Trials of Mana (2020) is a stunning remake of the classic 1995 role-playing game Seiken Densetsu 3, quirky characters, decent voice acting, stunning world design and an interesting story come together to offer one of the most enjoyable modern JRPG.
Crossing the cultural divide.
I am not a huge fan of jRPG, but I must admit after years of playing western cRPG and aRPG, the prospect of a whole new sub-genre is very appealing.
I will be the first to admit there are many things about jRPG I find jarring, the bad lip-synching, the dodgy English subtitles, male leads looking too pretty and clean-shaven, and female romantic leads looking uncomfortably young to name just a few.
Yet what I have come to discover is once you look past those annoyances, the mechanics and stories held within the jRPG are worth playing.
Cultural differences can be hard to cross, and honestly, I find the cultural gap between western and Japanese games to be wider than say between western and Korean games. Yet, for those who are willing to experience a new world, I feel Trials of Mana is a great gateway into the genre.
World Building at its best.
A stunning and vibrant world full of colourful characters greets you from the first moment you enter the game, this is not a game purely for children, adults can also be whisked away to a world that can only be described as magical.
I was immediately whisked back in time to when I first played Tomba!, as a teenager, the worlds of Tomba!, and Trials of Mana, while decades apart both feel massive and welcome to exploration.
Character models are similarly gorgeous, and from the most insignificant NPC to the most plot-critical character, the models all look fantastic.
Dance fighting anyone?
Combat is a huge part of any RPG, and while an RPG can survive with mediocre combat (looking at you Elex), it is always a plus when the combat is not only passable but enjoyable.
The combat is trials of mana feel like taking a step back in all the right directions, playing as Duran immediately I was reminded of one of the greatest game of the 2000s, Star Wars Jedi Academy.
Mixing up heavy and light attacks with class moves and spells felt perfectly in sync, I felt like an artist as I pranced about slaying mushrooms and oddly aggressive rabbit-like creatures.
Not all Kittens and Rainbows.
I am greatly impressed by Trials of Mana, but it is not perfect, some elements are so cringy I couldn’t help but laugh out loud.
Seriously did he get dressed in the dark? Is it a cry for help? Every other soldier in the Kings employ looks amazing in plate armour, and Duran wears a selection of oversized belts and a sports bra.
I won’t even address his hair or the silly turtle hat.. seriously let’s not go there.
Evil.. eh, Stupid Twin.
Duran alternates between epic if not a tad dramatic dialogue swearing vengeance, to becoming a total moron who splitters “What? Wha? Whoa? Uh?” at situations that are not that confusing, upon seeing a light outside his window he exclaims, “wait.. what is that..” only to have a moment of clarity and say “its a light” and decides to follow it.
Did you mean it to sound that way?
Some statements need more explanation, such as when a fairy asks to rest inside him.. she meant in his head, but it really could be taken in less savoury ways, especially with this facial expression after she enters him.
Talk like a Real person Duran.
Yes, I am nitpicking Duran, as he is the first playable character and the protagonist of the plot, he could at least wear a full shirt.
Wardrobe choices aside the way he speaks can at times look like google translation after a night of heavy drinking, while its perfectly acceptable English, it’s not how anyone actually talks.
Seriously can we have a named antagonist, I would settle for literally anything Bob, Stan, Hilda, literally anything except Crimson Wizard would be an improvement.
The Kings Choice of Wardrobe.
No words required… but I will explain what’s wrong anyway.. purple and green? Seriously.. thanks “hero king”…oh no… another awful name for a key character.
In my headcanon, he shall be called Barney the King from your imagination.
More thigh meat than a KFC’s, I get this is a fantasy world… but I am sure she has some arteries or vital organs somewhere that could use protection.
This Guys Outfit.
I thought it was a girl and was about to use Duran’s best pickup lines…
I won’t spoil the surprise here. Just wait till you see them in all their bare man-thigh furry glory.
I love Trials of Mana, and these small issues are in no way large enough to distract me from the games solid gameplay, decent story and gorgeous world-building.
Well worth a play for fans of the franchise, or JRPG in general.