Seiken Densetsu 3 scrapped all its Secret of Mana code, new SD3 facts from Square interview

Dearly beloved Shmuplations is at it again. It has translated a 1995 interview with the Square developers behind Seiken Densetsu 3. This was of course the Super Famicom sequel to Secret of Mana that unfortunately never left Japan. The interview is with director Hiromichi Tanaka, designer Koichi Ishii, and composer Hiroki Kikuta. This discussion reveals several never-before-seen insights into the game’s development. They talk about how the game was coded, why the graphics look so dang good, and a romance mechanic that was cut!

Secret of Mana code wasn’t good enough

Ishii said, “We more or less wanted SD3 to be a continuation of Secret of Mana, but we ended up scrapping all the code from Secret of Mana.” Yep, Seiken Densetsu 3 was basically built from scratch, in spite of how beloved its predecessor was. The Square team began drafting the game in 1993 and released it in Sept. 1995. Back then, two years was actually a relatively long development cycle, considering Final Fantasy VI was made in about a year.

Square teamwork made Seiken Densetsu 3 prettier

Another thing the development team focused on — since they had a larger MB size to work with — was producing art with a “three-dimensional” quality. Having published late in the Super Famicom’s life cycle, Seiken Densetsu 3 did indeed feature incredibly beautiful pixel art. This was in part because the sprite artists and background artists worked together rather than separately, allowing them to create enemies and (huge) bosses that had a sense of girth and depth to them. The artists also used dark blues and purples instead of black to create shadows, which made everything more lively.

A major romance mechanic was thrown out

Maybe the most surprising revelation of the interview is that a party romance mechanic was cut from Seiken Densetsu 3! Tanaka explains it:

[O]riginally, I wanted to have “love triangles” be a feature of the three-character party system. But when we tried it, and had people actually play through those scenes, their reaction wasn’t good: “Huh, why are these two getting together? This isn’t what I would of wanted.” So I decided to drop the idea.

It’s funny, because the whole reason our original plans called for 3 male and 3 female protagonists, all older teenagers, was specifically for that love triangle system.

I’m a sucker for romance (shoutout to One Life to Live), so I think it’s too bad this didn’t work out.

Yet that’s not even all of the things this interview discusses! These are just the coolest highlights. So be sure to check out the full interview, and then let’s get started on updating that Seiken Densetsu 3 Wikipedia article.


John Friscia
Head Copy Editor for Enthusiast Gaming. I'm a writer who loves Super Nintendo and Japanese role-playing games to an impractical degree. I really miss living in South Korea.


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