Title: Romancing SaGa: Minstrel Song Remastered
Release Date: December 1, 2022
Reviewed On: PS5
Publisher: Square Enix
The SaGa series is one that many JRPG nerds stand by as one of the standard for non-linear adventures. More often than not, I find myself in conversations with those who have played and discover the many different experiences we had. Romancing SaGa was a remake PS2 release of the Super Famicom JRPG Romancing SaGa. Although the west wouldn’t see Romancing SaGa for quite some time, this remake was all we had. Now, Romancing SaGa: Minstrel Song Remastered is the remastered version of the remake, which is almost as confusing as this game can be. With that out of the way, let me introduce you to your new favorite JRPG.
Romancing SaGa: Minstrel Song Remastered tells the story of eight selectable protagonists at the game’s start. Each character has a unique prologue that introduces their quest to stop the revival of a god of destruction. There is a shared antagonist as players uncover the truth about objects known as the Fatestones, but that isn’t really brought into focus until much later. First, you need to get a lay of the land.
Mardias make up the game world that contains several regions and various locations. Throughout each adventure, players need to enlist new party members and speak with townspeople to gain intel on these places. Once discovered, quests will become available, which players can ultimately take on at their own pace. However, that’s not exactly true, as time can limit access to quests and whether or not you have particular party members enlisted…but let’s not get ahead of ourselves.
Romancing SaGa: Minstrel Song is a beast of an adventure and one that requires the player’s full investment to enjoy. The game plays out similarly to a tabletop RPG, where the player’s actions or inactions change the story’s outcome. You won’t lose access to a proper ending or anything, but you may lock yourself out of quests or find yourself lost about what you need to do next. Thankfully, there’s a note section that details hints about the quests you’ve acquired and how to complete them.
The quests in this game are cryptic in that they are rarely in your face and require you to do some exploring to find them. You can just as easily pass something up if you aren’t speaking to each townsperson or not visiting the pub, where you’ll meet new party members. My only problem is pushing myself to do events I don’t remember doing as a kid. I’d say don’t use a guide for your first playthrough to get the whole experience of this adventure. Taking on this enormous world and everything it offers on your own is the best way to enjoy it.
One element of this game that I never liked is how it dissuades you from battle, if only to keep your Event Rate low. This affects the enemy level as well as the difficulty. Level grinding is not encouraged, but that’s sad because it is satisfying to unlock new techniques. In this Remastered release, I wouldn’t have minded if this feature was taken out completely, but it does limit creating OP characters. Luckily New Game+ mitigates some of this, but new players will likely find some playthroughs too difficult after grinding a few levels, which are more like upgrades anyway, considering nothing about this series is traditional.
It’d be redundant at this point to explain the gameplay mechanics of a SaGa title. To be brief, party members learn new techniques randomly during battle. It’s a fun system that keeps each playthrough unique. It’s like a dash of random garnish on top of an already spontaneous adventure. Additionally, combos can be created within the party for higher damage output.
Every action by the player changes the course of the narrative. Quests are provided, but no one is telling you to do them. The term “hand-holding” is non-existent during this game, which may limit its fanbase, but it’s unapologetic about its approach.
In terms of new content, players can choose whether to play the original or the updated version. In addition, new characters can be added to your party, including Marina, who plays a significant role in the story. Further, Aldora has a quest arc that includes some additional story beats detailing her adventure when traveling with Mirsa.
Other quality-of-life features include a new map HUD and a speed toggle. Further, New Game+ is available to carry over techniques for another playthrough. Trust me; you’ll likely want to play again if only to see what you missed. In terms of the visuals, I find them to be charming. It’s like a storybook that fits the almost tabletop nature of the adventure. Also, the voice-over makes the often dense story easier to digest. It’s definitely not the best voice-over, but it works.
Romancing SaGa: Minstrel Song Remastered breaks the rules of traditional JRPG systems. There’s a gorgeous experience waiting to be unearthed, but this requires player patience to enjoy it fully. This might be a big ask, considering other titles are much more accessible, but I can’t help be enjoy every playthrough, no matter how challenging. What’s missing is a modernized tutorial prologue for new players, if only to help ease them into the experience, but what’s here is an RPG masterpiece.
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