letting you talk to your party when you're in town. It's nothing intricate, but it does a lot to add more flavor to your team and get you to like them more. The same can be said of the new in-game dialogue that happens when you're in combat. These little flairs add a lot to someone's played this game, uh, checks notes, 8 million times.
I swore that I wouldn't pick my usual party composition of Kevin, Angela, and Charlotte, but I couldn't stop myself when the game started and nostalgia swept over me. Crucially, picking Charlotte third lets you get her earlier in the game than any other third party member — a trick that still works in this remake.
Everything in the game looks great. It pops with color and style, and remains very faithful to the original tile and sprite-sheets of the SNES original, all while maintaining Koichi Ishii's wonderful character designs. However the remake gives these old areas much more depth. This is immediately apparent when you reach the Castle City of Jad in the Demo, which I have comparison screenshots of below.
The difference is immediate, and honestly staggering for someone who's played the original so often. Everything is exactly where I remembered it, but with a new coat of paint. I couldn't have been happier.
Thankfully, and unlike the Secret of Mana remake, Trials of Mana plays as well as it looks. The change in perspective means a change in the combat system, which is now full-on action. You can pull heavy and light attacks, as well as dodge roll. When you hit and defeat enemies, you can fill up a bar that lets you pull off special moves. It feels like a natural evolution of the original's combat, feels great to control, and even improves the potential of some characters. Angela, for example, is the de-facto mage of the group, but in the SNES version, it took a while for her to shine, until she was able to get some spells under her belt. In the remake, she's viable from the start, able to quickly string attacks and use her special moves that don't cost MP, until she's able to unlock her new spells.
There's also a new leveling system, where a character gets points after they level up. They can then put those points into stats, and after a certain number of points are accumulated, new moves and passive bonuses can be unlocked and equipped. Some bonuses can even be used by other party members, covering their weaknesses or capitalizing on their strengths. It's not overly complicated, and and adds a nice little layer of customization on top of everything else.
All that said, however, it's not a complete knock out of the park for this game. While the environments and character models are beautiful, the way they're animated can feel wooden, especially during cutscenes. Characters interact almost like puppets in their stiltedness, and it can be a bit distracting, especially during moments that are meant to be very emotionally impactful. On top of that, while combat feels great, it's not particularly challenging even on hard mode, at least as of now, so if that's something you were hoping for you might be disappointed.
Even mentioning the above, I'm more excited than ever for Trials of Mana now that I've played the Demo. It's everything I could have wanted in a modern update of one of my favorite games of all time. I even am more excited for this game than I am Final Fantasy 7: Remake, if that's any indication of what you can take away from this post. It's definitely worth a look if you're curious, and if you're already a fan, then it's a no-brainer: get this remake!