The SaGa series is regarded as one of the best non-linear JRPG series to date. From its initial release in 1989, the series took players on adventures fine-tuned by their actions. In recent years, Square Enix has been releasing remastered versions of the series to introduce it to a global audience and allow old fans the chance to play it again on modern platforms.
The most recent remaster effort from the team was SaGa Frontier Remastered. In this release, the team went back in to add additional quality-of-life improvements along with additional scenarios and a new route.
With their eyes set on the future of the series, we had the chance to sit down with SaGa series creator Akitoshi Kawazu, SaGa series producer Masanori Ichikawa, and Saga Frontier Remastered Producer Hiroyuki Miura to reflect on working on the remastered titles and the future of the series.
Azario Lopez: Looking back, did you think SaGa would still be a series after 30 years? Are you looking forward to releasing the other titles?
Masanori Ichikawa: I’ve been vocal about wanting to remaster all of the SaGa games. It’s been something that we’ve had fun doing, but it’s also been a challenge. So it’s a surprise that it’s gone on this long, and although I can’t see into the future, we don’t have any reason to stop now.
AL: Kawazu-san, with the release of Legend of Mana Remaster, I know you were working on another game during its initial development, SaGa Frontier 2. Does the reaction from fans for Legend of Mana encourage you to deliver a quality remaster of SaGa Frontier 2?
Akitoshi Kawazu: Definitely, as Ichikawa answered earlier, we are hoping to remaster all of the SaGa games, and that includes SaGa Frontier 2 as well. Aside from that goal, SaGa Frontier 2 has a unique presentation in terms of gameplay and mechanics. It’s going to be interesting to see how we approach revitalizing that for modern consoles. With that being said, there are hurdles that we can’t foresee that include certain features and how we are going to remaster them. We could also approach it in the same way we did SaGa Frontier Remastered and take a look at what new elements we can add to the game. All of these things are being taken into consideration as we look at how to tackle this particular remaster.
AL: I feel strange sometimes thinking about how much I desire to play games from my past. What is about our desire to play these games or games that we grew up with that make these remastered efforts so highly wanted?
MI: You’re correct in thinking that it’s sort of strange that we are driven by this desire to play games that we completed many years ago. I felt the same way with the Collection of SaGa, a game I played when I was in elementary school. The reason I want to play these games isn’t only for nostalgia, but after playing cutting-edge newer games, I felt like I wanted to go back to the older games to see how revolutionary they were in their era from a subjective perspective of a game designer and looking at the details in the pixel work and what new elements they were trying to incorporate into those small details. When comparing these to new titles, we see that they might not be as revolutionary, even if they have better graphics. It’s just nice to look at the simple but great gameplay elements built within the limitations that were put on developers and recognize what they created.
Hiroyuki Miura: As for games, of course, I have that urge to want to revisit these games because they were fun. But I also feel that this isn’t just limited to games, but also music and movies. Going back and revisiting this media and enjoying it is linked to the memories and environments that I was in while I was playing those games or watching those movies. It’s as if I’m revisiting my past when I interact with this media.
AK: My first game was Pong, but I don’t really want to play Pong today.
AL: The SaGa series has many memories that players hold that may be unique to their playthrough. One memory I have is in SaGa Frontier 2 when Gustave is making his unbelievably strong sword that no one believes he can make. It’s a memory that I think about often. I’m wondering if there are any memories that you think of when someone mentions the SaGa series.
MI: My favorite is from Final Fantasy Legend II, and it comes from the very end of the game; sorry if this is a spoiler. At the very end, the protagonist’s father says to the protagonist, “Let’s go on an adventure.” and the mother also tags along, and they set off as a family.
HM: I have a few, but one that sticks out is in Final Fantasy Legend II. There is one character who appears named Kai, who is a very beautiful girl that plays a significant role in the game. There’s a part in the game where the party has to go inside her body and explore her organs. The juxtaposition that she’s this beautiful girl, but you have to see her inner organs was pretty impactful to me.
AK: I actually Tweeted about this the other day. In Romancing SaGa 3, this isn’t a specific scene, but during the last boss of the game, I ran out of Skill Points and Ability Points and had few options of what I could do. I was thinking about giving up, but at the very end, one of the party members received one of those little light bulbs over their head and learned a new skill that was able to beat the boss. I was surprised, even as a game creator, that something like that had happened. It’s one good memory I have of the series.
AL: I feel like it’s getting tougher to pitch non-linear JRPGs to modern gamers. Do you feel like there’s still a desire for this non-linear adventure that non only satisfies old fans but creates new ones?
AK: There are definitely games that are very well made as linear games with a sound structure and storyline. That being said, when I play RPG games, I want them to be something that is more free and could be played at the pace that I want to play it at. Having those elements is what I find makes RPGs great. Through that, I want players to be able to experience things that happen through the story that they weren’t expecting or maybe something that may disappoint them. I feel like that is the essence of RPGs themselves, and I feel like there are players out there that are looking for that sort of game and that there is still room for these games.
AL: What does a new entry in the SaGa series look like to you? Do you plan on staying traditional to the previous entries or go hyperrealistic?
AK: Just to preface, it’s not that I don’t like super realistic games, but if we are able to go in that direction, there will be a lot of costs incurred to make that happen. The more real we try to make it, the tougher it will be to make things more convincing. In order to realize our vision of trying to create that fantasy experience, I think we won’t limit ourselves with going in that direction. I want to make sure we realize these free forms of ideas without putting any restrictions on ourselves.
That being said, there are costs incurred with going in a more traditional route with having things done by hand using traditional art. So our goal now is to go with a method and presentation that allows us to freely present the ideas that we have and get fans on board with that.
Thank you for reading this interview. It was truly a dream to speak to this team of developers who have created so many of my memories growing up while playing their games.
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