Review: Seiken Densetsu 3 (SNES)

An action-rpg for the ages!

When it came time to create a follow up to their fairly successful action-rpg Secret of Mana, Squaresoft decided to try something a little different. While they were already developing the direct sequel Seiken Densetsu 3 in Japan, they created a US development studio and put them to task creating a more "Americanized" action-rpg in the hopes of attracting more US RPG fans. While the end result, known as Secret of Evermore, was a solid RPG, it was nowhere near as highly regarded as Seiken Densetsu 3. While the game has never been officially localized for release outside of Japan, a small group of fans got together and translated the game themselves so gamers in other parts of the world could finally enjoy it.

For the most part, the basic gameplay elements of Secret of Mana have carried over to Seiken Densetsu 3, including the sword-swinging action-style combat, but in a much improved way. Instead of waiting for your weapon to recharge after a swing, this game allows your sword to always feature the same power and strength, only this time with each hit you manage to land on an enemy, your tech gauge will begin to fill up. When this tech gauge reaches a certain level, you'll then be able to perform a Tech that can be anything from a very powerful melee attack to casting a useful spell. Once you perform a Tech, the gauge will reset and you'll be forced to attack more enemies in order to refill it. Your other two AI-controlled party members will assist you in battle, and you can even adjust their settings to have them perform the type of combat actions that are most useful to you in battle - or if you feel like a little multiplayer action, you can have another player join in and take control of one of the other two available characters in your party.

It's great to see that Squaresoft recognized some of the better features of Secret of Mana and chose to bring them over to this sequel. The Ring Menu system is back and makes selecting weapons, specialtiy items, and even magic spells quick and intuitive, even in the heat of combat. The changes made to the gameplay system give the game a much smoother and more action-oriented feel to it and even the AI tends to be a lot more effective this time around, although there will still be times when your computer-controlled characters will get stuck behind an obstruction or not attack the enemy you'd like them to. When you combine these old and new elements with an extremely lengthy adventure that can be experienced from multiple angles, depending on which characters you choose to play with at the beginning of the game, you end up with an extremely fulfilling RPG adventure that will not only keep you glued to the television for the duration of the quest, but also bring you back to tackle the game from a different angle of the unique Triangle Story feature.

The developers at Square were always well known for their reputation of stretching the visual capabilities of a console to its limits and Seiken Densetsu 3 is certainly no exception. While the graphics are still sprite-based, the level of detail and variation of colour usage is astounding. Not only that, but the enemies and characters also show a surprising amount of detail and some very clever animations. It's also quite nice that almost every new area you visit throughout the game has its own unique visual style, so you'll certainly never tire of the gorgeous scenery as you trek through the game's many expansive areas. It's safe to say that the visual presentation in the game is easily one of the best the Super Nintendo console ever offered up and one you'll surely take notice of the moment you begin playing.

Not to be outdone by the graphic artistry of the game, the musical score in Seiken Densetsu 3 is spectacular from start to finish. Sure you'll get an average track from time to time, but from a creative standpoint, the composers were able to create one of the most catchy and diverse musical presentations to come out of the 16-bit era and still one that rivals many CD-quality soundtracks of many of today's games. Even the sound effects feature a very crisp ring to them and show just how much attention to detail was paid the audio package. It's certainly not surprising that the official Seiken Densetsu 3 CD soundtrack is still one of the best-selling video game soundtracks in history.

Conclusion

To say that Seiken Densetsu 3 is an amazing action-rpg would be a gross understatement. It basically does everything a good sequel should do and more. It takes many of the better aspects of Secret of Mana and improves upon almost every single one of them. The music is better, the visuals are far more detailed, and the gameplay has a much more strategic feel to it this time around. Couple all of these improvements with the unique Triangle Storyline and you have not only a lengthy quest, but an extremely engaging one as well. If you've ever wondered why Seiken Densetsu 3 is so highly-regarded among RPG fans, you only need take the game for a quick spin to see just why that is. It's easily one of the best RPGs to come out of the 16-bit era and one no RPG fan should miss.

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