Title: Romancing SaGa 3
Developer: Square Enix
Release Date: November 11, 2019
Reviewed On: PS4
Publisher: Square Enix
I often hear RPG fans prefer the idea of non-linear gameplay elements in their JRPGs. It’s because of this that I’m not sure why the SaGa series was never popularized in the west as much as it was in Japan. The series excels in non-linear game elements, and no entry does it better than Romancing SaGa 3. Now, 24 years after its Japanese release, the west is finally receiving an official localization of one truly awesome JRPG experience.
Romancing SaGa 3 begins by allowing the player to choose one of eight characters. This character will act as the protagonist of the story, but outside of a few unique quests, it doesn’t matter who you choose to play the game through for your first time through. Some characters are better magic yielders or have higher strength, but discovering that is part of the experience. Coincidently, you’ll likely enlist each of the eight characters into your party at one point during the story.
The story is set 10 years after an event that occurs every 300 years. During this time, every child on the planet dies except for one. That child will end up becoming either a devilish or holy King. The overall mission has players set out to close a gate and defeat a final boss. Your typical JRPG fare.
However, the destination is not what makes Romancing SaGa 3’s journey so appealing. Along the way, players will meet new characters and go on various adventures, and do this all without any real direction. The story itself is presented in a way for the player to feel like the story is unique to them, and in many ways it is. Who you enlist, which weapons you equip them with, which region you lend your aid to, and many more choices are up to you.
Even the map design is created based on who you talk to in a town. For example, a random townsperson will mention a camp just outside of town, and it’s there when you exit to the map. This means you are encouraged to speak to all townspeople, learn about the area, take on sub-quests, and at some point, maybe get around to completing the story mission.
The battle system in Romancing SaGa 3 is not straightforward at all and may even cause some confusion if this is your first venture in the series. You can equip weapons to characters, but new techniques are only learned by using the weapon in battle. Some characters have trouble with certain weapons, so it’s good to figure out which weapons are best for which character.
Since the game has a lot of characters that can be enlisted, creating a balanced party isn’t difficult. Something even more unique is how characters deal with dying in battle. If a character falls in a fight, they don’t die. Instead, they get a counter that begins at ten and slowly counts down each time they die. Following a battle, characters are healed, but the timer is only reset when you rest at an inn. It’s an exciting mechanic and is a popular feature in the SaGa series.
The HD visuals in Romancing SaGa 3 are amazing. From the environment design to the attack animations, everything here is a retro JRPG fan’s dream. Being that this isn’t a game that tries to rush you, it’s easy to take in all of the unique town and dungeon layouts found on the adventure. Sadly, this game has some cryptic dungeon designs. Doors are often hidden and only indicated by small indents, and direction can be painful during some missions. However, the journal feature helps out a lot when organizing your adventure or trying to figure out your next task.
Romancing SaGa 3 has seen some new additions in this modernized release for starters its visuals have been upgraded. While it still retains in 16-bit design, it’s environments, and character models have seen a nice facelift. Also, if you’re into exploring, the game now offers a Phantom Maze, which contains fierce enemies and high-quality loot. The feature I enjoyed the most was the New Game+, where character skills and levels can be transferred over to a new story.
Being that this is the first official western localization, I can say the developer did a great job at making this adventure make sense. This must have been a considerable undertaking given that much of the dialogue is essential to the plot or offers a hint as to what the player should do next. Still, I didn’t like how some NPCs repeated the same text as other NPCs, but I’m not sure if this was in the Japanese version of not, I just thought they could have taken a different approach.
Romancing SaGa 3 has many standout adventurous moments during each character’s route. Every moment of gameplay feels like it’s unique to the player, which just so happens to be what I look for in a JRPG. Sure, I missed some side-quests in my playthrough, but that didn’t hinder my experience because my adventure was my own. So I encourage any who are also looking for non-linear JRPG to go out and discover their path in this awesome game.
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