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Seiken Densetsu 3

is a console 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. In the West, the game is sometimes referred to unofficially as Secret of Mana 2.

Gameplay

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 spells, 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, where excess items can be placed, replacing Secret of Mana's "four-of-a-kind maximum rule". The player can switch items between storage and their nine-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 the Legend of Mana 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 Secret of Mana, Seiken Densetsu 3 only allows for up to two human players, with the other one or two characters being controlled by the AI. A screen in the system menu lets the player control certain preferences on how the AI-controlled characters should act. 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 Leveling

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" 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 players power of choosing, the second class change will advance the character depending on which of the two rare items for that characters class you use in 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 time

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.

Each day of the week is represented by a different elemental spirit. On that spirit's day, magic of that element will be slightly stronger:

  • 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 Will-o'-the-Wisp the light elemental (known as Wisp in the rest of the Mana series) and Shade the dark elemental, 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.

Characters

Heroes

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.

  • 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 wizard Koren, 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 in the Sword of Mana, letting the spell continue. After Angela is told this, she flees Altena.
  • , an orphaned mercenary swordsman of the Grasslands Kingdom of Valsena (Forcena in the fan-translation), proudly serves his king, the wise Richard. Duran and his little sister Wendy were raised by their aunt, Stella after Duran's mother died as the result of 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 Koren 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 upon Koren.
  • (Hawk in the fan-translation) 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 as "Bigieu") casts a spell on Eagle to make him attack Hawkeye, who injures Eagle gravely in his self-defense. However, Isabella finishes Eagle off with a spell and puts all the blame on Hawkeye. He is imprisoned and awaits 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.
  • (Lise in the fan translation) is 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, discreetly trick Elliott into turning off Laurent's protective winds and kidnap him. With the winds gone, Nevarl attacks Laurent with a cloud of sleep powder and kills its king, Joster. Devastated, Riesz makes her escape.
  • is the inarticulate prince of Ferolia. 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" (Shi wo kurau otoko, Deathjester in the fan translation), with his dark magic at "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. Kevin defends himself and his werewolf abilities are awoken; 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 not to be his father, and wishes to find his mother and some way to revive Karl.
  • , (Carlie in the fan translation), the "cute little girl who lives in Wendel", is the granddaughter of the Priest of Light. Orphaned by her parents, the cleric Leroy and the elf Shayla, she is looked after by a fellow cleric, Heath. Feeling an evil influence in nearby Jadd, the Priest of Light sends Heath to investigate; however, Charlotte overhears this conversation and makes an escape to find the Deathjester kidnap Heath. This is when she decides she must save him.

Villains

  • Dark Prince (Kuro no Kikoushi, or Young Noble of Darkness in the original): Hawkeye and and Riez's main enemy. He was once a human, though his name as human is never stated. 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 made him a pact that he would become their leader, which the prince accepted and then after-which destroyed his former kingdom. He doesn't have a body of his own, he instead acts throughout the game by possessing body of Reiz's younger brother Eliot (though only in Riez and Hawkeye's plots, in the others his remains are destroyed). His aim to to merge the human world with underworld so he can rule both, and 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, in which he's 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.
  • Bigieu (Bijuu, meaning Beautiful Beast in the original): The right hand servant of the Dark Prince, but she's also implied to have romantic feelings for him, especially after dying, though how she met him isn't 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 he's never displayed any sign of caring for her and considers her expendable. A notable event is that if the main characters aren't Hawkeye or Riez, 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. This both strongly indicates she has romantic feelings for him, and shows that she even has some morals herself.
  • Jagan (called Jagan no Hakushaku, meaning Earl of the Evil Eye in the original): The Dark Prince's other main servant. Jagan is a vampire-like entity, though in game he isn't an undead enemy. His origins aren't stated, he's likely a demon from the underworld. He is fought and killed by the characters if Hawkeye or Riez are the main characters, but if not he's killed by Bigieu after the remains of the Dark Prince's body are destroyed.
  • Dragon Emperor (Ryutei in the original, which also means 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's the leader of the clan of dragons. A coalition was led against him by Prince Richard and Loki (Duran's father). At the cost of Loki's life the Dragon Emperor was defeated, but he survived the battle and revived Loki as his servant the Darkshine Knight, later recruited Koren 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 is described as "Huge Dragon", and lives up to the description as he's so big he's not fully shown on-screen. He's viewed as being in between the difficultly of the other two final bossess
  • Koren: The Dragon Emperor's main servant. He was once an ordinary human, but possessed no ability for magic until that Dragon Emperor offered to make him the most powerful wizard alive in exchange for a piece of his soul, though what the Dragon Emperor wanted that isn't stated. Koren accepts the offer, though after he's defeated he loses his will to live without the piece of his soul the Dragon Emperor took and kills himself.
  • 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's 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's 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 Dragon Emperor revived him before dieing, and that Dragon Emperor's power is what kept him alive.
  • Masked Mage ("Kamen no Doushi" in the original, meaning Masked Officiating Monk): Kevin and Charlotte's main enemy. He was once a human named Belgar, Wendel's Oracle of Darkness, but originally a priest known for his skill in healing, but eventually found a disease that couldn't be cured with light magic and he descended into dark magic to find a cure, but the victim died before he found it. He eventually found a spell in necromancy that could revive the dead, and 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 on the living. At some point he recruited the Deathjester. The Masked Mage's son Heath tried to stop him, but was corrupted and became he's 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.
  • Heath: The main servant of the Masked Mage. Heath is the son of the Masked Mage and previously a friend of Carlie's. 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 Carlie or Kevin aren't the main characters, he isn't fought as a boss and instead wonders about, and sacrifices his life to cure the illness of the Priest of Light. However, in all endings, regardless of characters, he's revived by the Mana Goddess.
  • Deathjester (called Shi wo Kurau Otoko, meaning the Death-Eating Man in the original): The other servant of the Masked Mage, and a 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, resulting in his serving the Masked Mage. Unlike the other villains, he seems to survive when the Masked Mage isn't the villain. What happens to the Deathjester after that is unknown.
  • Benevodons, (God-Beasts in the fan-translation) eight elemental monsters that are described as incarnations of disaster that once threatened the world, but were defeated by the Goddess of Mana. One God-Beast existed for each element in the game, fire, water, earth, wind, wood, light, moon, and darkness. When the villains acquire the Sword of Mana, the God-Beasts are released into the world. The player can fight the first seven in whatever order they wish. After defeating the first seven, the God-Beast of Darkness can be fought. However, killing the God-Beasts plays right into the hands of the villain as killing them sends their power to the Sword of Mana.

Story

Setting

According to Seiken Densetsu 3's in-game lore, the Mana Goddess created the game's world by forging the powerful Sword of Mana and defeating eight benevodons (God-Beasts in the fan-translation) 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 so as to gain ultimate power, politically and magically. Heroes of Mana also features this legend at its beginning.

Plot

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.

All characters, on the way to Wendel, stay overnight in Astoria where they are woken by a bright light. Following it, it 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 giving 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 further that, because the Faerie has chosen the main character as its host, they must travel to the Sanctuary to draw the Sword of Mana from the foot of the Mana Tree to restore peace to the world, and have their wishes granted by the Mana Goddess if it can be drawn before the Tree dies. However, there is a catch: a lot of power is needed to open the gate to the Sanctuary. The Faerie does not have the strength to do it, 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' guarding spirits (Secret of Mana's Elementals) are seen to be able, once their powers are combined.

After journeying across the world to get the Spirits, thwarting the invasion attempts of Navarre and Altena, discovering the powers of the Fire and Water Mana Stones released (by agents of Navarre and Altena, respectively), and learning 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 released 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 (Koren and the Darkshine Knight for Angela and Duran; Jagan and Bigieu for Riesz and Hawkeye; or the Deathjester and Heath for Kevin and Carlie/Charlotte) (the villains that aren't the main character's primary enemies are killed by whoever the main villain is) has 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 gives more power to their main enemy (the Dragon Emperor for Duran and Angela, the Dark Prince for Hawkeye and Riesz, or Masked Mage for Kevin and Charlotte), and the already powerful villain absorbs the power of the Sword of Mana and the benevodons to become a god, but is halted by the Mana Goddess blocking some of his power. After defeating the villains 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. The characters go back their lives after this.

Development

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 artist Nobuteru Yūki was responsible for the character designs. His artwork for the game can be found in the rare Nobuteru Yuki Seiken Densetsu Illustration Book.

Audio

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.

English translation controversy

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 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.

Reception

Heroes of Mana

Heroes of Mana is a direct prequel to Seiken Densetsu 3, taking place 19 years before the latter's story. Many of the main characters and story-central NPCs also appear in SD3, and in some cases are related to its main characters, though none of the main characters appear, most of them having not even been born yet. (The possible exception to this is Hawkeye, who has only just been born to Falcon and Sandarrow. He is never seen directly, and his entry in the character guide features a silhouette in place of artwork, though it also says that he will grow into a hero who will save the world). It also features translations of place names different from the fan-translation of SD3.

References

External links

Fan sites

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