Seiken Densetsu 3
Box Shot
Seiken Densetsu 3
Platform: Super Famicom
Publisher: Square
Designer: Square
Genre: Action/RPG
Players: 3 (Simultaneous)
Published Date 1995
Reviewed by: Red Baron

This is a s story about Stupid Marketing Decision #32767: Not releasing Seiken Densetsu 3 in the US!

To tell you the truth, I never really liked the original Secret of Mana, in spite of how it's a damn fine game. Maybe it was the sloppy hit detection, maybe the fact that the game is so sickeningly cute, it just didn't catch on with me. Just imagine how thrilled I was, a while back, when a friend of mine pestered me to play the rom of Seiken Densetsu 3, the sequel to SoM that was never released in America. Apparently, it was 2/3 of the way translated when the big 'N' decided to scrap it, releasing Secret of Evermore and Super Mario RPG instead, but I digress. When I finally caved in, I still had my doubts. "There's no such thing as a good sequel to a weak game," I told myself. And I was wrong. SD3 could very well be the finest Action/RPG to date, and a truly extraordinary sequel as well!

After starting up a new game, you can choose a party of three (out of six) characters, each vastly different from the next, and full of personality. The power of Mana is fading from the world, and now, three nations are working to take advantage of the situation. The Magic Kingdom of Altea has lost the ability to survive in a harsh arctic climate, so their queen tries sacrificing her own daughter to open the gates to the Mana Holyland, so they can live. The Beast Kingdom gains the support of a masked man, who aids in their assault on the Holy City Wendel, and eventually all other nations, to get revenge upon the 'ingrateful humans'. The leader of the Navarre thieve's guild, Lord Flamekhan, enlists a drifter as his advisor, to assist in their relocation. Six teenaged kids are driven from their homes, and must work together to stop the powers that be from tearing the world apart. The three that you chose, after gaining the assistance of a faerie, must head to the Holy City of Wendel, to get the priest's advice on how to solve whatever problem(s) your heroes have. Then you gotta go around the world, rounding up the eight Mana Spirits (Wisp, Gnome, Jinn, Shade, Undine, Salamando, Luna, and Dryad), so you can open the gates to the Mana Holyland, snatch the Mana Sword, and bring peace to the world. Needless to say, complications occur. Your heroes are: Duran, a loser mercernary who is after the 'Crimson Wizard' (you'd have to be pretty boring to play as him); Kevin, a beastman who turns into a werewolf at night, wants revenge upon the people who caused the death of his buddy, Karl; Angela, a mage, refused to become a sacrifice for the opening of the Holyland Gates, and thus is hunted down; there's Carlie/Charlotte (some people have two names, depending on what version you have), cleric who after following her caretaker, a man named Heath, watches helplessly as he's abducted by a masked man; Riesz/Lise, the hothead princess of Rolante, barely escapes when Rolante gets sacked and now must find her brother; and there's Hawk/Hawkeye, most peoples' favorite character, a thief who was framed for the murder of his best friend, Eagle, and must remove a curse that was placed on his girlfriend.

Depending on who you picked, the plot is (in some small ways) different every time. There are different side quests and branches of the story that occur for each character. It's mind boggling how much text there is in this game, and how seamless the various events fall into place, even when you go through with different heroes. Granted, the story itself isn't the greatest around, and is subject to waaay too many gratouitously sappy moments, but it does the job.

The real meat of the game, however, lies in the combat system. Gone is the wonky hit detection that plagued SoM, gone too is that dumb "power meter" that would only work when at 100%. Instead, combat takes a more Crystalis-esque style (sans the weapons that shoot projectiles). Each character varies in speed and strength, and each character can cast some form of magic. Everything revolves around who you picked in the beginning. Some are good for brute force (Kevin/Hawkeye), some are good "hit and run" type fighters (Riesz/Duran), some are good only for their magic (Angela/Charlotte). Instead of charging up your weapon to do a super attack, here you must hit an enemy a specific amount of times, until your "attack meter" turns either green, yellow, or red. Then, with the press of the B button, you'll let loose a wallop that sends the baddies flying. Correct use of these is the key to victory. Also, your inventory is less limited, and when an item exceedes the limit, it isn't wasted; rather it magically appears in storage. And when you gain a level, you are able to give a small boost to one statistic of your choice (Attack, Agility, Vitality, Intelligence, Spirit, and Luck). It's important, because in most cases, one stat has to be boosted really high in order for that character to learn a spell. This is all well and good, but...

...There's one thing that has made this game really popular in various RPGaming circles: The class change system. Yes, that's right. At two key points in the game, you will be able to change your characters' class, provided they are above a certain level (18, then 38). When class changing, you have a choice of either Light or Dark. Again, they vary from person to person. Later on, you get a second class change, one that requires a certain item that can only be found off the corpses of Boulder enemies (I think I've said too much already). Some classes are downright useless (Hawk and Angela's light classes suck, so do Duran's), while some rock the house with their badness (Anything from Kevin, Hawk's Nightblade... okay, now I really AM saying too much). It's great. Add to this perfect control (no cheap deaths... if you die, it's your own fault), and you got one hot game on your hands.

Fans of SoM will see plenty of their old friends make return visits, including Watts, the dwarven blacksmith (But instead of forging weapons he sells gunpowder), the dancing shopkeepers, the cat people that sell things, getting shot out of a cannon (gunpowder, wink wink), pretty much every enemy from SoM, Flammie, etc. And they threw in gobs of SoM's trademark cuteness, as well. SD3 is also notably easier than SoM, but that may be simply because the control was cleaned up considerably.

The graphics. Oh my. Seiken Densetsu 3 pushes the limits of the SNES' power even farther than Chrono Trigger had, and then some. Many of the bosses look like animated versions of the hand- drawn monsters from FF3. Everything is fluidly animated, and the environments sometimes even look like paintings. They're that good. When you get to see the world map, after being shot out of a cannon or whatnot, remember to pick your jaw up from off the floor. Oh yes, I almost forgot there's a day/night scale that makes everything look even smoother. The real icing on the cake, however, are the spell effects, which are nothing short of amazing. Take a look at something like Hell Cross, and you'll know what I mean. The music's pretty good, too, though some of the tracks are used over and over again.

And finally, this game is chock-full of replay value. With six characters, each with his/her own intro and ending, tons of villans, and a huge quest will make you want to play through several times just to see everything. Not to mention there's always the 3-player support for those with a multitap and/or buddies on the internet. I myself am on my second way through, and plan to go through a couple more times.

Well, I hope I've done some justice to what is one of the greatest Action RPGs in the genre. It's a gilt-edged classic that, not surprisingly, is still talked about frequently today. In fact, why are you still reading this? Go import a copy, download the rom, do ANYTHING in your power to play this game. And while you're at it, get the rest of the games in the series (FF Adventure, SoM, Legend of Mana), they're good too.