Discussion in 'Off Topic' started by Shockbox, May 4, 2009.
The horrible way game companies treat their catalogues really encourages piracy.
Trials of Mana Review:
What happens when you give an old school action RPG that is very much a product of its time a full-scale remake but not much of a reimagining? This formula seems like a recipe for awkwardness and indeed Trials of Mana, a prime example of the remake-but-don’t-reimagine philosophy, can sometimes be an awkward beast. Everything from the save system to the story itself is unapologetically old school, giving the game a certain “feels like coming home” factor. It’s the gaming equivalent of comfort good, a game to put on when you need something pure and uncomplicated to scratch the nostalgia itch. However, this comfort food dynamic is both a blessing and a curse. The original Trials of Mana, released in 95, was purportedly groundbreaking for its day but the remake is often unambitious to a fault. The gameplay is dependable and the role-playing systems are surprisingly robust, working together like a well-oiled machine, but the story is so basic and cliched that it comes across as parody. Some entertainingly campy voice acting helps soften this blow, but you can’t help but wonder how special the game would have felt had some thought and care gone into the game’s narrative. As it is, it’s just an excuse to kill strangely cute monsters, which is fine, but the result of this lack of narrative ambition is that the game very rarely rises above being blandly good.
Let’s get the story out of the way quickly since it seems that’s what the developers did. I realize Trials of Mana is a remake of a game from 1995, but I’m not sure that excuses the trite and one-dimensional storyline. Final Fantasy VI sports a deep and character-rich story and that came out a year earlier. In Trials of Mana, there is almost nothing in the way of character development and the story has not even a drop of thematic resonance. It’s very much a tale centered around collecting Macguffins (items that have real no significance beyond advancing the plot), a narrative core that sputters out before the story can ever off the ground. I’m not even going to bother summarizing it because it literally doesn’t matter. You have three characters in your party (which, impressively, you can choose in any combination at the start of the game and the story progresses differently based on your choices), all with very different motivations for journeying, but these motivations feel more like the outlines of character development than actual development. I never felt their plight because it was all too generalized. If the developers had a “this will do” attitude about the characters and their motivations, why am I supposed to care? Thankfully, there are some funny moments, but I got the distinct sense that these were not intentional. Honestly, the genuinely weird “so bad it’s good” voice acting provides most of the entertainment you’ll wring out of the narrative. And while I’m thankful it’s there to avert the absolute disaster Trials of Mana’s story would be if it were presented in a serious-faced manner, the fact that I’m presenting it as a positive is a testament to how empty and soulless the story actually is.
Fortunately, the rest of the game fares much better. While Trials of Mana is not one of the more visually impressive games on Switch and PS4, it is nevertheless a joy to look at. Character and monster designs are charming and the colors are eye-catchingly saturated. Everything looks appropriately cheerful and whimsical and this even extends to some of the darker settings. Although the building designs can be repetitive, I loved the town themes and layouts and the world is an impressive sight when you view them from your adorable flying dragon Flammie. The simple but vibrant visuals help drive home the comforting nostalgic feel that’s one of Trials of Mana’s key strengths and the music is also rather good (giving the player the option to switch to the SNES soundtrack is a nice quality of life touch). I liked most of the songs, even some of the more generic RPG fare, but it’s the jazzy percussive pieces that really pop. These more experimental tunes help give the soundtrack a distinct sonic fingerprint while also doing a job of hyping up the player for adventure.
The game’s sense of adventure is possibly its strongest quality. While the characters’ goals didn’t inspire me whatsoever, traveling through the environments did. That’s because the environments strike a good balance between size and variety. The dungeons are large and winding enough to evoke a strong sense of exploration (the liberally scattered treasure chests and items certainly help), but the game always points you in the right direction and with a few exceptions, it is constantly varying the environmental themes. Of course there are the standard ice and fire worlds that we’ve seen a gazillion times before, but some of them were rather unique: for example, a forest where it’s always night and where you have to follow trails of red flowers to find your way or a desert made of blue crystals. And the ones that are not unique are at least well executed, a dynamic that extends to the towns. Sometimes the architecture feels repetitive, with the same types of shops in almost every village, but you do at least get some variety in the way that these towns fit into the overall geography. There’s even a town that’s initially invisible to humans and it’s a nice breath of fresh air when you finally discover it. Regardless of their varying quality, the sheer volume of different environments and towns make the world feel vast, which is especially compounded when you explore it from the air. As I flew around on my dragon, I thought to myself, “This is an extremely well put together world.” It’s cohesive while providing its fair share of twists. Even when the story was boring, which was pretty much always, the act of journeying to all these different places kept me in a state of mild anticipation.
The world alone is enough to win the game some serious design points, but there are bunch of little things that help make the overall gameplay loop more entertaining. One of these is the magic pot. Strangely enough, this may be my favorite feature in the game. Basically, you can plant item seeds into the pot and an item will grow here. As you level up the pot, the items become rarer, more desirable, and more useful. This dynamic went a long way toward making loot feel more meaningful. And more importantly, you can make a lot of money selling these items. The game provides you with a lot of money in general but the weapons and armor becomes extremely expensive in the late game. So it’s nice to have these extra items to fall back on. In general, systems like the magic pot provide the types of incentives that the story fails to. The customization systems, which provide you with tons of passive and active abilities, seem simplistic at first but there’s a ton of depth that quietly exists beneath the surface. Most importantly, you can really feel your characters getting stronger. In some games, the differences between levels seem negligible, but Trials of Mana gave me a constant feeling of progression. This is especially true once the rewarding class system rears its head. You are given the opportunity to change your class twice, giving you access to new abilities and wildly improved stats. I found that the game became more compelling after class changes. Prior to that, repetition and boredom occasionally set in, but it’s nothing that made me want to stop playing.
It feels weird to be talking about combat last, but it’s also appropriate because the fighting engine is deceptively simple and mostly benefits from the depth of the systems surrounding it. If you have a mage of some sort in your party, you will have access to powerful spells accessed through an elegant ring system (this is also how you access items), but most of your time will be spent hack and slashing (and healing). Featuring only two basic combos---heavy and light---outside of the powerful and visually attractive special attacks, the combat can sometimes get button-mashy, but there are a few other considerations that keep the battles somewhat fresh. For example, you’ll have to break some enemies shields by using a heavy attack, so you can’t just mash your way through those battles without taking some serious damage. Also, the developers give you a nice dodge move, which makes avoiding enemy attacks feel great. Overall, the game’s combat has a fluid and satisfying game feel and there are many exciting bosses that allow you to utilize the battle system to its fullest. However, keep in mind that I played on hard mode after hearing that normal mode was easy to the point of being boring. And while I cannot speak to normal mode, hard mode didn’t feel at all like a hard mode with the exception of a few tricky bosses. I can easily imagine that an easier difficulty might be less than engaging. However, while battles are generally easy, the game’s incredibly stupid ally AI sometimes makes them a pain. Even when you adjust the AI of your party members, they still are not smart enough to avoid enemy attacks that are very obviously telegraphed. It’s a shame because everything else about the combat system works very well.
Ultimately, Trials of Mana is a perfectly good game. Exploration and combat are more than solid and the gameplay loop created by the game’s customization systems is rewarding and satisfying. But the lack of an updated story to match the updated visuals really prevents the experience from soaring. That being said, I’m not sure it matters that much. Yes, a compelling story is more important to an RPG than a platformer or shooter, which is why Trials of Mana is trapped in a purgatory of “proficient but not overly impressive,” but for a game that seeks to provide a nostalgia-blast and old school comfort, good is good enough.
So I bought Breath of the Wild yesterday since Targhey had it on sale, between it, Fallout 76, and Valhalla on PS5 I literally don't have a life now ddddd
Following Strikers, I went on a further Persona spinoff kick, and after playing through all 3 Persona Dancing games...
They made some points.
I played this about five years ago and I remember really really liking it! Perhaps at the time I was just annoyed at the lack of turn based JRPGs so this really stood out but I love the storyline and the characters. I hope you enjoy it!
Also I love what you think of Chrono Cross. That is one of my favourite JRPGs of all time.
I just finished Persona 5 Strikers and ugh I love it. I wasn't sure how I felt knowing that it wasn't turn-based but it's just *SO MUCH FUN*. I have gotten all the Personas bar the the final one, but I have decided to move on to FF7 Remake. I also kind of wished I played Royal, as opposed to the vanilla but the thought of doing 120+ hours on Royal when I've got a few other games on my to-play list fills me with dread. I have got Yakuza to play after FF7 Remake and then hopefully FF16 when that's released.
When I'm finished with this replay, I will totally post a review.
I'm never getting this console.
You're gonna take a whole decade to play two games?
Hah! I thought I saw an article the other day saying the release date has been changed to "coming soon"?! I hope it is this summer...
Okay so I finished Control and oh my god the Ashtray Maze sequence took me clean out. What a triumph that was! I’ll return to complete the DLC at some point but need to play other stuff first.
I started Miles Morales but can’t really get into it, I’m fancying and RPG to be honest so I’m leaning towards Persona 5 Royal or finally getting round to playing the X/X-2 remasters. I have such fond memories of playing both when I was younger.
Anyone got MH: Rise? Thoughts and feelings? I bought World when it came out only for my PS4 to be taken when my house was burgled shortly after nn. Now it’s on PS Collection for free I’m tempted to give it a go properly though I was hopeless for the short while I did play it.
Monster Hunter Rise is so good so far, like it’s still guilty of throwing you in at the deep end mechanically but the atmosphere is probably the best in the series, the cutscenes are wonderful too.
I'll take a dose of your optimism! I'd bet on summer of next year, maybe. This year would be quite a feat for Square-Enix.
I never thought I would see this day, but Koei Tecmo has announced a sequel to Blue Reflection, as well as an anime and a mobile game.
The first game is out on PS4 and PC and is basically a mix of Sailor Moon and Persona. The designs and art style are fantastic, and the OST is great as well.
Wait this looks perfect for us JRPG gays. Remind me to get this next time it's on sale.
Blue Reflection looks very ‘me’. I’ll have to keep an eye out for it.
How is the gameplay for the first game though? Is it just turned based? I've been eyeing it for a while now.
So I've been watching streamers playing it a lot recently on Twitch and I've been won over to the world of Dead By Daylight. The Special Edition is £14.99 on the PS Store - does this version give me all the licensed killers/survivors too or will I still have to buy the expansion packs?
I can’t believe we never got an Until Dawn 2. Jessica stans lost.
The combat is turn based, yeah. The game is a lot like Persona, you have both the daily life parts and the "other world" where you fight monsters etc. I played it back when it was released and I enjoyed it a lot, happy it's getting a sequel.
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