In recent years, the fad of remastering classic games has taken hold. This has not only allowed newer generations to experience the classics but also opened up the opportunity for developers to release games that never came to America before. Square Enix jumped at the chance to rerelease Romancing SaGa 2 a few years ago, and on November 11th, exactly 24 years after its original release on the Super Romancing SaGa 3 for the first time in America. It sports new features and improved visuals while keeping the charm of the original. I’ve been waiting a very long time to fully experience this game, so let’s get right into it.
Plot and the Story System
The game opens on a detailed description of the story’s focus. It talks about the 300-year cycle of an eclipse called the Morastrum, that covers the sun for a whole year, in which no life born during that year will survive. 600 years ago, one child did survive and became the Archfiend that opened the Abyss Gates and summoned the four Sinistrals, powerful demons, to rule the world. And they did, for 300 years, until the survivor of the next Morastrum became the Matriarch and defeated the Archfiend. The game takes place another 300 years after the defeat of the Archfiend, with another Morastrum having happened only about 20 years before.
This is where the game’s story system opens. You select one main character from a list of eight. You have the four Sinon Hunters Julian, Thomas, Ellen, and Sarah, the mercenary Khalid, Marquis Mikhail, his sister Monika, and her bodyguard Katarina. Each character has a unique opening, somewhat. The four hunters and Monika share the better part of the same intro, except for an extension that Monika and Julian get to theirs. Khalid also has the same intro until he enters Mikhail’s and then later Katarina’s. The dialogue in each will change according to which character you choose, but after the intro, the game will generally proceed the same for everyone, with various changes here and there with dialogue or recruitable characters. Their plots won’t diverge again until the final battle. The main plot revolves around the reopening of the Abyss Gates, and you have to go out and close them again. Obviously there is a lot more to it, but it’s something you want to experience yourself.
The main system from Romancing SaGa 2 remains intact here, but for those who haven’t read my RS2 review, or haven’t played it (you should) I will go over it. 3 is a turn-based RPG without a standard level system. Everything increases from use. The only way a character will be good with swords, for example, is if they use them. This goes for magic as well. HP, SP (for skills), and MP (for magic) also go up, but more randomly. Those odds increase as the points are used, so you are more likely to gain HP if you are damaged.
The largest part of combat is the skill system. As a character uses weapons, they have the chance to “spark” a skill. This happens at random, and the odds are different depending on the character. After sparking a skill, that character can use it as much as they want. However, if they use it enough, they can master the skill, allowing anyone else to also use it. They show unmastered skills in the menu in red font, making it easier to identify which skills you might want to use more of. On top of attack skills, there is also a chance that you might spark a defensive skill if an enemy attacks you with a skill. These defensive skills give perfect evasion against that skill, but are very rare, and somewhat difficult to master, as you have to be targeted by that skill many times to master it. If it sounds deep, that’s because it is. There is a lot of room to experiment in the game, so do whatever you’re comfortable with.
Another important part of combat is formations! (Which I stupidly forgot about in my RS2 review. Oops.) At any point, you can have 5 characters in combat. Depending on how many are in combat, you have a number of different formations to choose from, granting certain benefits, such as defended spots, increased speed or strength, or even access to combo skills and spells if you are in Commander Mode. Now, I haven’t really used this, but you can enter Commander Mode by having a full party of 6 and putting your main character (the character you chose at the beginning) in the back of the formation. This activates a sort of auto-battle, but certain formations can activate combo skills if the party members are in the right configuration. This is a bit difficult to do but has huge payoffs.
A lesser part of the combat to mention here is Army Battles. Very rarely, you can initiate a battle between armies, and send orders to a specific side to lead them to victory. It’s sort of rock paper scissors and doesn’t happen more than maybe 3 times at most, but it’s something to mention.
Outside of combat, you wander around towns and dungeons, solve problems, and recruit members for your party. For the most part, recruitment is universal, but certain main characters can’t recruit others, and others can recruit special characters early. There is one case in particular that I won’t spoil here, but I find it interesting. The maximum party size is 6, so if you want to part ways with someone to make room for another, you have to go to a pub to make them leave. Note that some characters will flat out refuse to leave, either due to a quest you started or something else entirely. The two in particular that you should be warned of are Minstrel and Tatyana, who in particular is annoying and will force her way into your party and join under a fake name, usually the name of a dessert. Using these characters is your choice. Minstrel, in particular, isn’t bad at all, but Tatyana can be pretty awful. Again, I won’t spoil how to get rid of them.
Exploring around can unlock new dungeons or new cities, so talk to everyone. Some quests are also only activated when you’re strong enough, which is measured by your Leader’s HP. If it seems like something should happen, but isn’t, go back later. You can do any event in any order, so explore as much as you want. Shops are also slightly different in RS3, as normal battles don’t drop money. You have to sell dropped goods to get money or do certain quests for money. Spend wisely.
Last note on gameplay, and probably the most important thing, is LP, or Life Points. These will decrease after your HP hits 0, and if your LP hits 0, that character is gone for good. If your main character loses all of their LP, it is game over. Thankfully, unlike RS2, LP comes back after resting at an Inn. Just pay close attention to how much each character has.
The music in RS3 is pretty awesome. Each character has a different town theme, meaning some themes are pretty great (Katarina) and others can be a bit grating (Julian). I find it fits their personalities pretty well, which adds to the mood of the game. The other themes in the game, specifically the battle themes, are stellar, with special note going to the town of Podorui, which has beautiful music. Both themes for battles against the Sinistrals are pretty intense as well. I can’t say I’ve hated any music in the game. Even after 20+ years, the music still impresses.
It’s a true shame that we hadn’t received this game back on the SNES because it would definitely be as loved as other juggernauts like Chrono Trigger and Final Fantasy VI. The game is gorgeously remastered, with so many ways to explore and fight, that you will almost never play the same way as someone else. It is an incredibly difficult game, however, so please note that going in. It is made a touch easier with the added New Game +, and the new dungeons are also very fun. If you love a challenge, and old-school RPGs, Romancing SaGa 3 is a gem you definitely don’t want to pass up. If you want to see some gameplay, head over to my YouTube channel to watch some of my Julian playthroughs! Romancing SaGa 3 is available on Steam, PS4, Switch, Xbox One, Android, and iOS.
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Wade L. Hilton
[Editors Note: Wade is a content contributor for 181GAMING. If you would like to have your content published on 181GAMING, click here]