(SNES / Super Nintendo)

Seiken Densetsu 3 (SNES / Super Nintendo)

Game Review

Seiken Densetsu 3 Review

USA USA Version

Posted by Corbie Dillard

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.


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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User Comments (46)



moomoo said:

If only this came to the US...
Great review, Corbs. I'll try to try it sometime.



Slapshot said:

and again Corb you come up with another game Ive not heard of in Japan. Awesome review!



StarBoy91 said:

Great review, Corbie.
I still need to beat Seiken Densetsu 2 [Secret of Mana] {three bosses left, including the Dark Lich}, but I wonder how I'm gonna play this one iteration (it only came in Japan).



StarBoy91 said:

So, the only way to play this game is by emulating, out of curiosity? [Hope I didn't sound rude]



Corbs said:

Well unless you can land one of the English patched cartridges, yes, you'll have to emulate it. And don't even ask how much this cart cost me? I still don't like to even think about it.



Shiryu said:

One of the best games I have ever played in my life. It's such a tragedy games of this caliber were left forgottne in Japan, with no one steping up to released them in the west. I must thank the fans that translated this games back in 1998 or 1999, I think. I remeber seing the patch being released and almost not believing that some guys, out of love and dedication had tons of work translating and hacking to rom to Shakespeare language. Played stright for two weeks with different party members, saw 2 different endings. I have no clue why after this one, the Mana series lost it's magic with the possible exception of the GBA version. Great review, good stuff Corbie.



StarBoy91 said:

Judging from what I read in this review, Seiken Densetsu 3/Secret of Mana 2 sounds like it has a lot of replay value. Cool.



pixelman said:

Meh, I really don't like Secret of Mana. Some of the portions of the game are incredibly frustrating.



Corbs said:

If you found Mana frustrating, you'd better stay as far from this one as possible. Some of these boss fights are insanely long and tough.



Adamant said:

Eh, depends on whether he found Secret of mana frustrating because of it's flaws or because of it's legitimate challenge. SD3 fixes most of those flaws, making it far less annoying to play.



Corbs said:

I didn't find Mana too tough at all. In fact I'd rate SD3 more difficult overall. Just takes a little more fighting and leveling up at times.



StarBoy91 said:

I'm still impressed from the visuals in this game that I've seen from the screenshots. It looks like the most visually impressive (nonprerendered) 16-bit title.



Bassman_Q said:

Meh, I couldn't stand Secret of Mana because of its cheap fighting system where its WAY too easy to get pinned down by enemies and die. I swear, once you get hit in that game, expect to die in a few instances, especially when several enemies are onscreen.



Bassman_Q said:

Wait, is Final Fantasy Adventure considered Seiken Densetsu 1, then? Cuz I just recieved it off eBay, and gonna play it now.



brandonbwii said:

Why hasn't this been localized on DS for a worldwide release? If they can get away with charging $40 for Chrono Trigger DS then this should've been a no-brainer.



KeeperBvK said:

I never quite understood why this got so much love. I always thought that SD 2 (and SD 1) were far better games, with SD 3 just feeling bland and boring in comparison to the others and simply like as it didn't receive nearly as much passion on behalf of the developers as the two predecessors did. It's still a neat game with a great soundtrack, but I'd pick SD1+2 over this any day.



Vinsanity said:

@KeeperBvK: I never understood why the whole series got so much love. I've played it. Meh. The combat system is obnoxious; every strike draining stamina? Who thought that was a good idea? It just gives combat a weird flow. There are so many better action-RPG's from this era if you ask me. Why didn't Ys get this love?

I mean, I'll gladly admit that they're gorgeous and have some nice tune-age. And I'm sure Multiplayer is a major factor for those who champion these games (just like with SEGA's Gain Ground). I just personally don't get it.



Kafei2006 said:

What a coincidence ? I finally finished this game three days ago on my cartridge XD (played with Hawkeye as the main hero and Lise and Angela as the two others), though i had played it through emulation before, to get the story thanks to fan-translation.

To everyone here : If the gameplay in SD3 is bland, then it is ten times more in SD1 & 2. There's so much more you can do in SD3, like the BAs, the summons, the jutsus... of course all this comes after you get the hang of the growth and class change systems, so those who give up after just a few hours will only see the visible part of the iceberg.

The only aspect of the game that got me disappointed a bit was the plot, which wasn't as interesting as the two before it but just because to actually get the whole plot, you have to play it multiple times, and then you see the whole story unfold by crossing all the different stories that you can only see based on the main character you chose at the beginning of the game. If you plan to finish it only once, then sure, you won't find a very deep plot.



StarBoy91 said:

I looked up that Hiroki Kikuta, the composer behind Seiken Densetsu 2/Secret of Mana, also composed for this game. I'll admit I listened to one of the songs from this game on YouTube, and it sounded amazing.



WolfRamHeart said:

Great review Corbie! This game looks absolutely gorgeous! I really wish that I could play it!



Kurachi said:

cool, didnt know this page was here
i'd like to have this game on the VC, and maybe it'll happen one day
i played it a bit, and kevin is most cool guy i played him myself
choosing carly as last is better than choosing her as second... or first (unless you're very good at her)



Bassman_Q said:

OK nevermind what I previously said about this series. I just started a new file on SD2, and it rocks! Sure it gets repetitive at times, but I realized that grinding a bit and buying the correct equipment can easily get you through the game.



Stuffgamer1 said:

Is this game lacking the multiplayer element found in Secret of Mana? If so, I call LAAAAAAAME! That was the best part of SoM! Not that it really matters since I'm lacking in a good way to play this anyway. Just wondering, really.



StarBoy91 said:

Now that you mention it, Stuffy, I haven't noticed 'til just now that it says Seiken Densetsu 3/Secret of Mana 2 is for one player.



Corbs said:

Sorry about that. There is the ability for a second player to join in and take over one of the other party members. There's also a 3-player patch floating around out there and I thought you needed it to play multiplayer. Turns out the game can be played by one or two players straight out of the box. I'll correct that.



Ricardo91 said:

Looks pretty good. But given how much I hated the other Mana games (besides Final Fantasy Adventure), I have afeeling this one won't change my mind.



Stuffgamer1 said:

Two players in the regular game, but three players requires a ROM patch? Well, it's better than I thought, but it's still pretty lame given that Secret of Mana has three-player from the start. They should remake this game with real three-player support and release an official localization in the West. That'd be awesome.



CanisWolfred said:

My favorite in the series. It fixed pretty much every annoyance I encountered with Secret of Mana, and added a bunch of nice stuff that sweetened the deal! It's the best sequel you could ask for, IMO. I do hope it gets an official release here someday, but until then, I'm perfectly happy playing the ROM.



MeloMan said:

I was really hoping that since Square Enix was feeling like diving into their vault and re-releasing games, I was REALLY hoping that SD3 and Terranigma would be imported to VC. I don't even care if they're localized and released to DS, I just want to play these games. I found an emulated SD3 but it wasn't english sigh... Guess I'll have to go look for that English patch and d/l it. At least my Terranigma emulation plays good...



StarBoy91 said:

So, which is best to try first, out of curiosity:

Secret of Evermore or Seiken Densetsu 3/Secret of Mana 2? 'cause I'm also interested in the former.



Gamebits said:

Was there a content-based reason why this game was deemed unacceptable for Western audiences?



kidcoyote_anarchy said:

It was too buggy to pass Nintendo of America's standards.
If like the first SOM I'd go with SD3 first if you don't mind emulating. A rom with an english patch already on it isn't that hard to find.

I've beaten this game with a Angela/Duran/Reitz party but never beat the first Secret Of Mana and I found it not a challenge at all. Like most RPGs if you level grind long enough you can breeze through the game. I think a combination of a compilation SD1-3 for the DS would be awesome with the original gameboy version of SD1 as a unlockable if you beat one of the games.



WildPidgeyAppears said:

It's a true shame that for most people, the only way to enjoy this game is through less-than-legal means. Square should see the primo opportunity there is to releasing this amazing game either on DS or VC. If they can be bothered to retranslate Chrono Trigger and remake FFIV for DS, they can certainly do us this favor. Square has to know there's a large fanbase wanting this game in the US. We don't ALWAYS want just more Final Fantasy, people

Of course, given the weird trend to not bother translating text-heavy games on VC (see: that Milon game for SNES), the VC thing might not happen...



retro_player_22 said:

You can get this game for your NA Super NES by way of a reproduction cartridge at Time Walk Games website. The game support 3-players co-op, fully translated in English, and will work on any NA Super NES. You could get the box version or just the cart alone.



Gridatttack said:

Loving this, playing it now with my brother, thought its harder for sure than SOM. We never had to grind in SOM, but here, you have to, otherwise the enemies will pwn you.

Also reproduction cartridges are lame. Unless you really want to play it on the real console, I say you play the ROM on the PC instead. You're as guilty playing the translation as playing them in whatever platform, since repros just burn the modded ROM, and they charge an insane price which isn't justified and no profit is going to square anyway (and sometimes removes the translator credits)



Tasuki said:

Picked up a reproduction cartridge of this last weekend at the Portland Retro Gaming Expo and I am looking forward to playing it. I enjoyed Secret of Mana alot.

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