PAX West 2019 Hands-On: Trials of Mana

During my time at PAX West 2019, I had a chance to sit down with both the PlayStation 4 and Nintendo Switch versions of Trials of Mana.

Previously known as Seiken Densetsu 3, this game was only released in Japan back in 1995. Now it’s being remade for modern consoles.

My first experience with the PAX West demo was on the Nintendo Switch in handheld mode, and I was immediately drawn to what is often times an issue for games on the Switch- the text was incredibly tiny. Of course, playing the game docked, or in my case, the PlayStation 4 version, makes the text a little less stressful to read, though in my opinion, it still feels small.

Other than the subtle graphical downgrade on the Switch version, Trials of Mana looked identical on each platform. Starting off in the Jadd Stronghold, you’re given the simple task of leaving town. By walking around and talking to some of the NPCs in the area, specifically a man at the bar, you discover that you can easily leave the area during the night. As I made my way into the Rabite Forest I came across a handful of enemies and had a chance to check out the battle system.

Trials of Mana is an action RPG where you’ll battle against enemies simply roaming the field during exploration. Upon engaging with a group of enemies, you’ll have a ring appear around you to designate the battle area. If you decide that you don’t want to fight the enemies, you can simply run up against that line for a few seconds in order to escape. If you do decide to battle them however, you have quite a few options. The combat was more fun than I anticipated, with the game giving you different types of combos that can attack, but also have strategic value. I can simply swing my sword with a normal attack, used a charged attack, or I can combo my actions to repel enemies, knocking them back in order to give myself some breathing room. I encountered a few flying enemies that proved to be slightly more troublesome, as I had to both jump, and attack to hit them. Luckily though, once you do this, they’ll fall down to the ground where you can continue your assault rather then repeatedly jumping and attacking them.

As I navigated the map and made my way to the dungeon, I found chests and smashed pots in order to acquire some items. Both special attacks, and items can be mapped to shortcut menus to make it easier to unleash hard blows or heal yourself.

Eventually I reached a dungeon and got two additional members into my party (Riesz and Charlotte). Once you have a full party (3 characters) you can switch between them during combat in order to utilize their different skills. As I entered the dungeon I was put up against a, dare I say it, giant enemy crab. As I fought against it, some of his bigger moves were telegraphed with red “stay out of this” style circles that I had to dodge out of to avoid attacks. I also noticed during the fight that one of the enemies eyes was seemingly gone, supposedly destroyed by one of my attacks. By the end of the fight, both eyes were gone and the crab fell to the floor dead.

I wasn’t sure if I would like Trials of Mana when I sat down with it, however I walked away impressed by its gameplay and having a little more curiosity about it.

Trials of Mana releases early next year on Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4 and PC.