What’s so good about… Collection of Mana?

Three games, three very different experiences. Let’s dig into them…
By Duncan Heaney

During E3 week, we announced Collection of Mana - a Nintendo Switch compilation of the first three games in the Mana series: FINAL FANTASY Adventure / Mystic Quest, Secret of Mana and Trials of Mana.

Even more excitingly, it’s available digitally right now, with a limited run physical edition coming August 27..

It’s an exciting collection for fans of the Mana series, but if you’ve never explored the games before, you might be thinking… why?

Well, let me explain what’s so good about Collection of Mana.

It’s a collection of firsts

Here’s a fun fact. While many will tell you that FINAL FANTASY VII was the first FINAL FANTASY game released in Europe, technically, FINAL FANTASY Adventure has that honor. The thing is, many gamers didn’t know it, because it was retitled Mystic Quest.

(Of course, that’s not to be confused with FINAL FANTASY Mystic Quest, which is an entirely different game for the Super Nintendo. And also called Mystic Quest Legend in Europe… look, regional game-naming could get complicated back in the 90s.)

Despite its name, the Gameboy adventure differentiated itself from the mainline FINAL FANTASY games with more action-focused gameplay - in that way, it’s also the first game in the Mana series.

And then there’s Trials of Mana - this compilation marks the first time that the title has been officially released outside of Japan. It has a whole new localization, making it possible for audiences in the West to experience what many fans say is among the best entries in the whole series.

Three games… three very different experiences

One of the coolest things about Collection of Mana is that you can track how the core gameplay ideas change and evolve with each new entry.

For example, FINAL FANTASY Adventure / Mystic Quest immediately establishes many of the elements that would come to define the series. Combat is real-time, but also strategic as you manage a slowly building Will bar that determines your damage output.

Secret of Mana takes that idea of strategic real-time combat and runs with it. Now you have a power bar that requires a brief recharge after each hit. The concept is similar, but the execution is wildly different and it makes the game feel utterly unique.

The third game in the series, Trials of Mana, changes combat again. It’s faster and more fluid - but a brief window of vulnerability after an attack means you still can’t wave a sword around like a lunatic. Once again, we can see the same basic idea reinterpreted to create something completely new - something that might not be so obvious without being able to play them side by side in a compilation like this.

These are some of the most creative games in Square Enix history

Charm is a difficult thing to articulate but Collection of Mana has no shortage. These are three of the most creatively freewheeling titles that Square Enix has ever made.

Take Secret of Mana, for example. This is a game where you battle ducks wearing army-issue helmets, fast travel by means of a caveman-operated cannon, and open chests by shaking them around like a maraca. And then, of course, there’s the part where you meet and help Santa Claus…

It sounds insane, and in fairness, it kind of is. But therein lies it’s magic - there’s no time to get complacent because there’s always something new to see.

This philosophy is readily apparent in Trials of Mana and FINAL FANTASY Adventure / Mystic Quest too - the games are always trying to surprise you and, more importantly, show you a good time.

You can play the games in co-op

They say that the friends who grind together stay together.

Okay, nobody says that because we made it up. But the central point stands - Secret of Mana and Trials of Mana are superb co-operative experiences.

Each game starts with a brief solo introductory sequence, in which players are taught the mechanics and introduced to the world. Before too long though, a second character joins the party, and from that point a friend can drop in and out whenever they want.

Having a partner makes it easier to execute battle strategies, such as timing your attacks to stun-lock enemies, or covering each other when it’s time to heal. It’s faster to tear through dungeons and forests - and arguments about how to spend your hard-earned money are always a good time.

Overall, it’s reassuring to see that even more than two decades after their initial release, bashing bunnies with a buddy is just as joyous as it always was.

There’s the right amount of 21st Century in the collection

There haven’t been many alternations in Collection of Mana, but there are a couple modern conveniences added that play perfectly to the strengths of the Nintendo Switch.

For example, the ability to save at any point means it’s now incredibly easy to dip in and out of each adventure, and as it turns out, the action-focus of the three games make them extremely well-suited to this type of play.

Another welcome addition is the music player, which lets you listen to tracks from each game’s soundtracks from the main menu.

Fans of the Mana series already know how strong the music is in these games, but the ability to listen to each track, away from the sound of recharging power bars and malevolent mushrooms, may give you a whole new appreciation for how good it really is.

It makes for a collection that fits conveniently into even a busy lifestyle. You could, for example, do a quick 30 minutes on, say, Trials of Mana on the TV in the morning, pick up where you left off on a train, and then grab a couple of quick sessions in the afternoon instead of writing this article for the Square Enix Blog.

…it’s not procrastination, it’s research, alright?

Collection of Mana is available to buy now on the Nintendo eShop. You can also preorder the physical version on the Square Enix Store: