A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this game.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know Trials of Mana is a role-plaing game for the PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and Windows PCs. The game's a remake of a Japanese role-playing game originally released in 1995. It stars a diverse cast of characters, and players choose one of these to serve as the main hero and others to be companions. Each has their own troubled backstory that forces them to head out on an adventure, such as the captain of the guard in a mountain realm that's invaded. Some heroes are a bit selfish to start, but all of them eventually find their inner good as they make new friends, make sacrifices, and help people in need. Combat against humans and fantasy creatures involves standard melee weaponry, including swords and staffs, but the action's bloodless -- expect nothing more than flashes of light and disappearing bodies. That said, several characters important to the heroes are shown hurt or dying in non-interactive narrative scenes. Parents should also be aware that several female characters are depicted wearing provocative clothes, including low cut tops that reveal lots of cleavage and heaving breasts on which the camera sometimes lingers.
What's it about?
TRIALS OF MANA -- a remake of a classic 90s RPG (role-playing game) -- is set in a world in which magic is slowly fading. After an age of peace, evil forces are bringing war and chaos to the planet's kingdoms. This causes the Mana Tree, which is home to the sleeping Mana Goddess, to slowly whither. Players begin the game by choosing a primary hero from a cast of half a dozen potential protagonists, then selecting a pair of companions to journey with them. Each of these heroes hails from a different kingdom and has a different backstory, but they're all forced to leave their homes for one reason or another and go on a quest to find the eight Mana Stones necessary to retrieve the Mana sword, save the goddess, and restore peace to the world. The adventure shifts between exploring the world/dungeons, where the heroes get into frequent fights with enemies in real-time combat that requires attacks, dodges, and use of items and special abilities and jaunts into towns and cities. Here, information is gathered, the story progresses, and weapons and gear can be bought and sold. Everything's presented in bright and bold anime style with limited voice acting.
Is it any good?
This is a simple Japanese RPG that remains faithful to the game upon which it's based. Trials of Mana's battles are fast paced and relatively basic, with players hammering buttons to hit foes and evade enemy attacks, calling on gradually unlocked abilities to unleash more powerful moves once an energy bar fills. The dungeons and country areas between towns are fairly linear, so it generally doesn't take too long to find your way to your objectives. Towns are also pretty small, with only a handful of important conversations to be had with key people marked by star icons, meaning players won't get sucked into seemingly endless pointless dialogue. And everything is presented in an arresting anime style that helps give a bit of added personality to the main characters, who otherwise might seem a tad shallow thanks to some pretty generic writing.
The simplicity of it all might be refreshing for some, but others are likely to feel a little underwhelmed. The combat, for example, isn't particularly strategic -- even in boss fights. It demands more in the way of patience than serious thought. The leveling system, weapons and armor, and character growth are also on the basic side. Players simply assign earned points to attributes whenever they level up, and there's really not much variety in weapons, armor, or accessories. More powerful gear gets doled out at shops on a regular basis, and it's rarely too expensive to afford the instant you find it. That said, this simplicity is clearly meant to be part of the game's retro appeal -- a change of sorts from the endlessly complicated systems and hyper realistic presentation that have become the norm for modern blockbuster role-playing games. If you're looking for a little blast from the past in handsome anime packaging, you could definitely do worse than Trials of Mana.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about screen time. How do you determine when to stop playing and take a break without losing much progress?
Does the idea of leaving home and looking after yourself excite or frighten you? How can you start preparing now to take proper care of yourself in the future?
- Platforms: Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, Windows
- Price: $49.99
- Pricing structure: Paid
- Available online? Available online
- Developer: Square Enix
- Release date: April 24, 2020
- Genre: Role-Playing
- Topics: Magic and Fantasy, Princesses, Fairies, Mermaids, and More, Brothers and Sisters
- ESRB rating: T for Fantasy Violence, Suggestive Themes
- Last updated: May 4, 2020
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.