If you've been following my reviews for some time, you'll know that while I enjoyed Secret of Mana, I seem to be one of the people who were a lot more critical of the game and thought much about it hasn't aged well. Having played a little bit of the sequel via fan translation back in the day (I struggled too much trying to play with a Keyboard at the time, Action RPG's did not control well on a keyboard) there was a lot I liked, so seeing it come back now in a 3D remake had me excited.
The first thing that catches your interest about the game is out of six characters, you select who your main character is going to be, then you select the two people who will join you on your quest. The characters are all pretty distinct in terms of personality and play style, there is a fair amount of difference between the different combinations you can make for our party. Be careful not to expect too much difference in terms of story, however, as this was a SNES game originally, so there were limitations on how much would change in terms of the story. It mostly boils down to a few scene changes, and a possibility of one of three different villains to act as the final boss. Honestly, the story doesn't change much, it's just changing which power-hungry villain rises to the top. So long as you aren't looking at the changes to be much more than altering the flavor a bit, it's fine.
The combat is pretty simple and straight forward. Weak and strong attacks that you make basic combos' with, special attacks when you build a meter, and some spells you can cast. A big improvement over the Secret of Man Remake, Trials of Mana has far fewer issues with controls and hit detection. In small areas, the camera can be a bit of a nuisance, but the game controls well and the above-mentioned party selection, paired with the ability to upgrade your class for new abilities based on the path you take (Two paths at first, each one having another two upgrades giving you four different final forms before reaching the post-game content). Despite the variety, however, it's kind of wasted on everything other than the boss fights.
Playing through on Hard, I had very little trouble tearing through the random mobs, and honestly, you seldom have to change up your strategy the entire game once you find something that works for you. This makes the majority of the game feel very repetitive pretty quickly. Pair that with some fairly lackluster dungeon designs, and easy to solve puzzles, whenever they come up, and this makes a lot of the game a bit of a slog if you're at all experienced with the genre.
Where the game starts to make up for it is a lot of fun and creative boss fights. While I do feel they are to easy with only a couple of bosses giving me much problem, these fights tend to at least get you thinking about how to deal with the different gimmicks. The hardest fight I had in the game is the wall (Because all SNES JRPG's had an asshole wall that was a pain), and its strategy was not moving while summoning a variety of traps that limit your movement while using one ability to shove you to the opposite wall and summoning minions.
The game also falls a bit short because the overall plot is generic enough that anyone could be plugged in for the main character and not much changes. It's fine, and there are enough likable characters and scenes to keep you invested throughout the game's run time, but nothing fantastic that stands out happens.
The older Mana games are a bit frustrating to talk about. They were a huge step forward and a showcase of what could be done and helped to kick off a fantastic genre and set up a lot of the core aspects of it that you can see to this day. At the same time, it's not a series that has aged very well. I love that the game got a remake as well as the original release of the Mana Collection, and it's still a fun game worth playing, but I think you need to go in with some tempered expectations if this is your first time jumping into a Mana game.