Like many people out there, I got the opportunity to play through the Trials of Mana Remake demo today. As you might know if you’ve been following my site, I’m a huge fan of the original Trials of Mana and already have a bunch of guides out on the site for it. So, as you can imagine, I was super excited to get my hands on the demo. But what did I think of it? Did it live up to my expectations? Let’s get into it.
The first thing that struck me was obviously the cutscenes. The original was an SNES game with limited graphical quality, and I think the choices made by the developers about how to upgrade the story via cinematics is commendable. I think they did a very good job. It’s clear that this game is made with a target audience of kids in mind and to that end, I think the storytelling is appropriate. It features a storybook style narrator who reminds me of “story time” back in grade school and I very much liked that change. I think it works.
When I first saw the trailer, I had some concerns about the voice acting, but in practice I found it to be well done and appropriate. It’s clear that a fair amount of effort has gone into the story, mostly from the amount of care given to the 3d models facial expressions and acting. It’s all quite well done. Again, it’s for kids, so Crime and Punishment it is not, but it’s enjoyable. While the dialog has been updated it seems to remain extremely faithful to the original game.
Another thing that I noticed immediately was the music, which instantly inspired a feeling of nostalgia in me and it’s great to hear these classic songs remastered and delivered on a modern console. Once again, very faithful to the original game.
And that’s something I noticed throughout my playthrough of the demo. Even though the game systems, graphics and storytelling are vastly improved upon from the original game, it feels very faithful to the original, right down to the area maps which feel like they’ve basically been translated to 3d. Since this was, in my (correct) opinion, the best Mana game, and few people got to experience in the West, I’m glad that not only do I get to play this new and improved version of the game, but other people will have the opportunity to play a faithful modernized adaptation of the game that I originally fell in love with, rather than a reimagining full of unwelcome modern design decisions.
However, the modernization that the game does present is very welcome and very interesting. While originally the classes unlocked just a small handful of skills, here they unlock a variety of different skills and passive abilities. As a result, the characters feel even more well-differentiated and deep, making the party selection at the start of the game that much more impactful.
Another thing that feels modernized just the right amount is the combat, which incorporates some simple combos, aerial moves, light and heavy hits, and seems to eliminate the problem of magic being useless in the original by implementing a much needed quick action menu.
I can tell from the overall design direction that while the classes are going to be faithful to their original designs, they’re likely to be a lot more balanced. I can’t wait to check out Hawk’s Rogue class, for example, which was exceedingly useless in the original game. I hope this leads to a lot more party variety. As I understand it, you’ll also be able to change your class in-game and unlock your 3rd class earlier, all welcome changes.
I want to talk briefly about the graphics for a moment just because I’m in awe of them. Although fidelity-wise, we’re kind of talking about late PS2 era graphics, I love the style. I love the stylization of the characters, I love the color palette, I love the interpretations of the original monster designs. It’s all just perfect. Kevin, who looked kind of like a doof in the original game, now looks like a total badass while still capturing his personality. His werewolf form looks particularly cool. Similarly, the animations are fantastic, particularly Duran’s sword slashes.
Speaking of the costumes, which are available to view on the game’s website, the vast majority of the class costumes look amazing, especially for Riesz.
My only complaint is that I can’t stand Charlotte, but I’ve never liked Charlotte even in the original game, so that’s not the redesign’s fault. Some people love those cute mascot characters like Charlotte here or Chu-Chu from Xenogears. I am not one of them. She does add to the personality of the game so I’d never ask they remove or alter her but, just as a personal note, I guess, I’m unlikely to use her in my party for the first few playthroughs. In the original, she was wholly unnecessary because her whole shtick can basically be replaced by an item, and I hope that stays the same here.
This has been a very gushing preview, but I think it’s well deserved. It feels perfect to what a remake of Trials of Mana should be. To those that never played the original, they should consider this a new mainline Mana game that’s not only modern and expertly created, but a return to form for the series that was once considered to be a premier RPG series and since has fallen, somewhat due to over-experimentation, into relative obscurity.
That about does it for my impressions of the Trials of Mana Remake demo. While the game isn’t out yet, feel free to check out all the content on this site for the original Trials of Mana, which is sure to still be largely applicable in this new remake.