Trials of Mana (remake) on PS4: More proof critics will say good things about anything Squenix does
I loved Squaresoft games as a kid and as a teenager. You could say that I really enjoyed them well into the early 2000's but Square-Enix has really lost me as a fan as of late and yes, this does extend to Final Fantasy titles as well.
When I saw there was a Trials of Mana, which ironically i was able to try on a free trial, that had never been released in the English-speaking world until semi-recently, I was excited about revisiting my roots because I absolutely loved Secret of Mana on the SNES. After playing this game just until level 5, I had seen enough to make me want to cry, perhaps make me even question what it was that I liked about the original so much.
So in case you don't know, Trials of Mana is a action (sort of) JRPG, that has existed since 1995 but was only released in Japan under the name Seiken Densetsu 3. It was recently updated with new graphics and sound and was released on Nintendo Switch and PS4 in April, 2020. It promised immense differences from the original game including a new musical score and dramatically improved graphics.
It is a matter of perspective about whether or not they achieved those two things. I would say that they are improved, but only in the sense that we don't have to depend on beeps and boops anymore, the tunes as a whole are not necessarily better. The graphics are improved and well, they friggin should be since there is 25 YEARS of technological advancement that has happened between the 2 releases.
Right out of the gate we are treated to an introduction to the game and a brief training about how combat works. Combat is seriously simplistic so this doesn't take very long. What DOES take a long time is the absurd amount of loading that takes place in order to get basically anything to happen. The graphics do look better, but the entire game is only 7GB so why is it that I am staring at a loading screen for more of the first hour of gameplay than not? For you to enter a new zone, the interior of most small houses, or god forbid yet another simplistic cinematic you are looking at around 20 seconds of load time. I know it is just 20 seconds but people this is happening every couple of minutes and that is far too excessive. Apparently this is 10-20% worse on the PS4 than on the Switch as well.
Battles are repetitive as hell right from the start and I quickly found myself avoiding battles as much as possible even though I had only been playing the game for about 30 minutes at this point. This was a bad idea because since I was skipping all that the 20 seconds of load time apparently needed to work on (i'm guessing those walking mushrooms consume a lot of system resources) I was simply sprinting to yet another load point.
In the first 30 minutes I could already tell that I was dealing with 1995 enemy AI which suggests to me that the graphical overhaul is all they worked on. The interior mechanics are exactly the same as they were two decades ago.
I have zero tolerance for long load times in any game but even less than zero tolerance for a game that is small and honestly should be able to streamline this process much faster.
This isn't even the worst part of the first hour of gameplay. That trophy goes to the voice acting. I don't know how much money they spent on the voice talent but it was too much, whatever it was. I feel as though they went to a local high-school, chose the worst actors in the classes and then hired them without checking if they can play the part or not.
After enduring a few of the scenes, I found myself wishing for the old-school text that the SNES gave us in the Secret of Mana original. I started skipping all of the scenes from that point forward because even though it is sill, the cinematic sequences, in which you have no choices anyway, were actually making me angry.
You meet the main baddie in the first 5 minutes (well, 10 minutes if you count loading screens) and he talks.... and talks..... and talks.... and talks some more.
And yet the critics are all falling over themselves to say how amazing this game is. Did they get a different one than I did? These same critics were pushing one another out of the way to say that Final Fantasy 15 and later the Final Fantasy 7 remake were the best games ever made by anyone yet most people who have played these titles have very different opinions on the matter.
Is this one of those Rotten Tomatoes situations where the general public has a clearly different opinion about things than the professionals do which makes us all think the pros are paid off or afraid to give a real opinion for fear of not being included with early access next time?
In the end all I can say is that I am very happy there was a demo available of this game because honestly, if you feel compelled to turn a game off during the demo, which only lets you get to level 7 out of 50, then that game is probably not worth buying.
Square-Enix continues to disappoint me as they continue to ruin the fond memories I had of basically all of their games in the 90's and early 2000's. In 2 weeks the remade version of Crystal Chronicles will get released and after seeing this mess of a game, I can't really say that I am hopeful that is going to be any better.
What difference does it make? The critics will be drooling about how incredible a game it is and we, the end consumer are left wondering what the hell they are talking about.