Trials of Mana is not a bold reinvention. While it has been given a graphical overhaul and added systems that help flesh out and modernize the combat systems, this remake of a once-obscure RPG is very much rooted in its own history. And by some combination of that history and the modern enhancements, it has a bundle of great ideas that are often hampered by others that are obtuse or confusing.
From the start, Trials of Mana distinguishes itself from other traditional Japanese RPGs by presenting a pool of heroes. The very first thing you do is select three of the six characters to be your party–a swordsman, thief, healer, berserker, offensive magic user, and support/ranged magic user are available–and that decision will last throughout the game. You can swap between any of the characters in the heat of battle, while the other two will manage on their own with some simple preset behaviors, but your primary character is treated as the game’s protagonist during major story moments.
It’s an inventive idea that adds a layer of personalization and a criss-crossing narrative. The stakes of the overall story remain the same, but by presenting you with a selection of six different prologues, you get to see the various motivations that led your custom-built party to be thrown into this grand adventure. The other characters that you left unchosen appear in brief cameos, and it’s implied that their own quest is still happening just off-camera as they go it alone.
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