The original Trials of Mana, known in Japan as Seiken Densetsu 3, didn’t see a proper Western release until just last year, when an English translation was finally made available as part of the excellent Mana Collection. If you’re unfamiliar with the original 16-bit game, it’s one of the best games ever created for the Super Famicom, but its introduction so late into the 16-bit console’s life-cycle meant Square was better off spending its resources in ways other than localizing a massive Japanese action RPG for a Western release.
The good news is the 16-bit translation in the Mana Collection is excellent, but the better news is the modern remake absolutely hits the nail on the head. I had a chance to go hands-on with Trials of Mana during my time at PAX East and I was surprised at just how well it translated the the pixel art and chiptunes of the original into a new game. From my all-to-brief experience, the Trials of Mana remake looks like a major improvement over the 2018 Secret of Mana remake.
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Trials of Mana Remake Graphics
First off, the game is absolutely gorgeous. I chose to play the demo on Nintendo Switch and the bright, beautiful colors of the 16-bit version lost nothing in the translation to the modern era. Other demo stations had the game running on PS4 Pro, where it (unsurprisingly) looked even better. It throws off some serious Dragon Quest XI vibes, minus the Akira Toriyama character designs but with the added benefit of brighter and bolder color palettes. On Switch, the demo ran well in docked-mode (handheld play wasn’t an option). I chose to try it on Switch because I plan to play the full game on Switch, but seeing it on PS4 Pro has me second-guessing myself.
As far as comparisons to the Secret of Mana remake, Trials looks much better. Secret of Mana (the previous game in the Mana series to Trials) looked… OK. Certainly passable. But Trials of Mana Remake’s graphics are on a whole other level. Check out the slideshow below for a better look.
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Trials of Mana Remake Gameplay
My one concern going into the Trials of Mana Remake was how it would handle gameplay. For the uninitiated, battles in the original take a bit of getting used to, but the learning process is quick and makes sense after only a few skirmishes. The remake battle system is even easier to understand. The Mana series is an action RPG, so battles aren’t turn-based. It’s less DQXI and more Ys VIII: battles begin when you’re in range of an enemy and you hit buttons in real-time rather than issuing a series of commands. It made sense immediately, and I found myself hacking and slashing through rabites and mushrooms with ease.
Trials of Mana Sound and Music
The Mana series on Super NES/Super Famicom has some of the best 16-bit chiptune music of all time, and the signature sound effects and music of Trials of Mana translates incredibly well to the modern era. There’s a soft warmth to sound effects for even the harshest actions in Mana, and the modern version retains the charm of the original, Not only is the music updated for the modern era, the sound effects have also been updated, and neither have lost any of their charm.
The hands-on demo I had a chance to experience at PAX East has me very excited for the full game. Trials of Mana Remake is scheduled to come out April 24 to PS4, Nintendo Switch and PC.