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Like Curtis, I was unimpressed with this game. Granted, I didn't finish it, but I think I gave it a fair chance before I decided I didn't care to play anymore. It creates a good first impression: there's actually a decent amount of plot in the beginning, the number of different characters to choose from is impressive, and the graphics can be best described as "SecretOfMana on steroids". It's definitely one fine-looking SNES title if nothing else. But after that it goes downhill. They essentially removed everything that made SecretOfMana work and created a very boring combat system. In every fight (especially against bosses since they tend to be big and easy to hit), I felt that my entire role as the player was just to pass out the health items before people started dying. Overall a disappointing follow-up. --AlexBobbs

SeikenDensetsuThree is an action RPG made by the great Squaresoft. The Japanese title literally translates into "Legend of Holy Sword." Like the FinalFantasy games, the SeikenDensetsu? series shares common elements, but are not strict sequels/prequels because they happen in different worlds. SeikenDensetsuOne? is known in the US as FinalFantasyAdventure? and was released for the GameBoy. SeikenDensetsuTwo? was released in the US for the SuperNintendo as SecretOfMana. Seiken DensetsuFour? was released in the US for the PlayStation as LegendOfMana. SeikenDensetsuThree was never released in the US. I hear they're working on SeikenDensetsuFive?; no word yet on a US release. SecretOfEvermore? is another game with a strange pedigree that was (if I recall correctly) designed for the US market as a sequel to SecretOfMana, but otherwise has nothing to do with the SeikenDensetsu? series. Confused yet?

I kinda liked SecretOfEvermore? myself. I'm told that a lot of people don't like it because they were expecting something along the lines of SeikenDensetsuTwo?. I liked the alchemy system, though. --JeffBrenion

SeikenDensetsuThree takes an unusual approach to the plot and party members. At the beginning of the game, you are presented with six potential party members. The first one you select will be the leader of the group (and determine most of the plot); the other two become the sidekicks (and determine minor side details, among other things). Several locations are greatly influenced by your party members; without Duran or Angela, it's unlikely that you'll visit the Kingdom of Altena very much, and you'll never go to the Dark Palace.

For the most part, the plot is split into three parallel lines - or more specifically, three different groups of people who are trying to obtain the Sword of Mana and thus rule/destroy/laugh insanely at the world/universe/local ice cream shop. Each of these groups has inconvenienced two of the characters (the wizard who has convinced Angela's mother to kick her out for not having enough magical skill is also leading the attack on swordsman Duran's home country, as an example.)

Each character starts out with a base class: Cleric, Grappler, Amazon, etc. Class changes can be performed twice in the game; at each one, the character selects either the "light" or "dark" path. For instance, Duran will learn to cast elemental sword spells if he starts down the dark path for his first class change, while taking the light path gives him some basic curative magic and the ability to use a shield. There are around 1250 possible final parties, some of which are far more effective than others.

This was much more fun than a DE's midterm, don't you think.

SeikenDensetsuThree (hereafter abbreviated to SD3) was fun, but I wouldn't call it a great game. It, in my opinion, was bettered by both of the previous games (making allowances for FinalFantasyAdventure?'s age), especially by SecretOfMana. I'd give it 3/5, for reasons which I will elucidate below.

Plot: While I wouldn't call the plots of either FinalFantasyAdventure? (FFA) or SecretOfMana (SoM?) stunning, they had better dramatic timing. The promised nonlinearity offered by your choices in character selection is very limited: the very beginning of the game is different, and there are three different possible final dungeons, and that's about it. Gameplay changes, but the plot is more or less identical. You find out right after the opening sequence what the goal of the game is, and then you pursue it with very little further development until the end of the game. SoM? and FFA had at least the virtue of not unfurling everything at the very beginning, so that there was some development left for the rest of the game. SD3 also had some hackneyed plot "twists" that have seen way too much use: the heroes hand over their uberweapon because the bad guys are threatening the heroes' allies'/friends'/family members'/love interests' lives; and the heroes are tricked, not once, but twice!, into doing the bad guy's dirty work. I would charitably describe SD3's plot as tepid and cliched.

Characters: Character development? What's that? Ok, SD3's six characters had more development than say, the lion's share of ChronoCross's, but that's what's called, "damning with faint praise." The characters were introduced in their opening sequences, and then developed with few more lines of dialogue throughout the game. In writing, characters of that kind are called flat for a reason: they're boring. SoM? and FFA were not paragons of character development, but I felt more interest in the trials and tribulations of their generic characters than the named, identified characters of SD3. What does that say?

Gameplay: At this point you're wondering if I have anything positive to say about this game. Well, the game itself was fun (sometimes). The character development is interesting, and the choices have real consequences; get it right and you kick ass, get it wrong and well, the enemies kick your's. The skills you deploy can make the difference in battles, and they have a fair variety of different effects; SD3 also eliminated SoM?'s awful skill-based magic system, which required you to spend hours leveling magic to make it useful. Unfortunately, that's about all I did like. Too much of the game degenerates into button-mashing hack-and-slash, unless you have an offensive spell-caster, in which case it degenerates into watching spell effects go off, with an occasional pause to select your next spell.

Much of SoM? could be described this way too. However, I found SoM?'s combat much more interesting. First, you had a variety of weapon choices, including both ranged and melee weapons, and each of the weapons possessed quirks which made it distinct from the next; SD3 lacks ranged weapons, and each character has only one weapon type. The different charge levels in SoM? did not have the simple "higher is better" structure which rules most of SD3, with a few exceptions. Finally, the enemies in SoM? felt much more distinct; I have never learned to hate any of the enemies in SD3 with the same passion as I did, e.g., the Tomato Men in SoM?. Different enemies required not only different spells, but different tactics and different weapons.

Graphics: SD3 is a pretty game, especially for the SNES. However, I found the art rather muddy and drab; SoM? was filled with bright colors, and that helped me tell what was happening during a session of button-mashing hack-and-slash.

Music: The music wasn't bad, per se, but I found none of it as memorable as the Flammie theme from SoM?, nor the Mana Fortress theme.

Interface: SD3's interface is not as elegant as SoM?'s. While it still has the ring menus, in many cases they've been replaced with an ugly, more traditional menu system. Most annoying is the suckage of the AI controls: unlike in SoM?, in SD3 it's impossible to keep secondary characters (casters) from approaching the enemy to attack. Another annoying thing is that it impossible to change AI behavior in combat, including the types of techs they use: because some enemies counterattack against level 2/3 techs with "kill-all-heroes" abilities, this is very irritating. If I wasn't playing on an emulator, I'd have been very pissed to walk into some boss battles with the wrong AI set and then to be sent on a quick trip back to the last save point.

Other: SD3 was pitifully short on secrets. There's only one big one that I've seen in the FAQ's. I, contrary to popular opinion, enjoyed SecretOfEvermore?, and much of the fun came from the tremendous amount of hidden stuff in that game. SD3 lacks that element.

SD3 also had fewer of the "Wow, that's cool," moments I remember from SoM?, e.g. seeing the Secret Land for the first time.

Am I getting crotchety in my old age? Did I like SecretOfMana and ChronoTrigger so much because I was young and naive? This review sounds negative, but I don't hate SD3, I just don't like it, either. I think I understand why they never released it in America (this is not true of, e.g., FinalFantasyFive, which was a worthy successor to that series).


Like Curtis, I was unimpressed with this game. Granted, I didn't finish it, but I think I gave it a fair chance before I decided I didn't care to play anymore. It creates a good first impression: there's actually a decent amount of plot in the beginning, the number of different characters to choose from is impressive, and the graphics can be best described as "SecretOfMana on steroids". It's definitely one fine-looking SNES title if nothing else. But after that it goes downhill. They essentially removed everything that made SecretOfMana work and created a very boring combat system. In every fight (especially against bosses since they tend to be big and easy to hit), I felt that my entire role as the player was just to pass out the health items before people started dying. Overall a disappointing follow-up. --AlexBobbs

SD3 includes perhaps the silliest looking means of transportation I'm familiar with: Booskaboo.

Things that would never have made it into a US release: Pink Typhoon.

At the end of the game with the party I played, Angela says "I've found something better than magic," or something to that effect, and Kevin asks, "Why look at me?" or something to that effect. What happens in an all-female party?

A spoilerish discussion of SD3's difficulty. If you don't want to be spoiled, don't read further.

I started playing the game knowing nothing. I picked Hawk, Duran, and Lise as my party, more or less at random. On the general principle that, "If the game designer doesn't want me to do something, that means I should do it," I elected a stat maximization strategy (the game includes limits on your stats, both during the progression and a cap depending on your class): I picked a few stats for each character and maxed them as I went through the game. For Hawk, I chose Agility and Luck; Duran, Strength and Vitality; Lise, Strength and Spirit. While fighting the God-Beasts, I realized that it was not working. Or rather, working partly: Hawk sucked, Lise died, and Duran kicked ass. By the time I was ready for the second class change, I had a better idea of what I was doing: I maxed everyone's Strength, worked on Hawk's Agility and Intelligence, and Lise's and Duran's Agility and Vitality. This worked better, but it's still not optimal. I'll talk about that more for my second run through.

The only time I looked at a FAQ for this first time through the game was to get an idea of the controls and to look at character classes. For the latter, I got a cursory idea of what each class did: i.e., Gladiator=saber magic, Ninja=stat down magic, Valkyrie=stat up magic. Those were my class choices. Since I was having no problems with healing with items at that point, I thought, "Hey, I can tough it out until the second class change, right?" Well, I did. But it hurt.

Because of my poor choice of stat distribution before the first class change, I sucked it up right before the change. Then, I changed, and because of my (changed) poor stat distribution and class choices, I sucked it up for most of the God-Beasts too. SD3 uses a very dumb defense system: Damage=Attack-Defense. If your strength falls behind, soon you're doing 1 damage. Hawk suffered this problem throughout the God-Beasts, and Lise a milder version. Similarly, if your defense falls behind (say, if you're neglecting Vitality), you suffer the opposite version of the same problem: each and every hit almost kills you. The latter, combined with my total lack of healing except through items, had me cursing and swearing through several of the God-Beasts: Fire, Earth, and Moon, which I did like 4-7, were painful. By the time I got to Light, I had figured out what was going wrong and had gained enough levels to start to correct it, but my problems didn't end until second class change.

For second class change, I went with Ninja Master, Star Lancer, and Sword Master. With better stat distribution and multi-target stat lowering/increasing spells, I cut my way through the final dungeon. Moon Saber made the bosses more doable, once I got it, because it provided another source of healing (the last boss before I got it almost exhausted my total supply of healing items), as did all the stat lowering/raising. I beat the final boss at level 46/47: all my characters were in their final classes, had all the skills from those classes, and I had all the final weapons; I lacked most of the final armors and had not maxed my stats.

Next, I looked at FAQ's. One in particular proved helpful, confirming my suspicions about the way damage worked. I also looked at some more class change FAQ's. Since your stats max at each class change to the highest achievable in your previous class, you can change your distributions as you go through the game without penalty. Also, some stats are better than others: Strength must be maxed if you want to do physical damage, Vitality is crucial for physical defense, Intelligence is important for magic defense/casting, and Spirit is important for healing/a few other spells. Agility raises your evade rate, but not enough to be helpful, and your hit rate, which is not often important. Luck is supposed to raise your critical hit rate, which would rock if it worked, but because of a bug, it doesn't, and luck does very few other things to justify pumping it. Finally, I discovered the joy of Poto Oil: this item allows you to heal all your characters. Life with my previous party would have been much easier if I had picked some of this up. I also discovered that there were purchaseable items which replaced saber magic and stat up magic.

Armed with my new knowledge, I set out with my second party: Angela, Kevin, and Carlie (chosen to be disjoint with my first party). I suspected this would prove difficult, because of the two casters. It proved much easier than I thought.

Having healing in abundance (Carlie) made things smoother, though I could heal almost as well with items; the only real difference was that I was much less worried about running out during battle. I sailed through the game until first class change, which I managed later than in my previous run-through: I hit level 18 after I had done both the Ice and Fire crystals, whereas before I hit it just as I finished the first one. Angela became a Sorceress, Carlie an Enchantress, and Kevin a Monk.

The God-Beasts were harder than the first section. I tackled them in a better order, dealing with the hard ones first. Part of this was that again I suffered problems with damage: I focused my casters on Intelligence and Spirit, to maximize their damage-dealing potential, which left their Vitality weak. Kevin, with whom I focused on Strength and Vitality, had few problems, except when he got hit with magic, and even then he had so many HP I didn't care in most cases.

I made it to the Dragon's Hole at level 32. For the very last part, I dashed through rather than fighting, so I could not gain too many levels before my second class change; I finished at level 38. I got a total of one ??? Seed, the item you need to activate the final class change. I turned it into a Gold Wolf Soul, and made Kevin a God Hand, after running most of the way through the Holy Land. Thus, I fought the final boss at level 39/40, with two characters still in their second classes (Angela as Sorceress and Carlie as an Enchantress). After an annoying and long battle, I succeeded in kicking the final boss's ass.

In other words, the first time I found SD3 hard, the second easy. I don't get it. A little knowledge is a powerful thing?


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