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A Big Disappointment – Seiken Densetsu 3

July 21, 2011

Honestly, Seiken Densetsu isn’t a very good game.

I bought the original cartridge; I set up a rom/emulator thing on my TV, and I had two people ready and set to go. Five hours in, we beat the Ghost Ship boss, cut to volcano, cut to black. Game over.

At that point, we were pretty much done with the game. It’s simply not that much fun to play because it is, in no way, a Secret of Mana style game. Firstly, avoiding attacks is a big no-no; every boss character has tons of spells to throw at the party that basically freeze the game and leave you to watch for about 5-10 seconds sometimes. They are very pretty, but they break the flow of the game immensely to the point where attacks that should hit, miss. It’s frustrating at the least. Then, you take damage, thrown somewhere in the arena which you are fighting, and then you have to heal. There’s no way to avoid it, so you just use your healing items until your enemy expires. What strategy is there in that? Worst of all, the characters don’t even get any spells or abilities until the supposed “class change” at level 18. Given the prior game’s continual progress in terms of character abilities (thus forcing pro-con decisions on which magic to level up, what items to buy, who did what role in some fights, etc.), the big strategy here is: hack, hack, hack, I win.

As a sequel, SD3 is disingenuous because it presents the exact same scenario, nearly, as the first game (gather up elemental spirits and all that jazz), but doesn’t let you use them until you level up AND find a Mana Stone in which to use (once per character, mind you!) to make it happen. Honestly, the game lacked strategy to the point where the three of us were bored out of our minds. The game is sluggish all around – even the intro sequence takes up to an hour, whereas the original Secret of Mana thrust you into the game’s systems nearly immediately. This obviously became a trend in the later Squaresoft releases, but here, given the real-time combat system, it’s just jarring and inappropriate. Especially important to note is that the story is no more complex than the first game – there’s just more dialogue, most of it inane and perfunctory anyway! This is no knock on the translators – they did a fantastic job, but the game underlining such a successful translation is the problem here.

Furthermore, the game doesn’t natively support three players! Honestly, how can this be considered a sequel? I had to patch the game to get three player mode. And let’s not even get into the myriad bugs (like the one I listed above) in the game, probably caused by translation patches and such messing with the game code. Even the original version is plenty buggy, most likely leading to Squaresoft’s decision not to localize the product. I honestly think they were right on this one – Evermore’s a much better game all-around (now to get around to finishing it…). It’s feel more like a real-time single-player RPG, not a sequel to SD2 or Secret of Mana, and that’s the biggest flaw of all.

This game, thus, begins the Mana series’ spiral into darkness, somehow missing what made SD2 so good!

So, what else could we do? We went to the Wii VC, downloaded Secret of Mana and began playing a great game, one that hasn’t lost its challenge or charm with age. All the great late-SNES aesthetic wonder in the world can’t make up for a broken game. Modern developers should take note.

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