When it comes to mobile adaptations of familiar franchises, there’s always a concern. Will it get things right? Could it just try to capitalize on nostalgia? After spending some hands-on time with Echoes of Mana, it seems like there is an attempt to pay attention to the characters and gameplay fans of the series enjoy. Familiar faces are back. The battle system feels similar. It also isn’t afraid to chuck a Memory Gem card at you that will give you feels.
The first way Echoes of Mana feels familiar is, well, it starts with a callback to Trials of Mana. We see the beginning of Eagle’s story. As people may recall, his tale starts off with him being falsely imprisoned. Here, the player’s avatar busts him out instead of Niccolo. The ensuing events explain combat and also lead into the greater purpose. This, in turn, leads to a grander and also familiar goal. Players are tasked with finding the Sword of Mana. Which means harvesting Mana Tree fruit to see echoes of past Mana games’ scenarios and recruit characters.
Speaking of characters, I saw a lot of familiar faces right away! There are some original characters, sure. The first episode brings people to Pinzton. That’s where people meet the original characters Duffle and Honeycomb. (It also means getting two-star versions of each character, so you have a close-range fighter and mage to assist your avatar.) But immediately after, the tutorial has you do a free one-character summon to get at least a three-star ally. You can do this summon an unlimited number of times and try to reroll for a person you like. Protagonists from Adventures of Mana, Legend of Mana, Secret of Mana, and Trials of Mana all appear. For example, I got a three-star Lovely Rowdy Lass Primm and figured I was fine to stop, because I loved that game.
As for the fighting, it feels familiar too. Echoes of Mana’s gameplay involves action-RPG levels with a three character party. You can swap the character you’re controlling with a tap on the screen. You can unleash a cavalcade of attacks, press buttons to unleash skills, and even fill up a gauge for a combined attack. You can also build up your combo to perform magic. Unlike some other mobile RPGs, you actually can move your character and position them around the field. There is that beat’em up, RPG formula here. Though in a way, the general controls and feel almost reminded me a bit of my days playing The King of Fighters Allstar.
But there’s another way in which Echoes of Mana continually references past characters and games, and that’s with its Memory Gems. These are items you’ll get in the gacha alongside characters. When I went hands-on with the game, I was given enough currency for a 10-pull. Among my new characters, like a four-star Riesz, there was another Trials of Mana memory. It was A Bitter Farewell Memory Gem that showed one of the major moments in the early life of Kevin in Trials of Mana. In addition to an artistic rendition of the scene, it would give a character an assist skill for active allies that would increase the ST gauge by 30% “on faint.” Spoilers aside, people familiar with that game and implied moment would find the scene and implication nostalgic and perhaps even heart-wrenching.
Granted, my time with Echoes of Mana was cursory and offered an initial meeting with characters and brief gameplay encounters. Things like the overall balance and handling of monetization remain to be seen. But at the very least, it feels like there’s a general understanding of what people loved about characters, an attempt to reference important moments in gameplay and with Memory Gems, and levels that try to feel a little familiar.
Echoes of Mana will come to Android and Apple iOS devices in Spring 2022.