Fans of '90s JRPGs, particularly those released for the SNES, will have been watching Trinity Trigger closely. The game boasts a veritable dream team from some of the best JRPGs of the past 30 years, including those who worked on Xenoblade Chronicles, Octopath Traveler, and, of course, Secret of Mana. There is a lot for Trinity Trigger to live up to; fortunately, it managed to exceed our expectations in most areas.
The world of Trinitia is at the centre of an unending war between the Gods of Order and the Gods of Chaos. To prevent destroying everything in their conflict, the gods agreed to choose a champion and have them fight in their stead, but not before several of their weapons, called Arma, were scattered along the surface. Giant spears, axes, and swords have become home to monsters and scavengers alike, while the gods wait to see whether the Warrior of Chaos or Order will prevail.
It is a simple setup for the game’s plot, but it does a good job setting the stage for the adventure that unfolds. Our hero, Cyan, is the Warrior of Chaos, which isn’t painted as a force for evil in this setting. Instead, chaos is seen as freedom, while order is most stifling and controlling. Forces conspire to keep Cyan from fulfilling his destiny to keep the war between the gods going as long as possible. Their goal is to murder one of the champions before their climactic battle can be waged.
Cyan is joined by Elise and Zantis, both of whom are drawn to helping him on his quest due to the influence of one of the world's gods. The three heroes are bound to Triggers, strange beings that can transform into weapons in battle. The Triggers can unlock new forms by exploring the weapons of the gods, which forms the basis for the game’s main quest. Visit new Arma to unlock new weapons while trying to keep Cyan from being killed. Rinse and repeat until you unlock all eight weapons for each character.
The plot feels slightly too straightforward at times, with the string guiding you from dungeon to dungeon tugging a little too tightly. The world, as bright and colourful as it is, never quite feels open enough to get lost in. We’re told that Cyan is in mortal danger, but it never feels like that danger is present enough to make us fearful. The side quests tend to be shallow and simple, with simple rewards that don’t offer much incentive to complete them. None of it is bad, but it feels like they could have had more meat to them. There is a touch of nuance to how the game explores good and evil, but it doesn't tend to go much deeper than the surface level.
Where Trinity Trigger succeeds is in its combat and design. Fans of Secret of Mana or even Secret of Evermore will see plenty of similarities here; weapons or items can be chosen from ring menus and players can switch between controlling one of the three characters whenever they like. You can even engage in some good, old-fashioned local co-op, which we would encourage because the AI-controlled characters make some baffling choices at times. They are good at avoiding the enemy’s obviously telegraphed attacks but will repeatedly walk directly into a spike trap without a second thought. AI-controlled characters also never use their powerful Trigger Strikes or Weapon Auras, making them significantly less powerful.
Multiplayer doesn’t unlock until around two hours into the game, once you’ve recruited all three characters to your party. It is local only and can be switched on and off from the game’s main menu. There are some foibles that we didn’t expect, such as only the lead player being able to open chests or talk to NPCs, but overall it made Trinity Trigger a better experience to play through.
It would have been easy for the team to rely solely on nostalgia to fuel Trinity Trigger's appeal. The combat feels familiar but avoids becoming a simple rehash of what we’ve already seen. The music was instantly recognisable as Hiroki Kikuta’s work, with several songs sparking deep memories of the Mana series, but doesn't feel stale or dated. As much as this game wants you to know that it is banking on nostalgia, it never relies on it fully. There is plenty here to make it a great JRPG experience all on its own.
Battles are played out in realtime, with players hitting enemies with strings of attacks so long as their action gauge remains full. Certain weapons drain that gauge faster or do more damage than others, so you can pick and choose which ones work best for you. There is no magic system in the game, so these weapons are the sole source of power for the characters. You can choose what combination of moves each weapon uses and what stats their equipment will buff, giving Trinity Trigger a limited but adequate sense of customisation.
Sprinkled among the regular enemies are boss fights, which introduce an armour gauge that must be depleted before their hit points can be directly attacked. Most of them have a weakness to certain weapons, but they can feel like a slog even when you fully exploit those weaknesses. None of them feel properly challenging, giving you plenty of warning before they unleash a major attack so you can roll out of the way. We only died once in our playthrough of the game, which might make it a touch on the easy side for some.
Thankfully, the legendary grinding required for many '90s JRPGs isn’t necessary here. Every weapon in a character’s arsenal shares a pool of points that you can use to level them up, so you can focus only on the weapons they use and the skills they have equipped. It is a more efficient system that lends itself to the game’s shorter runtime. It took us around 25 hours to complete Trinity Trigger’s main plot, though you can pad that out by completing the side quests or levelling up all of your skills.
The cutscenes that play at key moments in the game are beautiful to watch, with a kind of hand-painted anime feel that feels straight out of a picture book. The character portraits that are shown during most conversations are of this style, which makes up for how simplistic the animation generally is. Trinity Trigger isn’t trying to push the boat out when it comes to visuals, but what it does works well enough that you won’t mind. We ran into a couple of frame rate issues twice during our time with the game, both times in handheld mode.
Trinity Trigger is clearly looking to bank on fans’ nostalgia for '90s JRPGs, but it doesn’t make the mistake of relying solely on it. The characters are fun. The art and design are beautiful. The combat feels familiar enough with being derivative. Despite some repetitive dungeon designs and a plot that doesn’t hold many surprises, Trinity Trigger is a great throwback to a golden era of JRPGs.
JRPG fans can rest easy knowing that Trinity Trigger will meet their lofty expectations; this is a nostalgia trip worth taking. While not perfect, with beautiful art and music and a combat system that will feel both fresh and familiar, it is a strong contender for one of the best JRPGs of 2023 so far. The plot isn't anything to write home about and it's a tad on the easy side, but it remains engaging, especially for Mana series enthusiasts. Hopefully its proximity to the launch of The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom doesn't see Trinity Trigger overshadowed before it gets a chance to shine.
Sitting in my Wishlist
Not day one buy but is definitely on my wishlist for this year for sure.
This game has been completely off my radar because I had no idea it existed. Absolutely going on my wishlist now!
Well, very very keen despite some of the down points. SOM is my favourite game of all time. Sounds super to me!
This is literally the first time I'm hearing about this game, I hope it doesnt floop.
I was not keen on Secret of Mana or Trials of Mana (16-bit versions via Collection of Mana) because the combat system was so fiddly and felt really loose and imprecise.
I hated in Secret of Mana charging an attack for ten seconds just to miss because the enemy was invulnerable because it recently cast a spell or some other esoteric nonsense like that. It was never clear what was happening.
And in Trials of Mana I hated how magic spells and techniques would constantly constantly pause the screen for the animation to play, it killed any kind of flow that game had.
Both of these games felt pretty awful to me, for these reasons and other reasons too.
However, Secret of Evermore was okay with me for some reason. It felt less convoluted. Combat was a lot easier to comprehend in Evermore. And its world was more interesting too.
To someone who feels this way about the most popular two Mana games, how does Trinity Trigger fare?
Didn't realise this one was coming out so soon since it kind of went under my radar.
I enjoyed secret of mana a lot when i played it in the collection despite having no nostalgia for it (had a master system and mega drive back then) and this does kind of remind me of that remake a while back.
while i would love to see more Japanese throwback rpgs go for the detailed pixel art look that a lot of indie games go for (like a lot of those chrono-trigger-like's do) i dont mind the visuals too much here, though its a shame (if expected at this point) to hear that it has performance issues on switch.
iirc it had a demo back on the japanese release so i imagine we will see one in the west though it does seem like a game i would enjoy.
Smashing! I had the special edition preordered! I love classic Mana feels
Game looks really cool, thanks for the review. Even though my biggest pet peeve with party based action RPGs appears to exist here (terrible companion AI) but it sounds like it's more annoying than frustrating. Game is on the wishlist, but there are just so many RPGs to play right now.
Got this pre ordered. Been having a lot more fun with classic feeling video games of late with indies and modern games with classic gameplay. I hope these kind of games continue to keep coming. Might just have to stick with Nintendo only next gen and save me some cash.
Been holding off on this until seeing reviews, so I'm glad to see it's good! Will be ordering it soon.
Removed - inappropriate
anyone who watches you tube videos knew this game was coming out since last year shocked so many never even heard of this game..
Might eventually buy it on Steam with 80% discount or something (and play it with Nintendo Pro Controller there). Definitely not worth 50 dollars when Zelda, Diablo 4 and ultimately Starfield are behind the corner. And since its not Switch exclusive, no reason to buy it for Switch.
Probably a company highpoint from developer Three Rings. Their other games seem kind of...meh. https://www.gematsu.com/companies/three-rings
Hmm never even heard about it I don't think. Sounds decent enough.
if you liked the secret of mana you will like this game..
I knew this would be a day one-ner for me, surprised the review was so early but I'm not complaining!
Edit I'm an idiot. The review isn't early for the US, it's bang on time but Europe gets it later for some reason, and that's fine with me. I'm glad it's next month's problem xD
I forgot about this game. I'll give the review look later. Hopefully around summer I can actually give this game a go.
I had this on my wishlist for a while. Now I know that it's gonna stay there.
Gonna get it on a discount eventually.
Every smaller game released now is going to go up against Xenoblade, Star Wars, Zelda, and Final Fantasy over the next few months (and more heavy hitters too). It's gonna be a brutal stretch
Sounds like a solid RPG so i preordered it
for $60 bucks i feel that is a stretch for this good but not spectacular game i'll wait for a sale..
I will download this off my wishlist. Cheers for the review.
Well, great. Now this is another game to add to the backlog!
Comes out a few days after Zelda TOTK in europe 😬
That doesn't seem like the wisest of choices I don't see why Europe can't get it the same day as America.
@EarthboundBenjy Nice to know that I'm not the only one out there that feels the same about SOM. The combat wasn't fun at all; stats are meaningless, charging any attack beyond level 2 is pointless because only the first hit counts, the main character is useless against most bosses and those fights come down to just spamming magic from the other two characters over and over again, the Mode 7 traversal is equal parts frustrating and nauseating, and the original SNES version has one of the most laughably bad half-ass translation efforts this side of an old SNK game.
Anything associated with SOM automatically comes with a truck full of salt from me, so I have the same question you have before I'd ever consider this.
i bet this game will come down in price in a few months..like octopath traveler 2 has..
Onto the wishlist you go to join your 200 wishlist friends.
@burninmylight Yeah SoM is one of the most tedious, undercooked games I’ve ever played. I wonder how it would’ve turned out had the original “Nintendo” playstation version been completed.
On the other hand, both it’s predecessor and it’s successor are pretty awesome games. FF Adventure is always great for rainy days.
Nice it looks very good! I will give it a go eventually, for sure.
I was keeping an eye on this, but now it's a definite buy and likely day 1 to play until Zelda comes out.
you do get a 2 cd sountrack and art book with the game
A game with the characteristics mentioned in the review is just my kind of game. I'll get it soon!
Looks pretty good. I still think I would need a sale and online multiplayer to buy this one.
I’ll probably give this a try.
Great review, confirms that I'll eventually get this game for sure so in the wishlist it stays!
50€ + 4 stories dlc at 5€ each on day one, really ? May be someday when it's 90% off because I don't wanna support this, story dlc day one when your game is lacking in this department....
Why was my comment removed as inappropriate I literally just said I would like to play it
@DrGonzo the game is releasing may 16th here in europe so I don't care I will be occupied with TOTK.
Tears of the Kingdom is going to kill this and that's a freaking shame. Why on earth didn't they hold off on the release?
I guess I'm gonna have to pick it up at some point.
Tis unfortunate in europe that it comes out later since it feels like it would be a great way to pass the time before Tears of the Kingdom is out (along with sounding like a great little rpg in its own right)
Though at least its not like the older days when rpgs would often come to Europe a year after the US release or not at all in a lot of cases such as Xenogears. it also didnt help that up until last gen that most systems were region locked (and even then the 3ds and wiiu still had region locking, which was bad luck for anyone who wanted a physical copy of SMTIV)
To be fair, the story of Secret of Mana, which this game draws inspiration from, didn’t have much of a story, either. It was all about the gameplay, and the gameplay was awesome.
RIP to this game in Europe, mine came today but TOTK will crush sales, the USA date release was the way to go.
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