Five Impressions from the Trials of Mana Demo

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It feels like there is a metric tonne of demos for games coming out that are hitting multiple systems right now. The Final Fantasy VII Remake demo just made its way to the general public a couple of weeks ago, the demo for Resident Evil 3‘s remake just dropped, and another remake, Trials of Mana, is also just making its demo debut. It’s going to be a great season for folks looking for updates of classic games, though Trials only got an official localization last year in the Collection of Mana.

Much as I hate to say it, though, Trials of Mana is the title I’m most looking forward to that probably doesn’t stand much of a chance against the other two heavy hitters coming out around the same time. That’s not going to stop me from grabbing it as soon as I can, though, and it certainly didn’t stop me from jumping into the demo once I had the chance.

Overall, the impression left by the demo has me wanting to play the entire game right now. It clocks in at about two hours or so, depending on how much you explore, and allows you to choose any of the main characters and party members you want. It’s available on the Switch, Playstation 4, and Steam for folks who want to check it out on their own, but if you’d like some more in-depth impressions, I’m more than happy to provide some food for thought on some positive (and maybe more critical) points from what I played.

The Entire Game is Overhauled but Familiar

While the original game is great, it definitely needed a lot of updating for a full retail release. Nearly everything about the game has received an update and it’s resulted in leaps forward for the quality of life and renewal of interest in the game. Trials is feeling more like a modern action RPG not only in how the characters handle in combat but in how exploration is handled. It was easy to recognize every piece of the original game so seeing places like the town of Astoria and Altena Castle was a nostalgic rush. Being able to leap around and search every corner of these places, though, was both profitable since there are items and chest hidden around to find, and engrossing because I wanted to see the beautiful updates Square Enix had made to the game’s presentation.

The Voice Acting is All Over the Place

This has been kind of a common issue for me with recent Square Enix games, and I’m not sure if it’s me or the direction they’ve been taking or some other element. I love that voice acting is being introduced to these games. To my knowledge, there will be dual options for it, too, so those who want to hear the original Japanese can indulge themselves. While my main character, Angela, had me grinning and involved with her performance, the majority of the supporting characters and NPCs that I came across felt like their performances were incredibly wooden or way too over the top. The quality between the main characters and the rest of the cast was a little jarring- but I’ll totally still play with them all on.

The Main Characters Are Absolute Gems

With that in mind, though, the interactions between the main characters (and the Faerie that joins up) are great. There are small snippets between the characters as they travel and experience the world that brings more character to them, and while I didn’t get to my third party member in the demo, watching scenes play out between Angela and Riesz was enjoyable. Given the difference in their temperaments, seeing the old plot through a new lens made the party feel more “alive”. It got me excited to see other combinations of characters and how they would work and interact together. As a bonus, players can also opt to play through the introductions of characters who join their party, which makes the characters feel more fleshed out in the long run.

Combat Is Streamlined and Smooth

I know I mentioned this briefly before, but since combat is a major part of the game, I felt like it needed to be revisited. Whereas the original Trials had a number of unavoidable attacks, stun locking, and rings to navigate for spells and items, the remake has taken great measures to update the battle system. Adding in a dodge roll mechanic and offering up guide markers for incoming attacks was the best upgrade, adding plenty of strategies where players used to just have to sit and wait for the unavoidable incoming throwing ax or spell from an enemy. Also, frequently used items or abilities can be mapped to shortcuts that can be accessed by holding down a shoulder button and pressing the appropriate input. While the game is single-player only so there is no inconvenience to someone else who may be playing, it makes combat play out more smoothly.

Data From the Demo Carries Over

This may not feel like a bonus to a lot of folks, especially if they are familiar with Square Enix demos. It’s not a novelty for them to allow progress in the demo of a game to carry over to the main title once the player has purchased it. Trials of Mana does the same thing, allowing the player to hit a level cap of 7 (which I hadn’t reached by the time my demo was over but could easily be achieved) and letting them continue the story of the party they had chosen should they want to. It’s always nice to feel that time invested in a demo, especially with the game coming out in about a month, was not something you would necessarily have to go through again without any recognition or just a few small rewards for participating.

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Once again, despite a couple of nitpicks, I loved what Trials of Mana had to offer. Much like the remakes coming out that have been getting complete overhauls, there is an attention to progress and a love of the source material that feels like it shines through. On the other hand, the desire to appeal to new players who didn’t grow up with the inconveniences that some titles from the past presented is important. Trials of Mana is shaping up to be a great addition to any action-RPG library, and its release on April 24th can’t come soon enough.

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