One of the biggest surprises out of the E3 2019 Nintendo Direct was the reveal of Collection of Mana coming stateside. Not only was it announced, but also a few hours later it was available on the Nintendo eShop for all to enjoy. Collection of Mana includes three games: Final Fantasy Adventure (originally released for the Game Boy in 1991), Secret of Mana (originally released on the Super Nintendo in 1993), and Trials of Mana (known as Seiken Densetsu 3 in Japan and released in 1995 for the Super Famicom). This marks the first time we’re seeing Trials of Mana release outside of Japan, and for many fans of the series the nearly 25 year wait has been worth it.
The experts at M2, responsible for the Sega Ages line of games and the recent Castlevania & Contra Collections, have meticulously emulated all three games. The results are amazing, allowing players to easily select screen size and have access to save states at the press of a button. Some options that have become standard over the past few years, like rewind, scanlines, texture smoothing, and pixel perfect mode are nowhere to be found, however. On the upside there’s a music player for each game so you can listen to the soundtracks anytime you please. Unfortunately it only plays one track at a time though, so you can’t just hit play and let it run automatically.
Final Fantasy Adventure was the first of the Mana games released, despite its Final Fantasy moniker. Interestingly enough this title originally launched in the U.S. on the exact same day as Final Fantasy II on the Super NES and Final Fantasy Legend on the Game Boy – talk about Squaresoft overload! When the adventure begins you’ll be able to name a boy and a girl. The boy is the hero of this quest and you soon find out, after battling a beast, that he’s been imprisoned by the Dark Lord who has you and your friends fighting every day for entertainment. One day after a fight, one of your friends is mortally injured and before he passes lets you know that the Mana Tree is in danger and must be protected. Your adventure officially begins with you breaking out of the dungeon and to find the girl you named and escaping into the world.
All of the games in this collection are action RPGs. In Final Fantasy Adventure, the game plays extremely similar to the early Legend of Zelda titles. The camera is from the top-down and each screen is its own room or area so when the hero reaches the edge it slides to the next one. Combat is very similar as well, with the A button attacking and the B button using an item. To use an item you must first select it from the sub-menu, which equips it to the B button and then you press that to use it.
This being a Game Boy game there’s not a deep narrative. The game is pretty straight forward, but still plays great. You can press the ZR button to change the aspect ratio from normal or zoomed in. You can keep pressing this to cycle through a small selection of colors as well: the original pea green color scheme, black and white, and a sort of sepia tone. The music holds up very well even with the Game Boy limitations and I must say this game is more approachable than I though it would be. Playing in portable mode really brings back the memories!
Secret of Mana is the second in the series and the first on the Super Nintendo. Again in this game, the Mana tree is dying and the heroes, whom the players name, must restore the Mana seeds to restore the tree and prevent the rise of the Mana fortress. This game is known for its detailed sprites, colorful environments, and amazing music – and it holds up even today. You begin the game by falling off a log and into a lake, where you come across a sword that must be pulled out of the ground to proceed. Unfortunately this is an unspeakable act to the village elders and you’re banished! Your adventure begins with you seeking out answers and hopefully saving the world along the way. Along the way he runs into a girl and a Sprite, who then become playable characters. Owners of the original game had to purchase a SNES Multitap to play three players, but here you get the full multiplayer experience with Joy-Cons! This game also appears on the Super NES Classic Edition console, but you’re restricted to two players – so in a way this is the definitive way to play.
When this game originally launched it was also known for its unique circle menu system. Opening the circle menu is a quick and very easy way to equip weapons, use items, and cast spells. The battle system tried to incorporate a sort of Active Time Battle where when a character uses a weapon, or dashes, a counter counts to 100%. Until it fills back up the next attack will be severely underpowered. A skill progression system is also in place, allowing your character to unlock new abilities for weapons equipped. Holding down the attack button will charge up a super attack. The higher level of attack the longer the charge takes. With its charming characters, colorful world, and hauntingly beautiful soundtrack, Secret of Mana still holds up even today!
Finally, we come to Trials of Mana; the game many of you probably purchased this collection for. I know I did and I was not disappointed! There are six different characters in Trials of Mana and at the start you will choose three of them. The order in which they are chosen is important because the first one will become the main character. Each of them has a different main storyline so the second and third choices will bring in subplots and determine the playable characters. It’s slightly disappointing that Trials only supports two players instead of the three that Secret does, but perhaps they discovered that very few players actually used the multitap on the SNES.
In this game, the Mana Goddess created the world using the Mana sword and sealed away the eight Benevodons and then fell asleep. Now war is brewing, Mana is weakening, and the prisons holding the Benevodons are weakening. It is up to our heroes to retrieve the sword of Mana and defeat them.
The absolute best part about this game is the fact that there are six different stories that can be chosen and another six different sub plots that can be chosen based entirely on which characters players start with. The music is not as memorable as Secret of Mana; however, the soundtrack to Trials of Mana is still quite amazing. As you’d expect, the environments are colorful, and lively and there is even a day/night cycle in the game. One of the opening story points is done at night, plus one town has a black market that sells rather powerful armor and weapons only at night.
The battle system is much more fast paced this go round. There is no gauge that players have to wait to count to 100% in order to efficiently attack. Instead there are hash marks next to the character portrait that fill whenever that character hits an enemy. Once it fills, and it doesn’t take long, then a more powerful attack can be used. The ring menus make a return, but unlike Secret where the ring menus can be used to equip items and weapons, the menu here only serves as using items and casting magic. To change equipment, there is a different, much more clunky menu that must be used. Fortunately, it isn’t used all that often. Leveling up is more impactful in this game as players will get a choice of which stat they should increase. Increasing spirit or intellect will give magic users access to new spells, luck will mitigate chest traps and critical hits, etc.
As characters attempt to seal the Benevodons back into their prisons, they encounter the Mana stones – one for each of the eight elements of Mana. If they have leveled up enough they can make a change in their class. For example, Hawkeye the thief can become a ninja or a ranger. When you change classes, some abilities are lost and new ones are gained. This can happen two different times and characters will be given the option of taking the light class or the dark class. Since there are two different classes at each juncture, you have a total of six different classes per character. Because of these extra choices this game definitely has more RPG elements than the prior games in the series. With a deeper story, a bigger cast of characters, and even more detailed graphics, this one was worth the wait.
Collection of Mana is a great compilation of three of the best Mana games. The $40 price point might be a bit difficult to swallow (gotta love that Square Enix tax), but with the ability to once again play three player Secret of Mana and finally having a properly localized version of Trials of Mana, I think it’s worth every penny. It is a shame that we didn’t get Secret of Evermore included with this bundle, even though it wasn’t really made by the same developers and isn’t exactly a Mana game. Maybe if this is a success we’ll finally get Terranigma (Enix) released in the U.S. after all these years!
Collection of Mana Review
- Graphics - 8/108/10
- Sound - 8/108/10
- Gameplay - 9/109/10
- Lasting Appeal - 9/109/10
Final Thoughts: GREAT
The Mana games are still great, even over 25 years later. The opportunity to finally play Trials of Mana, even with the remake coming out next year, is worth owning this collection. Whether you’re playing solo or with friends, these adventure games are worth your time!