Seiken Densetsu 3
|Seiken Densetsu 3|
|Genre(s)||Action role-playing game|
Seiken Densetsu 3 (聖剣伝説3?, lit. "Legend of the Sacred Sword 3") is a 1995 action role-playing game developed and published by Square (now Square Enix) for the Super Nintendo Entertainment System. It is the sequel to the 1993 game Seiken Densetsu 2 (released outside Japan as Secret of Mana), and is the third game in the Mana series. Set in a fantasy world, the game follows three heroes as they attempt to claim the legendary Mana Sword and prevent the Mana Beasts from being unleashed and destroying the world. The game features three lengthy main plotlines and six different possible main characters, each with their own storylines, and allows two players to play simultaneously. The game builds on the gameplay of its predecessor with multiple enhancements, including the use of a time progression system, with transitions from day to night and weekday to weekday in game time, and a wide range of character classes to choose from, which provides each character with an exclusive set of skills and status progression.
The game was designed by series creator Koichi Ishii, directed by veteran Square designer Hiromichi Tanaka, and produced by Tetsuhisa Tsuruzono. Artwork for the game was produced by manga and anime artist Nobuteru Yūki, while the game's music was composed by Secret of Mana composer Hiroki Kikuta. Although the game was only published in Japan, Western players have been able to play Seiken Densetsu 3 thanks to an unofficial English fan translation, first released in 2000. The game received considerable acclaim from reviewers, who praised the graphics as among the best ever made for the Super Nintendo and the gameplay as an improved version of its predecessor's. The plot received mixed reviews by critics who found the overlapping stories to be interesting and enhance replayability, but the characters and plotlines themselves to be flat and clichéd. Overall, the game is considered to be a Super Nintendo classic and one of the best role-playing games of the 16-bit era.
Seiken Densetsu 3 has similar gameplay to its predecessor, Secret of Mana. Like many other role-playing games of the 16-bit era, the game displays a top-down perspective, in which the three player characters navigate the terrain and fight off hostile creatures. Control may be passed between each of the characters at any time; whichever character is currently selected, the other two companions are controlled by the computer. The game may be played simultaneously by two players, unlike three in Secret of Mana. There are six possible player characters. At the beginning of the game, the player chooses which three of them will be playable and which one they will start with; the other two playable characters will join the party when met. The remaining three characters act as non-playable characters (NPCs) when encountered.
One type of weapon is available for each character, in addition to magical spells. Unlike the previous game, where each spell was improved through use, the effectiveness of spells depends on the magical ability of the character and the element of the spell in relation to the enemy. When in battle mode, the character adds one point to his or her "power gauge" by making an attack which hits a monster. When the gauge is full, special moves can be unleashed, which vary according to the character. Once all enemies on-screen are defeated, the player has a chance to receive a reward item in a treasure chest. Upon collecting enough experience points in battle, each character can increase in level to gain improved character statistics such as strength and evasion. The trio can find refuge in a town, where they can regain hit points or purchase restorative items and equipment. Options such as changing equipment, casting spells, or checking status are performed by cycling through the game's Ring Commands—a circular menu which hovers over the controlled party member. The game is paused whenever the Ring Commands appear. Within the Ring, the player has nine slots for storing items; additional items can be placed into item storage, which is inaccessible in combat.
Character level progression is coordinated by the player, as a choice is given as to which statistic to raise by a point at every level up. A "class" system is also present. Once a character reaches level 18, the player can visit one of several Mana Stones located throughout the game and choose to upgrade them to one of two classes for each character—either a class aligned to "Light" or a class aligned to "Dark"—which provides a different set of skills and different improvements to character statistics. A second class change may be optionally performed at level 38, again split between a light and a dark choice, if the player has obtained a required rare item for the target class. The class changes do not affect the plot of the game, only gameplay.
Seiken Densetsu 3 also employs a calendar function into its gameplay. A week cycles much more quickly than an actual one—a day passes in a number of minutes—but it still affects gameplay in certain ways. Each day of the week is represented by a different elemental spirit. On that spirit's day, magic of that element will be slightly stronger. An in-game day is also divided into day and night, represented by Will-o'-the-Wisp the light elemental and Shade the dark elemental, respectively. Certain events only happen during certain times of day, such as a nighttime-only black market selling particularly rare items. Enemies encountered in the field also change during certain time periods, and some may be sleeping if the characters approach them at night. In addition, the character Kevin transforms into a werewolf when he fights at night, greatly increasing his attack power. Using an inn's services allows the player to "skip" the game's clock to that day's evening, or the following morning.
The story takes place in a fictional world where Mana represents an ethereal, but finite, energy source. Some time in the past, the Mana Goddess created the game's world by forging the powerful Sword of Mana and defeating eight "God-Beasts" with it, sealing them within eight Mana Stones, before turning herself into the Mana Tree and falling asleep. The game is set at a time when Mana starts to fade and peace has ended, as several people plot to unleash the God-Beasts from the stones so as to gain ultimate power, politically and magically. The game is not a direct sequel to the events in Secret of Mana; according to series creator Koichi Ishii, the Mana games do not take place in exactly the same world, and characters or elements who appear in different games are best considered alternate versions of each other; instead, the connections between each title are more abstract than story-based, linked only on the karmic level. Despite this, the 2007 game Heroes of Mana is a direct prequel to Seiken Densetsu 3, taking place 19 years before the latter's story.
The characters (and their individual stories) are grouped into three main sub-plots. Duran and Angela oppose the Dragon Emperor, Hawkeye and Riesz oppose the Dark Prince, and Kevin and Charlotte oppose the Masked Mage. The main storyline is determined by the first character chosen, however there is significantly more character interaction and dialogue if the other member of the pair is also in the party.
Angela (アンジェラ Anjera?) is the princess of the ice-covered Magic Kingdom of Altena. Her mother, Valda, the Queen of Reason, uses her magic to keep the Altenish citadel in a perpetual spring. The Queen's spell weakens as Mana starts to fade. So that her spell may continue and Altena does not freeze over, she and her assistant wizard Koren decide to invade other nations to claim their Mana Stones using the power of their own Mana Stone of water. The spell to use the stone has been cursed to kill the person casting it. When the Queen tries to force Angela to use it, her rage causes her hidden magical powers to suddenly burst out and teleport her outside of the citadel, and she then flees from Altena. Duran (デュラン Dyuran?), an orphaned mercenary swordsman of the Grasslands Kingdom of Valsena, proudly serves his king, the wise Richard. Duran and his little sister Wendy were raised by their aunt, Stella, after Duran's mother died of a long term illness and their father Loki was lost in battle with the Dragon Emperor. One night, Duran is on guard duty at the castle of Valsena when Koren attacks the castle. Duran is left for dead after confronting him, and after recovering he vows to become the best swordsman in the world and to exact his revenge upon Koren.
Hawkeye (ホークアイ Hōkuai?) is a member of a guild of noble thieves based in the desert Sand Fortress of Nevarl. The guild's leader, Lord Flamekhan, suddenly and uncharacteristically declares Nevarl to be a kingdom. Surprised by this, Hawkeye discusses the matter with Jessica and Eagle, who are his friends and Flamekhan's children. Hawkeye and Eagle decide to confront Flamekhan about it, only to discover he is being controlled by the witch Isabella. Isabella (later revealed as "Bigieu") kills Eagle and frames Hawkeye for his death, and he is forced to flee. Riesz (リース Rīsu?) is the princess of the mountainous Wind Kingdom of Laurent, and captain of its Amazon army. After her mother, Minerva, dies while giving birth to her younger brother, Elliott, Riesz vows to take care of him. However, two mysterious ninjas from Nevarl discreetly trick Elliott into turning off Laurent's protective winds and kidnap him. With the winds gone, Nevarl attacks Laurent with a cloud of sleep powder and kills its king, Joster. Devastated, Riesz makes her escape.
Kevin (ケヴィン Kevin?) is the inarticulate prince of Ferolia. He is the son of Gauser, king of the beastmen, and a human mother. Sick of the treatment of his people by "normal" humans, the Beast King's desired revenge is made all the more possible by the appearance of the mysterious Deathjester. He shows his abilities by forcing Kevin to awaken his werewolf abilities by killing his best friend. When Kevin confronts the Beast King on this act and his plans to invade the human Holy City Wendel, he is thrown out of the kingdom and swears revenge. Charlotte (シャルロット Sharurotto?) is the granddaughter of the Priest of Light. Orphaned by her parents, the cleric Leroy and the elf Shayla, she is looked after by a fellow cleric, Heath. Feeling an evil influence in nearby Jadd, the Priest of Light sends Heath to investigate; however, Charlotte overhears this conversation and follows to discover Deathjester abduct Heath. She decides to journey and save him.
The story begins in a different place for each playable character. With the exception of Charlotte, the main character is soon told (or otherwise decides) to seek the advice of the Priest of Light in the Holy City Wendel. They arrive at the city of Jadd soon after the Beastmen have invaded. Due to the Beastmen's werewolf powers, they are able to make an escape by night. The main character—now including Charlotte—on the way to Wendel stay overnight in Astoria where they are woken by a bright light. Following it, it reveals itself to be a Faerie from the Mana Sanctuary, exhausted by her journey. Out of desperation, the Faerie chooses the main character to be her host, and tells them to get to Wendel. There, while they explain their grievances to the Priest of Light, the Faerie interrupts and explains that the Mana Tree is dying and that the Sanctuary is in danger. The Priest explains that if the Tree dies, the Mana Beasts will reawaken and destroy the world. He goes on to explain further that, because the Faerie has chosen the main character as its host, they must travel to the Sanctuary to draw the Sword of Mana from the foot of the Mana Tree to restore peace to the world, and have their wishes granted by the Mana Goddess if it can be drawn before the Tree dies. However, a great deal of power is needed to open the gate to the Sanctuary. The Faerie does not have the strength to do it, and the ancient spell which would do so by unlocking the power in the Mana Stones also takes the caster's life. However, the Stones' guarding elemental spirits will to be able if their powers are combined.
After journeying across the world to get the spirits, meeting the other two members of the party, thwarting the invasion attempts of Navarre and Altena, discovering the powers of the Fire and Water Mana Stones, and learning the disappearance of the Mana Stone of Darkness along the way, the main character tries to open the gate to the Mana Sanctuary with the spirits' assistance. The first attempt fails, but the second succeeds; the Faerie realizes that it was opened because someone released the power from all the Mana Stones. The characters travel into the Sanctuary and the main character claims the Mana Sword; however, it is soon discovered that the main character's adversaries (Koren and the Darkshine Knight for Angela and Duran; Jagan and Bigieu for Riesz and Hawkeye; or the Deathjester and Heath, who has joined forces with him, for Kevin and Charlotte) have defeated the other two sets of primary enemies and have captured the Faerie and will only release her in exchange for the Mana Sword. The trade is made, and once the enemy receives the Sword, the Mana Stones shatter and the Mana Beasts are released.
The characters must then defeat the Mana Beasts before they can gather and destroy the world. However, after doing this they realize killing the Mana Beasts has given more power to their main enemy (the Dragon Emperor for Duran and Angela, the Dark Prince for Hawkeye and Riesz, and the Masked Mage for Kevin and Charlotte), and the already powerful villain absorbs the power of the Sword of Mana and the Mana Beasts in order to become a god, but is halted by the Mana Goddess blocking some of its power. After defeating the villain's minions, the characters go and defeat their main enemy, but are unable to stop him from destroying the Mana Tree and eliminating all Mana from the world. The Faerie fuses with what is left of the Mana Tree, and will become the new Mana Goddess in a thousand years, but Mana will not exist again in the world until then. As the game ends, the characters go back to their homelands.
Seiken Densetsu 3 was designed by series creator Koichi Ishii. The game was directed by Hiromichi Tanaka and produced by Tetsuhisa Tsuruzono. Tanaka previously helped design the first three Final Fantasy titles. Manga and anime artist Nobuteru Yūki was responsible for the illustrations of the characters designed by Ishii himself. Yūki's artwork for the game can be found in the Nobuteru Yuki Seiken Densetsu Illustration Book.
During the game's development and after its release in Japan on September 30, 1995, Seiken Densetsu 3 became known abroad as Secret of Mana 2. Square stated in a 1995 issue of its North American newsletter that they planned to release the game during the second half of the year. However, Seiken Densetsu 3 was never released outside Japan. Retro Gamer stated in 2011 that localizing the game for North America or Europe "would have cost a fortune", and that the rise of the PlayStation and Sega Saturn consoles diminished the benefits of spending so much on an SNES game. Nintendo Power, a few months after Seiken Densetsu 3 was released in Japan, said that the probability of a North American release for the game was low due to "a technical nature" and that it would have been far too costly to produce at the time. This is further supported by Brian Fehdrau, lead programmer for Square's Secret of Evermore, who mentioned that Seiken Densetsu 3 had some software bugs, hindering its likelihood of being certified for release by Nintendo of America without extensive work.
There was an apparent misconception among video game fans that the SNES title Secret of Evermore was released in lieu of an English language version of Seiken Densetsu 3 in 1995. Secret of Evermore was developed by a new team at Square's office in Redmond, Washington called Square Soft. According to Fehdrau, the game did not tie up any people who would have been involved in a translation of Seiken Densetsu 3; the Redmond team was specifically hired to create Evermore. In 2000, a fan translation project for Seiken Densetsu 3 led by Neill Corlett was successfully completed and made available on the internet as an unofficial patch, which could be applied to ROMs of the game when played with an emulator or played on a Super Nintendo console with a development kit or backup device.
|Seiken Densetsu 3 Original Sound Version|
|Soundtrack album by Hiroki Kikuta|
|Released||August 25, 1995
October 1, 2004
|Genre||Ambient, Breakbeat, Classical, Electronic, Video game soundtrack|
Square Enix (reprint)
The score for Seiken Densetsu 3 was composed by Hiroki Kikuta, who had previously composed the music for Secret of Mana as his first video game score. Kikuta performed the sound selection, editing, effect design, and data encoding himself. He alternated between composing and editing to create an immersive three-dimensional sound, just as he had for the music of the previous game. Similarly, rather than use premade MIDI samples of instruments like most game music composers of the time, Kikuta made his own MIDI samples that matched the hardware capabilities of the Super Nintendo so that he would know exactly how the pieces would sound on the system's hardware instead of having to deal with audio hardware differences between the original MIDI sampler and the SNES. The soundtrack's music has been described by Freddie W. of RPGFan as "bouncy, energetic, flowing, and serene", and is noted for its use of piano and drums. He further called it a "more refined and matured" version of the Secret of Mana soundtrack.
Seiken Densetsu 3 Original Sound Version is a soundtrack album of music from Seiken Densetsu 3. The soundtrack features 60 tracks on 3 discs and was published by NTT Publishing on August 25, 1995 with the catalog numbers PSCN-5026~8; it was republished by Square Enix on October 1, 2004 with the catalog numbers NTCP-5026~8. The main theme from Secret of Mana, "Where Angels Fear to Tread", was also featured in Seiken Densetsu 3. In addition to the original soundtrack album, an arranged album of music from Secret of Mana and Seiken Densetsu 3 titled Secret of Mana+ was produced. The album is composed of a single track titled "Secret of Mana" that has a duration of 49:28. This track incorporates themes from the music of Secret of Mana and a few themes from Seiken Densetsu 3, which was still under development at the time. The style of the album is described by Daniel Kalabakov of RPGFan as "experimental", using "strange sounds" such as waterfalls, bird calls, cell phone sounds, and "typing" sounds. The music has also been described by Chris Greening of Square Enix Music Online as covering many different musical styles, such as "Debussian impressionist styles, his own heavy electronic and synth ideas, and even ideas of popular musicians". It was published by NTT Publishing/Square on October 29, 1993 with the catalog number N30D-021, and reprinted by NTT Publishing on August 25, 1995 and October 1, 2004 with the catalog numbers PSCN-5031 and NTCP-5031.
The track "Meridian Child" was performed by the Tokyo Symphony Orchestra for the fifth Orchestral Game Concert in 1996. "Meridian Child" was again performed on February 6, 2011, when the Eminence Symphony Orchestra played a concert in Tokyo as part of the Game Music Laboratory concert series as a tribute to the music of Kenji Ito and Hiroki Kikuta. One of the companion books of sheet music for the Mana series, the first edition of Seiken Densetsu Best Collection Piano Solo Sheet Music, included pieces from Seiken Densetsu 3, rewritten by Asako Niwa as beginning to intermediate level piano solos, though intended to sound like the originals.
Due to its Japanese exclusivity, most of the English-language reviews for Seiken Densetsu 3 were published years after the initial release. One contemporary review was in 1995 in GameFan, which covered import games, and rated the game highly. Critics have rated the game highly in retrospective reviews, published mostly after 2000. The graphics were praised; a review from 1UP.com called the game "absolutely gorgeous", which they attributed to its position towards the end of the era of 2D SNES games, but before developers tried to start working with prerendered 3D graphics. A review by Chris Parsons of RPGamer agreed, terming the graphics "awesome" and positively comparing some of the effects to PlayStation RPGs, which the Cubed3 review by Adam Riley did as well. The review by RPGFan stated that the graphics were one of the best three of all SNES games, after Star Ocean and Tales of Phantasia, while the review by Corbie Dillard of NintendoLife also noted the game as one of the best graphically of the SNES and called out the unique visual styles of each area in the game as of particular note. The game's music was also generally praised; Dillard called it "spectacular from start to finish", while Riley said it was "one of the most sonically pleasing out of the whole SNES lifetime" and Parsons said that "a wonderful job was done in the composition of the music". The RPGFan review disagreed, saying that the music was "well composed and not really bad", but did not make them feel emotionally invested.
The gameplay was highly rated by most reviewers. The RPGFan review stated that "Seiken Densetsu 3 is among the best games I've ever played," calling out the difficulty of the game compared to its predecessor and the class change system as worthy of note. Dillard felt that the gamplay was as good as that of Secret of Mana and it had "a much more strategic feel to it". The 1UP.com and Cubed3 reviews also brought up the day and time system as interesting additions, though the 1UP.com review felt that the combat was not "quite as tight" as in Secret of Mana. Several reviews, however, called out the Ring system as being flawed. Parsons found it frustrating that the menu could not be brought up whenever a character was doing something, making boss battles hectic and difficult, while the RPGFan review called the entire Ring system "poorly designed" due to how few slots were in each character's ring compared to how many possible items there were. The plot received mixed reviews; while several reviewers praised the system of choosing different main characters, especially its effect on replayability, Riley felt that it meant that the story "can be quite confusing". Parsons noted that the interactions with the characters that were not chosen often left plot holes as their motivations were not explained. The RPGFan review felt that the individual stories were interesting and well paced, but unoriginal; the 1UP.com review agreed, saying that the plot was not "too terribly engaging", suffering from clichés and flat characters.
Overall, the game is regarded by many as a SNES classic. Dillard stated that it was "easily one of the best RPGs to come out of the 16-bit era", while the 1UP.com review said that if it had been officially translated into English it "very likely would have become a fondly remembered classic", which the RPGFan review felt it still was. The game was featured on the GameFAQs top 100 list from 1999 to 2001.
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