For more Best of 2020 stuff, head here.
#22: Trials of Mana (PS4, PC, Nintendo Switch)
Trials of Mana (2020) is a textbook example of a
wemake remake done right, except within the constraints of a budget. Unlike another Square Enix remake that was highlighted by us previously, the folks at Xeen do not have that same luxury of making it more epic than the sum of its parts.
Admittedly they botched the cutscenes and storytelling – the English dub range from passable to terrible, with the exception of Faerie who is actually doing a damn good job. The key cutscenes look cheap and its tale isn’t a huge improvement over the original. And why does every woman in the game look like they belong in a Dead or Alive volleyball title? Thankfully, Xeen focused on what mattered: making a 3D action-adventure hack-and-slash that balances between simple and complex.
The class system is more flexible than before, which each of the six characters being able to switch between dark and light type classes instead of getting locked with what was picked. Most of the boss battles from the original are more realized and feel like actual fights than RPG leave-it-to-chance-and-stats affairs. The jump and dodge abilities do help with widening your offensive and defensive repertoire. The ring menu system and UI get a 2020 overhaul that makes it a breeze to switch between spells and curatives, as well as upgrading your band of adventurers.
Let’s also not forget the amazing remastered score from the original game’s composer Hiroki Kikuta, who basically just used the appropriate instruments to modernize what the synths were trying to replicate back then. Honestly, I got goosebumps at hearing this version of the iconic theme here.
True, it does get easy the more you get accustomed to the controls, the character-switching, and the combat engine. And the bonus endgame dungeon gets way too repetitive and wears out its welcome. But all things considered, Square Enix and Xeen made the Mana series relevant and enjoyable again for both a new breed of JRPG fans and old-school SNES gamers who waited 20+ years for a faithful remake of an underrated classic. We call that a critical hit two-fer that paid off big time.