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Trials of Mana and Final Fantasy 7’s fine remakes also show us what’s been lost along the way

You know the adage, I’m sure. You wait an age for Square to revive one of its beloved 90s RPG epics, then one comes along and causes such a stir you almost completely miss the second one that follows in its immediate wake. Or something like that, anyway. While Final Fantasy 7 Remake is an outlandishly expensive and extravagant exercise in blockbuster modern gaming, for better and for worse, the Trials of Mana remake is a much humbler affair, as its more modest launch attests. It’s just as valid a revival, though, even if it isn’t without its own faults.

Chief among those is something you can’t really blame Trials of Mana itself for. This doesn’t have the warm veil of nostalgia around it like Final Fantasy 7, simply because Trials of Mana never really had an outing beyond Japan until a translation of Seiken Densetsu 3, as it was originally known, popped up in last year’s Collection of Mana, and as such it’s only the truly dedicated who have any vintage memories of the action RPG. I certainly can’t pretend to have any of my own, and muddling through the first few hours of the 16-bit Trials of Mana was my first experience with the game.

So one good thing about this new Trials of Mana is that it’s a lot less muddled. This is, from the foundation upward, still an eccentric take on the RPG genre – you pick your party from a cast of six from the very off, and are locked into your chosen trio for the remainder of the game, while the actions that complement your standard attacks are carried out via a fiddly ring menu system – but it’s been de-fussed. You’re still locked into your choice here, but the combat is much less fiddly and easier to parse – indeed, when you have a full party and are flitting effortlessly between the three, it’s got a supremely satisfying flow.

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