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Started in 1991, Seiken Densetsu is known for its action (as opposed to turn) based battle system and fantasy theme. A literal translation of "Seiken Densetsu" gives "holy sword legend", or "Legend of the Holy Sword". Originally intended to be a handheld "Gaiden", or "side story", to Square's flagship franchise Final Fantasy, most of the Final Fantasy styling was dropped by the second installment, but this did not affect the commercial aspects of the series. In Japan, this series generally lags behind Square's Final Fantasy and SaGa in terms of sales, but Seiken Densetsu 2 still managed to sell more than 1.5 million copies domestically and more overseas.
Seiken Densetsu: Final Fantasy Gaiden (Final Fantasy Adventure in the U.S. and Mystic Quest in Europe), released in 1991, was the first game in the Seiken Densetsu series. Released on the original Game Boy, its gameplay was roughly similar to that of the original Legend of Zelda game. Being a Final Fantasy "Gaiden", the artistic style of the game was very similar to that of the main Final Fantasy series, down to the menu screens with the thick, shaded borders. In particular, the game bore many similarities to Final Fantasy III, which was then the most recent installment in the series. Final Fantasy mainstays, the chocobos and moogles, also made appearances here. A male character named "Sumo" (according to the manual), the protagonist, is out for vengeance of his parents, who were killed by Dark Lord. The main female character is "Fuji" (again, according to the manual). The antagonists are Julius, and the Dark Lord.
Seiken Densetsu 2
Seiken Densetsu 2 (or Secret of Mana) was released for the Super Nintendo Entertainment System in 1993. It is the best known game in the Seiken Densetsu series. The gameplay is similar to that of Nintendo's The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past. Seiken Densetsu 2 is indeed a three player game, but in order to play with three players, the rare Nintendo multitap must be plugged into the second controller port of the SNES. This allows players two and three to play the game as well, taking control of the two supporting characters. Seiken Densetsu 2, or "Secret of Mana" stars the main character Randi, a girl named Purim, and a sprite child named Popoie (of undetermined gender; arguments continue to this day over "its" gender), and a notable non-playable character named Dyluck. The main playable characters were given these default names in the Japanese release, but no default names were given in the American or European releases.
This section contains spoilers! Content within this section may reveal significant parts of a game(s) story.
The story begins with the words, "Time flows like a river, and history repeats", after recounting the tale of a previous generation of people who abused the power of Mana, the life-giving magical "presence", to create the ultimate weapon known as the Mana Fortress. As the story progresses, one discovers that the blade known as the Mana Sword was used to destroy the Mana Fortress.
Enter the main character, Randi, who finds himself trapped by undergrowth after falling from a bridge over a waterfall. He discovers a sword in a rock in the middle of a river and is prompted by a ghostly figure to take it. Confused by the figure, he takes the sword and finds that he can get through and thus on his way home, but he also finds that monsters have appeared and, unbeknownst to him, are attracted to the sword.
Upon reaching his hometown of Potos, the townsfolk find that monsters are attracted to their village because of him. Following the appearance of a large monster known as the Mantis Ant (which Randi defeats with the help of an enigmatic knight called Jema), the townsfolk banish Randi from Potos, but not before the village's Elder tells Randi of his orphanage, and Jema tells Randi that the very sword he now carries is none other than the Mana Sword itself. The knight also tells Randi that the Mana Sword has lost its power and that he must go to the nearby Water Palace to speak to its protector, Sage Luka, to see what he can do about recharging its power with an orb he received from the Mantis Ant.
When Randi reaches the Water Palace, he discovers the purpose of the Sword and that a country known only as "The Empire" is seeking to resurrect the Mana Fortress, which he can help counter by sealing the Mana Seeds housed in the eight Palaces across the world with the Mana Sword. The Seeds themselves come from the Mana Tree, the source of the world's Mana.
The rest of Secret of Mana's story is then a quest to seal the Mana Seeds and to try to thwart The Empire's plans. The story itself past this point has limited variability, notably in the order of collecting the other two playable characters, Purim and Popoie, and also in the order in which some Palaces can be accessed. This is a precursor to the storyline variability particularly found in Seiken Densetsu 3 and the great liberties of Legend of Mana.
Nevertheless, the gameplay of Secret of Mana is of a typical power-building adventure game like The Legend of Zelda, except it takes a two-pronged approach with weapons and magic. The weapons in the game are a Spear, Glove, Bow, Boomerang, Axe, Whip and a Javelin, along with the Sword. These other weapons are upgraded with Orbs like the Sword is, usually rewarded after boss battles or found as treasures. This upgrade process is referred to in the game as forging, and is undertaken by a dwarven blacksmith called Watts. In terms of magic, Secret of Mana introduces the "Elementals" to the Seiken Densetsu series, each of which are personifications of eight elements that must be met to receive each one's specific powers: Undine (Water), Gnome (Earth), Sylphid (Wind), Salamando (Fire), Lumina (Light), Shade (Darkness), Luna (Moon) and Dryad (Tree) (Sylphid is known as Jinn after Seiken Densetsu 3, Lumina is known as Wisp after Seiken Densetsu 3 and has its powers extended to "Holy", Salamando is known as Salamander after Legend of Mana, and Luna is called Aura after Legend of Mana and has its powers changed to "Gold", a.k.a. Metal). Apart from receiving these powers, each weapon and each Elemental's power is given a proficiency scale of eight levels (from 0:00 to 8:99) that allows for more powerful attacks or stronger spells. Each level is spaced further apart than the previous level, and to reach the ultimate 8:99 rating is an achievement. Weapons are granted a new, more powerful attack at each level, although the downside to this is the charge-up time. The spell animations change approximately every two levels, with "ultimate" graphics occurring after level 8:00 with more frequency up to 8:99.
Seiken Densetsu 2 was originally announced for North American release under the title Final Fantasy Adventure II. Squaresoft (the American division of Square Co., Ltd.) developed Secret of Evermore, using the same basic engine as Secret of Mana but the graphics and scenes were tailored to a more American audience. Many fans blame Squaresoft's focus on the critically and commercially unsuccessful Evermore for preventing an American release of Seiken Densetsu 3, even though these claims are completely unfounded.
Seiken Densetsu 3
Seiken Densetsu 3 (or Secret of Mana 2) was released for the Super Famicom exclusively in Japan on September 30, 1995. It was originally planned to be released in North America, but Square opted in favor of Secret of Evermore, cancelling the North American localization. However, it was unofficially translated into English in the year 2000, and later into French, and German from the English fan translation project. The translation project was very complex. A variable width font was used, and it resulted in a professional looking fan translation. The title logo was changed from Kanji to Romaji. Like Final Fantasy VI and Bahamut Lagoon, Seiken Densetsu 3 has sophisticated graphics. Seiken Densetsu 3 has been regarded by many (including non-Japanese gamers) to be the best game in the Seiken Densetsu series, despite the fact that the combat and multiplayer systems were simplified somewhat. Unlike in Seiken Densetsu 2, there is only one kind of weapon per character, which can be bought in stores; the forging/upgrading has been completely removed. The magic system was also slightly simplified: now, when a spell is learned, it is complete and at its full potential, without any need to level it up. Seiken Densetsu 3 introduced an interesting addition to the character evolution system, in class changing. After a character reached level 18, it could change to a more advanced form (class), which meant new spells, abilities and of course, a large improvement to the character's stats. Class changes needed a mana stone to be performed. When touching the stone, the player is asked to choose the type of the new class - either "light" or "dark". There is also a second class change at level 38, but this one requires additional items to "unseal" the incredible powers acquired by it. Like most Dragon Quest games, Seiken Densetsu 3 has a day-and-night feature. The Seiken Densetsu 3 soundtrack (composed by Hiroki Kikuta) features catchy rhythms, and lots of strings, and xylophones. Today, as of the 128-bit era, Seiken Densetsu 3 has been considered an import classic in the United States and Europe.
This section contains spoilers! Content within this section may reveal significant parts of a game(s) story.
Seiken Densetsu 3 puts the player in the shoes of Duran, Riesz (or Lise, in the fan translation), Kevin, Charlotte (shortened to Carlie), Hawkeye (shortened to Hawk), and Angela. At the beginning of the game, the player chose a party of only three playable characters. Seiken Densetsu 3 generated the storyline on the basis of the player's selection of characters. Duran, the son of Loki, is the swordsman of the Kingdom of Forcena. His father died trying to defeat a powerful dragon and his mother died of an illness. Duran and his younger sister, Wendy were raised by their great aunt Stella. Riesz/Lise is from the Wind Kingdom of Rolante, the kingdom that Duran saved after an attack by the soldiers of Navarre, Hawkeye's country. Angela is a runaway princess of Altena, the Kingdom of Magic. Charlotte/Carlie is the granddaughter of the priest of the Holy City Wendel, which was attacked by Kevin's homeland, the Beast Kingdom. The six characters define 3 major plots, which all share the basic situation: the Mana Tree is dying and the forces of evil are awakening throughout the world.
Square Enix has announced that there will be a new story in the Seiken Densetsu series for the Nintendo DS. While there are no details at the time of writing, many fans believe it will be a stateside release of Seiken Densetsu 3.
At one of the final stages of the game, there is a secret passage to a cave with the black rabite. This is the toughest monster in the game, indeed stronger than any of the final bosses and only the strongest players can defeat him.
Seiken Densetsu: Legend of Mana
Seiken Densetsu: Legend of Mana (Legend of Mana) was released in 2000 for the Sony PlayStation. While featuring much of the same gameplay as its predecessors, it created a more expansive world in which the player could interact. Different areas of the game are represented using "artifacts" and placed by the player onto a "world map," and different artifact placements allow the players to obtain different items, an idea later used in such games as Final Fantasy Tactics Advance. The player is also able to have temporary "sidekicks" (be they NPCs, other players, or pets/golems that you can breed/build and sell), create and temper weapons (both physical and magical(which are musical instruments)) and armor, and grow crops which can be sold or fed to pets. Multiple difficulty levels and a vast quest-driven storyline made LOM a critically-acclaimed and easily-replayable favorite for many, but almost as many feel that the game doesn't live up to its potential or the expectations it garners from being part of the Seiken Densetsu family.
Shinyaku Seiken Densetsu
Shinyaku Seiken Densetsu (Sword of Mana) is an enhanced remake of the original Game Boy Seiken Densetsu (Final Fantasy Adventure), released on the Game Boy Advance in 2003. While originally it was thought that it would feature multiplayer options, the only one left in the game was the ability to trade information to power up individual files (Unfortunately, the box information does not exactly reflect this, confusing a number of people). At the beginning of the game, the player is able to choose to play as the male lead (Sumo, unnamed in the English versions) or as the female lead (Fuji, unnamed in the English versions). They each have a different quest, however the plot remains similar. The most important thing about this remake, however, is the "de-Final Fantasification" of it -- many elements from the original that had an origin in Final Fantasy were removed in favor of elements from other Seiken Densetsu games (for example, the chocobo is replaced by Cannon Travel). One notable exception to this are moogles: they originally appeared in Final Fantasy III, but remained in the game (and also appeared in Secret of Mana). Shinyaku Seiken Densetsu was made to resemble the graphical style of Seiken Densetsu 3.
Seiken Densetsu 4
Seiken Densetsu 4 is the first title in the World of Mana compilation. A release date has yet to be set.