Monday, March 16, 2020

Seiken Densetsu 3 (Super Famicom, 1995)

The aptly-named Legend of Holy Sword 3 is the final part of our Mana journey, at least until the remake comes out. This is something I wanted to cover on here ten years ago. Now that it's got a Switch port, better late than never.

This isn't a sequel or a prequel to Secret of Mana, as many outlets have speculated (in either direction). It's more of one of those "successor that takes place in the same type of world with the same type of ideas" games, like a Zelda or Xeno- title. You've got the Mana Tree, evil forces trying to undo the world's balance, eight elemental spirits, the whole nine yards.

Most importantly, this game actually feels finished, and utilizes a lot of the concepts that didn't make it into Secret of Mana. We get to see the ice continent fully realized, the sea turtle now exists, and we have multiple character paths with multiple endings.

The six characters. Yep, SIX. It's an extremely well-balanced lineup, too. You can only take three characters along in any given new game, but it's great to have so many choices. As if the numerous potential character combinations weren't enough variety, each character also has four possible classes* they can class change into for the lategame. The four classes are usually very different from one another for most of the characters, and result in completely different playstyles. There are just so many different combinations to try here.

* - Before that each character gets a choice between two preliminary mid-way classes, so even well before the lategame you've got some gameplay variety.

Left to right, top row first: Duran, Kevin, Hawkeye, Angela, Carlie, Riesz. We've got 3 dudes and 3 chix. 4 melee-based characters and 2 casters. Which one will I pick as the main character for this run? Stay tuned to find out. I'm going through all of their intros, which I've never done before.

Duran - Heavy knight type character, more HP than anyone else. May or may not be based on what Dyluck was supposed to be in the previous game, given that Dyluck and Duran have very similar names in the original Japanese: Dyrakku and Dyuran.

Kevin - Overpowered monk character. Generally regarded as the easiest character to beat the game with. Hits hard and fast, and can transform into a werewolf (like the wolf-monks of the previous game) to be even more OP. While Duran is a tank suited for long fights, Kevin is more of a "berserker" that relies on defeating enemies before they defeat him.

Hawkeye - Hawkeye! He has a bow! ...actually he doesn't. He's the "thief" type character, striking quickly with dual knives. Also gets some very cool ninja abilities. Might be the character equivalent of the previous game's Randi, as he's more of a light fighter.

Angela - The black mage of the game. Has most of the offensive attack spells and does serious damage, at the cost of being very weak to attacks. Difficult to main, great as support. The game's Sprite equivalent, which is ironic because...

Carlie - The white mage of the game. Looks like the Sprite, yet she's the equivalent to Primm instead. Heals vastly better than anyone else, though you can get some pretty good healing from items later on so having a healer character isn't as vital as it might seem on paper. Still, having Carlie in the group means you can generally win fights about 4-5 levels lower than you'd need to be without her, as she gives the party so much longevity. Has Lumina attack spells, as is tradition, so she isn't without offense. Difficult to main, great as support.

Riesz - A bit of a mystery to me, as I haven't had much experience with her yet in any form. She seems to be another light fighter type character. Maybe she's the other half of Primm's persona, since Primm always seemed like 50% fighter to me rather than an outright priest. Riesz is also mind-boggingly gorgeous. Not so much in this version of the game, but in the upcoming current-gen remake? Watch out.

The game begins with a world-flyover. This was a couple years after Secret of Mana, and it's clear that overworlds got vastly more detailed in that time. 

We've still got the second, parallel to the ground view while in the sky, as well. Looking forward to seeing more of these sky views with the inevitable flying vehicle. Or will it be Flammie again? Stay tuned. 

Going with Duran first. Almost every character starts with a single battle against a somewhat tough opponent, during which they have unlimited continues (much like the Mantis Ant). 

The soundtrack of this game has some tremendous songs, to say the least. Here's what plays during this part. I love the way it transforms at :55.

There's also a distinct Chrono Trigger-y ness to some of the graphics, especially enemy designs. 

Also the comical animations that accompany enemies getting whacked... they're quintessential Squaresoft of the era. 

Let's get some more backstory about Duran... 


His dad went out and fought the Dragon Lord (Dragon Emperor in Japanese) and lost, Ortega-style.

Then his mom just sorta...died later on. So we've already determined that this game is even more depressing than Secret of Mana.

Back in the present, Duran is charged with guarding. He isn't very good at guarding, and nods off, during which every other guard in the castle gets killed off by a teleporting wizard. 

This is the Crimson Wizard, one of several potential Big Bads for the game depending on your character choices. Or as I call him, Poor Man's Dalton. 

He easily dispatches Duran with spells. Oof. 

He doesn't finish the job though, leaving him with this note that they can take over any time they want. Who is they? Stay tuned. 

Not-Dyluck meets Not-Phanna and she's ready for action. Unfortunately, he's betrothed to Not-Primm. ...whoever that is.

Gotta say, I really like the effort that went into this world. It feels alive, with pets roaming around and detail in the surroundings that you just don't get from the previous game. 

Now we find out that Duran is a bit of a douche, as he leaps up on the counter and yaps at a fortune-teller. Link never acted like this! 

Instructions are given. Nearly all of the characters have "head to Wendel" as their first quest, with one exception. 

The dancing shopkeepers are BACK. Now Phanna has a dance partner, at least. 

Duran gets a blessing from the king before leaving to track down the Crimson Wizard. It's good to see a leader in this game actually being a decent and good person, given the high volume of leaders that turn heel throughout the story. It's almost as bad as how the game treats parents. More on all of that later. 

Jadd is generally where most of the characters end up congregating, and the end of the line for their individual intros. Duran goes through another town first, Maia. 

There's some action to be had traversing the valley here, namely Buzz Bees from the previous game. Duran might be the easiest starting character because he's got such high defense and can plow through most of these early foes. In terms of ease of getting into the game, the order is probably Duran>Kevin>Riesz>Hawkeye>Angela>Carlie. Though Kevin surpasses Duran as the game progresses, just like monks typically surpass knights in early Final Fantasy games. 

Duran will slay the Crimson Wizard or die trying, and that's pretty much the sum-up of his storyline. He also ends up face-to-snout with the Dragon Lord.

Arriving in Jadd by boat, Duran's intro comes to an end. And man, that's a good-looking boat. 

 I mentioned characters congregating in Jadd. Well, here's Angela, and she's mean AF.


She's very much the "fanservicey" character of the game. Hayzeus. Despite her initial mean appearance, she's one of the better and more complex characters, and struggles with her lack of magic prowess and inability to live up to her mom.

All of them are interesting characters though, at least during the times when they get development.

Not to be outdone, here's Duran. He's fanservice for the ladies. ...I'm sorry, ladies.

Another overworld flight takes us to Angela's homeland: The ice continent of Altena. This isn't the same ice continent as Secret of Mana, so we can't apply this to the story of that game. However it's a similar enough principle, and uses ideas that didn't make it into the previous game. 

In short, it's a fully-realized Ice Country...perhaps a look at what Lorimar was supposed to be in Secret of Mana. Instead of Salamando heating up a town, we've got the queen's magic heating up an entire castle and city. 

You can see this place to the north on the world map. The heated/tropical part of the continent coincides with that weird green area in the southeast corner of the Secret of Mana version of Ice Country.

The music here. It's a bit of a quintessential ice theme.

The queen's power is waning, though, and the snowy wasteland is beginning to move in on their lands. Sensing a bit of 12000 B.C. from Chrono Trigger here, which is funny because...

...the queen has quite a resemblance to Queen Zeal, which throws some fuel on my "poor man's Dalton" idea. And speaking of, there he is. Of course, Angela is in the Schala role of not recognizing her mother - the queen - anymore.

 We've also got some Final Fantasy IV mixed in here, with the Kingdom of Altena ready to march on other kingdoms to steal their Mana Stones. There are eight of them around the world, and they essentially serve the same function as the Mana Seeds in SoM (or the Crystals in FFIV)

Angela is a student of magic, and has a huge ego. She skips classes frequently because she can't be bothered. The thing is, she's actually below-average at magic and can't cast any spells, something she probably doesn't want to confront head-on by actually going to class. 

Also, HER PARENTS ARE DEAD. Well, her father is, and her mother is some sort of cold underworld demon. Jesus, what does this game have against the family unit? It'll get worse, too. 

Without any spells, Angela feels like she can't live up to the queen. 

Here's the magic ever-burning fire that sustains the warmth in this area. 

Some random sorceress gives our hero some grief.

"f you I won't do what you tell me...f you I won't do what you tell me" 




Everyone's freaked out by the Queen's unilateral decision-making and the specter of war, so they ask Angela to talk to her. 

The talk...doesn't go so well, as the Queen suggests sacrificing Angela and using her body as a magic bomb or something. 


Angela escapes into the wilderness, an exile from her own kingdom. The starting area here is snowy and atmospheric, populated by those fork-throwing fish enemies from SoM. It was a good call to have most of the early enemies in this game be SoM holdovers, and new foes are introduced as the game moves along. not an easy character to play as at first. With no spells yet, she's a terrible meleer. She might even be a more difficult starting character than Carlie. I barely got through the intro area here without dying, as you can see.

We arrive at Todo Village Snow Hamlet Alrant and I continue to really dig this snowy continent. Hope we return here sooner than later.

Her objective, like Duran, is to get to the Holy City of Wendel. 

...apparently he tells everyone that. 

The sad thing about all of this is that during Angela's snowy trek in exile, her hair froze...and she still barely has any clothes on. 

She rides the world's luckiest boat (boats in this game sure are some primo artwork) and that's it for her intro. Tune in next time when I look at more of the characters.

Another quintessential "ice theme" here. The game is off to a resoundingly good start on music.

1 comment:

  1. Ha, did you edit the title screen or can you set the language to Japanese?

    I never noticed Riesz was doing a high knee on the first screen before.

    Even when it's lacking in some ways this game is still a standout.