Review by ClessAlvein05
"Solid, but not an "elite Square game""
I'm going to have to break ranks with the majority on GameFAQs who feel this is a top-of-the line, 9 or 10 game, but I can't say it's horrible. It's a rough game with a lot of potential...to be more specific, here's how it breaks down:
Graphics: The visuals are decent for a mid-generation (1993) SNES game, but nothing exceptional. Like Square's first-generation SNES adventures (FF4, FF5, FFMQ,) they can be very rough around the edges. They are also much too pastel, for a game that has plenty of dark caves. There are some decent translucency effects for things like water and clouds, and some solid Mode 7 for bosses and maps (although, again, the map looks pretty rough and blocky, even if it's not often viewed up close the same way the map is in the games like the other Final Fantasies or Tales of Phantasia. It is nice that you can change between several views in flight--overhead or pilot's view--and zoom in and out and see clouds, which with 360 degree rotation puts it a tier above the FF4 and FF5 use of Mode 7.) There are some impressive bosses, although the motion of the other sprites is mostly stiff and blocky--which, unlike in the FF games which don't rely heavily on character motion beyond 16x16 blocks, is inexcusable. There isn't anything horrible about the graphics, but they aren't a particular selling point of the game. I would have loved to see the SNES CD version, since the graphics were the first thing to go when they had to downgrade it. 7/10
As much as Hiroki Kikuta's work is heralded, and as much as some of the songs deserve it, the music is VERY inconsistent. Too many of the songs have poor melodies or overuse the loud, annoying snare, other percussion instruments, and softer techno beats. The boss and almost all of the town songs will drive you crazy, and you'll have to listen to them dozens of times during the game. Most of the "emotional" songs do what they have to in terms of setting the tone of the game, but some can be overly simplistic or just not sound pleasing. Into the Thick of It, the song on grassy fields, really impressed me with its depth when I first heard it, but became a little redundant after a while; the other field songs weren't comparable for it (couldn't they remix the FFA field music for one of them? It would've sounded GREAT on the SNES.) Also, the way the game managed SPC700 swapping caused some of the longest game delays I've seen in a SNES game when music tracks changed.
However, there are some outstanding tracks. I'd go as far as to say that Prophecy, the song when Flammie takes to the sky after finishing the Hidden Continent, is one of the 10 best SNES songs ever composed--it's extremely deep, quick, high-strung (in more ways than one,) and emotional. Hidden Continent and Secret of the Arid Sands are also amazing--all three of these songs have had excellent OC Remixes since then. The way the game generally uses both normal instruments (except, as mentioned, some of the percussion) is mostly solid across the board (the choruses in the music are great,) in addition to the other effects (the "warping" sound in the intro can be heard at lower pitches elsewhere.)
The sound effects are respectable--not many vocals and mostly glorified-NES-level sounds of slashing, leveling up, etc, like other early 16-bit games, but very few things were horrible. There were too many "cartoon sound effects" thrown in for effect that came across as annoying, like when the player went into the air and back down after being shot out of a cannon.
On average, the excellent portion of the audio doesn't completely make up for the weak ones, but it salvages the game from mediocrity. 7.5/10
No real complains to speak of, although the way it executed at times was a little corny. The game's plot builds nicely off the original Seiken Densetsu, and the religious overtones unlike most other RPGs of the time are impressive, along with how they tie in to the storyline of industrial development like gunpowder and cannons. There are few translation goofs or censored portions of the game that drastically hurt the storyline. The interaction with townspeople and other minor characters up through the most significant elders is generally handled well. The boy, girl and sprite have good storylines. 9/10
The way the game manages the three-character system can be irritating. Your other characters will not always attack at the right times, and will put themselves in harm's way at the worst times. As a result, you will find yourself running out of healing items during boss battles for things that aren't really your fault, despite staging sound battle strategy. Also, the battle management system is absolutely atrocious. Hits take several seconds to register sometimes, and the game over-compensates in the "build-up" attack style in making repeated attacks cause much less damage than they should. Characters spend way too much time on the ground without recovering. It's nice that SD3 polished this off a lot in addition to the ways they improved the graphics and sound. And it's nice that SoM at least tried to put together a unique battle system.
The way weapons were used and built up was mostly intriguing, although it is a little annoying to have to switch back and forth from a whip to a weapon you actually bothered to build up whenever you cross a pit. The difficulty of the game is mostly reasonable if you know where you are going and don't fight bosses haphazardly.
Beyond the rough battle system, there are few major gameplay weaknesses. The item, inn, and town systems are mostly nice, although why on earth can you only hold a few candies, chocolates, or other small items at a time? You'll love getting to fly around with Flammie (who appears to be based on the Never-Ending Story Luckdragons) and find areas to land in. It feels a little different from your average RPG of the time in that the world map is completely separate from the in-game maps--so what you see when you land is nothing like what you'll actually face, and you have to be careful to find places to land. You'll suffer a lot trying to poke through battles, which is why I can't give more than a high 7, but some of the story gameplay elements make the juice worth the squeeze. 7.7/10
Almost all of the many people who really love this game would probably be absolutely blown away by Seiken Densetsu 3, because it eliminates almost all of this game's weaknesses and gets rid of all the roughness around the edges in gameplay and audiovisuals, without adding many detractors. However, SoM has plenty of weaknesses that make it hard for me to put it in the same class as others do. If you're a cult fan of the series and want the game, go ahead and find it for cheap somewhere. If not and you're like me, you really won't be that impressed. It seemed like Square tried to take the engines of games that didn't really need high-level graphics, like the early-generation SNES FFs mentioned above, and put them into a game that did consistently need excellent audiovisuals without properly scaling the graphics, sounds and gameplay up. Furthermore, the highly praised soundtrack could be extremely inconsistent and even irritating, despite its high points. Many of the weaknesses of the game couldn't be written off as "rookie mistakes" that occur when trying out a new method of gameplay, but reflected fundamentally poor programming and execution. While none of these problems completely ruined the game, they sapped a lot out of a storyline with excellent potential and elements that were unique at the time. For these reasons, I cannot give the game any higher than a 7--a very strong seven which I can't quite round up at that, but below the level of games I'd consider "very good," "excellent," or "almost perfect."
Reviewer's Rating: 3.5 - Good
Originally Posted: 04/11/07
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