Seiken Densetsu 3 - Review

By: Chris Parsons

Review Breakdown
   Battle System 9.0
   Gameplay 7.0
   Music 9.0
   Originality 6.0
   Plot 7.0
   Replay Value 8.0
   Sound 5.0
   Visuals 9.0
   Difficulty Variable
   Time to Complete

20-25 hours


Title Screen
Seiken Densetsu 3 wasn't realsed in the US but really should have been.  

   The third installment in the Mana series is the only one that failed to come to the US. Seiken Densetsu 3 was one of the many games that Square decided not to translate but should have. Players of Secret of Mana will find much of the gameplay the same, since the command rings, the battle system, and the general feel of Seiken Densetsu 3 are all reminiscent of its predecessor, Secret of Mana.

   The battle system is in real time. All abilities and spells are chosen through a command ring that pauses the battle and lets you choose what you want to use. You can only control one character, but a friend can join in and control a second character. The experience system is standard for an RPG, but leveling is very unique. You can choose where you want points to go at each level up; for example, if you want a really strong character you can raise his or her strength up one point at each level, even if that character is a magic user. There are maximums for each character class, so you have boundaries while maintaining a reasonable amount of flexibility in character design. For those of you that played Secret of Mana, the battles are much the same, although there is a noteworthy exception: the class change system.

   At two different points in the game, you can change the class of your characters to either a "light" or "dark" class. Your first decision affects your second one; therefore if you choose a light class the first time, your second class will either be a "light-dark" or "light-light" class. This does not effect the story, but it greatly effects battles. Depending on which class you choose you will get different skills, spells, and deathblow attacks. Overall, the battle and class change system are not hard to get used to. These systems are very simplistic, and they keep fighting from becoming tedious, which sometimes happens in turn based or ATB battles.

Battle screen
"Is it hot in here or is it just me?"  

   The game as a whole is fun, but the way the menu system was done seemed a drawback. Each character has his or her own menu (you can change the character with the "select" button), and you have to change to a given character's menu to equip weapons and armor. At any store, you can see what effect equipment will have on your stats, although only the character that talked to the store owner can see his or her stat changes. If you want to see another character's stat changes, you have to switch your lead character out. This was quite awkward.

   Also, it is very annoying to be in a boss battle and not be able to cast a spell because the character was attacking for a brief moment. Some of you may remember the Secret of Mana spell casting trick: you simply cast a spell, then before it was unleashed, you cast it again, then wait for the first spell to go and then cast another one, and so on. This was a cheap trick that Square apparently wanted to avoid in this sequel. Although they succeeded, gameplay was hurt in the process. Whenever a character is doing anything at all, whether it be attacking or already casting a spell, you can't control them at all. This is a drawback in boss battles where the boss casts many spells in a row, and you need to heal your party. It makes boss battles overly difficult, and is extremely frustrating. Aside from these two flaws, the interface is well-designed and easy to use.

   The music sounds great. There is a wide variety of scores throughout, and considering that this game was done on a 16-bit system, I feel that a wonderful job was done in the composition of the music. Square games are well known for their music, and this game follows that trend. There's lots of variety, and unlike some RPGs, which have several songs that are simply variations on a theme, every score in this game sounds completely different.

Riding on Flammie
The hand-drawn images were a nice touch.  

   When compared to Secret of Mana, this game isn't very original. Many of the spells and objects of the world were borrowed from the previous installment. This is reasonable, however, considering the game's story, since this is supposed to be the same world as before. Regardless of any similarities, this still feels like a whole different game because of the many improvements made over Secret of Mana. Fortunately, only some of the gameplay is borrowed; everything else is completely new.

   The plot is interesting because you have to play the game at least three times to get all of it. This is because there are six characters to choose from, and three "bad guys", only one of which will succeed in his evil plan. Who this will be depends on your choice of three characters from the possible six. The plot is linear, but it tailors itself to your choices for the three characters. There are essentially six different paths that you can take. The three characters you don't choose will interact with you as NPCs throughout the game. You won't, however, know their motives, and sometimes you won't even know what's going on in their sub-plot.

   Because of this, you'll want to play the game again so you can fill these plot holes. Playing the same game several times just for a somewhat different plot should be boring, but it isn't because of the various fighting styles, spells, skills, and deathblows of each character. When playing this game again, you won't be disappointed or bored.

   The sound effects are nothing special, but they don't make you want to cover your ears, either. They're just average. The overall visual effect of the game, on the other hand, is awesome. All the characters and monsters are of course sprites, but they are very well drawn. Each character has his or her own menu screen pose that changes with their class, which is a nice touch. The backgrounds are amazing, especially in areas like the Path to the Heavens, a mountainous region in which you can see the hand-drawn landscape below. The spell animations are nice as well. Several of them have nice 3-d effects that look better than some spell animations for Playstation RPGs.

Wood mana beast
Boss battles can be overly difficult at times.  

   The great variety of parties that you can choose from makes this game range from very easy to extremely difficult. Each time you play through this game, assuming you have a different party, you will find challenges at different bosses and throughout different experience levels. Since each character has 6 different classes to change into, each with different abilities, the difficult spots in the game move around, reflecting your choices. But, overall, the game isn't too difficult no matter what party you choose.

   This game is short, clocking in at around 20-25 hours, but that seems about right considering the three different plots that you can (and will want to) play through. Unfortunately, since this cartridge was never translated, it is impossible to find at any store or garage sale. There is a translated ROM, however, for those interested in playing this game. Since the translated ROM is free, I recommend you try this game out and see if you like it. This is a great game, and those of you who love the Mana series will enjoy this game immensely.

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