Trials of Mana

User Rating: 6 | Trials of Mana NS

I never played the original Mana series on SNES, so I thought I would check out the remake on the Switch of this game.

However, this game is better left in the SNES era. While the game is fun for a few hours, it *very* quickly becomes a repetitive mess, with unlikable characters, basic template plot lines, and way too much backtracking to be a game released in 2020.

Story

You get to pick any 3 characters, with no real background on any of them, and then you take those characters with you throughout the game. The three characters I had were seemingly generic heroes with the same tragic backstories you would expect from most old, tired JRPGs. There is nothing interesting here. There is a bad guy who wants to destroy the world, you have to save it, and that's about the extent of it. The voice acting is awful, as expected from one of these Japanese-to-English games where no time or effort is put into finding decent voice actors for the translated copies.

Gameplay

The battle system is actually quite fun, it is very much likes a "Tales" game, where you have action-based live combat with no turn-based battle system to be found. But it quickly degenerates to mostly button mashing with a few special attacks thrown in whenever you have enough mana points built up. You can switch at will between characters, which is cool, but the AI for your allies when you aren't using them blows, so your characters will run straight into danger unless you stop them. There are very basic auto-commands you can set up, but this is no FFXII, so they are essentially so basic that you can't get much out of them. The enemies will have red areas showing where their next attack will land, so you generally have 1-2 seconds to get out of the way before taking damage, but some bosses seem to fill up so much of the screen with the red areas that you can't get all three of your characters out of the way before one of them inevitably runs right back into the red once you switch away from them. The game is not easy; many of the boss fights are genuinely challenging and require some grinding to beat, which is another game mechanic that needs to be left in the past. There are enemies EVERYWHERE, and you spend the entire game running through field of enemies. Granted, you can avoid some of them, but if you do, you won't be a high enough level to take on the boss at the end, so you essentially are given no choice.

The game consists of: 1) go into a town, spend all your money upgrading your weapons and equipment, become broke; 2) go into the town's dungeon, fight through a crapload of basic enemies over and over again for half an hour; 3) fight the boss; 4) find shortcut back to town, go to a new town, start again. The entire game is this, there is no getting away from this same cycle with every new town. There are no minigames or other distractions to keep you entertained, so about 90% of the game is just battling enemies. There is also an absolute ton of backtracking, which really grinds my gears because nothing new is added, you just are forced to walk through the same sections over and over for no apparent reason.

You do get to change classes throughout the game, which was appreciated, but there's really only 2 "tracks" to go down, so this is not a game where there are a ton of options, and the options basically relate to the strengths of main character already, and just add a few special moves.

There are some cool parts of this game, like your boat being a giant turtle with goggles that you ride around on, and some of the other strange characters you run into are downright entertaining. The battle system remains relatively fun throughout the game, and the boss battles are all interesting. I also enjoyed a part of the game where you were in a haunted pirate ship, but the rest of the worlds consisted mostly of a generic ice world, fire world, forest world, etc. I get that this game is based on a game from the 90s, but they could have done more to the gameplay to make up for these shortcomings.

If you like JRPGs and don't mind playing a very old-school game, it might be worth picking up. But I didn't manage to even get to the end of the game before I couldn't take any more of the same monotonous cycle and had to turn the game off for the final time.

6/10