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  1. #1

    [NSW/PC/PS4] Trials Of Mana

    I guess 2020 will be known as the year of videogame remakes, and I too join the bandwagon with the, most probably, lowest-key of remakes, Seiken Densetsu 3, or Trials Of Mana if you want to go for the international name.
    I'm playing the Switch version, and while it can't hold a candle to the PS4 in terms of visual quality and framerate, it's not as terrible as I feared: the framerate is a bit insecure in large cities, but it's stable enough to fight the various critters found in the wilderness. The game has that distinctive blurry look of a upscaled resolution, although I think the game runs at a higher resolution than 720 when docked: when resuming the game with the console docked after an handheld session produces a brief but noticeable uptick in rendering resolution; effects and all the like are the same between docked and handheld.
    Rendering power is mostly reserved for playable characters and enemies, with environments showing some very washed textures.
    Loading times are acceptable, cities and dungeons take more time than smaller locations, but when within one area there are no loading barrier when entering or exiting buildings.

    Trials Of Mana is a rework of a '90s SNES game, and it shows in many ways. Character and enemy design haven't been updated, if not for the faces and very minor tweaks; even some animations have been faithfully recreated in 3D, like the Rabite's bite. However, just like a '90s JRPG, all graphical elements are reused throughout the game, whether they are random crates or NPCs; for the first hours of the game you are ferried around by boat by a bearded skipper wearing blue vest and cap, and the same exact NPC, name included, is used as a guard stopping you from entering a city. Some voices don't quite match the character they are assigned to, like the shopkeepers. Some animations, like Hawkeye's running cycle, are a bit janky, and while the game doesn't look bad, rough edges due to budgetary restrictions are visible all around: let's just say that this is no FF7 or RE3 remake in terms of money thrown at it.

    The pedigree of the game is also evident in the overall progression structure: it's unmistakeably the same as most JRPGs from the '90s, where fetch quests lead you to a character missing a vital item, so you go get it, and then back to the character to progress to the next location. Save points clearly mark where bosses woudl be, and this remake also adds a very visible marker where your next destination is. I particularly like this idea, this way I can explore dungeons without backtracking too much. Enemies are visible on the field and respawn after a short while, and going through a dungeon once is enough to get enough experience to face the local boss. In fact, the game in normal difficulty isn't particularly challenging: computer-controlled characters have a distinct distaste of dodging enemy attacks and die relatively often in new dungeons, but you are showered with restorative items and the Cup Of Wishes (this game's version of the Phoenix Down) fully heals a revived character.
    Progression is linear, at least for now, you are lead from one major city/location from the previous, and there is very little incentive is retracing your steps to old locations.

    Locations are a clear throwback to the original as well, with cities and a lot of dungeons developing on a single layer with no overlapping places to go to, shops are divided by the nature of their merchandise and often spread all aorund the map. Most treasure chests and jars can be reached by simply walking around terrain features and city buildings, but a few require jumping around. Just like...well, everything else...exploration feels like a '90s JRPG using (not-so) cutting edge 3D graphics.

    There are six playable characters, and before beginning you chose the main character, who will drive the story forward, and two party members who will join when you meet them along your journey; when you meet a party member you can replay their introduction to see who you going around with. For this playthrough I went with Riesz as the main character and Hawkeye and Angela as party members. I did play a bit of the original Seiken Densetsu 3, never to completion, so I have a vague idea on how to assemble the party for combat and story.
    Battles are in real time: two attacks (light and heavy), jump, and a dodge to get out of the very clearly marked attack areas. Shoulder buttons plus face buttons are used for shortcuts to special skills and items. Buttons can be reconfigured, but not fully: shoulder buttons can only act as shortcuts or swap characters, you can assign the dodge to them, nor you can have the d-pad or any face buttons to swap characters. The d-pad summons the ring menu, which works exactly as the ring menu in Secret Of Mana. In these cases the d-pad is very sensitive, a quick tap can send the cursor flying past what you want to select; this doens't happen in the equip or level up menu. Weird.
    The camera can be a pain in tight corners, there is no lock-on, and often I have left the camera pointing anywhere else but my character because I want to kill an enemy I knew had its back to a wall. Constantly rotating the camera while exploring cities is a bit cumbersome too.
    The in-game interface (minimap, name of the location, experience after a battle, and, if you choose to have it constantly displayed, your next goal) is on the large side: I would have preferred something a tad smaller, especially when docked. Well, at the very least the minimap is perfectly readable no matter the location or if the Switch is handheld.

    So far progression through the game has been pleasant, although I'm mulling over increasing the difficulty to hard: bosses and enemies at the party's level are quite sturdy, but don't really pose a threat if you dodge their well telegraphed attacks. Combats is very button-mashy, but battles against normal enemies don't take too much time and they never get boring, which is a definite plus as you'll do a lot of fighting as you travel the world.

    Trials Of Mana is a remake of a '90s JRPG and plays like one despite the updated looks. I'll continue to go through it and maybe pop back in the original to check if progession in the later game is different.

  2. #2
    Started this last night and am digging it so far. I played through the original about 20 years ago (sentences to make you **** yourself) so memories of it are vague to say the least, but what I am finding is that it's capturing the breezy spirit of things very well and moving at a nice clip. Attacks being telegraphed for you to dodge, and the added dimension from having to jump to get some enemies makes battles that bit more involved, which is 100% welcome with me. Naturally the camera's a bit of a pain at times, and a lock-on would be particularly useful for bosses, but is also not the worst I've had to endure.

    I'm running with Duran (Duran), Angela, and Charlotte. The latter has made me very, very glad that my first move was to enable Japanese VOs, as I think the 'hewwo, I'm Chawotte' is causing me enough distress when I merely have to read it. I thought that playing with a healer was the reason I was drowning in items, but seems you're still having the same happen.

    I think visually it looks pretty great for something that everyone is considering to be sub-par to today's standards. I do find it quite funny (and unfortunate) that it has texture pop-in, but the in-game cut scenes and the like with specific framing are plenty admirable. Base PS4 performance has been decent, and although I've had some weird issues with character movement jerking when moving in one specific direction, I think that's quite possibly one of my dual shocks on the way out rather than an issue with the game

    I haven't even got to FF7R yet, but rather than re-approaching everything for the AAA treatment from the ground up and delivering a fraction of the game years late, personally I'd be delighted if they used this as the go-to template instead to remake a bunch of other games that we never got properly in the west.

  3. #3
    Quote Originally Posted by fuse View Post
    Naturally the camera's a bit of a pain at times, and a lock-on would be particularly useful for bosses, but is also not the worst I've had to endure.
    R3, at least on Switch; you can also lock-on onto enemies as you approach them, but more than once the lock moved to another target the moment combat begun. I've discovered this about halfway through my first playthrough, a manual or a proper button recap would have been great.

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