One of the biggest surprises of E3 2019 was the announcement of Collection of Mana and just two months later, there it is - a (partially) lost classic, ready for you to play. The series, which spun out of the Final Fantasy franchise, is quite rightly revered as one greats of RPG gaming, blending the action/adventure style of The Legend of Zelda with the deeper systems of FF. This package contains Final Fantasy Adventure (originally released on the Game Boy in 1991); Secret of Mana (originally a Super Nintendo game released in 1993) and a real treat for longtime fans - Trials of Mana, known as Seiken Densetsu 3 in Japan and put out on the Super Famicom, coming to the west for the first time ever!
Final Fantasy Adventure hues closest to the Zelda formula. You play a captive of a Dark Lord forced to fight for his amusement, but when you learn that the Mana Tree is in danger it's time for a breakout with your in-game companion and you're off to the races. The camera, controls and gameplay mechanics are all pretty similar to the early Zelda games, and that's no bad thing.
In the follow-up, Secret of Mana, things get a little more depth to them thanks to the added horsepower of the SNES for the original release. Players take on the role of Randi, a young boy who must revive the magical power of Mana. To take down the forces of evil Randi and his pals Primm and Popoi must befriend the eight elementals who control the power that makes up the Mana. It's a grand old adventure packed to the gills with magic and action. While there's a range of abilities for players to master and bring to bear in combat, Secret of Mana is still an action RPG rather than a turn-based affair, making it an ideal jumping-in point for gamers who are curious about the depth of the JRPG tradition but have always been wary of the way their battles usually play out. As with the next game, Secret of Mana adds multiplayer into the mix, with up to three gamers able to jump in using Joy-cons.
For many, though, the previously-elusive Trials of Mana will be the reason they bought this collection. In this one the Mana Goddess created the world, sealed away eight evil Benevodons then promptly fell asleep. Now the Mana is weakening, war is brewing and the prisons holding the Benevodons are weakening. It's up to you and your party to take up the Sword of Mana, slay the baddies and save the world. You choose three out of six possible characters (your first choice will be your main character) and each has their own story and subplots that you can play out, making this a sprawling beast of a game.
The games have been emulated by the guys at M2 responsible for Sega Ages and recent Castlevania and Contra series, so it's been ported by safe hands. They're presented almost exactly as they were originally, with allowances made for adjusting screen size and easier access to save states than you'd have had back in the old days.
Collection of Mana is a huge collection of classics that will keep RPG fans busy for a long time.