The presentation finally caught up to the gameplay with Seiken Densetsu 3, a more polished affair that reiterates the format with a greater dose of narrative ambition. What propels the story is not the premise or themes but its execution, offering a sort of linear, synchronous version of Romancing SaGa's character routes: Six main scenarios that occasionally weave and interact as they run parallel to each other. Creative story beats and a memorable cast adorn an overlapping structure that encourages many playthroughs under many team comps.
Without SD2's weapon-swapping or hard knockdowns, combat turned to a less mobile variant that favors dogpiling over stun-locking, shifting its center of mass while smoothing out the general pace. A fluid battle system which loses a bit of its luster in cramped spaces or with heavy repetition (i.e. grinding), while mini class paths and the return of stat-allocation provide it with some much-needed RPG depth. Sadly, its second half reveals the same set of problems that burden Secret of Mana: Tedious boss fights, gauntlet-style JRPG padding, unavoidable damage, etc. But this time, its world and dungeons are a step-up.
Having fully shed the Zelda influences of its early years, this release marked the complete maturation of Mana as both a stadium brawler and a charming storyteller.

Reviewed on Feb 20, 2022