Seiken Densetsu 3

Many videogame generations ago, particularly with regards to console role-playing games, it was always a crapshoot about which of a series’ entries would see English localization, the case with Squaresoft’s Final Fantasy series, with their translated iterations seeing different numbering than their Japanese counterparts. Their Seiken Densetsu (Legend of the Sacred Sword) franchise’s first entry saw English release as Final Fantasy Adventure, which was okay since in Japan, the initial GameBoy entry was pitched as a gaiden to the FF franchise, although with its first sequel on the Super NES, Secret of Mana, the pantheon paved its own path. A third entry would see release on the system’s Japanese counterpart, the Super Famicom, as Seiken Densetsu 3, which would become one of the few franchise entries not to receive an English translation, somewhat sad since it’s an enjoyable game.

When starting a new game, the player picks one of six characters to be the primary protagonist, and two allies to join him or her, although gamers, without the aid of a guide, may have a hard time choosing them, given the inability to view each character’s strengths and weaknesses, alongside abilities they’ll ultimately acquire. Battles themselves begin when the player’s characters approach enemies in fields between towns and dungeons, in which instance they go into combat mode, moving slowly. However, players can hold down the attack button to have them charge and attack the nearest enemy if a character’s path is clear, with a brief waiting time after a successful attack until a character can perform their next one (if a standard attack fails to damage an enemy, the player can continue attacking until they do indeed strike a foe).

Within battle, each character has an ability gauge that increases with successful strikes, and once enough bars fill, a character can execute a more powerful attack, with the aforementioned feature with regards to missed assaults carrying on in this instance. Killing enemies nets the player’s characters still alive experience and money, with occasional treasure chests yielding items, as well; if an ally is dead at the end of battle but the others finish the fight, then the deceased confederate will revive with one HP. Level-ups happen sporadically, in which case a character receives an increase in maximum hit points, and the player selects a stat to increase by one point.

New to the third Seiken game is a system where each character can change classes twice, first at level eighteen and second at level thirty-eight. When shifting classes, a character can choose a dark or light change, each ally with the potential to be of one of four different classes in the end. Selecting classes can be a difficult decision without a guide, since players don’t have any in-game information about MP-consuming abilities their party will acquire from specific classes when leveling in specific occupations. To unlock a character’s secondary class further necessitates a walkthrough, again with no possibility to see spells unlocked for specific classes. Each class change lengthens a character’s attack gauge to allow them to execute more powerful physical attacks against antagonists.

Aside from the aforementioned guide damnation involved with class changes, the core game mechanics of the second Seiken sequel are still enjoyable, building decently upon the system present in Secret of Mana, albeit without the ability to make weapons more powerful through repeated use (with new weapons and armor alike upgradable at shops). Death, though, can be somewhat punishing since the unfortunate occasion resets the game, with progress obtained at the time lost, and save points, grey statues merely allowing a player to save their game, although golden statues recover all HP and MP, are often with poor placement, with lengthy enemy-infested stretches preceding bosses, alongside overlooked rooms in which to save, being common. Even so, combat has plenty going for it.

The dishonor of the game’s weakest aspect definitely goes to control, although it does have some positive aspects such as good direction on how to advance the main storyline, the ability to see how prospective equipment increases or decreases stats, and items allowing for instant return to dungeon entrances. The negative aspects, however, definitely hamper the experience, among them being the absence of in-game maps prevalent in even some fellow 16-bit titles such as the third Zelda game, the inability to purchase items in bulk if the player wishes to keep a good supply (the game restricting how many item types they can take into combat), the sluggishness of menus outside the item and spell rings, the tedium of changing equipment, and so on. Ultimately, the developers could have definitely given interaction a thorough once-over.

The story is definitely a positive aspect aside from its disconnection with previous Seiken titles and a mild rehash of the “find all the elemental spirits” goal of its immediate predecessor, although the choice of characters definitely alters the narrative at times, and accounts for superb replayability.

Hiroki Kikuta returns to compose the third entry’s soundtrack, with plenty of enjoyable tracks, although there are occasional silent portions.

The graphics are for the most part a step above those in Secret of Mana, although there are some minor negative aspects such as the sloppy character art in the title’s interface portions and that the trademark dancing merchants actually look slightly worse than they did in the second installment.

Finally, the third entry is somewhat lengthy, taking somewhere from thirty to sixty hours to complete, with plenty reasons to go through the game again given the variety of characters and classes, even if getting the most out of the game requires a guide. In the end, Seiken Densetsu 3 is for the most part a solid sequel that hits most of the right notes with regards to aspects such as its battle system, story, and presentation, although there are things that leave room for improvement such as vague in-game information of the class system and especially the clunky interface, although the third Seiken game definitely deserved a localization, players instead needing to settle for the fan translation in order to experience this classic.

This review is based on a playthrough with Duran, Kevin, and Lise.

The Good:
+Solid combat with a variety of character and class options.
+Great story with differences depending upon chosen characters.
+Superb aural and visual presentation.
+Endless replay value.

The Bad:
-Class changing can be vexing without a guide.
-No in-game dungeon maps.
-Can’t buy items in bulk.
-Poor placement of save points.

The Bottom Line:
A gem that deserved localization.

Score Breakdown:
Platform: Super Famicom
Game Mechanics: 8/10
Controls: 7/10
Story: 9/10
Music/Sound: 9/10
Graphics: 9/10
Lasting Appeal: 10/10
Difficulty: Medium
Playing Time: 30-60 Hours

Overall: 9/10

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