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Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Criminally Overlooked Games: Seiken Densetsu 3

There are a few injustices in this world that must be rectified: poverty, global warming, the ever-widening gap between the rich and the poor, and the fact that Seiken Densetsu 3 has never made it to American shores.

"What is Seiken Densetsu 3?" you might ask. Well, remember how great Secret of Mana was? Remember the multiplayer combat and the cool music and all the exploration in the game? Remember how much fun you had? Imagine a sequel with better music, better combat and more character customization. Imagine better graphics and better world navigation, as well as a longer game. That's Seiken Densetsu 3.
Seiken Densetsu was a series of three games that was released here in North America. You might know that Final Fantasy Adventure for the Game Boy (remade as Sword of Mana) was the first of the trilogy and that Secret of Mana was the second. Well, they made a sequel to Secret of Mana and we never got to play it over here for whatever reason. This needs to be fixed NOW.

Here's a rundown of the game: There are six different main characters you can choose from. There's Duran, the sword fighter and easiest to use. There's Angela, the sorcerer who casts offensive magic. Hawk, the thief, who strikes twice for each attack. Lise, who uses a spear in combat. Carlie, the priestess who uses recovery magic. Finally, Kevin is a beastman who turns into a werewolf at night. Each character plays slightly different, and you'll be able to pick two other ones to accompany you. As the game goes on, you'll meet up with all the characters as their stories weave around yours, but only the two extra ones you've selected will join you on your quest.

Next up, when your characters reach levels 17 and 37, they'll be able to change their class. You can pick to go with either a "light" class or a "dark" class. "Light" classes open up more recovery magic, while "dark" classes open you up to the strongest of attack magics. That means that you can have three pummeling tanks in your party, or you can try and focus on magic, or have two tanks and a healer or whatever you would like to do. The flexibility of the system makes for a ton of fun.

There are more improvements to the "Mana" formula as well. For instance, when flying around in your white dragon, they'll actually point you toward your objectives on the main map. No more wandering aimlessly like in Secret of Mana! There's more variety in locations, like a seriously creepy ghost ship full of zombies, jungles full of dark priests, ice caves with ambulatory fish, and eventually the Mana Holyland. On top of that, the characters are all interesting and not just "insert generic hero motivation" characters like the characters from Secret of Mana.

For me, the most important improvement is the improved battle system. They did away with the constant weapon switching from Secret of Mana, and it streamlines combat considerably. Also, whereas before, enemies would appear almost at random, now enemies appear when you walk into a section. You fight them, and it declares you the winner while showing you how much XP you gained from them, leaving you to explore the area once you're done with the battle. This divides the world up a little better and lets you explore without worrying about things jumping out at you that you thought you had killed. It makes backtracking and exploring a little easier.

During each combat portion, you have a meter at the bottom of the screen. The more attacks you land against your enemies, the more your meter your builds until you're able to unleash some seriously cool special attacks. This meter also gets upgraded as the game goes on, and your special attacks can change depending on your class. That means that you have a reason to go back and play as different characters.

Finally, as good as the sound and music was in Secret of Mana, Seiken Densetsu 3 tops it in many areas. The five years that Squaresoft spent coaxing excellent music out of the SNES sound chip don't go to waste, and almost every track is a winner.

In comparison to Secret of Mana, everything in Seiken Densetsu 3 is just all-around better. Please, Square Enix. I don't ask for much. All I ask is that you give Seiken Densetsu 3 the re-release it so richly deserves. You did it for Chrono Trigger. Why not give SD3 the same treatment? That's all I ask.