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Title: Seiken Densetsu 3
Rom Player: ZSNESWin v.1.35
Reviewer: Ronin S

Synopsis: Seiken Densetsu 3, a.k.a. Secret of Mana II, was almost completely translated when Square suddenly decided to ditch the project to release Super Mario RPG and Secret of Evermore, so most gamers refer to it as Seiken Densetsu 3. However this hasnt stopped the game from being discovered and having the ROM translated by RPG fans and living on through the Internet. While Square has spent so much time with the Final Fantasy Series, they have simply given so little time and attention to some of their other great games like this one. Much like its predecessor, Secret of Mana, Seiken Densetsu 3 involves characters that have been driven from their homes that must unite to save the Mana Tree.

However, there are huge improvements. For one thing, you can choose between six characters, Duran the Fighter, Angela the Magician, Hawkeye (a.k.a. Hawk) the Thief, Lise the Amazon, Kevin the Grappler and Charlotte (a.k.a. Carlie) the Cleric. You pick three characters and see the others in the game as NPCs. There are also three different endings depending on who you choose as your lead character as well as two class changes in the game.

Game Play - The game play, battle system and menus are a little awkward at first, but a veteran RPG player can probably pick it up in a few minutes. For starters you fight in real time, using the flying numbers system just like Secret of Mana. Whack an enemy and certain numbers pop off of the monsters that tell you damage points. After you hit an enemy or get hit by one, there is a brief time after when you cannot hit with your weapon and there is also a delay time when you cast your spells during which you cannot do anything. Some gamers find this annoying, but it does help add to the challenge of the game. During battle, you can only use items immediately available to you in you ring system, but there is a storage system that you can you to put things away and take you when you are not under attack.
The character choice and two class changes in the game also add to the replay value of this game. You will probably find yourself playing this game 3 or 4 times over and over again, just to see all the other endings. The story is great, with characters each having their own distinct personalities and lines that will actually make you laugh out loud and cry with them throughout the highs and lows of your 30 to 35 hour journey. Difficulty also varies depending on the character combinations and class changes that you choose, but the difficulty ranges from medium to hard. You can also hook up a second player, so you may want to take a friend with you to make things easier, since then you can both cast spells and watch each other backs much better then any computer-controlled character.

Graphics - This game was created in 1995 and even today the graphics are simply amazing. The characters have unique spell casting poses and they even fidget when you have them stand around for a long time. Backgrounds are beautifully detailed with many layers and monsters range in size from cute little rabbit-like rabbits that barely go past your characters knees to final bosses that can take up almost the entire screen. As much as enemy spells hurt, you will probably be going wow even as your poor characters are going ow from the magic the first time you see it. Bosses are all great, and you will probably wonder as you play what bizarre creature lies around the corner for you to thwack. Amazing boss battles include a dogfight in the air on Flammies back and taking on a beast with horns that climbs up the side of a tower Godzilla-style.

Music - Music is comparable to the later Final Fantasy games in that it is excellent. The music does exactly what it should in that it enhances and sets the mood of the story without distracting or annoying you. The characters all have unique musical themes and there are almost a dozen different boss battle songs and a unique song in each of the final areas. The opening and ending themes sound like a full orchestra ensemble, and all the other songs use well-defined string, wind and percussion instruments. I managed to find the soundtrack at an imports store. There are 60 tracks in total. Keen.

Originality - There is simply no question of the originality of Seiken Densetsu 3. The ring system is unique to the Mana series and the very few spells; items and armor that were recycled from Secret of Mana have either been changed a lot or vastly improved upon. There are three different final areas and bosses that each look very cool and have very different abilities. The class change system is also very different; you can choose between light and dark. Light class changes give you defensive and healing spells, while dark class changes give you greater offensive power and offensive magic. The class that you choose will have a huge impact on your fighting strategy, but no change to your story. Some characters also have different endings depending on if you choose them as your lead character or your ally.

Best Cheats: There are really no cheats in this game (ROM hacks are available, though), but there is an optional boss called the black rabite (not really secret, since nearly everyone who has played this game knows about it). You can only fight it if you have chosen Duran or Angela as your main character and have defeated Koren, the Wizard of the Red Lotus. Itfs located in the side chamber of a corridor in the northwestern part of Dragonfs Hole. It is extremely difficult to defeat in that it has craploads of magic points and can heal itself back to full strength just when youfre about to kill it. It can also fling you back across the screen and has no magic weaknesses. Defeating it will earn you the moogle badge and substantial bragging rights.

Game Play: 10
Graphics: 10
Music/Sound: 10
Originality: 10
Overall Rating: 10


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