Party Chat: Trials of Mana

Game Details

Retail Price (USD): $49.99
Release Date: April 25, 2020
File Size: 10.5GB
Publisher: Square Enix
Click here to view on the Nintendo eShop.

Party Chat is a new feature from Switch RPG that occurs when the planets – and the gaming tastes of our staff members – align. Much like the Party Chat feature in Dragon Quest and Tales of series, we gathered the group together for some initial thoughts on the opening hours of the latest, greatest releases on the Nintendo Switch. This week’s topic: The Trials of Mana Remake.


Ben

Guess we should start talking about them Mana Trials. What does everyone think so far?

I’m really enjoying it. It is nice to see the game advance from 2D to 3D relatively gracefully, all while adhering to much of what people adored of its roots.
Not perfect though, of course. The voice acting is really, really bad, and the inconsistent texture quality is really noticeable; especially when playing on the dock.
The music is fantastic – they faithfully recreated the OG compositions without taking a huge dump on them (looking at you SoM Remake). Environmental graphics tend to be hit or miss, but characters and enemies look really nice.

The combat isn’t crazy complex, but does it really need to be? The important thing is that it is something different than the original system, which has been long overdue for an overhaul. Can you imagine how much better the Secret of Mana Remake would have been if they would have done the same thing? Simplistic or not, I’ve had lots of fun trying to push perfect battles for those sweet EXP bonuses.

I have mixed feelings on some of the characters, as well as the story itself, but I’ll holster an actual verdict until I’ve experienced the story in its entirety, including some additional runs with different party member setups. On that note, being able to choose your own adventure via the party system is great. Even if it isn’t completely a novel idea these days, it was seriously ambitious at the time of the original’s release. And I think I’ve said enough for now; would love to hear everyone else’s thoughts!

Evan Bee

I turned the voice acting audio to Japanese the second I booted up. I don’t know what Kevin’s English voice sounds like, and I’m okay with it.

This game feels like the most literal translation of a 2D title into 3D. Town structure is very… blocky. There are some elements that are delightfully old school and nonsensical, like getting shot out of a cannon. Except, the game feels very sterile, and in several ways. Characters emote very little, the animations are a bit too stock in some ways. I’d say combat feels the most fluid and detailed, despite those very committal inputs. I’ve just “discovered” magic and it’s a mixed bag, I guess.
So, the narrative is pretty universal despite being able to choose your party, right? I’m experiencing the same narrative beats as everyone else with a bit of additional flavor text?

Ben

Agreed on the town design feeling a bit…off. I don’t want to jump to conclusions just yet, but so far, it doesn’t feel like a full priced game; good, considering it is slightly below the standard retail price. Depending on how the additional playthroughs go, I may lean towards it still being a little too pricey. I disagree on the animations though. If anything, they oversell certain reactions in all their Japanese glory. Perhaps they lack some of the finer details found in other 3d games, like finer eye/brow movement/reaction, but it’s clear that the budget wasn’t insanely deep here. For what they are, I personally think the animations are fine.

Though I never finished a complete playthrough of the original game, it is my understanding that most characters have their own arc (though some share similar paths) but the overarching narrative is more or less the same. Trying not to read into it too much until I’ve experienced it for myself. Not sure how much they play into this fact, either. I’d be curious to see how certain shared situations play out based on your party makeup. If I’d have to guess, it isn’t going to change all that much.

That said, the main story could very well change across playthroughs though I’m not necessarily betting on it.

Evan Bee

I don’t think the animations are terrible, but it leaves something to be desired. Also, I just want to say that the original OST can be kind of nice in certain situations due to the “softer” instrumentation of the SNES, but these tracks are all quite impressive.

TheNerdBasement

IMO the music could be the weaker part of this game. The original version is fantastic whereas the remake doesn’t really seem to change much. I think a total remake of the soundtrack, a la Dragon Quest XI, would have been a better fit. This goes back to where Ben says this doesn’t feel like a full priced game – there were definitely corners cut. Not to say that this is a bad game – in fact, I think the opposite. Octopath Traveler could learn a few things here. Even though you’ve selected your party, there are still interactions with your current party, as well as with members you didn’t select to fill your roster. It’s a cohesive narrative.

Evan Bee

Agreed, I love the character interaction. And the small bits of side stories that pop up! What’s everyone’s party setup? I’m rocking the girls and Kevin- which is… just the weirdest fantasy name. He’s awesome, though. When I say girls, of course, I mean the two whose dialogue isn’t the most insufferable thing in existence.

Ben

Duran, Riesz, and everyone’s favorite: Charlotte. But honestly, I really don’t mind her that much, as I always thought the speech impediment was cute in the original. Duran, though, is kind of a dunce, but plays the warrior/swordsman archetype well enough. I’m finding party AI to be a bit underwhelming when it needs to count though. Having a dedicated healer in the group, I expected less micromanaging to stay alive, but it is really the complete opposite, and no matter how I configure their AI settings. Companions will often completely ignore health in favor of kamikaze tactics, forcing me to pause combat to command them to do things properly.

In short, there are not enough customization/sliders available to make the AI really competent. Regular fights are fine though, with companions often jumping up to attack aerial enemies, as well as dodging a decent amount of harmful areas laid out by them.

Evan Bee

Oh yeah. AI tactics are most certainly not the best. You’re brave for taking on that abomination into your party.

Ben

I will definitely NOT be taking her (Charlotte) into my second or third playthroughs!

Evan Bee

I thought the game was being generous with the amount of recovery items I received early on. I did not realize I would be applying them to my moron companions every two minutes.

TheNerdBasement

I thought the same thing. What the hell am I gonna do with all this candy and chocolate? Boy was I wrong. I’m running with Angela, Reiczzzcz, and Kevin. I wanted to go with Charlotte but couldn’t handle it. I was kinda hoping to find better weapons in the wild, as well. It’s pretty barren out there, and there’s not a ton of weapon customization.

Ben

I feel like there’s a lot to buy though, and at least the weapon models look nice. In general, it seems little new was added beyond the 3D perspective and new combat system — but that does seem like a first world problem, a bit. It definitely stays true to the original – faults and all – in some ways, but I think it adds / freshens up enough to make the experience fun for newcomers, too. Streamlined, sure, but fun.

I know some actual “new” things were added beyond the obvious, but I don’t know of them off the top of my head. Remember reading about it, maybe some extra areas or even some story bits. I guess we will find out for ourselves soon enough. I must say, I’m surprised Gio isn’t in heaven right now – not that what you’ve said so far hasn’t made sense, but Mana is your baby. I figured you’d be jumping for joy regardless of the outcome.

TheNerdBasement

I’m trying to take a grown-up stance here. It may seem like I’m pointing out a lot of negative surrounding Trials of Mana, but I am in love with this game. I really do like the combat, even though the AI needs some attention occasionally. I absolutely love the story and how they intertwine no matter which characters you select.

Evan Bee

Hey, the game is called Trials of Mana. There was bound to be some challenging design aspects here and there. Despite all of my gripes, I’m enjoying the experience, and I do think there’s something delightful about what Mana brings to the table. It’s off-brand DQ-Ness is… compelling.

Ben

I never expected to see “grown up” and “Gio” in the same statement, but here we are.

TheNerdBasement

Sometimes…… miracles do happen. Not sure where everyone is in the game, but is there fast travel? Holy Cow! It needs to be there.

Ben

There are a couple options that open up later in the game, but both are fairly limited in where they will take you.

Evan Bee

I dunno. Travel by cannon is pretty fast.

TheNerdBasement

You can’t select where you want to go though.

Evan Bee

You think you can just DIRECT cannon fire, Gio? Yeesh.

TheNerdBasement

I just wanna farm seeds!

Elias

I also just wanna farm seeds.

Evan Bee

I too just want to farm seeds.

Elias

I don’t mind the lack of fast travel, because that allows me to doink more enemies, which means more chances at seeds.
Now, my thoughts are as follows: the game is just generally pretty. Art style and music are both very well done, and I jam along to these redone tracks and smile thinking of the og version I -just- played via Collection of Mana. I am pretty happy with the changes to stat skills, and really like the flow of combat. It feels so much better to not have to worry about weapon charging as much, and once you find your rhythm with a character, battle doesn’t feel tedious at all.

Exploration is rewarding — and not having to load between screens anymore and just having a vast area to explore for most maps is great. Linked areas don’t take super long to load and there are some items in the same places even though the map is vastly different from the change from 2D to 3D. The voice acting is just average. Sounds like a mid budget cartoon, really, but it doesn’t detract from the overall experience. I honestly would like the game just as much as I already do even if voice acting wasn’t a thing at all.

I do have a bit of trouble with learning elemental skills? Like, how do? I have Lumina and Gnome, and with them you’re supposed to be able to learn skills from them, but when I go into the training menu its nothing but the default three per category. Tutorial is not very clear on that and it was different in the old version. This concludes my praises and bitchings

Ben

I think we can all agree to henceforth describe Trials of Mana as “doinking lots of enemies.” If y’all like farming seeds that much, wait until they become necessary for later class changes. It’s like pulling teeth, at least from where I’m at currently. Yeah, the whole class change deal really isn’t explained that well, nor are the individual stats and how they work. As far as elemental spells go, some can use them, some cannot — sounds like you may not unlock any with your current makeup until you change classes.

Did you enjoy our Party Chat? Any thoughts you’d like to add on the subject of Trials of Mana? Feel free to let us know in the comments below.

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