Title: SaGa Scarlet Grace: Ambitions
Developer: Square Enix
Release Date: December 3, 2019
Reviewed On: PS4
Publisher: Square Enix
As a longtime fan of the SaGa series, I’ve become used to its unique gameplay elements. So used to them, that when I first booted up SaGa Scarlet Grace: Ambitions, I didn’t like it. The game takes an untraditional approach with its RPG systems and storytelling, which took some getting used to on my part. However, after the first 30 minutes, I found myself invested heavily in everything this game has to offer.
SaGa Scarlet Grace: Ambitions begins by allowing the player to choose one of four protagonists. Each character has their own story, which will take them across a tremendous adventure that spans a semi-open world. Many of the game’s story elements are told through the guise of a storybook style layout. As players roam around, key points pop up to which players can investigate. While the game does have a main story, the best elements of SaGa Scarlet Grace: Ambitions are found in the events that happen while you are trying to get through the adventure.
I should stress that the main quest of each campaign in SaGa Scarlet Grace: Ambitions is full of substantial choices and huge plots that show depth in each of the characters. The characters here are each relatable and complex. However, their fates are shaped by the player who must make some hard choices, which might mean life or death for some of the key characters. Furthermore, each campaign will vary because the individuals who join your party will change throughout each adventure.
The story campaigns of SaGa Scarlet Grace: Ambitions are RPG storytelling gold. I felt like every hour spent during them packed in so many great moments of gameplay that I couldn’t stop. What’s even more surprising is how it does this without the need for actual dungeons or even random battles. When approaching an area on the map, players will see if there’s a battle that will take place along with the difficulty of the encounter. Other information given includes the monsters as well as the rewards.
Battles in SaGa Scarlet Grace: Ambitions continue the unique trend of RPG systems within the game. Each encounter is a strategic endurance fight that requires special planning and knowledge of your units. The battles can be difficult, but the difficulty can be lowered and raised in the options menu. The bottom of the screen displays when the unit will strike, but players need to account in the limited amount of BP available to them to execute attacks. Each round adds an additional BP unit, which allows more powerful or more units to be used.
SaGa fans will feel right at home with some of the battle system features as new abilities are discovered at random during a fight. However, the game makes this easier to understand by showing you which skills you’ve learned and how many more there are attached to the weapon. While it’s true that any character can equip a weapon, the game does a great job of adding units to the party to create a well-balanced party without having to adjust a character’s skillset. One of the tougher systems to understand is how magic users use Flux gained in battles to learn new abilities. This feature is still a little strange to me as I just allowed everything to happen at random, and I never truly understood it throughout any of my playthroughs. However, enemies do get a bit repetitive as some are just color swaps, even the bosses.
Another unconventional design choice is how players use towns. Heading to a new town is typically met with a small introduction to the Smithy. Here players can use materials gained from exploring and battles to upgrade their party’s equipment. Later on in the game, players can craft unique items, but this does require a bit of time to be put into exploration. If a character has exhausted all of the LP, a limit to how many times they can die in battle, they’ll need to be healed with materials at certain towns or wait the required amount of battles before reviving. You can also grind materials at mines that are sprinkled around the map.
SaGa Scarlet Grace: Ambitions’ graphics are based on the PlayStation Vita version of the game. Being primarily a handheld title, expect large character illustrations and menus that take up most of the screen during battles and story scenes. While the character illustrations are well-detailed, some NPC designs are used a little too much, which confused me at times. However, each of the main characters is adorably designed. I especially like Urpina Leonard’s baby doll outfit as she literally destroys enemies with her sword. Battles animations are also nicely designed, with each attack coming off as unique.
Sound design is decent, with a few standout tracks, but be aware you’ll be hearing a lot of the same songs repeated. The game also contains semi-English voice audio for some of the more essential dialogue scenes. However, some audio does not match the character, where an older man might have the voice of a soft 20-year-old.
SaGa Scarlet Grace: Ambitions is a beautiful adventure in every sense of the world. The game plays out like a Dungeons & Dragons RPG quest, where random events and player input have the most significant effect on the outcome of the story. Each campaign offers a few difficult choices to make, while all of them are full of exciting battles and unique quests. None of my playthroughs were the same, but one thing is for sure, each time I explored off of the main quest, I was met with some of the best side-quests I’ve ever played.
SaGa Scarlet Grace: Ambitions isn’t all-around perfect as its handheld limitations show themselves after the first hour, and there is some confusion around some of its systems, but I’ll say that this game left me surprised. I went in as a jaded fan of classic SaGa titles but was soon turned into a fan of the unique and untraditional methods of SaGa Scarlet Grace: Ambitions’ storytelling and battle system. If you are looking for an entirely different RPG, I cannot recommend this game more.
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