Trials of Mana review: A lost classic in modern form

Video game remakes are naturally for modern audiences, but they’re also designed to stoke fan nostalgia, carrying a heavy burden of expectation as a result. Given that Trials of Mana – known by its Japanese title Seiken Densetsu 3 – had never been released in the West, until its inclusion in Collection of Mana for the Switch last summer, it largely escapes the same level of scrutiny. It’s perhaps why, compared to 2018’s disappointing and charmless Secret of Mana remake, there’s more license to really bring the 1990s Super Famicom title to 2020 by not only ditching pixel art but also changing perspective from top-down to full 3D.

Controls feel refreshingly modern, the z-axis allowing you to jump around environments and rotate the camera. Even though battles are ringed off as individual encounters, the real-time combat nonetheless flows seamlessly, as your party of three heroes (chosen from a possible six) execute light and heavy attacks, even dodge roll, all the staples of a modern 3D action game. The targeting system, however, I find finicky, with a tendency to lock onto the enemy furthest away – so you might find at times it’s better to do without.

Naturally, the new perspective means there’s no multiplayer option like in the original, but it’s easy to switch between characters, while the action freezes if you need to access the item and spell ring menus. If there’s any criticism, the modern controls and conveniences make most of Trials’ combat less of a, well, trial. At least the bosses put up a challenge – the game’s second half is essentially a boss rush akin to Shadow of the Colossus – but it also shows up your AI-controlled companions’ limitations. Instead of wasting resources to heal and revive, I often found it easier to just solo with my strongest melee-based character, who also benefits the most from being able to collect particles from enemies you’ve attacked to charge up a gauge for special Class Strikes.

Most enemy attacks are telegraphed, letting you know where to avoid. Areas of effect do get ridiculously large later.

Outside of combat, everything else feels incredibly old-school. Visuals hark back to the original art (including some of the female characters’ notably skimpy outfits), while the new rearranged score also doesn’t embellish the original (you can even swap between the two versions to compare). Even though there’s voice acting and cutscenes, the story structure remains the same, making for a campaign length that’s short by modern standards. Purists will be relieved the Trials team haven’t done a Final Fantasy VII Remake and dragged out a 20-minute plot point into a few hours, yet I can’t help but wonder if there couldn’t have been more fleshed-out character development or side quests.

Nonetheless, Trials retains much of the original’s charm, and is probably the best way for new audiences to experience a lost classic. It just might no longer be the masterpiece it’s been touted as all this time.

Charlotte sounds as insufferable as her text suggests. Fortunately, you can opt for Japanese audio, or just turn off the voice acting.


The incentive to replay Trials is that you can only play as three of six possible heroes in any given playthrough, with your starting protagonist also determining your primary antagonist (of which there are three). Even if you only play once, you have a choice of playing the other two party members’ prologue, while the other characters make cameo appearances.


For better and worse, Trials of Mana is the most faithful JRPG remake you’ll play this year.


Genre: Action RPG | Format: Switch (tested) / PC / PS4 | Developer: Xeen / Square Enix | Publisher: Square Enix | Price: £39.99 (Steam) / £44.99 (PS4/Switch) | Release: Out now

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