Seiken Densetsu 3, the Secret of Mana sequel that not only meets the already high expectations of the of the first game but exceeds them in just about everyway possible.
Seiken Densetsu 3: The Secret of Mana sequel that was never officially released in North America. Released on September 30, 1995 this game not only takes what was good about the first game but it improves on it making it even better than the first, which is no easy task considering how great the original was. Despite the fact that the game carries and E rating many levels, characters as well as situations in the story are quite dark, but then again ESRB ratings were nowhere near as strict then as they are now. Developed and published by Square the game uses the same style of action RPG gameplay as well as the ring menu system as the first game but improves on both for the most part.
The story is relatively the same as the first game where you must go to the Mana Tree and revive the Mana Sword, but what Seiken Densetsu 3 does differently from the first game is that instead of having the game revolve around a boy, girl, and sprite the game revolves around any three of the six characters that you choose at the beginning of your game. Each story revolves around a faerie attempting to revive the Mana Sword with the help of whatever character the player had chosen at the beginning of the game. Each character has their own back stories and their own personal reasons for reviving the Mana Sword. Depending on what character you chose at the beginning results in one of three main antagonists and ultimately one of three final bosses. Being able to see multiple characters points of view and what their reasons are to find the Mana Sword a great way to develop the story for not only RPGs but for all video games in general.
Seiken Densetsu 3 is an action RPG and it uses the same mechanics as Secret of Mana. The game plays much like Secret of Mana with the use of the ring system and magic. The Mana Spirits from the first game make an appearance not only to be used again for magic but also to represent each day of the week. In each week there are seven days represented by the six Mana Spirits with night represented by the Mana Spirit Shade. Depending on the day one type of magic will be stronger than the others.
-Luna Day - Moon magic is stronger
-Salamando Day - Fire magic is stronger
-Undine Day - Water magic is stronger
-Dryad Day - Wood magic is stronger
-Jinn Day - Wind magic is stronger
-Gnome Day - Earth magic is stronger
-Mana Holy Day - All elemental magic is balanced. (Plus all rooms at all the inns are free.)
Unlike Secret of Mana, Seiken Densetsu 3 not only uses the standard RPG system of leveling up to increase strength, health etc. but it also uses classes to make each character stronger. The Character will start in a neutral class but after finding a Mana Stone and being past certain level the player will have the choice of changing the character to a light class or a dark class which can then be changed into a light-light class, light-dark class, dark-light class or dark-dark class later in the game. Each class gives the character a new more powerful attack. The new attacks can be used once a bar below each characters health fills. The bar fill by hitting any enemies on screen and once the bar is filled you can unleash an attack that is much stronger than your standard attack, much like Secret of Mana’s charge attacks. Unlike Secret of Mana you have no choice on which weapons each character is allowed to wield. Being able to choose what weapon each character was allowed to wield was one of the better aspects about the first game and the fact that it was left out of the sequel was disappointing in some way but the game makes up for it but allowing you to choose which character you will play as with each character wielding a different weapon.
-The fighter will use his hands/feet.
-The knight will use his sword.
-The thief will use his knives.
-The magician will use her staff.
-The sprite will use her ball and chain.
-The Amazon Warrior will use her spear.
This gives the player some variety and choice over what weapon are use. Overall the gameplay is even more enjoyable than the original and extremely fun throughout the entire game.
Not too much has improved from the first game, but that`s not a bad thing. The first game had a really good feel to it, where each area look and felt unique to the others and was an overall nice looking game. The same can be said about the second. The feel of each individual level being unique really adds a good sense of variety to the game. There are a few slight improvements throughout the game, one of them being the background while on top of a mountain where you are able to see a landscape of the world below just next to the cliff side. The only major improvement was the navigation. In the first game while riding on your dragon it was quite easy to get lost in the sky with the only map being a globe only accessible through the start button. While in the second there is a mini map on the top left hand corner of the screen making it easy to find where you are and where you need to go. Aside from that, the improvements were just minor as there were no other major changes to the sequel that really stood out in comparison to the first game. One very nice aspect of the game was the colour, not only that the game had large colour pallet especially compared to games nowadays but that the colour really gave each area its own feel, the bright fields feel very open, shaded forests give a more secluded feeling, caves are dark enough to give a more condensed or confined feel while being bright enough to keep the level from feeling lifeless. Overall it is as good looking as the first game with some improvements.
The music of the first game was arguably the best part about the game, even though the music in the sequel is very good it does not compare Secret of Mana. Throughout the game you will hear some very nice and catchy music, a lot of which adds depth to each level but not to the extent of Secret of Mana. A few of the tracks in the game are some of the Super Nintendo’s music at its best. So many tracks are very well composed at each fits each situation and tone perfectly may the situation be serious, dramatic, joyous etc. The some of the tracks in this game are some of the best on the console and that is saying a lot considering how legendary the Super Nintendo sound track is but it is not on the same level as the first one, but then again it is hard to find music that surpasses Secret of Mana’s.
There is a difficultly to the game but nowhere near enough to ruin the game. The difficulty in the game derives from only a number of levels and only a number of bosses. As stated before you can change classes for each character and once you change classes the character becomes much more powerful where all their stats (strength, agility, vitality) raises by at least 3 points. This is very helpful considering that once you level up you choose 1 of 6 stats to raise by a 1 point, thereby raising all stats by at least 3 points the game becomes slightly easier. One thing that makes this game easier compared to the first one is actually the item storage. Where in the first game you can only carry a max of 4 of each item, which can be extremely irritating when fighting a boss or going through a difficult part in the game. In the sequel you can carry up to 9 items and put a max of 99 in a storage that you can access at almost any point in the game (not during battles). The game is only difficult at certain points in the story where you may just need to spend a bit of time level grinding to be able to make it through the area without getting too aggravated. One aspect that is a huge game changer in the difficulty is the use of magic. Much like the first game magic really helps you out when trying to get through tougher parts of the game or just to give you a good advantage when trying to beat the tougher bosses. Much like Secret of Mana the magic decreases the difficulty of the game significantly if you are too reliant on it and use it at almost any given moment, however even with powerful magic many boss battle can still pose quite a challenge with a majority of the later boss battles lasting for well over 10 minutes, as well some of the later bosses are able to defeat your entire party in as little as 3-4 attacks. While the game is difficult it is not over the top allowing the game to be challenging without becoming frustrating.
Seiken Densetsu 3 is a sequel to Secret of Mana, so it uses the same game mechanics as well as a similar story. Were in the first game you were tasked with collecting 8 Mana seeds, you now have the task of defeating 8 “God-Beasts”, whom are determined on destroying the world. One thing that was more creative and original was having the story told though the eyes of the different protagonists in the game, something which was really unique and developers should use this same idea on games today. The game is not overly creative in certain aspects considering it is a sequel, but the changes that were made make the game feel like a completely original game instead of a sequel.
As stated before, the story is seen though the eyes of the first protagonist chosen at the beginning of the game and with a total of 6 characters and 3 final bosses the replay value is very high. Combined with 4 possible final classes for each character and a customizable team, the game can be played though multiple times with a completely different experience every time. Anyone who enjoys really digging into and finding everything in a game could easily be playing this game for several months.
Overall Seiken Densetsu 3 is one of the best SNES games ever made and begs the question why it was never released outside of Japan? The gameplay, story, and music are all top notch and not only is it a sequel to one of the best SNES games ever made but it actually surpasses it in many areas. This game is easily one of the best RPG’s ever released and it can stand on its own even when compared to legends such as Final Fantasy VI and Chrono Trigger. Now Nintendo should release Seiken Densetsu 3 on the Virtual Console with a proper English translation, not just a fan translation. Although the game does not have an official North American release there are modified copies of the original with an English translation. Even though it is possible to obtain the English cartridges off of EBay they can sometimes cost quite a bit of money but to any hardcore RPG fan it is well worth the investment. It needs to be played.
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