One of the biggest surprises of the E3 2019 Nintendo Direct was the reveal of the Mana Collection in its future state. Not only was it announced, but within hours it was available on Nintendo’s online store for anyone to purchase. The Mana collection consists of three games: Final Fantasy Adventure (originally released for the Game Boy in 1991), Secret of Mana (originally released for Super Nintendo in 1993) and Trials of Mana (known in Japan as Seiken Densetsu 3 and released for the Super Famicom in 1995). This is the first time Trials of Mana has been released outside of Japan, and for many fans of the series, the wait of nearly 25 years is worth it.
The M2 specialists, responsible for the Sega Ages series and the recent Castlevania & Contra collections, have carefully recreated the three games. The result is amazing: The player can easily select the size of the screen and can access the backup file at the touch of a button. However, some options that have become standard in recent years, such as rewind, scan lines, texture anti-aliasing and perfect pixel mode, are not available. There is a music player for each game, so you can listen to the soundtracks at any time. Unfortunately, it only plays one song at a time, so you can’t press the play button and have it spin automatically.
Final Fantasy Adventure was the first game published by Mana, despite the name Final Fantasy. Interestingly, this game was originally released in the US on the same day as Final Fantasy II for the Super NES and Final Fantasy Legend for the Game Boy – so it’s a Squaresoft overload! When the adventure begins, you can name a boy and a girl. The boy is the hero of this quest, and soon after fighting the beast, you discover that he is being held captive by the Dark Lord, who fights you and your friends every day for fun. One day after the battle, one of your friends is mortally wounded, and before he dies he lets you know that the Mana Tree is in danger and must be protected. Your adventure officially begins when you leave the dungeon, find the girl you chose and flee the world.
All games in this collection are action RPGs. The Final Fantasy Adventure game is very similar to the early Legend of Zelda games. The camera works from top to bottom, and each screen is a different room or space. So, when the hero reaches the edge, he moves on to the next screen. Combat is also very similar, with button A attacking and button B broadcasting to an object. To use an item, you must first select it in the submenu where it has a B key, and then press that key to use it.
There is no deep story in this Game Boy game. The game is pretty simple, but it’s still very well played. You can press the ZR button to change the aspect ratio, whether it is normal or enlarged. You can keep pressing this button to get a small selection of colors: the original pea green, black and white, and some sort of sepia color scheme. The music holds up well, even with the limitations of the Game Boy, and I have to say that this game is more accessible than I imagined. Playing the game in portable mode really brings back memories!
Secret of Mana is the second part of the series and the first for the Super Nintendo. Also in this game, the mana tree dies and the heroes that the player names must collect mana seeds to rebuild the tree and prevent the mana fortress from taking flight. This game is known for its detailed sprites, colorful environments, and fantastic music – and it still holds up. You begin the game by falling from a log into a lake, where you encounter a sword that must be pulled from the ground to continue the game. Unfortunately for the village elders, this is an unspeakable act and you will be banished! Your adventure begins with finding answers and, hopefully, saving the world along the way. Along the way, he meets a girl and a goblin, who then become playable characters. Owners of the original game had to buy the SNES Multitap to play in threes, but here you get the full multiplayer experience with Joy-Cons! This game also appears on the Super NES Classic Edition console, but you’re limited to two players – so in a way, it’s the ultimate way to play.
When this game came out, it was also known for its unique circular menu system. Opening the circular menu is a quick and very easy way to equip weapons, use items and cast spells. The combat system has tried to incorporate some sort of real-time active combat, with the counter counting up to 100% when a character uses a weapon or sprints. Until the reserves are replenished, the next attack will be severely weakened. There is also an upgrade system that allows your character to unlock new skills to equip weapons. If you hold down the attack button, you launch a big attack. The higher the attack level, the longer the charge lasts. With its charming characters, colourful world and hauntingly beautiful soundtrack, Secret of Mana still stands the test of time!
Finally, we come to Trials of Mana, a game that many of you probably bought this collection for. I know, and I wasn’t disappointed! There are six different characters in Trials of Mana, three of which you choose at the beginning. The order in which they are chosen is important because the first one will be the main character. Each has its own main scenario, so the second and third choices provide clues and identify playable characters. It’s a little disappointing that Trials only supports two players instead of the three that Secret has, but perhaps they’ve discovered that very few players actually use multi-tap on the SNES.
In this game, the Goddess of Mana created the world with the Sword of Mana and sealed the eight Benevodons, after which she fell asleep. Now there is a war going on, the Mana is weakening and the prisons where the Volunteers are held are getting weaker. Our heroes must retrieve the Sword of Mana and defeat them.
The best part of this game is that there are six different plots to choose from, and another six different plots that can be chosen entirely based on the characters the players start with. The music is not as catchy as Secret of Mana, but the soundtrack of Trials of Mana is still impressive. As you’d expect, the environments are colorful and vibrant, and the game even has a day/night cycle. One of the starting points of the story takes place at night. Additionally, there is a black market in a town that only sells fairly powerful armor and weapons at night.
The combat system is much faster this time around. It is not believed that players must wait to count to 100% to attack effectively. Instead, there are diamond markers next to the character’s portrait that fill in each time the character hits an enemy. Once it’s filled, and it doesn’t take long, a stronger attack can be used. The Ring menu returns, but unlike the Secret menu where the ring can be used to equip items and weapons, the menu here is only for using items and casting magic. There is another, much heavier menu for switching devices. Fortunately, it’s not used very often. The lineup is more efficient in this game because players can choose which stats they want to keep. Increases in spirit or intelligence give magic users access to new spells, luck disarms chest traps and critical strikes, etc.
As the characters attempt to lock the Benevodons in their prisons, they encounter the Mana Stones – one for each of the eight elements of Mana. If they are sufficiently aligned, they can make changes to their class. A Hawkeye thief can become a ninja or a ranger, for example. When you change classes, you lose certain skills and acquire new ones. This can be done twice, and characters have the option to choose the light or dark class. Since there are two different classes in each level, you have a total of six different classes for each character. Thanks to these additions, this game definitely has more RPG elements than previous games in the series. With a deeper story, more characters, and even more detailed graphics, this story was worth the wait.
The Mana Collection is an excellent compilation of three of the best mana games. The $40 price may be a little hard to swallow (you have to love the Square Enix tax), but with the ability to play Secret of Mana as a trio again and finally having a properly localized version of Trials of Mana, I think it’s worth every penny. It’s a shame that Secret of Evermore isn’t included in this package, even though it’s not from the same developers and it’s not really a mana game. Maybe if it becomes a success, we can finally release Terranigma (Enix) in the States after all these years!
Overview of the Mana collection
- Charts – 8/10
- Sound – 8/10
- Gameplay – 9/10
- Last call – 9/10
Final thoughts : GRAND
Mana games are still good, even after 25 years. The chance to finally play Trials of Mana, even if the remake comes out next year, is worth owning this collection. Whether you play alone or with friends, these adventure games are worth your time!
Chris is passionate about video and board games. JRPGs are close to his heart and he loves listening to quality game soundtracks!
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