Seiken Densetsu 3 is an action RPG by Squaresoft, released in 1995 for the Super Nintendo in Japan. For decades, it never left Japan. Seiken Densetsu 3 is the direct sequel to Secret of Mana, so in North America, it may have been called Secret of Mana 2 if it was officially released.
Five years later in 2000, the unofficial fan-based English translation for Seiken Densetsu 3 was released. This was thanks to the efforts by LNF Translations, Neill Corlett, and SoM2Freak.
The English translation project involved many people and years of work! Neill Corlett was one of the main people behind it. The following is what he had to say about the project:
Some call it "the best Super Famicom game ever", some dismiss it as just another boring action game. But most people agree that Square made a grave mistake when they decided not to market Seiken Densetsu 3 overseas - especially after the success of its predecessor, Secret of Mana.
Around 1996 and 1997, the growth of the internet, combined with the increasing popularity of video game emulators, sparked a number of unofficial game translation projects. Several of these came into fruition; most notably the RPGe translation of Final Fantasy 5, and Neo Demiforce's Final Fantasy 2 project. These groups proved that such projects were not only possible but feasible as well.
Some of the more complex games, however, have proven too big a challenge for the fan translation community. Seiken Densetsu 3 obscures its text behind numerous layers of compression, putting it well out of reach of the casual hex editor.
In April of 1998, the RPGe web site announced that Richard Bush had quit his Seiken Densetsu 3 translation project. I decided that my effort would be well-spent in seeing this project through, overcoming all the technical obstacles, bringing to the English-speaking world a game we should have had in the first place.
With technical issues out of the way, translator SoM2Freak went to work. He finished the enemy names, item names, spell names, menu selections, and a small portion of the script itself, before leaving for Japan in the spring of 1999. Translators Lina`chan (whose work includes the unofficial Magic Knight Rayearth translation) and Nuku-nuku finished the remainder of the script.
Squaresoft was a pioneer with Seiken Densetsu 3. It improved upon Secret of Mana in every way, offering more features. It introduced a job class system with a variety of “light” and “dark” classes. Playable characters can be promoted to different classes to learn new abilities. Each character follows their own unique story. The game blends their stories along with the events of the main story.
Well, this was unexpected! In June 2019, Square Enix released Collection of Mana. This collection includes Final Fantasy Adventure, Secret of Mana, and Seiken Densetsu 3 in their original formats. Titled Trials of Mana, we finally received a localized version of Seiken Densetsu 3!!
Collection of Mana was released for the Nintendo Switch only. PlayStation 4 and Steam versions are promised for 2020. It's priced at $40 US--pretty steep considering other retro game collections are priced at $19.99 US. Special features are scarce as well. There's a music player and a few different graphical options for the display, and that's it.
The Trials of Mana 3D remake was released in April 2020 for the Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, and Windows (Steam). It's extremely loyal to the original game, down to the exact original events. It's exactly what you would expect a 3D remake of the original to be. All main dialogue is voiced. They added more dialogue, expanded the battle system, and added an assortment of other new features to keep the game modern and relevant. For example, when you're in a town your two supporting characters will separate and can later be found having fun or interacting with the town on their own. You'll never need a walkthrough because the game indicates on a map where you need to go.
Formerly, when the world was enshrouded in darkness, the Mana Goddess used the Mana sword to destroy the 8 Mana beasts that intended to destroy the world and sealed them into 8 Mana stones. Thus the darkness dissipated, and the world was reborn. The Mana Goddess turned herself into a tree and went to sleep. Many years passed. But then, the 8 seals started to dissolve, and the Mana beasts were free. They now aim to gain power enough to rival the gods. Meanwhile, due to greedy people who want to make the world their own, wars started to break out... The era of peace has come to an end... Mana itself is starting to fade from the world. Even the Mana tree is beginning to die...
As with any other action RPG, in Seiken Densetsu 3 you explore a world and fight with enemies in real-time battles. When a character gains a level, you can choose which area he/she will grow stronger in (Strength, Vitality, Luck, etc).
The magic system is slower than in Secret of Mana. When you cast a spell, you have to wait a short while for it to take effect. And you don't learn magic spells immediately when you gain an elemental spirit. Your characters need to grow stronger in order to learn the spirits' spells. The spells a character learns depends on which class you promote them to.
As with Secret of Mana, you can't hold that many items, but now there's a separate menu that can store hundreds of items. The catch is that this menu can only be accessed when you're not currently engaged in battle.
Your two supporting characters that assist you are more violent than in Secret of Mana (which is good!). In the options menu, you can choose which enemies you want your two assisting characters to attack. They can attack a faraway enemy, attack the enemy you're fighting, attack the enemy the other assisting character is fighting, etc. During battle, you can have your main character (the one you control) automatically fight for you just by holding down the attack button.
So which three characters of the six should you choose? There's not much to it. Angela and Carlie are the weakest with attack and defense since they're magic-based characters. The tradeoff is their magic is strong. Every other character is a tough warrior. Anyone can become good at magic depending on which job classes you pick. Every fan of Seiken Densetsu 3 can tell you what they think is the best battle party. Hence, I'm not going to bother telling you who I think is best. I recommend browsing the specialty guides at GameFAQs. Some of them are individually devoted to information on every character class and the advantages/disadvantages of every possible character combo.
It's a masterpiece! The graphics are amazing. Look at the animated GIF. Look how much detail went into the art and coloring. Trees have a subtle purple shadow. Flowers wave in the wind. Water glistens, looking so refreshing. The characters themselves are carefully drawn with their costumes so distinct and detailed. When you play the game, it's impressive how the graphics change from day to night!
The soundtrack is excellent. It blends into the game's sequences nicely. A great deal of work went into giving every character their own story while still following the main story. The battle system can be a little intimidating at first, but you get used to it. The job classes give the game tons of replay value.
One thing I love about Seiken Densetsu 3 is how different it is from Secret of Mana. If it didn't have the crystals, the elemental spirits, Flammie, etc. - it would almost be an entirely different game. It was refreshing that Squaresoft took the time to create an exciting new game that improved upon the original in every way, plus gave us new features.
I swear this game is so entertaining and addicting. I highly recommend it. It's a fond favorite among many. I'm glad Square Enix gave the game love by officially releasing the original in North America and creating an incredible 3D remake.
It was awesome for Square Enix to give us a bundle with Final Fantasy Adventure, Secret of Mana, and Seiken Densetsu 3 (now officially called Trials of Mana). It's nice to have all of these games on the go with the Nintendo Switch. Granted, you could easily emulate these games on an Android device. There's a certain novelty (at least for me) to own an official product. And the Nintendo Switch is so easy to use and quick to load a game.
I do have several complaints about the emulator they used for this collection. The process of saving states and loading states takes several gestures. It's not as seamless as, say, the Genesis Classics Collection, where saving only takes a single gesture. It offers only one screen filter: “smoothed”. And you don't have the ability to disable the background wallpaper that borders the game screen. I'd rather be looking at a black background than a decorative wallpaper!
The Trials of Mana 3D remake is super cute. Like I mentioned in the history section, this game is 100% loyal to the original. Also, like in the original, the battle system can be a little intimidating at first and takes a while to get used to. Because fighting in 3D adds a level of complexity. When I first played this game, I learned quickly to pay attention to everyone's health because in a blink your character will die. Having a 3D camera constantly moving around requires more attention than 2D battles on the original.
I love the voice dialogue. You get a stronger sense of everyone's personality. I especially like the extra voiced dialogue they added for battles. Your characters talk more to each other. They call out their special attacks. It's pretty cool. The voices are what you'd expect from a cartoon.
I like the Trials of Mana 3D remake, but I'm not in love with it. Don't get me wrong, the game is fantastic. I just find myself easily putting it aside to continue other games that I'm more interested in. But yet, I still highly recommend it. The Nintendo Switch version is particularly nice to have so you can have this Mana goodness portable & on-the-go.
I want to talk some more about the significance of Seiken Densetsu's English fan translation. It was released in August of 2000. Earlier that year they released Tenchi Muyo RPG and Romancing SaGa 3. In 1999 they released Sailor Moon RPG and Magic Knight Rayearth. And in 1998 they released Final Fantasy V. That's five major RPGs that received fan translations before Seiken Densetsu 3. Just imagine what the hype must have been! Fan translations were steadily rising in popularity. The very idea that it was possible for fans to translate games in the first place was still raw and almost hard to believe.
The release of Final Fantasy V's translation blew everyone's mind - a game made by the great Squaresoft that was never officially released here. Imagine how amazing it was to have another 'lost' Squaresoft game released... Seiken Densetsu 3 - the sequel to the great Secret of Mana! My FantasyAnime.com was practically born from this immense hype for fan translations in the late 90s/early 2000s. Many fan sites were created dedicated to Seiken Densetsu 3. These sites were important; they were our only resource to learn more about the game. We needed help with the game. The depth of the job system is vague without a manual.