Seiken Densetsu 3 (聖剣伝説3 Seiken Densetsu Surī, lit. "Holy Sword Legend 3") is an action role-playing game developed and published by Square (now Square Enix) for Nintendo's Super Famicom as a part of the Mana series.
The game features three lengthy main plotlines, six different characters, each with their own storylines, and a wide range of classes to choose from, which provides each character with an exclusive set of skills and status progression. The game also makes use of a time progression system, with transitions from day to night and weekday to weekday in game time, adding to the game's challenging gameplay.
Although the game was only published in Japan, many Western players have been able to come into contact with Seiken Densetsu 3 thanks to an unofficial English fan translation.
Seiken Densetsu 3 acts very much like its predecessor Secret of Mana, as it employs a real-time combat system, making use of a ring menu which provides the player with quick access to magic, items and character information, amongst other options. One of its main differences, though, is that the range of characters is doubled to six, with the player choosing the three members of his or her party when commencing a new game. A single variety of weapon is available for each character, and the "progression by means of use" present on the series' previous game was removed from the weapons and magic systems; now the only factor which influences a spell's damage is how high the character's "magic" attribute is. A storage system was introduced for any excess items, replacing Secret of Mana's "four-of-a-kind maximum rule". The player can switch items between storage and their ten-slot item ring menu, or else "top-up" items currently in it to a maximum of nine each.
A battle mode was introduced as part of the gameplay, which freezes some aspects of normal gameplay (such as item storage) to allow the player to focus on defeating monsters. Players can exit battle mode by moving off-screen or far enough away from the monsters for it to be disengaged (unlike Legend of Mana's "no-escape" mode). When in battle mode, the character adds one point to his or her "power gauge" by making an attack which hits a monster (in place of Secret of Mana's vulnerable charge-up). When the gauge is full enough, special moves can be unleashed - moves vary according to the character and their class. Once all enemies on-screen are defeated, the player has the chance to receive a reward item in a treasure chest. Sometimes, a "prize" wheel of traps is given when opening the chest; this can be eluded by timing the cursor to fall over an "OK" disc.
Unlike the prequel, however, instead of setting the characters' range to the enemy and their level of aggression, the player sets directives on the character's behavior during combat, such as taking an individual target or supporting another character. The player can also determine whether or not the AI characters will make use of their power gauge and what earned abilities they may use, though magic spells must be cast manually by the human player.
Classes and LevelingEdit
Level progression is coordinated by the player, as a choice is given regarding where to invest a character statistics point at every level up. A "class" system is also present. Once a character reaches level 18, he or she is able to go to a Mana Stone and choose a class to progress to - either a class aligned to "Light" or a class aligned to "Dark" - which provides a different set of skills and different improvements to character statistics. A second class change may be performed at level 38. The second change requires the use of rare items to be performed, and once again an option between a "Light" and a "Dark" class is presented. However, there is a key difference between the second class change and the first class change. Although the first class change of "Light" and/or "Dark" is in the player's power of choosing, the second class change will advance the character depending on which of the two rare items for that character's class you use for the class change at the Mana Stone. Counting all possibilities, there is a total of seven possible classes for every character, including the initial class.
Passage of timeEdit
Seiken Densetsu 3 also employs a calendar function into its gameplay. The seven-day week cycles much more quickly than an actual one — a day passes in a number of minutes — but it still affects gameplay in certain ways.
- Luna Day - Moon magic is stronger.
- Salamander Day - Fire magic is stronger.
- Undine Day - Water magic is stronger.
- Dryad Day - Wood magic is stronger.
- Jinn Day - Wind magic is stronger.
- Gnome Day - Earth magic is stronger.
- Mana Holy Day - All elemental magic is balanced.
A Day is also divided into day and night, represented by Wisp and Shade respectively. Reportedly, the use of the opposite elements according to day and time and the game's elementology are not weakened; for example, using water spells on a Salamander Day does not make them weaker than using them on a Gnome Day.
Certain events only happen during certain times of day, such as a nighttime-only black market selling particularly rare items. Enemies encountered in the field also change during certain time periods, and some may be sleeping if characters approach them at night. Using an inn's services allows the player to "skip" the game's clock to that day's evening, or the following morning. Mana Holy Day is also notable in the game's calendar as players can use the inns' healing and time-skipping service for free, while a nominal charge is given on other days.
According to Seiken Densetsu 3's in-game lore, the Goddess of Mana created the game's world by forging the powerful Sword of Mana and defeating the eight Benevodons with it, sealing them within eight Mana Stones before turning herself into the Mana Tree and falling asleep. The game is set at a time when Mana starts to fade and peace has ended, as some people plot to unleash the Benevodons from the stones in order to gain ultimate power, both politically and magically. Heroes of Mana is a direct prequel to Seiken Densetsu 3, taking place 19 years before the latter's story.
With the exception of Charlotte, the characters are told (or otherwise decide) to seek the advice of the Priest of Light in the Holy City Wendel. They arrive at the city of Jadd soon after the Beastmen have invaded. Due to the Beastmen's werewolf powers, they are able to make an escape by night while the Beastmen are distracted.
All characters, on the way to Wendel, stay overnight in Astoria where they are woken by a bright light. Following it, the light reveals itself to be a Faerie from the Mana Sanctuary (Mana Holyland in the fan-translation), exhausted by her journey. Out of desperation, the Faerie chooses the main character to be her host, and tells them to get to Wendel. There, while the main character is explaining her or his grievances to the Priest of Light, the Faerie interrupts and explains that the Mana Tree is dying and that the Sanctuary is in danger. This is grave news for the Priest, for if the Tree dies, the Benevodons will reawaken and destroy the world.
He goes on to explain that, because the Faerie has chosen the main character as her host, he or she must travel to the Mana Sanctuary to draw the Sword of Mana from the foot of the Mana Tree to restore peace to the world. Once accomplished, the main character may then have his or her wishes granted by the Goddess of Mana if the Sword can be drawn before the Tree dies. However, there is a catch: a great deal of power is needed to open the gate to the Sanctuary. The Faerie does not have the strength to do it alone, and the ancient spell which would do so by unlocking the power in the Mana Stones also takes the caster's life. However, the Stones' guardian spirits (Secret of Mana's Elementals) are able to open the gate once their powers are combined.
After journeying across the world to get the Spirits, thwarting the invasion attempts of Nevarl and Altena, discovering the powers of the Fire and Water Mana Stones released (by agents of Nevarl and Altena, respectively), and learning of the disappearance of the Mana Stone of Darkness along the way, the main character tries to open the gate to the Mana Sanctuary with the Spirits' assistance. The first attempt fails, but the second succeeds; the Faerie realizes that it was opened because someone managed to release the power from all the Mana Stones.
The characters travel into the Sanctuary and the main character claims the Mana Sword; however, it is soon discovered that the main character's adversaries have captured the Faerie and will only release her in exchange for the Mana Sword. The unfortunate trade is made, and once the enemy receives the Sword, the Mana Stones shatter and the Benevodons are released.
The characters must then defeat the Benevodons before they can gather and destroy the world. However, after doing this, they realize killing the Benevodons gave more power to their main enemy. The already-powerful villain absorbs the power of both the Sword of Mana and the Benevodons to become a god, but is halted by the Mana Goddess blocking some of his power. After storming the villain's stronghold and defeating his minions, the characters go and defeat their main enemy, but are unable to stop him from destroying the Mana Tree. The Faerie fuses with what's left of the Mana Tree and will become the new Mana Goddess in a thousand years, but until then Mana won't exist in the world. Their quest complete, the characters go back to their lives afterwards.
The characters (and their individual stories) are grouped into three main sub-plots. Duran and Angela oppose the Dragon Emperor; Hawkeye and Riesz oppose the Dark Prince; and Kevin and Charlotte oppose the Masked Mage. The main storyline is determined by the first character chosen, however there is significantly more character interaction and dialogue if these pairs of characters are selected in the same party.
- Angela (アンジェラ Anjera) is the only princess of the ice-covered Magic Kingdom of Altena. Her mother, Valda, the Queen of Reason, uses her magic to keep the Altenish citadel in a perpetual spring. However, like her country, Valda is cold and unfeeling towards her daughter, who has become lonely and selfish as a result of her upbringing. The Queen's spell weakens as Mana starts to fade. So that her spell may continue and Altena does not freeze over, she, with her assistant the Crimson Lotus Wizard, decides to invade other nations to claim their Mana Stones. Once done, she would sacrifice her daughter to the ancient spell which would unlock the power of Mana kept in the Stones, opening the way to the infinite power held in the Sword of Mana. After Angela is told this, she flees Altena.
- Duran (デュラン Dyuran) is an orphaned mercenary swordsman of the Grasslands Kingdom of Valsena (Forcena in the fan translation) who proudly serves his king, the wise Richard. Duran and his little sister Wendy were raised by their aunt Stella after Duran's mother died from a long term illness and their father was lost in battle with the Dragon Emperor. One night, Duran is on guard duty at the castle of Valsena when the Crimson Lotus Wizard attacks the castle. Duran is left for dead after confronting him, and after making his recovery, he vows to become the best swordsman in the world and to exact his revenge.
- Hawkeye (ホークアイ Hōkuai) is a member of a guild of noble thieves based in the desert Sand Fortress of Nevarl (Navarre in the fan translation). The guild's leader, Lord Flamekhan, suddenly and uncharacteristically declares Nevarl to be a Kingdom. Surprised by this, Hawkeye discusses the matter with his friends, Flamekhan's children, Jessica and Eagle. Hawkeye and Eagle decide to confront Flamekhan about it, only to find that he is in the middle of a meeting with his assistant, the witch Isabella, who turns out to be pulling Flamekhan's strings. Isabella (later revealed to be named "Bigieu") casts a spell on Eagle to make him attack Hawkeye, who injures Eagle gravely in self-defense. However, Isabella finishes Eagle off with a spell and puts all the blame on Hawkeye. He is imprisoned and is awaiting his execution when Isabella informs him that she has given Jessica a cursed necklace; should Hawkeye tell anyone the truth, she will be choked by it. Luckily, he makes an escape. In the fan translation, he is known as Hawk.
- Riesz (リース Rīsu) is the princess of the mountainous Wind Kingdom of Laurent (Rolante in the fan translation) and captain of its Amazon army. After her mother, Minerva, dies while giving birth to her younger brother, Elliott, Riesz vows to take care of him. However, two mysterious ninjas from Nevarl, Bill and Ben, trick Elliott into turning off Laurent's protective winds and promptly kidnap him. With the winds gone, Nevarl attacks Laurent with a cloud of sleeping powder and kills its king, Joster. Devastated, Riesz makes her escape. In the fan translation, she is known as Lise.
- Kevin (ケヴィン Kevin) is the inarticulate prince of Ferolia (known simply as the Beast Kingdom in the fan translation). He is the son of Gauser, king of the Beastmen, and a human mother. Sick of the treatment of his people by "normal" humans, the Beast King's desired revenge is made all the more possible by the appearance of the mysterious "Man who devours death", who places his dark magic at Gauser's "beck and call". He shows his abilities by making Kevin's beloved wolf-pup orphan friend, Karl, rise up and attack him while both are out in the Moonlight Forest. Forced to defend himself, Kevin's werewolf abilities are awakened; unfortunately, they come at the cost of Karl's life. After seeing that the Beast King is sending an invasion force to overthrow the humans' precious Holy City Wendel, Kevin overhears the Beast King congratulate the Deathjester on his spell. Enraged, he confronts the Beast King and is quite literally thrown out of the castle. He declares the Beast King is not his father and states his desire to find his mother and some way to revive Karl.
- Charlotte (シャルロット Sharurotto), the "cute little girl who lives in Wendel", is the granddaughter of the Priest of Light. Orphaned by her parents, the human cleric Leroy and the elf Shayla, she is looked after by a fellow cleric, Heath. Feeling an evil influence in the nearby Castle City Jadd, the Priest of Light sends Heath to investigate; however, Charlotte overhears this conversation and, feeling a strange apprehension, sneaks out of Wendel. She arrives just in time to see the Deathjester abducting Heath. Afterwards, Charlotte decides she must save him. In the fan translation, she is known as Carlie.
- The Benevodons (God-Beasts in the fan translation) are eight elemental monsters that are described as incarnations of disaster that once threatened the world, but were defeated by the Goddess of Mana. One Benevodon exists for each element in the game: fire, water, earth, wind, wood, light, moon, and darkness. When the villains acquire the Sword of Mana, the Benevodons are released into the world, and the player can fight the first seven in whatever order they wish. After defeating the first seven, the Benevodon of Darkness can be fought. However, killing the Benevodons plays right into the hands of the villain as killing them sends their power to the Sword of Mana.
- Duran and Angela's enemies:
- Crimson Lotus Wizard (紅蓮の魔導師 Guren no madoushi): The Dragon Emperor's main servant. He was once an ordinary human, but possessed no ability for magic until the Dragon Emperor offered to make him the most powerful wizard alive in exchange for a piece of his soul. After suffering defeat, he loses his will to live without the piece of his soul given to the Dragon Emperor, and commits suicide.
- Darkshine Knight: The Dragon Emperor's other servant, who is actually Duran's father Loki, though this is only revealed if Duran is in the party when he is fought. Loki was believed to have died fighting the Dragon Emperor, but the Dragon Emperor saw a use for the powerful warrior and revived him as his servant. Although the Darkshine Knight retained his memories from living as Loki, he was fanatically loyal to the Dragon Emperor. After the Darkshine Knight dies, he is released from the control that the Dragon Emperor had over him, and tells the heroes that he has faith in their power to stop the Dragon Emperor. If Duran or Angela aren't the main characters, then the Darkshine Knight still reveals that the Dragon Emperor revived him before dying and that the Dragon Emperor's power is what kept him alive.
- Dragon Emperor: Duran and Angela's main enemy. Of the three possible main villains, the Dragon Emperor's past is the least developed. His origin isn't stated; the most that seems to be known is that he is the leader of a clan of dragons. A coalition was led against him by Prince Richard and Loki. At the cost of Loki's life the Dragon Emperor was defeated, but he survived the battle and revived Loki as the Darkshine Knight and later recruited the Crimson Lotus Wizard as well. The Dragon Emperor's intent is the most simplistic of the villains: he simply wishes to dominate that world to do with it as he pleases. His true form for the final battle is the Huge Dragon, which lives up to its name as he is so big he cannot be fully shown on-screen. He's viewed as being in between the difficulty of the other two final bossess.
- Charlotte and Kevin's enemies:
- Heath: The main servant of the Masked Mage. Heath is the son of the Masked Mage and previously a friend and father-figure to Charlotte. At the start of the plot, he goes out to try investigate the disturbances with Mana and to try and save his father from his own darkness, but was abducted by the Deathjester and turned evil. If Charlotte or Kevin aren't the main characters, Heath is never fought as a boss and instead wanders about. Regardless of which character is the main character, Heath eventually sacrifices his life to cure the Priest of Light's illness and is later revived by the Mana Goddess.
- Deathjester: The other servant of the Masked Mage, Deathjester is a rather clown-like being as his name would imply. His origins and motivation for serving the Masked Mage are unknown. He displays the ability to eat souls, hence his Japanese name. Early on, he abducts Heath and hands him over to the Masked Mage as a servant. Unlike the other villains, he seems to survive when the Masked Mage is not the main villain. What happens to the Deathjester after that is unknown.
- Masked Mage: Kevin and Charlotte's main enemy. He was once a human named Belgar, who, in addition to acting as the Holy City Wendel's Oracle of Darkness, was also a priest renowned for his skill in healing. One day, he found a disease that could not be cured with light magic and began using dark magic to find a cure, but the victim died before he found it. Belgar continued dabbling in dark magic and eventually discovered a spell that could revive the dead. Soon afterwards, he challenged the Priest of Light but was defeated and exiled. During this time, Belgar became corrupted by the dark magic and became the Masked Mage, developing a strong hatred for the living. He intended to gain the power to exact his revenge. At some point, he recruited the Deathjester. The Masked Mage's son, Heath, tried to stop him but was corrupted and became his father's strongest servant. His true form for the final battle is the Dark Lich. He's viewed as the easiest of the three final bosses.
- Lise and Hawkeye's enemies:
- Bigieu: The right hand servant of the Dark Prince, she is also implied to have romantic feelings for him, especially during her death scene; how she met him is never stated. Bigieu's sole intent is following the will of the Dark Prince, but she notes that he "lost his soul" when he became a demon, and she hoped to "bring his soul back". Despite this devotion, the Prince has never displayed any sign of caring for her and considers her expendable. A notable event only occurs if the main characters are not Hawkeye or Lise: after the Dark Prince is killed by the main villain, Bigieu kills Jagan off-screen and releases Elliot before killing herself, seeing no reason to live without the Dark Prince.
- Jagan: The Dark Prince's other main servant. Jagan is a vampire-like entity (and is harmed by Charlotte's Turn Undead spell as a Bishop). His origins are unclear, but he is likely a demon from the underworld. He is fought and killed by the characters if Hawkeye or Lise are the main characters; otherwise, he is killed by a grieving Bigieu after the remains of the Dark Prince's body are destroyed.
- Dark Prince: Hawkeye and Lise's main enemy. He was once a human, though his original human name is never given. He was the prince of the "Kingdom of Light", but for unexplained reasons was both hated and feared by his people. The demons of the underworld offered to make him their leader in order to obtain revenge; the prince accepted and soon destroyed his former kingdom. He does not have a body of his own, but instead acts throughout the game by possessing the body of Lise's younger brother Elliot (though only in Lise and Hawkeye's stories; in the others', his remains are destroyed). His aim is to merge the human world with the underworld so that he can rule both, and he even displays a desire for the demons to be worshipped in place of the Mana Goddess. His true form for the final battle is the Arch Demon, which is also the only final boss with two forms. The Arch Demon is generally viewed by fans to be the hardest of the three final bosses.
Seiken Densetsu 3 was designed by series creator Koichi Ishii. The game was directed by Hiromichi Tanaka, who previously helped design the first three Final Fantasy titles and Secret of Mana. Manga and anime artists Yutaka Izubuchi and Nobuteru Yūki were responsible for the character designs and character illustrations respectively. Yūki's artwork for the game can be found in the rare Nobuteru Yuki Seiken Densetsu Illustration Book.
English translation controversyEdit
During the game's development and release, Seiken Densetsu 3 became known abroad as Secret of Mana 2. Squaresoft stated in a 1995 issue of its North American newsletter that they planned to release the game during the second half of the year. However, Seiken Densetsu 3 was never localized outside of Japan. There is an apparent misconception among video game fans that the SNES title Secret of Evermore was released in lieu of an English language version of Seiken Densetsu 3 in 1995. Ill feelings towards the lack of an official translation probably stem from titular and mechanical similarities.
One suggested reason against Secret of Evermore's favouring over Seiken Densetsu 3 is due to the establishment of a new development team at Squaresoft's office in Redmond, Washington. According to Brian Fehdrau, the lead programmer for Secret of Evermore, the decision had absolutely no effect on any such translations and did not tie up any of the people involved in translation; it was specifically hired to create it and they would not have been assembled otherwise. This may have been accompanied by a decision not to continue translating titles, including the sequel to Secret of Mana. Citing Nintendo Power, the probability of a North American release for Seiken Densetsu 3 was low due to "a technical nature" and that it would have been far too costly to produce at the time. This is further supported by Fehdrau, who mentions that Seiken Densetsu 3 had some bugs, hindering its likelihood of being certified for release by Nintendo of America.
In 2000, a English fan translation project led by hacker Neill Corlett was successfully completed and made available on the internet as an unofficial patch. Due to the increasing popularity of video game ROMs and the quick progress of emulators at the time, the translated version of Seiken Densetsu 3 was made available to many players from around the world in 2000. At the time of its release, the translation was the most sophisticated hack of its type, with assembly hacks for script compression and variable font width, as well as overcoming technical difficulties in dumping and re-inserting the original script. The game was also translated to French ,German and Spanish based on the English fan translation.
The score for Seiken Densetsu 3 was composed by Hiroki Kikuta, who had previously composed the music for Secret of Mana. Kikuta completed it with little assistance, having performed the sound selection, editing, effect design, and data encoding himself. The soundtrack features 60 tracks on 3 discs and was published by NTT Publishing on August 25, 1995 and was republished by Square Enix on October 1, 2004. The main theme from Secret of Mana, "Where Angels Fear to Tread", makes a return in this installment. The track "Meridian Child" was performed by the Tokyo Symphony Orchestra for the fifth Orchestral Game Concert in 1996. The game also features a surround sound mode.
- As in Seiken Densetsu 2 (Secret of Mana), the sky shows two moons in the opening animation.
- The original version of Seiken Densetsu 3 only supported 2-player co-op, a step down from the 3-player co-op of the second game. Luckily, a reproduction cartridge with a patch which allows three people to play simultaneously exists, though it also requires a multi-tap adapter to play with it.
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