Collection of Mana was an early Nintendo Switch title that wasn’t slated for release outside of Japan, the main reason for this was for Seiken Densetsu 3 never receiving an english translation. During E3 week this all changed when Square Enix not only dropped a trailer for a remake of Seiken Densetsu 3 but also Collection of Mana released on the E-Shop!. Was it worth the wait or is this just a collection left to gather dust in time?
Collection of Mana contains 3 titles in the history of the “Mana” series, this isn’t a series that has had massive success over here in Europe and as such the main draw for those unfamiliar with the series will be the chance to play Secret of Mana once again. Coming in at either side of Secret of Mana is Final Fantasy Adventure and Trails of Mana which is the translated name of Seiken Densetsu 3.
Now looking at that list I can imagine there is a little bit of confusion, what is a Final Fantasy title doing there? Well history cut short, FFA is actually Adventures of Mana but was named Final Fantasy Adventure outside of Japan to assist in sales and due to the inclusion of Chocobos and Black Mages (the Vivi kind). Despite the name and the cameos make no mistake, this isn’t a Final Fantasy game and it is more than deserving to be within the Collection of Mana.
Since we are already on that subject let’s discuss this one a little deeper now, Final Fantasy Adventure is a Game Boy title, we are talking original Game Boy and not Colour, and it originally released in 1991, so you have to go into this title remembering it’s age and the console it was released on.
Now before that’s taken as a slight on the title, I initially wasn’t interested in this title at all but for the sake of this review I started the title up, 15 hours later I put the game down, I was hooked. The visuals are serviceable but obviously the weakest of this collection naturally, the music is full of those classic engaging Squaresoft (yes pre Enix!) tune that really help drive you through this adventure.
The plot of the game and it’s scope is commendable for being a handheld 90s RPG, there are a few twists and you are always pushed along trying to solve the mystery of the Mana tree, meeting friends and enemies along the way in the roughly 15 hour story. The game is an action rpg, rather than the standard turn-based flavour this is real time, the combat is very simliar to Zelda but with the option to use various weapons picked up over the adventure such as a Spear or Chain. You also have the option to use various magic spells, killing enemies will net you Exp to level up and the game as a healthy collection of “Zeldaesque” dungeons.
As I mentioned I wasn’t too interested in this title but I got more than enough of an experience out of it, I would honestly credit it quite highly in my list of RPGs played, it’s a classic Square title inside and out from music to the story, it’s the best way to start this collection and an essential play.
This brings us to the popular one of the collection Secret of Mana, chances are if you have an interest in the JRPG genre you’ll have played this one, either the version here which is the SNES version or the Playstation 4/Steam Remake from the other year.
If you are one of the latter I would suggest taking the trip through the SNES version on this collection, the controls are showing their age but the rest of the game oozes pure golden era JRPG charm from it’s sound track to it’s visuals. The only thing the remake was lacking was the charm and playing through the version on this collection it just shines through and it’s obvious from the first hour why so many people hold this game in such high regard.
Finishing this collection off is Seiken Densetsu 3/Trails of Mana, this is the most advanced of the 3 games, it’s also the most shocking to see, for the first time ever this game has an official English Translation and is ready to reach a bigger market than ever before.
In terms of advancements Trials of Mana dials it up to 11, it features a day and night cycle, a choice of 6 playable characters, a calendar system which changes NPC comments, behaviour and stores. The visuals are some of, if not the best you’ll see out of the 16bit era, the combat feels better than ever and the fact the game has 6 different ways it can start really helps extend the titles shelf life.
The scope of the story is much grander than the previous two titles and from the get go you just get the feeling that “This is a special title”. As of this review I haven’t finished this one yet and it isn’t a title I had played before, I can say I have fallen hard for this title, even more so than Final Fantasy Adventure, if you have any interest in JRPGS, much like it’s predessors, this an essential play.
The emulation throughout this title is buttery smooth but it’s to be expected by the team at M2. Each game offers several language options, display options are also available to help you get the most out of each title. Collection of Mana also features Save States to help deal with the lack of Auto Save or “Save Anywhere” that is much more common place now.
I started playing this title off of the back of Konami’s Castlevania Collection and it’s a shame they didn’t manage to add something similar to the e-book that title has, this series has a very interesting tale in game and in real life and it would of been the cherry on top of this package to read some little known facts and interviews with people who have worked on the title.
To close this I would have to say this is an essential Nintendo Switch purchase for any fan of JRPG or adventure games, for those who aren’t quite into the traditional turn based RPG games this is a nice stepping stone melding the worlds of JRPG and Zelda style adventure across 3 outstanding titles. The extra effort of translating Trials of Mana is massively appreciated and I can see anyone who tries this collection out falling in love with the title. On the system where more and more compilation games are arriving, the games alone carry this title despite the lack of bells and whistles in terms of extras.