Collection of Mana is available worldwide and it is an occasion. While two of the games are classics fans of the series are likely familiar with, the third is something truly special. For this localization, Square Enix went ahead and did a thing many might have considered improbable. It localized Seiken Densetsu 3, the 1995 Mana Super Famicom. While a remake is in the works, people can play the original right now. And they probably should, because this is a really special game. Whether it is alone or with another person, it is totally and unusual and unique in a way few entries in the series were.
In Trials of Mana, you have six potential protagonists. Each one has their own starting storyline and plotline to follow, in addition to the whole “mana is disappearing from the world and someone has to fight and save the day” thing. At the outset, you pick your party members. The first person you pick becomes this generation’s Mana Knight, the one who will wield the Sword of Mana and save the Mana Tree from dying. They are in the right place at the right time, so the task falls to them. The second person will happen upon your hero not long after the faerie has “picked” them. The third appears shortly after meeting your first mana spirit. This means your experience can be different each time, depending on who you chose to join your party and which person is your lead character. You’ll learn about the other characters’ backgrounds if they are your allies, but you only get that detailed, firsthand look if they are the one you pick.
What about the people you didn’t pick? The thing is, Trials of Mana takes into consideration your choice of main characters and then, well, still has the other people around the world! In my playthrough, I decided to have Riesz, Kevin, and Angela as party members. When Riesz first reaches the Jadd Stronghold, she’ll see people like Angela, Duran, Hawkeye, and Kevin around her. When people head to Wendell, they’ll encounter Charlotte along the way. As you go about your business, the people you didn’t choose to have by your side are out there, doing their own thing. You can see them, and it really helps emphasize that any one of them could be the chosen one.
But the different storylines aren’t the only thing that helps set Trials of Mana apart. Each character has their own sort of role in the party. Duran and Kevin are your heavy hitters, with the former being your basic knight (and later magic knight) and brawler or monk. Hawkeye and Riesz are sort of supplemental classes, since the one is a thief and she is a lancer. Angela and Charlotte are your mages, with one majoring in black magic and the other white. Who you pick determines your party’s strengths and weaknesses. You can have different sorts of synergies based on who is or isn’t along. But, things get even deeper than that, thanks to class changes.
Every Trials of Mana character can go through two class changes. The first happens at level 18 and can be performed at any Mana Stone. After a character reaches level 38 and has gotten the necessary class change item from planting seeds in Inn pots, you can go to a final class. (Save before you plant the seed and reload, in case you don’t get what you need.) You start out as a base class, say as an Amazon for Riesz. If you choose the Light path, she becomes a Valkyrie. Or, she could go take the Dark path and become a Rune Maiden. The Valkyrie will have higher strength and get some spells that apply buffs to party members. The Rune Maiden will have debuffs for enemies, in comparison, and tends to be more agile. Each one of these classes has two more upon hitting level 38, offering more specialized. For example, the Light Valkyrie could choose Light again and become a Vanadis or choose Dark and become a Star Lancer. Both still have those buffs, but the latter’s will improve the whole party’s stats, rather than just one person’s.
What this means is that Trials of Mana is the sort of game that takes multiple replays to master and fully appreciate. There are so many different characters and classes to choose from. You could use the same party, but with different people as the main character and different classes for each one, and it could feel different each time. There are so many variables and it can feel special each time. Plus, it was this unattainable title for so long, and now it is here. Everyone can have access to it and appreciate it.
Collection of Mana is available on the Nintendo Switch.