[Review] Trials of Mana – Nintendo Switch

Written by Thomas Haroldsen
  • Developer: Square Enix
  • Publisher: Square Enix
  • Release Date: 24/04/2020
  • Price: £44.99 / $49.99
  • Review code provided by Square Enix

Video Review

Introducing: Trials of Mana Switch Review

I still recall the awe and wonder I felt when booting up Secret of Mana nearly 25 years ago. The music and sounds still echo in my mind and I can hardly forget the vibrant setting and my astonishment that my friends could play an RPG with me. Though I don’t remember the entire game or every detail of the story, there are parts that have stayed with me to this day. Secret of Mana set the bar for my expectations of action role-playing games and sadly the series all but died out in the West. Fortunately Mana has been given a new lease on life. First with the Collection of Mana and now the remake of Trials of Mana. Continue reading our Nintendad review to see if the Mana tree grows deep roots of success or withers with a weak grasp in the world.

Shrouded in Darkness

The Mana tree is dying. Rulers and usupers across the land are vying for power and seek to take advantage of the failing protector. A small band of adventurers must come together to save the Mana tree and restore balance to the world. It’s not the most original story but its presentation is unique. Instead of following a linear plot, you can select one of six heroes from the start. Depending on the two additional companions you choose to accompany you, you’ll experience a different narrative. 

I really enjoyed this approach to Trials of Mana and the flexibility it offered. This is a game that can be played multiple times and new tidbits will be uncovered depending on your party. Even if you don’t take the opportunity to play as each character, your paths still intersect and you can catch a glimpse of everyone’s motivation. What may start out as a simple quest to get stronger and enact revenge, quickly turns into a humbling sojourn to help others in need and ultimately the world.

The Goddess of Mana

Trials of Mana is an action RPG with fluid combat and a slew of skills and spells at your disposal. Since you run with a party of three, you can seamlessly swap between which character you control to adjust to the battle at hand. Enemies are visible on the map so you won’t be caught off guard by random encounters. Once battle starts you’ll be surrounded by a ring which constitutes the battlefield. I never felt confined or uncomfortable with the amount of space I had to fight in. The opponents had a great deal of variety and were well balanced with my level throughout the game.

As you traverse the world, you’ll find many interesting locales with beautiful backdrops. There is a fair amount to explore yet it never felt overwhelming when trying to locate all the hidden gems on a map. The gameplay was fast, fluid and fun. My time with Trials of Mana was enjoyable and had all the nostalgic pull from Secret of Mana to imprint it as a memorable classic. The one glaring omission from this vibrant remake is the lack of multiplayer. If you’ve caught any of our Nintendad Kid’s Corner segments, you’ll know that playing with my children is a highlight. Though they happily watched as I dashed through glowing forests while lunging at angry Rabites, it would have been nice to take them on the journey with me and let them swing their own sword. Trials of Mana has a robust leveling system with several class options down the line. Getting to know multiple characters and testing them in combat was a nice feature.

The Mana Sword

As Trials of Mana is a remake, the art and sound have gone through complete overhauls. For the most part the bright and varied world is gorgeous to look at. Unfortunately some of the beauty is only skin deep as many of the textures take a while to render. Some of the backgrounds are blurred and other images pop in late.

Like the graphics, the sound also swings on a pendulum going from wonderfully crafted to seemingly low budget. The music is upbeat and sounded like a Mana game. It was nice having familiar tunes even with a remastered soundtrack. The original score is available in the options if you’d rather have a retro vibe.

Trials of Mana also has full voice acting. Here I ran into more problems. For whatever reason, the pacing seemed off. The character’s delivered their lines at a slow pace and often lacked emotion. There were some characters who were so unbearable, I’d never consider adding them to my party. The voice acting certainly didn’t reflect the polish or quality that I’m used to from Square Enix. There’s still plenty of beauty to be heard and  found however, and honestly the shortcomings didn’t dull my adventure but they were significant enough to point out.

Eight Monsters of Destruction

From a technical standpoint, Trials of Mana ran well and never crashed or presented unplayable bugs. That is aside from the issues mentioned above. Trials is an incredible adventure which shines both in docked and handheld mode. Despite my love for playing portable, I found myself primarily glued to the television. The main contributor being that the boss battles were engaging enough to keep my kids hooked even though they couldn’t participate in the fun.

Final Wrap

I did run into some unfortunate graphical hiccups and had to slog through some dialogue during my time with Trials of Mana. These qualms were easily dismissed once I got to explore a world rich in lore and dodge through hordes of enemies with an exciting combat system. Trials of Mana has fantastic characters with multiple ways to tackle battles. Anyone who’s a fan of action RPGs should dive into the world of Mana, and Trials is the perfect game to test the water as it’s been remade with modern audiences in mind.

Pros

  • Engaging Combat
  • Intertwined Story Elements
  • Replayable with Fascinating Characters

Cons

  • Slow Dialogue
  • Dips in Graphics

Verdict
Trials of Mana is like a diamond in the rough. Not all of the flaws have been polished out but when it shines, it does so brightly.
4/5

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