Posted on January 21, 2019
Seiken Densetsu 3/聖剣伝説３
Seiken Densetsu 3. You’ve heard the name before. The elusive sequel to Secret of Mana that was (and still is) locked away in Japan, and the last of the Mana games for the SFC/SNES.
Seiken Densetsu 3 (Holy Sword Legend, if you translate it literally) is a game that you’ll never forget once you’ve played it. Be it the characters, stories (lots of em!), music, locations, or even just the gameplay itself, Seiken Densetsu pretty much has it all!
Is Seiken Densetsu 3 really as good of a game as the people who’ve actually had the opportunity to play it say it is? You probably already know the answer…but let’s find out!
Score – 37/40
Story – 9/10
Gameplay – 8.5/10
Graphics – 10/10
Music – 9.5/10
Style: Japanese Role-playing Game (Action)
Platform: Super Famicom
Release Date: JP: September 30th, 1995
Length: 20～30 Hours
If you haven’t checked it out yet, take a look at my Secret of Mana review too, while you’re at it!
Table of Contents
Seiken Densetsu 3/聖剣伝説３ SFC/SNES Review
Seiken Densetsu 3 is quite a gem of a game! It’s actually the first game that i’ve went back and beaten a second time just to review it here! I don’t usually BEAT games more than once (though games like Morrowind don’t count, i’ve played Morrowind more times than I can count…), but Seiken Densetsu 3 didn’t even feel like a chore to go back and play-through again. The game has so much variety to it that I believe most players could get a good 3-4 playthroughs out of it, easy.
The reason for this is Seiken Densetsu 3 allows you to choose your own party members right from the start of the game, with each character having their own story that becomes intertwined with the rest of your party members’ stories. Each character will have a different “Main” story that you’ll follow throughout the game too, which keeps things fresh with each new party setup. This allows for tons of replay-ability.
Well, enough about replay-ability for now, let’s jump right in and see what makes Seiken Densetsu 3 so great!
Seiken Densetsu 3 is a game filled with story – many different stories, in fact! Depending on which “Main” character you pick and which two side characters you choose, your “Main” villain and side villains will change! For example, the first 20% or so of the game and last dungeon/boss will be different if you choose the swordsman Duran, rather than choosing the werewolf Kevin.
Since I played the game twice, I chose Duran as my main character during my first playthrough, and recently did a run with Kevin as my main. This allowed me to see the story from two complete different angles. As I won’t go into any deep spoilers during the story section here, i’ll mainly just go over the over-arching story, and maybe give a little bit of insight into these two characters’ stories in order to give you a bit of an idea of how the stories change.
First things first, let me introduce the playable characters in Seiken Densetsu 3 (in instruction manual order)!
Duran (デュラン, Dyuran) – A young swordsman from the Kingdom of Forcena. Duran is the type that doesn’t like to lose and is always looking for ways to become stronger. Duran’s deceased father was good friends with the King, so Duran is ready to do whatever needs to be done for the Kingdom.
Being a swordsman, Duran is able to cover the following roles in a party:
- Group Utility (Elemental damage via Sabers) – Sword Master
- Damage Dealer – Duelist
- Self-Healer/Light Elemental Damage Dealer – Paladin
- Party-Healer/Status Healer (your party will never die again) – Lord
In my first playthrough I ran Duran as a Sword Master and regretted it quite a bit (triple damage team). On my second playthrough, I chose Duran again and made him a Lord. With his 3MP Party Heals (I had around 50-60MP at the last boss), my party never even came close to dying. Not a very offensive build, but if you never die, you can spend an extra minute or so killing the boss, yeah?
Kevin (ケヴィン, Kevin) – Kevin is the son of the King of the Beast Kingdom. With his father being a beastman (think wolfman) and his mother being a human, Kevin is both human and beast, which makes him feel a bit uncomfortable within the Beast Kingdom as the military generals have recently decided to begin attacking human cities.
While Kevin might seem like an ordinary human during the day, as soon as night falls, Kevin transforms into a werewolf, which greatly increases his combat capabilities. Taking up the role of a front-line brawler, Kevin can fill the following roles in a party :
- Self-Healer/Tech-Filler (can cast a spell to instantly fill anyone’s tech guage) – God Hand
- Party-Healer/MP Regen (can cast Leaf Saber on the party to regen MP on hit) – Warrior Monk
＊Good alternative to make an invincible team if you don’t want to make Duran a Lord!
- Damage Dealer (basically an auto-attack machine) – Death Hand
- Damage Dealer/HP Regen (less damage than Death Hand, but can regen party HP – Dervish
I chose Kevin for both of my playthroughs too, and made him a Death Hand both times. The amount of damage he does unbuffed is just ridiculous, he has a multi-target Level 3 tech that can come close to 1-shotting even end-game mobs, and this is during the day. Get him at night, and you’ll be finishing bosses in a couple of minutes, no sweat.
Hawkeye (ホークアイ, Hookuai) – Fan-translation players are gonna tell me I made a type-o, but yes, his name is HawkEYE, not Hawk (that’s why I can’t endorse fan-translations…if it was for cartridge space i’d understand, but those are for ROMs, and two more like this are coming up, so no excuses…). Hawkeye is a thief from the desert town of Nabarl. Hawkeye is on the search for a woman named Isabelle, after being framed for a crime.
Hawkeye is your typical thief character, which means he has rather poor defense, but decent damage potential. Hawkeye can fit the following roles:
- General Utility (party buffs, enemy debuffs, can nullify magic, etc.) – Wanderer
- Elemental Damage Dealer (high damage single target ninja spells) – Rogue
- Multi-Target Elemental Damage Dealer (base attack is higher than Rogue) – Ninja Master
- Multi-Target Elemental Damage Dealer (highest over-all damage potential) – Nightblade
I chose Hawkeye during my first playthrough and made him a Nightblade. Out of my Sword Master Duran and Death Hand Kevin team, Hawkeye was definitely the weakest link. He died in pretty much 1 hit anytime an enemy used a multi-target tech (basically every encounter), so I spent more time ressing him than he spent actually fighting.
I overleveled on that playthrough too, ending the game at level 51…I have a feeling he’d make a great character if he was a Wanderer, but for pure damage, I can’t ever see a scenario where he would beat a Death Hand Kevin, or really any of Kevin’s classes…
Angela (アンジェラ, Anjera) – Angela is the daughter of the Queen of Altena, the Kingdom of Sorcery. Angela is the type that has to have her way, and becomes jealous quite easily. Angela is the daughter of the Queen of a magical kingdom, yet can’t seem to use any magic…
Angela eventually becomes a magic user, so she can fill the caster role in a group:
- Multi-Target Damage (Elemental spells and a high damage non-elemental spell) – Grand Devina
- Multi-Target Damage (basically exactly the same as Grand Devine, but the non-elemental spell
is different and costs 1 extra MP) – Arch Mage
- Single-Target Damage/Status Effects (high single target damage, requires lots of leveling up in
order to utilize its highest damage spell) – Rune Master
- Single-Target Damage (high damage single target damage, but MP costs are also high) – Magus
I’ve still yet to use Angela in my team. Due to how you cast magic in Seiken Densetsu 3, as well as the animation times, i’ve just never felt like using magic as my main source of damage. If you feel like using magic, however, Angela is probably going to be an essential member of your team.
Riesz (リース, Riisu) – Another fan-translation bomb (Lise in the fan-translation, but this one I can kinda understand), Riesz is a Valkyrie of sorts (the game calls her an “Amazoness”). Hailing from Rolante, the Kingdom of Wind, Riesz is the leader of the Amazoness military group. Riesz is searching for Elliot, who she failed to protect.
Riesz can fill both attack and support roles in groups:
- Damage Dealer/Single-Target Support (all 4 party buffs have to be casted one at a time,
meaning you’ll have to cast 12 spells at the beginning of each boss fight…but has the highest
damage of all Riesz’s classes) – Vanadis
- Group Utility (Multi-Target buffs means you only have to buff 4 times per fight, and has a Multi
Target silence to deal with pesky end-game casters) – Star Lancer
- Single-Target Debuffer (Single-Target debuffs and a Multi-Target poison spell, can’t really see a
need for poisons and debuffs, personally…) – Dragon Master
- Multi-Target Debuffer (Can debuff all monsters on the screen per cast, but doesn’t have any
status effect spells like the other classes) – Fenrir Knight
I chose Riesz for my second playthrough and made her a Star Lancer (which means Lord Duran, Death Hand Kevin, and Star Lancer Riesz). Since the buffs are actually ridiculously strong (attack and defense buffs give almost 2x damage and defense), Riesz’s buffs coupled with Duran’s near-infinite Multi-Target heals means I never even came close to dying after the 2nd class change.
I can’t really see a reason not to pick Star Lancer for Riesz – mobs try to kick your ass in one hit with higher levels spells and techs, so having a Silence is going to be way more useful than having a poison spell. Instead of using Riesz for damage, using your Multi-Target buffs to get your damage dealers’ attack power up, or your casters’ mind up is going to be a much bigger over-all damage boost. If you’re going for a Damage/Healer/Support setup, Star Lancer Riesz should 100% be your support character, because once she has her buff spells everything just becomes a joke.
Charlotte (シャルロット, Sharurotto) – If taking the liberty to cut “Eye” out of Hawkeye’s name, and kinda shooting with a blind-fold on and choosing “Lise” wasn’t bad enough, somehow the fan-translation managed to translate Charlotte, a perfectly “localization” friendly name (for those who use “localization” as an excuse to mis-translate stuff), into CARLIE.
Again, be careful when playing unofficially translated games and then basing your opinions of the games off of those translations – chances are, the people “translating” them are just making stuff up as they go along (story elements included…quite easy to change “kidnapped childhood friend” into “kidnapped sister” or “wife”, which completely changes the weight of the story). Anyways, that’s enough elitism for now, back to talking about Charlotte!
Charlotte is the granddaughter of the Priest of Light of the Holy City of Wendel (our trusty fan-translation says the Priest is her “guardian”, big difference in importance there…as mentioned above…). Charlotte goes on a quest to find Heath, a man who was kidnapped by the Death Eater (Death Jester(why?) in the fan-translation), as well as to figure out how to control both Holy and Dark magic.
Charlotte is another magic user, so her roles will be as follows:
- Party-Healer/Status-Healer/Undead Killer (ability-wise, she’s basically Lord and Sword Master
Duran combined, except she can Multi-Target heal status effects, and has a few offensive tools
against Dark-elemental monsters) – Bishop
- Party-Healer/Status-Healer/Group Utility (mostly the same as a Bishop, except Sabers are
Multi-Target, but loses the Bishop’s Dark-elemental countering abilities) – Sage
- Party-Healer/Status-Healer/Damage Dealer (focuses on Dark-elemental damage spells, has a
fairly powerful debuff that increases damage done to an enemy while decreasing the enemy’s
damage) – Necromancer
- Party-Healer/Utility/Damage Dealer (loses the ability to heal status ailments, highest damage
output due to spells lowering enemy magic defense, can nullify enemy buffs) – Dark Shaman
I haven’t used Charlotte in my party yet. The reason is the same as Angela’s – I don’t personally feel the need to have a spell-casting focused damage dealer in Seiken Densetsu 3. While Charlotte mostly falls into the “pure healer” category, I don’t see a need for a pure healer, especially considering the probability of them getting 1-shotted by enemy full-screen level 3 techs during end-game.
I haven’t checked so i’m not 100% sure, but i’d assume that Charlotte’s maximum Constitution would be much lower than say, Lord Duran. Add to that Duran’s shields and overall stronger armor, and his slightly less powerful healing seems much nicer than spamming resurrections on your dead healer!
Now that we finally got the character introductions out of the way (already at 2100 words…sorry), let’s get back to covering the story!
The overall story of the game is that whichever main character you pick eventually runs into one of your secondary characters while on their own personal quest (for example, my Kevin ran into Duran while trying to prevent the Beast Kingdom soldiers from attacking a small village, while my Duran ran into Kevin while on the hunt for the caped wizard who attacked Forcena). Around this time, your party will encounter the Mana Faerie, who goes on to tell them about the Mana Crystals shattering and the effects that it will have on the world and the Mana Tree, the source of Mana itself.
Upon explaining the situation, the party is then tasked with finding and recruiting the “Mana Sprites”, which reside near each of the Mana Crystals. According to the Mana Faerie, the party should be able to restore the balance of Mana if they can recruit each of the Mana Sprites.
From this point on, the game merges into the main story, which is the same regardless of which characters you pick. The only difference is which bad guys will appear during cutscenes and the like. After collecting each of the Mana Sprites, your main character’s villian will start causing some trouble and attack the Mana Holy Ground, which is where the Mana Tree is located.
Upon reaching the Mana Tree, bad things happen, which end up throwing the entire world out of whack and summons the Mana God Beasts at the site of each of the Mana Crystals. Your next task is to defeat each of the God Beasts. Can your party restore the balance of Mana in time, or will the Mana Tree, Mana Holy Ground and all traces of Mana be erased from the world permanently?
I really liked the overall story, as well as the 4 side stories (out of 6) that i’ve seen so far! Each of the individual stories start out with a decent enough motivator (searching for someone you lost, getting revenge on someone who attacked/destroyed your hometown or killed a friend of yours), and quickly pick up pace. One things for sure in Seiken Densetsu 3 – you’re always doing something for a reason.
There aren’t really many parts of the game where there’s a lack of story or reason for doing things. I don’t have any recollection of doing pointless fetch quests or anything like that. To give you an idea of just how fast things move along, I finished up the part where you hunt for the God Beasts in about 3 or 4 hours (there’s 8 of them, I think…), so especially near the end of the game, things go really fast but don’t feel rushed, which is really cool.
People who played Secret of Mana (Seiken Densetsu 2) will know that the last half of the game went by fast, but it felt super rushed (it technically was, or cut, rather), but I personally didn’t feel that way about the end of Seiken Desetsu 3. If anything, it actually gives that immersive feeling of the urgency of trying to save the Mana Holy Ground before it gets destroyed!
Overall, Seiken Densetsu 3 will offer you about 20-30 hours of story-filled gameplay. My first blind playthrough took 29 hours, but that included me getting lost a few times in dungeons, as well as grinding out all of the best gear for my party, so i’d say a reasonable estimate would be about 20-25 hours. My second playthrough took only 17 hours, so even if you rush it, there’s still a lot to digest in those short 20 or so hours!
While the story might be pretty good, would you actually want to keep looking at the game for those 20 hours? You bet your ass you will! Seiken Densetsu 3 is one of the absolute best looking SFC/SNES RPGs, and one could even argue that it’s right up there with some of the PS1’s 2d RPGs!
There’s so much detail and care put into the game, be it the awesome and innovative Day/Night system that not only changes the environment in real-time but also affects gameplay and monster spawns, the absolutely beautifully layered maps, or just the variety in environments you’ll come across, I can’t imagine any valid complaints against the graphics in Seiken Densetsu 3. Take a look for yourself below!
Seiken Densetsu 3 is a stupidly beautiful game. Coming out at the tail-end of the SFC/SNES’s life-cycle, good graphics are to be expected, but Seiken Densetsu 3 goes above and beyond what someone should expect from a 16-bit JRPG from 1995. The first thing I should point out is the brilliant color palette that the game uses.
Seiken Densetsu 3 is filled with so many colors, lush greens, watery blues, firey reds, the first things that will pop out at you when you start the game are all of the vibrant colors. If you start out as Kevin, the first thing you’ll see are the cold blues and whites of the Moonnight Forest, or if you start out as Duran you’ll be greeted by the bright greens of the nearby forests.
Not only are environments colored to perfection, they’re also lively animated. Flowers will blow in the wind, rivers and waterfalls will flow fluidly, there’s always movement going on to help make the world feel alive. Especially when you’re on your way to find Luna (the Light Sprite), the dazzling colors of the rainbow flowers in the Lamp Flower Forest is a sight to behold!
The sheer variety of environments in Seiken Densetsu 3 is something to appreciate. While a good chunk of the first half of the game will take place in forest-y or rocky areas, once you start heading out to the Mana Crystals you’ll start finding lots of distinct environments. You’ll find Volcanoes, Frozen Caverns, Dark Forests, Tropical Jungles, Hot Deserts, Tall Mountains, and Ancient Ruins, just to name a few! Each of these, of course, with vastly different color patterns and unique tile-sets. No simple texture recoloring going on here!
Environments aside, character, enemy, and equipment sprites are incredible! To get them out of the way first, i’ll talk about the enemy sprites. There are a lot of different enemy types in the game, depending on which type of environment you’re in. Ice caverns will of course have icy looking dragons, and generally blue-colored enemies, things like that. The good thing is since monsters are assigned to environment types, this means that there aren’t too many recycled enemy sprites in the game.
Some generic monsters like Rabi (cute little rabbits), Hedgehogs, and Knights are re-used a few times (recolored), but other than that, you won’t run into fire-breathing insects outside of the Volcano, just like you won’t run into Icy Seahorses outside of the Ice Cavern. Where most games have a set amount of enemy types in the game and just recolor them after every couple of dungeons, Seiken Densetsu 3 takes pride in offering a nice variety of monsters that help make each area in the game feel unique and interesting!
Next we have equipment sprites. This is an aspect of Seiken Densetsu 3 that I absolutely love and wish more sprite/pixel-based games did back in the day. EACH PIECE OF EQUIPMENT HAS ITS OWN SPRITE, AND THIS GOES FOR ALL 6 CHARACTERS! That’s 6 characters, with each character having a Weapon, Helmet, Armor, and Accessory slots! That’s an absurd amount of artwork!
Secret of Mana also did this, but to a much lower degree. One thing that Secret of Mana actually does better than Seiken Densetsu 3 is Secret of Mana actually shows your weapon sprite when you attack. Sadly, Seiken Densetsu 3 doesn’t do this…if it did I’d just throw a 10 at the Graphics score right away and skip to the next section.
The equipment sprites also vary in color and design. One thing to note though, is that there is quite a bit of recoloring going on here. It’s usually only once or twice though per item sprite, but you will notice armors and helmets being recolored from the to time. Weapons differ enough that it’s a little bit harder to notice. I can’t see this as a complaint though, because with each character in the game having around probably 30 or so weapons, having 8 or so of those recolored isn’t a big enough deal to complain about! Hell, most games would just give you the weapon name in text and call it a day!
Now, onto character sprites. Your generic in-town NPCs and stuff look pretty good, but there isn’t a whole lot of variety here. There is a lot of variety, however, in the character sprites for your party members! This is another part of the game that I really love!
Each character has a different colored sprite for each class that they can change into! Each character has their default class, 2 Tier 1 classes, and 4 Tier 2 classes. This means that each character has 7 different sprites! I can’t think of any other SFC/SNES JRPG that has that many sprites per character other than Final Fantasy V (there’s WAY more per character in FFV, but that’s the entire point of the battle system). These color combinations help keep the game fresh each time you play, if you decide to choose a different class for your characters during your next playthrough.
Lastly, if you take into consideration the progressive changes from morning to noon to evening to night, colors for EVERYTHING in the game change to darker and lighter hues in real-time, further helping to give off a feeling that there’s a massive amount of art in Seiken Densetsu 3. While most games already had a Day/Night system by the end of 1995, I don’t think any game pulled it off as outstandingly as Seiken Densetsu 3 was able to!
Now that we know we’ll have lots of eye candy while playing Seiken Densetsu 3, is the game actually fun to play? I definitely think it is!
Seiken Densetsu 3 is a game that actually seems to have a big split in its playerbase. You have about 33% of players that think the combat is fun, you have about 33% that think the gameplay is slow and button mashy, and then you have another 33% who don’t seem to even know how to play the game and complain that the combat doesn’t even work. I fall inbetween the first 2 groups – I think the overall combat is fun, but it’s definitely more button mashy feeling than Secret of Mana.
Combat in Seiken Densetsu 3 feels a whole lot more like a beat-em-up than it does an “action” RPG, if that makes any sense. Combat in Secret of Mana involved basically running around and dodging stuff while either waiting for your combat meter to hit 100% or waiting for your skill bar to reach whatever level you were wanting to charge to. The movement speed of your characters in Secret of Mana allowed this sort of hit and run tactic to be possible. This isn’t quite the case in Seiken Densetsu 3.
Your characters move at a fraction of the speed in Seiken Densetsu 3 during combat. I’d estimate it’s at about 30% the speed of character movement in Secret of Mana. Not only do your characters move really slowly, enemy characters almost always seem to move much faster, basically killing any possibility of hit and run tactics.
This wouldn’t be a problem if you could run at the same speed as you can while not in combat, but Seiken Densetsu 3 forces you into “Combat Mode” when you get close to enemies. While Secret of Mana just had you in a single mode the entire game, with the option to swing freely at stuff whenever you wanted to, Seiken Densetsu 3 has separate exploration and combat modes.
Upon closing in on an enemy, your party draws their weapons and their movement speed decreases drastically. The button that is usually sprint changes to your Tech button, which eliminates your ability to sprint away from enemies to either just run past them or to merely dodge their attacks. This is actually a bit annoying when you backtrack through low level areas and you’re stuck walking past everything with your weapons drawn out.
Speed aside, Seiken Densetsu 3 plays like a beat-em-up in not only battle speed but actual fighting style. There’s virtually no way to hit enemies just out of attacking range if you don’t pick Riesz or Duran. Kevin and Hawkeye both have to get right up in the faces of their enemies in order to land any hits, which means they’ll get hit back. This changes the entire feeling of the game from a sort of strategic hit and run type game like Secret of Mana to a more Rivercity Ransom/Double Dragon-y type of arcade beat-em-up where you’re forced to trade blows.
This combined with the fact that auto-attacks now have short cooldowns, the entire pace of battles is overall much slower. One thing that seems to be a big problem for the 33% of people who think that combat doesn’t work is that they don’t seem to be aware that attacks have cooldowns, so they complain that the combat is broken when they can’t mash A and hit things every 0.5 seconds like you could in Secret of Mana (if you wanted to do 1 damage all day long…).
As you can see from another review here by some other website, which reviews the game from a fairly negative perspective, even people reviewing the game don’t care enough to sit down and actually figure out how the combat works. If the people complaining that attacks don’t go off half of the time had even an ounce of patience and actually looked at what’s happening during combat, they’d notice that the characters actually show you when their cooldowns are over.
Duran will raise his sword up into the air and it’ll sparkle, signaling that he’s ready to attack again. Hawkeye will have a similar signal with his daggers. There’s just no excuse to claim that the combat doesn’t work half of the time when you can figure out how it works if you just spend 5 seconds looking at the characters instead of the damage numbers.
The guy in the review above also claims that you can’t switch party members while in the Ring Menu (Secret of Mana and Seiken Densetsu 3’s in-combat/exploration quick menu, if you will), so in order to cast magic you have to switch characters before hand and then use it from their respective menu – therefore magic sucks and is a horrible, useless addition to the game.
Well, if he tried using the L and R buttons while in the menu he’d figure out that you CAN switch characters from the menu, meaning that casting magic is as easy as hitting one extra button first. These things happen when you play on emulators and forget about stuff like L, R, and Select…
So overall, a lot of the criticism you’ll see on message boards and stuff about combat being bugged/unresponsive/not working usually stems from a fundamental lack of understanding of the actual game mechanics, rather than a dislike of them. The criticism that the combat is slow and a bit button mashy is valid though, i’d say, but the button mashy part is player-error, as attacks actually can’t go off more than once every second or two regardless of how many times you try to attack. The game itself does give off a feeling that you should be mashing the attack button, though, so its kind of a conflicting issue.
Basic fighting mechanics aside, let’s take a look at how combat actually plays out. Upon running into enemies, you’ll see their name and levels pop up, and your party will draw their weapons out and start going at it. Most fights usually end up with your party and all of the enemies kind of forming a blob and just duking it out until everything is dead. The AI hasn’t really improved since Secret of Mana – your teammates will almost always get stuck on cliffs or inside of staircases, which means there are a lot of cases where you’ll either be stuck soloing all of the monsters, or cycling through both of your stuck characters and maneuvering them to where the action is.
Though the AI pathing is pretty garbage, they don’t do too bad once they’re actually in the fray. Once they land a hit on an enemy, they’ll usually stick to them until they kill them. The party AI will also use their Techs pretty much the second their Tech gauge fills up. The Tech gauge fills up each time you land a hit. By the end of the game, there are 3 Tech levels, with each level requiring more bars of your Tech gauge .
While it’s nice that they use their techs automatically, most characters do more damage by just auto-attacking than they do with their 5-6 second animation techs. Especially late-game single target techs, 5-6 seconds of auto-attacking will probably do 2x-3x the damage of the tech, essentially wasting battle time.
Party AI can be customized through the main menu, just like in Secret of Mana. You can control what tech levels your party will use (force them to use level 1 techs each time they fill the tech guage enough, etc.) and set their combat personality, making them less likely to engage enemies or act more offensively. While I got through the game both times with the default AI, being able to fine tune the AI is never a bad thing!
One thing that I didn’t really see mentioned anyone is the ability to Auto-battle, meaning even your main character can be controlled by the AI temporarily by holding the attack button down. You’ll notice “AT” appearing at the bottom near your character portrait, which means Automatic and your character will start moving around and attacking things for you. I think this could be a simple solution for the crowd who says combat doesn’t work, as you can just sit there and let the game do it for you!
Upon killing monsters you’ll gain experience, and after clearing the entire screen there’s a chance that a chest will drop. This chest is usually trapped, which will spawn a roulette wheel with different types of traps and a few safe spots. The traps usually result in some small damage or mimics, but even if you trigger the trap you’ll still get the loot. The loot is usually just some cheap stuff that you’ll never use after the first 10% of the game (100hp heals, status effect heals, things like that), but towards the end of the game, you’ll start finding items that you’ll need to use in order to get each character’s Best in Slot gear and items needed to class change. I’ll cover that more towards the end of this section.
Gaining enough experience allows you to level up and choose which stat you want to increase. This is actually a pretty cool way of allowing you to customize your character even more. If you feel your healing spells are a little bit weak, you can choose to increase your Spirit. If you feel opening chests is too much of a pain, you can add Luck and reduce the amount of traps per chest. This is really fun and allows you to take advantage of some character classes sooner than you would be able to otherwise.
Some classes, such as Duran’s Knight (Tier 1 class) require a certain amount of Spirit in order to be able to use his Heal Light spell. If you choose to get Duran’s Spirit and Constitution up right away, you’ll have a tanky character capable of healing everyone. If you decide to get his Intelligence and Strength up instead, you’ll have a harder hitting Duran, but the Intelligence will be a huge waste, resulting in a slightly gimped character. Spellcasters especially need to be careful with their stat placement so they can learn their spells early.
You can’t mess up your characters, though. There are soft caps on stats for each class, so that means that even if you choose a Knight Duran and pump him full of Strength, Luck, Dexterity, Intelligence and Constitution, eventually the only stat left that he can raise will be Spirit, guaranteeing that he’ll eventually learn all of his spells. The soft caps help keep your characters inline with their classes, but you still get to choose how you build them early on, so building characters is always fun and never really a scary thing.
Upon reaching levels 18 and 38, you’ll be able to class change. At level 18 you’ll have a choice between 2 classes, 1 Light-based class and 1 Dark-based class. This usually correlates with Healer/Offensive or Defensive/Offensive arch-types. Once you hit 38, you’ll be able to unlock the final 4 classes for each character. These are again a mix of Light/Dark. Your stat caps will jump up a lot, as well as your minimum stats. Class changes will lead to a considerable jump in HP/Damage for your characters. The first few levels after changing classes fly by quick, especially once you start getting some full-screen techs!
Class changing at 38 isn’t as easy as just hitting 38 and going to a Mana Crystal, though. As I slightly brushed on above, later on in the game you’ll need to start farming items from chests that will be used to class change. Each of the 4 classes have a different required item that you need to have in order to class change. These are received from planting “??? Seeds” in the flower pot at any inn. The bad thing is, you can receive multiples of the same items from the seeds, which sometimes leads you to overleveling at not being able to class change until level 40 or higher, depending on your luck.
The seed grind doesn’t end there. “Equipment Seeds” are similar, giving you the best weapon/armor/helmet/accessory for each of your characters. While this gear isn’t needed at all in order to beat the game, people who want to min/max their characters will be farming these for a long time. Reason being, you’ll receive equipment for all 4 of your characters potential classes, and each piece of gear is class-locked. This means that you can get one of Duran’s best swords, but if it’s for a Duelist and you’re a Paladin, you can’t equip it! So not only do you have to worry about getting repeats of the same items, now you have 4x the amount of possible item repeats (for all 3 characters!).
I did this grind on my first playthrough, and it added about 8 extra hours to my playthrough, but I had fairly good luck and didn’t get too many off-class items. Anyone looking to farm these should plan for an extra 10-15 hours of farming the same monsters on the same 3-4 screens. The game becomes a joke if you can actually get everyone’s best gear (even moreso if you chose a defensive party…), though!
A quick note about difficult/balance. The game overall is fairly easy, with monsters becoming harder just before class changes (just before levels 18 and 38). Once you class change, though, you basically wipe the floor with stuff for the next few levels. Balance is overall quite steady, but it goes haywire whenever you run into an area with werewolf enemies.
These guys are basically Death Hand Kevin, but they completely ignore Tech gauge build-up, so they can pretty much chain full-screen techs that hit you for 70-80% of your HP. Two of these in a row (happens WAY more often that it really should…) is a guaranteed game-over. There are 3 or 4 parts during the game where every single screen in a dungeon is filled with these guys, so your best bet is to actually just run past them and finish the boss – their EXP is usually way too low for the effort anyways.
In terms of combat/character progression, this is pretty much all there is. Other than fighting, you’ll be exploring in a similar fashion to Secret of Mana. Most exploration in the game is done by progressing through different room-like maps, going to different towns and dungeons along the way, in a linear fashion. At around the half-way point, you’ll encounter Booskaboo, a turtle-like creature who you can use as your personal boat.
This is where the game begins to open up slightly, allowing you to go around to any area that has a beach shore to land on. It’s not until the very last part of the game where you encounter Flammie, our flying dragon friend. The game opens up when you need to defeat the God Beasts, and you’re finally allowed to fly around on the overworld map and go wherever you want. The order in which you kill the God Beasts is completely up to you!
One thing I really liked about Seiken Densetsu 3 is that there was never a point in the game where I had to go do something for “filler” reasons. I didn’t have to go into a cave to get some artifact for a village elder just because, I didn’t have to go deliver something to someone just because. Every location in the game had something of importance to the story, and while the game was linear for pretty much the first half and beginning of the second half, the game never really felt like it was on-rails.
Of course some side quests for gear or something would have been cool, too, but I felt Seiken Densetsu 3 kept a really good pace. Think Chrono Trigger! Not rushed, but not too slow either!
Next, we’ll check out what Seiken Densetsu 3 has to offer musically…
The music in Seiken Densetsu 3 is absolutely fantastic. While it barely misses out on a perfect 10 (there are a couple of songs that get on my nerves…), there’s really nothing that I can actually complain about. With the OST clocking in at a very short 3 and a half hours, there are so many good songs that you’ll hear while playing Seiken Densetsu 3 it’s crazy!
Instrumentation is pretty much the same as it was in Secret of Mana. Being vastly different from pretty much every other SFC/SNES RPG out there, Seiken Densetsu 3’s OST is filled with xylophones and snare drums, among others, and full of upbeat tempos. The snare drum is right out of the 80’s, so it gives off that kind of, what do you call it, “groove” or “funk” feel to some of the songs, which is interesting at least.
There’s honestly so many great songs that it’s hard to narrow it down to just a few. This soundtrack is definitely worthy of linking the entire thing at the end, so this will be the first time I do that! First off, though, let’s begin with one of the first combat-related songs you’ll hear once your adventure starts!
Next we have a song that has that really distinct Seiken Densetsu 3/Mana series feel to it.
Next up is one of the contenders for best boss battle theme on the SFC/SNES (tied with Live A Live). Considering Seiken Densetsu 3 has some decently long boss fights, there’s no better song to listen to for 10 minutes while you pound away at a boss!
I’ll end it here before I link too many songs and slow the page down to a screeching halt. Here’s Booskaboo’s theme, which is a real fun song to listen to while you’re surfing along the water with him. Has a sort of island/reggae feel to it!
Let me be completely honest here. The entire OST is worth listening to, so i’m gonna link the whole thing below. You should definitely open it up in a separate tab and just let it flow along for the next few hours, you certainly won’t regret it! There’s enough variation in it to keep you interested til the end! (The full OST seems to have been removed from Youtube since “Trials of Mana” got released…)
As far as I remember, this is the first game that i’ve gone ahead and linked the entire OST for. It’s that good. I mentioned above that there are a few songs that kinda got on my nerves – it didn’t mean that I think they’re bad overall, they just didn’t click with me. These are mostly the Beast Kingdom-y type of songs, so it’s really only a small portion of songs in a small portion of the game (if you don’t have Kevin in your party, then actually just one area of the game)!
The OST is so good that I think i’ll actually go out and try to find a physical copy of it. The only other game OST that I own is the Final Fantasy VIII OST, so that should show you how much I actually like it!
East vs. West
I’d really like to do this section, but since there’s still officially no “West” after 23 years, there’s nothing I can really talk about and compare. I’m definitely not going to compare official scripts and stuff to unofficial fan-translations or ROM hacks for this section because the list of changes will never end.
Should you play it?
Hopefully I made it obvious through this overly long review (about 7,800 words…I know I know), but YES you should play Seiken Densetsu 3! If the level of Japanese wasn’t as crazy high as it is in the game, i’d almost recommend people to learn Japanese in order to play it in its original form. That’s how good I think it is.
If it was Final Fantasy IV or Final Fantasy V level of Japanese, i’d absolutely tell you to learn basic Japanese for a month or two and give it a whirl, but Seiken Densetsu 3 uses fairly difficult Japanese…so that leaves the fan-translation as the only way that pretty much everyone can play. I kinda tore the translation to shreds during this review, but it was for a good reason.
People overseas probably want to play games and enjoy their stories for what they were originally supposed to be. When people translate games, that essentially becomes the only way that international players can play the game, so that script becomes the law, so to speak. When things get changed around behind the scenes and then unsuspecting players interpret that as the real deal, it doesn’t sit well with me.
As long as you’re willing to acknowledge that by playing the fan-translation, you’re going to be interpreting some story events differently than you were intended to, i’d say go ahead and give the game a go. I just hate that the only logical way for everyone to play it is through emulation…i’m an anti-emulation elitist just like i’m an anti-fan-translation elitist…nothing personal.
But, don’t let translations and stuff get in the way – you gotta play Seiken Densetsu 3 if you’re a fan of JRPGs at all. Even if you’re strictly a turn-based player, the “action” isn’t that deep in Seiken Densetsu 3 – there aren’t any combos or strange mechanics that you’ll need to worry about, and the battles are slow enough that you won’t have to worry about having slow reaction times or anything of that sort!
Seiken Densetsu 3 is a fun filled 20~30 hour RPG that’ll take you along for a great adventure, meeting some awesome characters along the way. You’ll be taken to a whole other world while walking around, taking in the scenery and listening to the music. If you’re looking for the best of the best that the SFC/SNES has to offer, hell, even the entire 16-bit generation has to offer, Seiken Densetsu 3 is definitely right up there!
What version should you play?
As I said, for anyone who doesn’t speak Japanese, the only real way of playing the game is through emulation…so that’s kinda the only logical answer I have for that.
For people who do speak Japanese, MAKE SURE to get a physical copy of the game, preferably boxed. The box is just beautiful (hopefully you checked out the pictures near the beginning of the review!), the instruction manual is filled with cool pictures of the characters and even some of the gear/items in the game, and if you get a pristine copy, there’s even a cool insert previewing the releases of Front Mission and Romancing SaGa 3! Isn’t that sweet!?
A physical copy shouldn’t cost too much, but they run for about $20 domestically in Japan, so after getting gouged by import sellers, you can probably catch one for $30-40? Not bad at all for a game like this! The quality definitely surpasses a lot of stuff coming out today for $60!
If you’re looking to grab a copy for yourself, you can find them from Amazon below! (i’ll earn a small commission if purchased through these links)
Seiken Densetsu 3 (Requires a Super Famicom or modded Super Nintendo!) – Grab Seiken Densetsu 3 here! (affiliate link!)
Now for the final score…it’s gonna be HIGH.
Final Score – 37/40
Story – 9/10
Gameplay – 8.5/10
Graphics – 10/10
Music – 9.5/10
If you didn’t check it out above, take a look at my Secret of Mana (Seiken Densetsu 2) review if you have any spare time!