The golden age of the JRPG is a hard one to pin down. The emergence of the genre in the mid ‘80s, to its maturity in the 16-bit era where developers took risks, or even when Final Fantasy VII became one of the biggest gaming sensations in the West, and the floodgates opened with almost every JRPG being localised no matter whether it was good or bad.
Perhaps one of the best games never to be localised, however, was the sequel to 1993’s Secret of Mana, Seiken Densetsu 3. Why 3 rather than 2? Well, the first game in the Seiken Densetsu series was released in the West as Final Fantasy Adventure. Hoping to cash in on the already well-known franchise, the second game would be localised under the title Secret of Mana, with the “Mana” name being used for every successive title released outside of Japan.
There are a number of factors as to why the game was never localised. The game was released in September 1995, and the PlayStation had already been released in Japan for 9 months with the North American release arriving a few months after the game’s release. This combined with the increasing cost of carts led to Squaresoft deciding that localising the game would be unprofitable. Most Western gamers would not play the game until the trend of fans translating video games themselves became prominent in the late ‘90s.
This game was released near the end of the Super Famicom’s life, and it really shows. This to me is one of the best looking 16 bit games I have ever seen, the sprites are beautifully animated and full of life. Much is made of the Super Famicom’s ‘Mode 7’ graphic mode and its ability to produce faux 3D effects. Some of the best of this kind can be seen when your player character is shot out of a cannon and the full world map is shown. It is also the first game in the series to include a day/night cycle, which can affect gameplay. Certain enemies may be asleep at night, thus it is easier to sneak past them. Nothing too revolutionary though, day/night cycles had been seen in games as varied as Castlevania II and Ultima V, both from 1988, but it did add a little more depth to the series.
In a marked change from the previous two entries in the series, you can choose the character you play as, as well as your two party members who will travel with you throughout the game. While the overall plot will stay largely the same, there are opening chapters for each character that give them their own unique motivations for setting out on the quest with slight changes throughout the game in relation to their own storyline. While these individual storylines are not exactly in-depth, there is enough meat on the bones to encourage replayability, being able to go through the game six times to see everything.
A number of the JRPGS that were not localised during their original releases have since been released in the West: Final Fantasy V, Star Ocean, and Tales of Phantasia to name a few. However, while these games would later see releases in the West either with ports or remakes on other consoles, Seiken Densetsu 3 has still not been officially localized. But perhaps with so many old games being remade, with the first entry in the series, Final Fantasy Adventure, getting a mobile remake this year, there is still time for us to see Seiken Densetsu 3.