Developing Trials of Mana: the producers discuss the game

Mana series Producer Masaru Oyamada and Trials of Mana Producer Shinichi Tatsuke talk about the development of the new action RPG
By Duncan Heaney

We’re now mere days away from the release of Trials of Mana - the action RPG launches on April 24, 2020.

You don’t have to wait that long to play it though - there’s a lengthy demo available that lets you experience the opening parts of the game for all six characters. Not only that, you can carry any progress over to the full game.

And we’re confident you’ll want to do that, because Trials of Mana is shaping up to be an excellent action RPG. That probably won’t come as a surprise to anyone familiar with its heritage - it’s a full remake of 1995’s Trials of Mana, a classic game that made its debut in the West in last year’s Collection of Mana.

Ahead of the game’s launch, Mana series Producer Masaru Oyamada and Trials of Mana Producer Shinichi Tatsuke spoke about the design and challenges of remaking a classic.

Why did the team decide to develop a full remake of Trials of Mana for 2020?

Oyamada-san: When we released Collection of Mana for Nintendo Switch in Japan, we had many players from around the world ask us: “Will Collection of Mana or Seiken Densetsu 3 Trials of Mana’s title in Japan, be released over here?”

We received this question more times than we anticipated, which was great to hear!

Similarly, as we were developing Secret of Mana released in 2018, I knew that I wanted to move forward with a remake of Trials of Mana sooner rather than later to appease the demand for it from players around the world.

I needed a producer who I could work with, so I reached out to Tatsuke-san.

The direction for this title is quite different from 2018’s Secret of Mana remake - what’s the reason for that?

Oyamada-san: When we were developing Secret of Mana, we were aware that there hadn’t been a release of a brand new console entry in the series for quite a long time.

But Secret of Mana had been released globally originally and there were many fans out there who wanted a familiar experience to the original, but updated for modern consoles.

Seiken Densetsu 3 wasn’t initially released globally, so we thought it would be best to challenge ourselves to create it in a similar way to how we would a brand new title.

That’s why Trials of Mana feels so different to the original.

What sort of game is Trials of Mana?

Oyamada-san: Story-wise, the game tells an overlapping story of interwoven destinies, which changes depending on who you choose as your main character and companions.

This is a story in which the six heroes are faced with a harsh fate at the beginning, and they must go forth and confront it. We hope players will enjoy discovering each character’s story through to completion!

It looks like there are various points that differ quite a bit from the original – could you elaborate on these?

Tatsuke-san: First, the visuals are vastly different – we’ve moved from a Super Famicom (the Japanese name for the Super Nintendo) game to an HD game built for modern platforms.

The graphics have been made fully-3D, with bright colours and beautiful scenery that brings the world to life like never before!

In terms of battles, we’ve heightened the action-like qualities, making it into a more modern action-RPG. That said, this isn’t completely an action game - you level up as you go through battles, and it’s made so that even those who may not have an affinity for action games can still enjoy it.

As well as those elements, we’ve also made changes to the growth system and other various details, such as adding new Abilities to the gam that let you customise your character more than ever before.

How challenging was it to move a 2D game into 3D? Is there anything that you particularly struggled with when you remade the game with the modernized graphics and systems?

Tatsuke-san: Recreating something that was depicted in 2D pixels with a fixed camera inevitably results in contradictions and things that look unnatural.

It takes a lot of effort to make sure the three-dimensionality and distances look believable in 3D - we had to re-create the fields and adjust the level designs to make sure everything felt natural.

Additionally, we struggled with how to depict some story events and cutscenes, and things like the timings within them. These were parts which players would need to use their imaginations to fill in the blanks back in the day.

For the battle system, we put in a lot of effort because we needed to redesign it pretty much from scratch in order to heighten the action qualities in a more modern way.

Speaking of the battle system, can you explain a little about how it works?

Tatsuke-san: There is a much greater variety of actions compared to the original game - weak attacks, strong attacks, area attacks, jump attacks, charge attacks, and evasion are just some of the things that have been added.

Additionally, the areas in which enemy magic and attacks will land are displayed visually in combat, which strengthens the strategic quality within encounters.

We hope players will enjoy each battle against the game’s many dangerous enemies.

In the original game, you were able to play with two players. Why is Trials of Mana single player?

Tatsuke-san: The original game used a top down camera - multiplayer was possible because all characters could share a single screen.

For this title, we considered having multiplayer using the top down camera, but we thought: “Would it be possible to have an even better experience by using a 3rd person perspective, prioritising a new, immersive feeling?”

After that decision was made, we decided to develop the game as a single-player experience.

What can you tell us about the game’s music?

Oyamada-san: Hiroki Kikuta is the composer, just as he was for Secret of Mana (2018).

The game includes both the original and arranged versions, and you can choose which one you want when you play.

What elements of Trials of Mana do you think will appeal to fans who have played the original game in Collection of Mana?

Oyamada-san: We think this game will be enjoyed as an expanded way to play the Mana series. We want players to think “I always wanted to play this sort of evolved Mana game!”

Players can take a look into what was going on in portions of the game that weren’t fully depicted back in the original, but are now possible with the updated systems and graphics.

We’ve designed this game to be a fun new experience, but we’ve also made sure to hold on to all the good parts of the original version. As a result, fans of the original version as well as players who pick it up for the first time will be able to enjoy it.

Is Trials of Mana a good entry point for someone who’s never played a game in the Mana series?

Oyamada-san: Yes! The Mana series, its world and characters, remains popular because of their timeless appeal.

We feel that this game can be played regardless of whether someone is more familiar with the older pixel art style of games, or if they prefer more modern 3D graphics and games. More than anything, I hope they’ll enjoy how good JRPGs are!

Although the Mana world is shared throughout the whole series, the individual stories aren’t connected with each other, so you’ll have fun even if you start with Trials of Mana and develop an interest for other games from there!

Many thanks to Oyamada-san and Tatsuke-san for their answers.

Trials of Mana releases for PS4, Nintendo Switch and Steam on April 24, 2020. It’s available to preorder now - and if you purchase the game before May 21, 2020, you’ll receive a special Rabite Adornment. This in-game item allows you to gain more experience from battles up to level 10.

As well as the Rabite Adornment, if you preorder on PS4 you’ll also get six PSN avatars inspired by the game.

Pre-purchase on Steam to get two exclusive wallpapers that showcase the game’s stunning art.

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