Collection of Mana for Nintendo Switch was originally released as the Seiken Densetsu Collection in Japan back in 2017. The game collected the first three games in what is known as the Mana series outside of Japan. It seemed unlikely that the Seiken Densetsu Collection would ever see an international release, as Seiken Densetsu 3 had never officially been localized into English and Square Enix had ignored the game for over twenty years.
A lot has changed since 2017, as the Nintendo Switch has skyrocketed in popularity and Square Enix's own Octopath Traveler was a huge hit for the system, and was a love letter to the retro JRPGs that the company used to be known for. Square Enix is all-in on the Nintendo Switch and has been making moves toward updating its back catalogue for streaming services and smartphones, which has resulted in Seiken Densetsu 3 finally receiving an official localization, where it is now known as Trials of Mana.
Collection of Mana was released shortly after Nintendo's E3 2019 Direct. The question now is whether these three games have stood the test of time, or whether they should have stayed in Japan.
Collection Of Mana Features
Collection of Mana adds some new features to each game. It's possible to listen to every song in each game through a music player that is selected from the title menu. It's possible to play each game in a multitude of languages. The games possess three save state slots that can be used at any time.
Final Fantasy Adventure can be played in its original green & yellow palette, in a much cleaner black & white format, or in a toned Game Boy Color palette. Secret of Mana and Trials of Mana can be played in their original aspect rations, or one that is stretched to encompass the screen. Collection of Mana is a game that is best played in handheld mode, as the visuals look stretched on the big screen. Trials of Mana suffers the most in this regard, as the more detailed sprites and backgrounds look muddy when stretched, while the simpler graphics of the other two games fair a little better. Secret of Mana and Trials of Mana have local multiplayer support.
The emulation features in Collection of Mana are bare-bones, and the game could really have used a fast-forward function (especially for Trials of Mana), but what is here is adequate, if not particularly impressive compared to similarly updated releases.
Final Fantasy Adventure
The first game in the Seiken Densetsu series was localized as Final Fantasy Adventure in North America, and as Mystic Quest in Europe. Final Fantasy Adventure is closer to one of the older games in The Legend of Zelda series than it is the later Mana games, which is partly due to the limitations of the original Game Boy.
Final Fantasy Adventure follows the story of a boy and a girl who are tasked with saving the Mana Tree from the Dark Lord. The game is an action RPG that allowed the player to use magic spells as well as swordplay. The main character was often joined by computer-controlled NPCs, which is impressive for a Game Boy game. Final Fantasy Adventure tells a bare-boned fantasy story framed around a lot of monster slaying and puzzle solving in dungeons.
Final Fantasy Adventure is easily the worst title in the Collection of Mana, and its inclusion is mostly for historical reasons. The game is short, difficult, tricky to control (especially when trying to use a joystick instead of a D-pad), and has a terrible localization due to the limited amount of text that the game could handle. Final Fantasy Adventure was an impressive title for its time, but it has not aged as well as the other games in the Collection of Mana.
Secret Of Mana
Secret of Mana was one of the best games on the Super Nintendo and was one of the few Squaresoft games to be released in Europe in the 90s. Secret of Mana is in the running for having the best soundtrack on the Super Nintendo (which is no small feat considering the competition on the system), and has bright, colorful graphics that have stood the test of time.
Secret of Mana is an action RPG where the three player characters travel across the world fighting monsters and collecting new weapons and spells to use in combat. The story follows a boy, a girl, and a sprite, who are dragged into a conflict to save the world. The boy pulls a sword from a stone at the start of the game, which is revealed to be the legendary Sword of Mana. The removal of the sword has caused monsters to reappear in the world, and it's up to the protagonist to restore its original power. The boy must gather his two allies and travel the world in order to use the power of the eight Mana Seeds to fix the Sword of Mana and prevent the Mana Beast from being summoned, lest it destroys the world.
Secret of Mana is still an amazing game, but it does have some issues that stem from the fact that it was one of the earliest games in the action RPG genre. The game has some of the worst balance issues in regards to difficulty, especially with its bosses. One boss will wipe the floor with you repeatedly, while some barely put up a fight at all. The ring system used for equipping gear and selecting items & spells only shows a couple of options at a time. The ring system was considered to be innovative back in the 90s, but most players will likely wish for something a bit more straight-forward, as there is a lot of unnecessary cycling through menus.
Secret of Mana lacks the deep story of some of the other 16-bit Squaresoft games, but its gameplay is as fun as ever and the graphics and sound are still a treat to this day.
Trials Of Mana
Trials of Mana is available in English for the first time in the Collection of Mana, or at least it is in an official sense. Seiken Densetsu 3 was one of the earliest triumphs of the ROM hacking/translating community, and the game has been available in English due to a fan translation for many years now.
Trials of Mana was one of the finest games on the Super Nintendo, and it's a crime that it has never been localized before now. The story of Trials of Mana follows six different characters; a fighter named Duran, a magician named Angela, a beastman/grappler named Kevin, a thief named Hawkeye, a cleric named Charlotte, and an Amazon named Riesz. Each of the six characters is thrown into a conflict between different kingdoms and factions, who are all seeking to wield the power of Mana for themselves.
The player forms a party by selecting three of the six characters and the choice will alter the course of the story, including which villains succeed over the course of the game. The story of Trials of Mana unfolds in different ways due to party member selection, which means that the player has plenty of reasons to replay the game with different teams.
Trials of Mana improved upon the original in almost every way. The combat is fast and intense, the graphics are better (if a bit stretched when played on a TV), the selection of party members means that there are a lot more abilities and spells for the player to use, the bosses are huge and imposing, and the introduction of a character class system allows the player to alter their party in different ways in each playthrough. It can be hard going back to Secret of Mana after playing Trials of Mana, as it really is a step-up in almost every way from what is already one of the best games on the Super Nintendo.
Trials of Mana does have some issues related to its age. The equipment and storage menus are painfully slow and some of the item & spell effects can grate when used multiple times in a battle. Trials of Mana would have benefitted greatly from a fast-forward option (which is often seen in the remastered Final Fantasy ports) to speed along the slower portions of the game. Trials of Mana does not hold the player's hand in regards to telling them where to go next, so it might help to have a guide handy in order to avoid a lot of needless running around, as vital clues can easily be missed if the player is not paying attention during conversation.
The English localization of Trials of Mana is mostly top-notch, with the exception of Charlotte, who replaces r's with w's in an attempt to make her seem young and naive, but will quickly annoy the player if she is chosen as a party member.
Trials of Mana was one of the best games on the Super Nintendo and it still holds up today, despite some minor issues. It took over twenty years for the game to see an official release, but it was well worth the wait.
A Can't-Miss For Fans of the Genre
Collection of Mana is comprised of two amazing games that contain flaws by virtue of their age, and a third game that is mostly forgettable. The price point of the Collection of Mana is steep (£34.99/$39.99) even when accounting for the fact that Trials of Mana has never officially been released in the West before, but it's easy to recommend the game due to the amount of content on offer. Collection of Mana is a must-have for fans of the 16-bit era of Square Enix and for fans of action RPGs in general.
4 out of 5 Stars
A copy of Collection of Mana was purchased by TheGamer for this review. The game is available now for the Nintendo Switch.