The Square Enix remake is looking strong in its new 3D single-player stylings.
I played the first hour and a half of the remake of Trials of Mana and well, it wasn’t something I wanted to stop playing. That alone has made me increasingly excited for the late April release of Square Enix’s other notable 2020 remake. I played from the start of the game all the way up until the first major boss battle with the memorable Fullmetal Hugger (aka the giant crab-looking thing; it shows up a lot in marketing). A lot of things stood out to me with the majority of them being nice and welcome, though I might have some concerns on the quality of the Switch version.
First off, and it bears repeating, Trials of Mana is a single-player-only game. That runs counter to the original Super Famicom game, which only saw an official localized release last year, as well as the Super Nintendo predecessor Secret of Mana. Do not make plans for romping through the new Trials remake with a friend. You can’t do it.
While that is a bummer, I’m not sure if it will really hurt the game overall. The given reason from the developers is that they wanted to emphasize the single-player experience, which this game assuredly does. At the outset, you can pick from six different characters to form a party of three. You will start off as the first character you select and encounter the other two early on. I picked budding swordsman Duran and ice princess Angela and was able to play as them in my demo. I kicked off with Duran’s story, where he is at odds with the fearsome Crimson Wizard and eventually is left for dead with a thirst for vengeance.
The early parts of Duran’s story are simple and guided. It’s clearly introductory, focusing on acclimating you to the battle system and mechanics. This is an action RPG, much like the original game it’s based on, but offers a behind-the-back view. I wasn’t tested too often in the opening hour, but it was enjoyable to wail on basic enemies and occasionally dip into my ring menu for items and abilities. The combat involves a lot of melee attacks at this early stage; you can alternate effectively between light and heavy attacks. It has a nice rhythm to it, especially as all the foes appear on the overworld.
Part of the way through the early portion, I came across Angela. Before we went to explore a cavern together, I had the option of playing through her introduction. It’s beneficial, because it fills you in on backstory and does let you mess around with the different nuances of the different characters, but it does grind the pace to a halt. Thankfully, this should only happen twice on a playthrough as your party will be at the most three. And if you want to just blaze forth without playing through Angela’s backstory, you can, which makes replaying with different characters a bit more appealing.
Adding a second character to your party spices up the combat, as the other character will be computer-controlled and you can switch between the two heroes at the press of a button. Combat gets more heavily into spacing with the second character. Especially during boss fights, trying to position your two characters was integral and could set up really powerful attacks.
While I did thoroughly enjoy romping through the early parts of Trials of Mana, if I had an overarching concern, it’s that it’s very guided. That might just be a first hour-and-a-half kind-of issue, but I do get the distinct vibe that this remake is skewing towards a younger demographic. That’s ultimately not a major issue, but if you’re looking for a more hardcore remake of a Square Enix game from the late ‘90s, Final Fantasy VII Remake is out earlier in April. If you want a bubbly, colorful remake, Trials of Mana has got you.
Also, I played the Switch version, which had a weird amount of graphical stuttering, specifically in cutscenes. It was noticeable; you can definitely see it happen in our footage. The action, thankfully, ran very well. As someone who plays the Switch primarily in handheld, I’m still down for getting this on Nintendo’s hybrid, but if you’re someone who likes to game on a TV, I’d look more into the PlayStation 4 version if you also own that console. All that said, this was a demo version, so stay tuned to our full thoughts on the Switch version come release.
And the release for Trials of Mana will be very soon. As of writing, we’re about a month away. Trials of Mana will hit Nintendo Switch on April 24, almost 25 years after the Super Famicom version came out in Japan (and less than a year after that version came out elsewhere). I’m buying what this remake is selling and I look forward to exploring the Mana-fueled world when it comes out.