Square Enix has many classic franchises that used to get multiple games in the past but have been long dormant now. SaGa is one of these franchises along with Mana that has been brought back again by Square Enix. While Mana fans can enjoy full remakes of classic games, Square Enix is mostly releasing ports of old SaGa games with new content or enhancements to the modern platforms. This is not necessarily a bad thing, however, it does make it harder to get into the series due to the old-school visuals and dated gameplay.
Romancing SaGa 3 is a special case because it was never localized in the past. It was first released for the Super Nintendo in 1995 and while a virtual console version existed for Wii and Wii U, it never made its way to the West with an official English localization. Square Enix first announced a remastered version of Romancing SaGa 3 for the PS Vita and Smartphones in 2017 and it was later revealed that this remaster will be released on more platforms including PC, Nintendo Switch, and PS4. After a long wait, especially for Romancing SaGa fans in the West, the game is now finally available in English.
The one major difference that is immediately seen with this new entry is that it feels different from its predecessors. One key difference is with the addition of multiple playable characters. Depending on which one you pick at the start of the story, it is possible to end up playing a minigame themed around the war between two factions. This minigame lets you control an army with several soldiers in it and decide various forms of tactics for them including special commands that make them defend or charge at their opponents. If you lose a battle in this minigame during the story, it is possible to get a game over here.
Romancing Saga 3 has a story spanning across centuries. It focuses on a cosmic event that is known as the Death Eclipse. This event occurs after every three hundred years and kills all newborn life on Earth except for one child. The survivor of this cosmic event ends up getting supreme powers that can be used for good or evil. The game explains in its intro how the first occurrence of this event concluded with an evil incarnation of the child that ended up torturing its inhabitants and unleashing deadly creatures. The second occurrence led to the world finally gaining peace after three hundred years of suffering thanks to the good powers of the new child. The story picks up after the third eclipse ends with the world left wondering what fate they have in store with the new supreme child.
Romancing SaGa 3 has multiple protagonists each of them offering their prologue and introduction in the story. Once you pick one of them, the introduction will play out and after it is over, you are basically out in the world figuring out what to do next, and where to go from here. The game values freedom and doesn’t hold the hands of players who are used to the modern gameplay design. It is a little old-school approach that might be difficult to swallow for those who are not used to it, but it is not that hard either to figure out your next objective.
Romancing SaGa 3 doesn’t offer a long or bloated story that can overstay its welcome, and most of the background elements are kept simple so the purpose and motivations of the characters are clear. While it might look the part, this is nowhere near a Final Fantasy game. The gameplay system also feels identical to the Final Fantasy series at first since it is turn-based but with a vastly different progression system. It uses a unique Glimmer system that lets the characters learn new abilities. This is more of a random mechanic that depends on different factors like the weapon equipped and the talents of the character.
The difficulty of the battle system and lack of tutorials also make it a tough entry to recommend for newcomers. It is tailored towards the fans who have grown with the series. The battle system is a combination of trial and error where you learn with your mistakes. It is not easy to get the hang of it, and in fact, I received my first game over within minutes of booting the game. The game is sufficiently difficult and encourages the player to experiment and learn its various mechanics. It is not a game that can be recommended to anyone, even those who enjoy old-school JRPGs.
Visually speaking, this has some great 16-bit visuals and even when you play on a full HD display, it looks great. The game shows its true colors when you play it in portable mode on the Nintendo Switch where the spirits scale perfectly well with the resolution of the display. The soundtrack is also sublime with some great music composed by series veteran Kenji Ito. While I won’t compare to Square Enix’s Final Fantasy series, it manages to hold on its own.
While I enjoyed what I played of Romancing SaGa 3, the slightly divisive reaction the game has received so far is understandable. You are going to either love it or hate it, there is no middle ground here. If you have enjoyed the previous SaGa games, do this one a chance since it is incredibly ambitious and with a lot of room for experimentation that helps give it additional replay value.
Romancing SaGa 3 Review (Switch)
Game Reviewed on: Switch
Game description: The celebrated RPG classic comes West for the first time! Experience a brand-new HD remaster of the legendary 1995 RPG masterpiece introducing optimised graphics, a new dungeon to explore, new scenarios and a new game+ function.
Final Score - 8/10
This is a faithful recreation of Romancing Saga 3 bringing back this classic JRPG to modern platforms. There are some additional features but the most appealing part of this port is that the game is now officially playable with English localization.