Trials of Mana Remake Gamescom 2019 Preview – More Ambitious Than Secret of Mana
Not content just remaking Final Fantasy VII and Secret of Mana, Square Enix has set their sights next on a game that most us in the West don't even have any nostalgia for. Trials of Mana, known until recently as Seiken Densetsu 3, has finally received a localization for the Western world in the Collection of Mana, but it was announced alongside a brand new remake of the Japanese SNES classic in a similar style to the recent Secret of Mana remake. Trials of Mana is now coming to the West properly in full 3D, with action combat and strong hopes to reignite the love for this series.
I played the game at Square Enix's press booth at Gamescom 2019 while playing on a Nintendo Switch in handheld mode. Secret of Mana's remake was still restrained by a top-down view which obscured much of the world and environments, but with the Trials of Mana remake the camera is placed behind the backs of the characters, and the environments are given much more detail to complement your expanded view. Towns and cities are detailed and vibrant for small-scale JRPG standards, and it's immediately clear that this is a much more ambitious remake than Secret of Mana.
Characters are much more detailed and animated than those in the Secret of Mana remake, and cutscenes are still simple, though certainly more cinematic than what was possible in the original. By far, the biggest and most impactful change is the visuals. The world has been brought to life, and when compared to the SNES original, well it's most certainly a night and day comparison. This stands out even more because the Secret of Mana remake translated the top-down perspective and everything in its entirety to replicate the original, limiting its scope.
As you would expect from the Mana series, combat is simple at first, tough to master. I played a fairly early section of the game, and my attacks and abilities were limited, so it's hard to say how combat will evolve over the course of a playthrough, but hopes are high. At the point I was at in the game, I could lock on, dodge, attack… Pretty simple stuff, but this is a JRPG, and therefore the real meat of the combat is locked away behind new weapons, party members, and abilities.
The game looked good, sure, and played as well as you would expect, but those points felt minor compared to the real takeaway: this is a full remake. While Secret of Mana felt somewhat lacking, Trials of Mana's remake delivers on every mark, a complete modernization of the old Mana games, akin to Final Fantasy VII's remake. It's certainly not going for realism like FF7R, but everything here is being brought up to scratch, not simply replicating the original game but in 3D.
But if I'm to be honest, the visuals on the handheld Nintendo Switch did not particularly impress me and looked somewhat rough - though there's certainly plenty of time to iron out those kinks. And it's hard not to worry about how well the rest of the game will be remade. Will this game end up suffering from outdated game design, will they change it, or does it actually hold up throughout, even against modern action JRPGs? That is very hard to say right now and puts doubt into my mind. Regardless of those concerns though, right now I'm excited to see how Square Enix will bring the legendary Seiken Densetsu 3 into the new era with Trials of Mana Remake.
The game will launch on April 24th, 2020 for PC, PlayStation 4 and Nintendo Switch.