Seiken Densetsu 3 is a phenomenal game that has a special place in my personal nostalgia. I enjoy it quite a bit more than Secret of Mana, its predecessor, though that’s not to say that SoM is a bad game by any means. But I think that SD3’s story is a bit more organic (I’ve always felt that SoM’s is sort of contrived), its characters are more than just blank slates for player imprinting, and its art direction is almost second to none in the SNES era.
One of the best things about SD3, though, is the fact that you get to choose 3 of 6 characters to use on your adventure. You’ll interact with the characters you don’t end up selecting at the outset of the game, but you get the fuller picture of each character’s story if you have them in your party--specifically, if they are your lead character. Not only that, but each character also has two class changes as the game progresses, with a branching path of progression for each. At each class change you can choose to go Light or Dark, meaning that you can end up as Light-Light, Light-Dark, Dark-Light, and Dark-Dark. This means different things for different characters.
All of this can, unfortunately, have a little bit of “choice paralysis” effect. After you take my suggestion to play this game, how are you, the fresh new player using this translated ROM sight-unseen, going to make the right choice on who does and doesn’t belong in your party? Who has the best story? Who has the best moves? Who’s the best character? What’s the right class makeup? These are the kinds of questions I’ll answer for you in this little “How to Start SD3” guide. Naturally, everything I’m going to say is my own opinion, and I’m sure other members here who have played the game (aka StarryPeach and basically no one else) might have other things to say. Which I welcome!
Quick Character Guide
Duran - Duran is the first of the slower and more physically-oriented characters in the game, which of course means that his strength and defense are very high. His Light classes allow him to equip shields, while his Dark classes are just really, really strong but don’t allow shields. Duran is the character with the best defense in the game and fits well on a team that needs power or survivability. Duran doesn’t learn much magic, but the magic he does learn is helpful.
Best classes: Paladin or Swordmaster (L-L / D-L). Paladin is a great class for defensive purposes, and it comes with some good healing. If you go Light, you should definitely go Paladin, since Lord doesn’t have too much to offer. Swordmaster, on the other hand, is very powerful and comes with useful elemental sword-endowing magic. Less defensive, though.
Kevin - Kevin is one of the Speed characters, which means he is the most fun to have as your lead. He also turns into a wolf at night, which is extremely useful because he’s even stronger than normal. Kevin’s a fun character and has an enjoyable personality. Definitely the most beginner-friendly characters in the game, as his final dungeon is one of the easiest and he himself is not hard to control.
Best class: Warrior Monk (L-D). This is almost undisputed, as far as I’ve seen. Warrior Monk gives Kevin a multi-heal as well as very good attack power. When you pick Kevin, there’s little reason to pick any other class route. The Dark classes are very physically strong, but don’t offer too much in the magic department. Maybe that’s your jam, who knows. The only way I could see going for a class other than Warrior Monk is if you are also packing Carlie.
Hawk - The second of the speed characters, which also makes him the most fun to have as your lead. I think Hawk has the best story arc in the game, and he is my #1 recommendation to have as your lead. His techs are fun, he attacks fast, and he’s such a good character to have in a battle. He attacks so fast that he can incapacitate a lot of enemies and keep them in hitstun.
Best class: Nightblade (D-D). This class is extremely powerful with one of the best techs in the game in Split Image Slice. It’s just really good. Going with a class other than Nightblade is a little surprising, and if you were going to do it, it would basically only be to have the Magic Guard ability which he gets as a Wanderer (L-L). But for your first time, if you go Hawk, you should go Nightblade, if for nothing else than for how fun it is.
Angela - The first of the two spellcasters of the game. Angela is entirely focused on Offensive Magic, so don’t expect her to get any healing ability, even in her Light classes. In fact, her Light Classes specialize in multitarget offense, whereas her dark classes focus on single-target offense. Angela is very strong, but very frail, as you might expect a spellcaster to be. She packs a massive punch, but she will also slow your game down, as casting spells takes up quite a bit of time.
Best Classes: Grand Divina or Arch Mage (L-L/D). These two classes are nearly identical except for the final spell, which doesn’t even have much difference. If Angela is your designated healer (by means of items, not spells), then Arch Mage is probably your best bet, since healing is based on the Spirit stat.
Carlie - The second spellcaster, except Carlie is more focused on healing and support magic. Carlie learns Heal Light in her base class, so she is capable of being the designated healer in both her Light and Dark classes. Carlie is a very beginner-friendly character and will be a boon to any team that has her purely because of her ability to keep everyone alive and well.
Best classes: Necromancer or Bishop (D-L /L-L). Necromancer is great offensively, whereas Bishop has the niche role of being extremely powerful against undead enemies. All depends on what you want. Typically, Necromancer is the way to go, unless you have Kevin or Carlie as your lead, because your final dungeon will have a whole lot of Undead enemies and Bishop wrecks them.
Lise - The second Slow and Strong character. Lise has high defense and pretty high attack power, though not as high as Duran. Lise’s strength comes mainly from her spells, which are Buffs in her Light classes and Debuffs in her Dark classes. Lise also has extremely powerful Summons at the end of her class progression, typically dealing massive damage and causing a status effect. I like Lise a little more than Duran because her support is invaluable.
Best classes: Dragon Master or Fenrir Knight (D-L/D). Not too much difference between these classes, but I’d recommend going Dark because Debuffs are better in this game than Buffs. Debuffs are cast once, whereas Buffs have to be cast three times (once for each party member) and that’s just inefficient. You get more mileage out of Lise’s Dark classes, but the final choice is up to you. Both summons are really strong.
Best Lead Characters: Kevin and Hawk
As the speed characters, these guys are simply the most active and fun to control. Hawk gets bonus points for having a great progression, but Kevin gets points for being the easiest on beginners. The Hawk/Lise path is considered the hardest, whereas the Kevin/Carlie path is considered the easiest.
Second Best Lead Characters: Duran and Lise
As the strength characters, these two are still comfortable to control, but require a bit more strategy and care. I’m currently leading Lise right now and enjoying it (moreso than my attempt at leading Duran, though maybe I’m just in a different mindset now).
Don’t Lead with These Characters: Angela and Carlie
Unless you like sitting and waiting for spells to be cast, I’d advise against these two. You can’t do anything during spellcasting, and spellcasting is what you want to be doing with these two characters. If you really like the characters and want their full stories, you’ll probably end up hitting “select” to switch to your secondary/tertiary character more often than actually controlling your lead.
Best story: Hawk and Lise
I think the Rolante/Navarre arc is the best one in the game. Subjective, yes, but take it for what it’s worth. It’s also considered to be the hardest of the three possible routes (the routes being Hawk/Lise, Kevin/Carlie, and Duran/Angela). I also just really enjoy these two characters.
Coolest antagonist: Kevin and Carlie
The Death Jester is awesome, IMO.
Best character in the game: Kevin (Warrior Monk)
I’ll say it again: Kevin is basically easy mode. He’s really, really strong, and he has potent multi-target heals. If you want to speed run through the game, pick Kevin as your lead. (This also means your final dungeon will be the easiest.)
ML’s favorite character in the game: Hawk (Nightblade)
Hawk is also very strong, but his arc matches his strength. By far the coolest, IMO. One of my favorite JRPG characters in general.
SP’s favorite character in the game: Angela (Grand Divina)
SP’s an Angela fan. If she shows up, she can tell you more about why, I’m sure!
ML’s Pre-Made Team Compositions
Testosterone: Hawk (D-D), Kevin (L-D), Duran (D-L)
Going with the 3 guys will guarantee you see all 3 major conflicts play out, and with a balanced party no less. Hawk in the lead gets you the Navarre story, which I think is the best and most difficult. You’ll have no healer in the early game, and Kevin will be the major healer with these class choices, so you’ll be using items.
Girl Power: Lise (D-L/D), Angela (L-D), Carlie (D-L)
Going with the 3 ladies will also guarantee that you see all the conflicts in the game, and the party is also well-balanced. Again, Lise gets you the Navarre/Rolante story, which is my favorite and the most difficult. Carlie will be your healer with this class scheme, as she always is.
The Best Defense is a Good Offense: Hawk (D-D), Kevin (L-D), Angela (L-L/D)
This is possibly the most powerful setup, though it’s arguable that having Dark Duran instead of Kevin would be stronger. Again, you won’t have a healer in the early game, and Kevin will end up being your main source of heals.
The Best Offense is a Good Defense: Duran (L-L), Lise (L-D), Carlie (D-D)
You’ll rarely get KO’d with this party. It’s a little slower, but with Lise’s buffs and Carlie’s heals and Duran’s defense, you’re pretty set.
Heals for Days: Kevin (L-D), Duran (L-L), Carlie (L-L)
If you’re worried about not having enough heal power, this party’s got you covered. I wouldn’t recommend it because you typically only need one healer, but this party is both strong and heal-heavy. Carlie goes Bishop in this route for the final dungeon.
Best Balance: Hawk (D-D), Duran (L-L), Carlie (D-L)
This is the first party I ever chose, completely by happenstance, and it ended up being one of the best parties you can pick. Speed, Strength, and Heals. It’s really good stuff. This party has no glaring weaknesses, sees all 3 conflicts, and is really fun to play.
This is Good Too: Kevin (L-D), Angela (L-L/D), Lise (D-L/D)
This is the opposite of the team listed above, and for that reason is the second party I ever played with. It’s also very good, though it relies on items a bit more, since Kevin as a main healer needs some support, especially in the early game where you will have no heals.
Easy Mode: Kevin (L-D), Hawk (D-D), Carlie (L-L)
Kevin and Hawk are pretty OP, so having them together is very very strong. You also have two healers in this set, and Carlie is really good enough on her own anyway. This includes the easiest final dungeon, and Carlie going Bishop will really make that a cakewalk. This is probably the Speedrun Party.
ML’s Personal Favorite: Hawk (D-D), Lise (D-D), Carlie (D-L)
Hawk and Lise together is a cool dynamic in the story. Again, Rolante/Navarre is my favorite arc, and I love Hawk to death. Lise’s debuffs are going to be extremely good combined with Hawk’s offense, and Carlie as Necromancer Healer is going to really serve you well. You don’t get the Altena conflict in this party, but that’s OK.
- You’ll notice that if I have Carlie on the team, she’s always in the 3rd slot. That’s on purpose--having Carlie in the 3rd slot is the only way to have 3 party members available for the first two major boss fights in the game. Not really a huge difference, but it’d be silly not to do it.
- You’ll notice I heavily lean toward controlling Hawk, and that’s just my personal preference.
- I have only played the game three times (Hawk/Duran/Carlie, Kevin/Angela/Lise, and Lise/Hawk/Angela), so a lot of my suggestions here are theoretical. You may find plenty of things that I haven’t mentioned here.
So, did this convince you to start SD3? I hope so! But even if it hasn’t, hopefully you learned something, and can use this as a resource for when you finally do decide to play this awesome game.