I absolutely love the Mana series and this remake’s pure existence is a dream come true. Even better, when I played the demo it had more accessibility features than I had anticipated, which prompted me to write this accessibility review.
While reading this review, please keep in mind that it is written for the Nintendo Switch version of the game, and the demo of the game at that. Much of what is said should apply to all versions of the game. The game will likely not be changed from the demo version to the final version, so this review should continue to be very accurate upon the game’s full release, especially for the Switch version.
Also, since the free demo is available on Steam, PlayStation 4, and the Nintendo Switch, after reading this review you should try it out! This game is more accessible than I thought it would be, and this review details some workarounds for things that would otherwise be barriers to some gamers.
This review will break down features into accessibility categories. While reading, keep an eye out for the sections covering topics of interest to you and your gamer needs!
ESRB Rating for Trials of Mana: Teen for Fantasy Violence and Suggestive Themes
Overall Accessibility Rating: C
The accessibility of Trials of Mana is good in some places and lacking in others, so it is difficult to give it an overall score. But, it is more accessible that I thought it would be. I am going to give it a tentative grade of a C.
To decide for yourself and your needs, please read the sections pertaining to you!
Trials of Mana has four difficulty levels that can be changed at any time and that do not affect the story in any way. At any time, even mid attack in battle, you can pause the action by pressing Up or Down on the D pad. Pressing Up gives brings you to the Items menu where you can take your item to choose an item and who in your party to use it on. Pressing Down brings up the Moves menu where you can choose a move and who to use it on. You can stock up on plenty of items and heal frequently should you take a lot of hits. There are fairly frequent save points that heal you. The remake has added breakable urns that can heal you a bit or give you some “CS particles” to help you use Class Strikes more often. All of these features allow the gamer to customize the difficulty and gives more accessibility overall.
On the main screen where you control your characters, by default there are button reminders that appear on the right side of the screen. This list reminds you how to access the menu, map, ring menus, etc. This area of the screen by default describes your current objective. The mini map right above this text is well detailed with a shining star for the objective’s location, shop icons, and NPC icons.
The main menu of the game has icons accompanying much of the text. There are unique icons for each stat, equipment type, ability type, item, etc. These icons, once learned, could help gamers with some reading challenges.
Most elements that can be interacted with in game including NPCs, treasures, signs, etc. have icons that appear above them when approached telling the player they can be engaged.
Lastly, at any time, players can visit the menu for great reminders of the game’s features and mechanics. You can also read a quick synopsis of all major events in the game’s story.
Trials of Mana’s menu allows you to customize a good amount of audio related things. This includes background music, sound effects, and character voices, and each has a sliding scale between 1 and 10. Voiced language available are English and Japanese. Text language available are English, Japanese, French, German, and Spanish. Hopefully these customizable options help those some hearing or auditory challenges find settings that help them play.
The Map and Mini-Map
The in-game map and mini map have great visual cues. On the maps, interactable elements and goals such as the next objective and NPCs are labeled by color as well as shape and have a nice black outline. However, the map sizes cannot be changed which will make the icons too small for some gamers.
Visual Cues while Exploring
While running around in towns or in the field, elements you can interact with in the game, like NPCs, treasure chests, readable signs, etc. are labeled by icons. Just like most of the game’s text, each of these icons are decent sized and feature bold outlines to increase contrast with surrounding backgrounds. Findable items on the ground will shine brightly with a little sparkly upward trail, even from some distance away, although this shine doesn’t shoot up into the sky like waypoints in some games, which would have been helpful for visibility.
The next story objective is also shown on the main screen, if the objective is in the character’s view. If the objective is off screen, it does not show an arrow or anything on the screen’s edge, which would have been welcome.
Visual Cues while in Battle
While battling, enemies can use area of effect attacks that cause high damage or status effects, these can be dangerous! Trials of Mana included wonderful visual cues of such attacks. One is a pop-up text box with the attack’s title. In addition, even better, the areas of effect (AOEs) that attack will hit are visible. They are marked by a giant bright red circle, a thick line, cone, etc. If you’re standing in one of these, this is your cue to MOVE! Seen below is an example of two circle AOEs intersecting. For some gamers, the individual areas will be easily discernible by shape as well as the lighter colored rings near their edges.
Damage taken or dealt is indicated visually with numbers; critical hits are labeled with words on screen as they’re dealt; if an enemy spots you, a “!” appears above their heads. Trials of Mana is very expressive visually!
I am not blind or have low vision myself, so when writing this section of the review I am assessing color contrast using tools like the Color Contrast Analyzer. The general color contrast of Trials of Mana is a mixed bag. The colors are bright and vibrant for both the characters and the environment, but that brightness between characters and background can have poor contrast at times which will impact some gamers. At the same time however, each character is outlined in sharp dark lines increasing the contrast with surrounding elements, which is a plus.
Thanks to the overall brightness, and in game settings and mechanics, the contrast needs of many gamers can be met in Trials of Mana. The game’s brightness settings allow for an impressive spectrum from 0 to 100, examples of the extremes are in screenshots below:
As you can see, the brightness can make a huge difference in this dark cave example.
There is also a day/night mechanic that can be easily manipulated by using the inn, standing around for a bit, or using an in-game item. Using the brightness setting together with this mechanic, the color contrast can be customized depending on the environment. That being said, an in-game accessibility feature making character outlines thicker, changing the opacity of the background, etc. would have been extremely welcome.
Trials of Mana has zoom options! I didn’t expect this game to have any and since they were decent, I must cover them. There are five zoom options, normal, medium zoomed out, zoomed out, medium zoomed in, and zoomed in.
Below are screenshots of zoomed in and zoomed out. The screenshots were taken near a town’s courtyard with a lot of symmetry so you can see the impacts of the zoom.
One note about being zoomed out, while playing I was inside a cramped tavern. I jumped and the camera quickly zoomed in as I approached the ceiling and then out as I landed on the floor. This quick movement could exacerbate motion sensitivity, so definitely test these settings out before venturing into battle.
Trials of Mana has a lot of audio cues, but crucially needed ones for gamers with small amounts of residual vision or complete blindness are missing. There are distinct sounds for opening the menu, and for navigating and interacting with its elements; but there is no text to speech or screen reading. The character voices are very expressive, there are unique voices for a variety of actions, including attack, power attack, jump, and dodging, but no sounds for running into a wall or other barrier. There are distinct sounds for landing hits, defeating enemies, and winning a battle, but there are no audio cues for targeting enemies or switching targets.
Vibrations can be turned on or off in the menu, the intensity cannot be changed. Trials of Mana doesn’t use a lot of vibration or vibration cues. The most notable vibration while reviewing the game was a small vibration when your controlled character was being hit. This dependable simple vibration could be a nice distinct cue for some gamers.
There are some camera settings gamers can take advantage of. There is a camera speed setting to help with camera sensitivity, this has ten settings, fairly slow to quite fast. You can also change camera movement between normal and reversed for up/down and left/right. You cannot remap the camera controls, you’re forced to use the right stick for the camera and the left for movement, unfortunately.
In battle, you can target an enemy and then approach them by just pressing up on the stick, the camera will autofocus on you and the enemy you’re approaching. The downside here is that to target them in the first place you have to press down on either the left or right sticks, and that can be a barrier for some gamers. Using special moves will target the nearest enemy automatically, or if you have an enemy targeted already you can be sure you’ll hit your target.
Trials of Mana has some light platforming and the camera’s flexible nature helps with this. If you’re trying to measure a jump, you can place the camera wherever you need. For example, you can place it horizontally changing the jump from a 3D one to 2D and just focus on the left and right distance. This can help mitigate depth perception challenges with some gamers.
Trials of Mana doesn’t require a lot of simultaneous inputs making it quite physically accessible to gamers depending on their needs. The camera has a lower boundary, if you move it down, it won’t move past directly behind your character, level to the ground. You can then move with the left stick fairly freely without getting lost as the game’s maps are not overly complicated. When needed, you could switch to the right stick to move the camera.
The most difficult things to do are dodging and jump/jump attacking as those are most effective with simultaneous inputs. However, some of this difficulty can be mitigated, like jumping. If you set your party members’ AI well, they could target the flying enemies, knock them down, and you can then beat them up on the ground! With some creativity, this game can be accessible to some gamers with mobility/motor disabilities.
Trials of Mana has some remappable controls, but you’re limited in how you can remap them. For example, you can customize what the face buttons do (A, B, X, and Y on the Switch), but they’re only swappable with each other. This means you can’t map A’s function to L, for example. Same goes for the shoulder buttons and the stick buttons, they’re only “locally” remappable. Additionally, you can’t swap the sticks or anything like that, this “customization” is limited to pure button presses. I was so excited when I saw “Customize” control settings in the Options, but then I was quickly upset by the limitations. This is really not good in today’s accessibility standards industry wide.
There are approximately three required holding of buttons needed in Trials of Mana. One is power attack as they are stronger if charged by holding the button. There is a workaround, you can do a simple attack combo like, light attack > light attack > power attack to deal damage similar to a charged power attack. These combos don’t require fast button presses either, which can be helpful. Power attacks are one way to break the armor of certain enemies, but you don’t need to charge the attack to do so (you didn’t need to in the demo, at least).
The other two holding of buttons needed are for two shortcuts, Class Skills and Items. These are accessed by holding a shoulder button to bring up the short cut menu and then choosing an action with a face button. Items have an alternative, pressing Up on the D Pad opens the full Items menu and pauses the game mid battle allowing you to choose an item, its target, and then use it. Class Skills seemingly HAVE to be used via the shoulder button holding shortcut, there are no alternatives, which is really unfortunate.
There is a fixed jump height, so tapping the jump button is all that is needed, no holding to worry about. But, as is typical in 3D games, you must hold a direction on the left stick while jumping to jump any lateral distance.
There is a dash, and it is a toggle by default and cannot be changed. However, you toggle it on by pressing down the left stick, and that could be a challenge. Luckily, dashing is not needed. I only turned it on in the demo to move through a town slightly more quickly than the standard run. Dashing was never necessary to play and enjoy the game and I doubt it’ll be needed in the full game.
Level of Precision Required
Trials of Mana does not require a lot of precision. When attacking enemies, you don’t even need to be facing them; if you’re near them and attack, your character will face them automatically and hit them. You can also program your fellow party members to attack the same enemy as you, and together you can drain their HP fast.
The targeting system is good too, you can target an enemy by pressing down on the right or left stick and change targets by pressing that same stick left or right. While targeting an enemy, you can approach them by just holding just up!
Trials of Mana has some light platforming that rewards you with treasure, but there aren’t any “instadeath” holes or spikes that platformers might have. The platforming for treasure is fairly relaxed, and you can wait until the enemies are cleared to jump around for treasure, there is no pressure meaning gamers can focus on platforming at their speed. Read the Camera Control of this review for tips on how to use the camera to your advantage when platforming! This platforming can also be skipped entirely, and players can just focus on walking towards the clearly marked objective if they choose.
The map and mini map are more difficult to read while playing in handheld. The icons are small and just aren’t as visible as when docked. Some text may be too small in handheld mode as well. There are no options to change the map, icon sizes, or text sizes either.
Thanks to the zoom and brightness settings available in game and the bright colors overall, the characters and enemies still pop well, even in handheld mode. It just doesn’t quite match up to having the Switch docked using a nice external screen.