SaGa series is making a comeback thanks to the efforts of Square Enix. While this comeback is true in terms of the game localization and releases, it doesn’t appear to do much for the recognition of the series. It still remains a relative niche series that tends to experiment around with every new game and while it is not Final Fantasy in that sense, SaGa is still one of the most ambitious series developed under Square Enix.
SaGa Scarlet Grace: Ambitions was first developed for the PlayStation Vita. It launched back in 2016 when the PlayStation Vita was still getting some support, although it was slowing down. As an exclusive title for the PlayStation Vita which was a failed handled in the Western market, an English localization was a risk. Square Enix opted to go for a different route and made an expanded port of the original game that was subsequently localized and released on more platforms including PC, Nintendo Switch, and PS4.
The story centers on four protagonists: Lenoard, Taria, Balmaint, and Urpina. The game doesn’t directly give a choice to pick between them when starting the adventure but instead asks for a questionnaire that attempts to line up with the personality of the character that closely matches the player picked answers. It is a different experience for each of the four lead characters so no two playthroughs are going to be the same.
Before beginning the game, you need to set your expectations accordingly. This is not a traditional JRPG that lets the player roam around a world map and have conversations with NPCs to progress through the story. The world map is open to explore but it lacks the presentation and oomph of a traditional RPG experience. The player has plenty of freedom to explore the world map which gives the appearance of a pop-up storybook. The art style helps it stand out more despite the lack of proper 3D visuals.
As you control the character, you can freely perform various tasks but interacting with the points of interest on the world map. These can lead to battles or a conversation with NPCs. The story can also be advanced this way although it is confusing to figure out your objectives in the beginning. The non-linear nature of the world map means you can get lost easily and unfortunately the game is not fun when you are confused.
Saga Scarlet Grace: Ambitions has a simple but fun combat system that helps sidestep some of the more mundane parts of its game design. The game is not fun to mess around especially if you are exploring the world map. Things can become a bit repetitive as you get accustomed to the gameplay loop of world map exploration mixed in with the combat. It can escalate to frustration and boredom if you keep doing the same tasks while failing to figure out how to progress the story.
Story-wise, it is hard to find anything epic or motivating in SaGa Scarlet Grace: Ambition. There is a central theme to the story with a fallen empire thrown in the mix but it fails to properly present its unique story beats. All the player is left is with a game that relies on its gameplay instead of offering memorable characters. Due to the non-linear nature of the story, events can change depending on how the player attempts them. This adds an element of replay value to the game.
The combat system in SaGa Scarlet Grace: Ambitions is the most fun part of the whole game. It might be the best combat out of the whole series even if the story is not that great. In most of the traditional RPGs, you had to gain experience points to earn a level and then get skill points. It is a different story in SaGa Scarlett Grace: Ambitions where the focus is on customizing the controllable characters depending on player preferences. If you use a specific skill or ability too much, it will level up and improve. The same applies to any offensive or defensive technique that can be performed in the game.
The battle system might be fun but the difficulty level is also quite high. It is not a game that is recommended to newcomers of the series, and if you are looking for one, the Romancing SaGa games can prove to be a better candidate in this regard. Regardless, if you manage to overcome the difficulty curve and the various difficulty spikes, it is a rewarding experience in the end.
Don’t expect high production value or great visuals as the game is quite simple. The flaws of the game are related to its story and character development but the combat system overcomes most of the issues if you can take the time to learn and enjoy it. I wouldn’t recommend this game unless you are looking for something different than a traditional RPG, but if you are in the mood for an experiment, give this one a chance.
SaGa Scarlet Grace: Ambitions Review (Switch)
Game Reviewed on: Switch
Game description: With the fate of the world uncertain, follow the journey of Urpina, Taria, Balmaint, and Leonard as they call on their might and set out to carve a new future. Take charge and shape your own adventure with ultimate freedom of choice.
Final Score - 7.5/10
While it is nice to see a brand new SaGa game after the franchise laid dormant for years, it is still struggling to find common ground and the experimental nature of the gameplay means this is not meant for everyone.