The Mana series has always been a lot of fun. It may not have gotten quite as popular as Final Fantasy or Dragon Quest but it can certainly hold its own with them. Each title has been really solid so far and this one gives us multiple main characters so there are different ways to experience the story. It gives the adventure a lot more replay value even if it does mean that the platinum trophy will be a lot more difficult to obtain. It’s still worth it in the end.
I decided to play as Duran and so during the game I set up a party of 3 characters and I suppose you would get the other 3 if you go through a different route. Duran was an ordinary soldier of his kingdom until a fire mage broke in one day and slaughtered everyone. Duran now has to avenge his people by gaining great power. A fairy ends up entering into a binding contract with him so Duran must also save the world but fortunately that will put him in the crosshairs of the mage. Does he really have enough power to defeat such a foe though or will he need some help?
The gameplay style is that of a real time 3D adventure. You use your sword or staff to whack away at the opponents and can roll to dodge attacks. You also have items and super moves at the ready to keep things balanced as well. Your characters move a bit on the slow side so you have to be careful about using the rolls though. It’s meant to be a high risk high reward move so it will get you out of the line of fire but has a lot of stun. Make sure you time your rolls well to really maximize how well you fight. I liked how the game really encourages you to dodge because otherwise the enemies deal incredible amounts of damage.
The only catch here is that the AI for your partners makes Donald and Goofy look smart in comparison. Expect them to get hit by literally every attack that the boss throws your way. They rarely ever remember to use their super attacks at the right time even if you turn them to the most aggressive settings possible. You will have to do a lot on your own here so keep switching between characters but the rough part is they’ll bump your character off after you’ve switched. I died two times because of that which was rough. The game can be difficult but the exp system is well crafted so you can always just go back to training and then you’ll be okay.
It’s a very solid PG with no real gameplay issues there. The platforming is done well too and running away from enemies is seamless. There are a lot of collectibles which will take time to obtain but it’s not overdone either so you feel like you could actually get them all. One day it may be fun to go back and platinum this title because it seems like it would be a pleasant walkthrough. I’d also get a chance to experience the game’s bonus story and see what that’s all about.
The graphics here are really solid. It’s all very colorful although I would have liked some fights within the cutscenes. Those can be harder to set up but the payoff is always great. You want to see how strong the characters really are without gameplay mechanics and this would be the best way to find that out. Meanwhile for the soundtrack, it’s good although I wouldn’t say it’s super memorable. It gets points for having a lot of themes though. Quite a few of the bosses had unique themes instead of the game just having one stock boss theme for everybody. I always thought that was a good idea.
The game’s length is pretty good. Apparently it’s usually around 20 hours although I knocked it out a good deal sooner. The length will probably depend on how much you level grind while going through the game. It makes things easier and you won’t die against bosses as much. You can speed it up further by skipping character intros but I liked seeing the origin of everyone I came across. Personally it helped make this feel like more of a cinematic adventure and you also identify with the characters this way. It’s like a crossover effect with each character doing their own thing until you meet.
Now there is one thing I would have to criticize here and it’s the loading times. The game has a loading screen pop up constantly. It shows up for every area you walk across and even between cutscenes. The loading times are fairly extensive so if you went the wrong way by mistake get ready to have two of those in a row. It’s absolutely not game breaking or anything, but it can be annoying since it’s very noticeable. I haven’t played a game with this many long loading screens in quite a while.
Of course when your biggest issue in a game is the loading screens then you know that you’re playing a great game. Duran makes for a fun main character. He’s your classic hero trying to avenge his village and save the world. Then you have Angela who is a fun mage. She isn’t very good with magic initially so she is working on getting better at it as the game goes on. There are other characters who get big and small roles depending on which story you’re playing. There are also a number of villains and different factions here. some don’t do a lot so I’m betting they’re in other stories as well. It really makes this feel like you’re watching part of a bigger adventure through one character’s eyes and so the game succeeded in what it was trying to do there. You won’t be forgetting the game anytime soon after you complete it.
Overall, Trials of Mana is definitely a great game. You’ll have fun with it as you have a quality story and good characters. The gameplay is on point which is always the important thing and there are a number of quality of life features the title has that can’t be understated. For example, it’s got a map feature that actually works. The game always clearly marks on the map where to go next so it’s impossible to get lost. I always appreciate that and every location is also noted on the map for when you want to do some free travel. The levels even tell you how many treasure chests are remaining in the area so you don’t have to guess. These are all features that are great to have here and you earn bonuses for finding collectibles that enhance the experience even more. This is definitely the way to go when making an RPG as comfortable as possible.