OverviewXianjian Qixia Zhuan 3 (aka Chinese Paladin 3, or the abbreviated 'PAL 3', or The Legend of Sword and Fairy 3) is a Japanese-style role-playing game set in fictional ancient China, inspired by Chinese folktales and the related fantasy literature. This title was developed by Softstar Shanghai, since Softstar Beijing was hard at work on Chinese Paladin 2, which was only released few months back in January 2003. With a new development house, the writers had set the story 50 years before the events of the first game, and is somewhat unrelated to that of PAL and PAL2, beyond thematic similarities, some cameos and a few homage to the past titles.
Another change for the series is the complete graphical jump from 2D, to 3D characters and environments, something that the development team for Chinese Paladin 2 had considered again and again, but had decided against it at the end; since they thought that 2D sprite can be more expressive and colourful than 3D polygons at the time. Something that had not been lost in this dimensional transition was the light-hearted, cartoonish character design; although part of the reason was technical limitation, but the character designs fit in the youth-related plot themes, such as love/hate, and good/evil.
This leap to 3D had the developers made some innovation to the series' overall mechanics.The battle system has been overhauled, and has since been considered the deepest in the series. There are dungeons (liberal translation, "maze" is the literal translation) in-between safe zones (such as cities or plot-significant maps). When travelling in these dungeons the player can expect some light platforming, and also battles with various mobs. However, unlike most traditional JRPGs, there are no random encounters; all monsters are represented on the dungeon floor and roams about aimlessly, but they will give chase when the player move within close proximity. This basically give players the choice to either fight or run away; this also gives the player some strategic options, since mobs close together can be chained and will battle the player together, which will spawn a very difficult fight but with high reward in terms of experience and loot.
Battle SystemThe battle system made for Chinese Paladin 3 is the most mechanically complicated in the series (and was even slightly simplified in Chinese Paladin 4), with an active-time style mechanic for deciding turns to attack. Different factors come into play in any given battle, some of those include weapon hit range, elemental strength and weakness, and also "intimacy points" that can make another character defend the one under attack, only taking 1 damage for the defender.
Basic MechanicAfter the player make contact with the avatar of a mob, the battle will initiate and all participating characters (both the player and the mob) are represented by an icon on the top right side of the screen, on a line with three points. Right after the battle starts, icons are placed on the line based on the character's speed attribute (unless ambushed, striken from behind, at which point the attacker gets first hits) and will move from left to right towards the second point on the line in real-time (hence the active-time style).
Once the character's (or the monster's) icon reaches the second point (about 3/4 way to the end point), the said character can make a move akin to any JRPG. If the character decides to attack, or use an item (recovery or otherwise), the move is executed immediately; however, if the character decides to use a skill, a magic attack or to escape, the character's icon will begin to move into the second, purple part of the active-time line, and the chosen move will execute only after the icon reaches the end point. Thus effectively gives more powerful magic attacks a cast time, to balance out the battles. To escape from battle, the character's icon will also enter the purple zone, and if the said character is struck while still in this zone on the active-time line, the escape will be unsuccessful.
Weapon RangeDifferent weapons such as one-handed swords or spear or two-handed swords all have very different range in battle. This means that while one-handed swords can deal higher damage to only a single monster, a two-handed sword such as the "Demon Sword" or the spear can hit a row of mobs, a front-line tank mob and the usual magic-caster behind it. This is very important when strategizing against opponents, since often the player can only damage the magic casters only after the front row of monsters are dealt with. The attack range for weapons are below:
Two-handed swords ("Demon Sword"): one row
Dual-wielded daggers: single enemy
Bow & arrow: single enemy(regarless of position)
Hard whips: one row
One-handed swords: single enemy
Blades: single enemy
Staves: one row Spears: one row
Elemental Formation PAL 3 features a complex elemental formation system, which can only be adjusted outside of battle. There are six positions to fill in all, five elements and one variable element that depends on the battle environment; for example,if the map characters are currently battling on ice and snow, then the middle element will become 'water', and will add bonuses to water damage and resistance to the character positioned at this point; but also making this character morevulnerable to 'earth' element attacks, since 'water' is weak against 'earth'. The bonuses of course applys to all of the other five fixed elements as well, with strength and weakness defined below respectively.There are several things to consider when tweaking character positions; first, only characters on the front row are subjected to normal melee enemy attacks, while the ones at the back can act as support (unless the enemy weilds weapons that can deal damage to a whole row, consult Weapon Range sub-section above for more information), second is the desired elementalaffiliation for each character, since every character only learns magic skills for one element, and that element will get its bonuses and negative-bonuses based on the formation, one has to strategize on where each character should stand in battle.
Elemental wheel is as follows:
Water > Fire > Lightning > Wind > Earth > Water
Sequels & Spin-offsAfter the success of PAL3 on Chinese sales charts, a spin-off named "The Legend of Sword and Fairy 3: The Proposal" (aka Chinese Paladin 3 Gaiden) was released more than a year later. It continues the story with a set of different characters, years later following the end of Chinese Paladin 3, thus taking place between the events of PAL 3 and PAL 1. The development of The Legend of Sword and Fairy 4 followed shortly after, and was released in 2007.