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The SaGa Thread

Sprite

(He/Him/His)
Has a SaGa game gotten three passes before? They’re always amazing the second time around so I’m expecting good things. Though I’m not going to be able to play it for quite some time 😩

I managed to convince a friend to try it with the caveat that he may hate it, because I always gush about these games and then people end up feeling burned. Minstrel Song is one of the more approachable ones though so it may end up my go-to as an initial introduction to the series.
 

spines

cyber true color
(she/her, or something)
about a month ago when we had covid demi started playing saga frontier 2, so i saw most of that game. i kinda want to play it now, but having watched most of the story and battles i think it'll probably tide me over until a remake if that manages to happen in the next couple years. i can't remark deeply on it as a result, but i gotta say, my first thought, that only got more and more cemented as the game went on was

"man, this is a lot more like unlimited saga than i would've thought"

and not just the music, or some elements of the look, but a lot of the mechanics are directly similar, or have similar results that don't resemble any of the other saga games. characters use LP to heal themselves in sf2 -> characters just don't fall over at 0 hp in unsaga but lose LP faster. 1v1 battles in sf2 go into a duel mode with different art and mechanics; in unlimited saga you get to choose your "matchup" every turn, and some of the stuff like simultaneous attacks from both sides was reimplemented. plus the fact that many locations aren't revisitable because most quests are one-time runs through them.

anyway, after a couple runs of minstrel song, and seeing similarities to unlimited as well, and many more to SG, i really wanted to get back to unlimited. and after another night of playing it...man, i love this game. i got frustrated as judy's game went from "super easy" to brutally limited with a really mean final dungeon and boss (i don't think it's the hardest last boss, but in some ways i definitely think it's harder than kurt and laura's), but i have a new perspective on how stuff works. partly because i happened to see a japanese article this week which included a video of michelle (who has 6 life points...) soloing the vicious gauntlet at the end of mythe's story, which showed to me how little i still know about the game, even though i have a pretty functional knowledge of how to get through stuff.

in judy's story, you have a bunch of mages, but you can't buy magic tools (in the terminology of SF2, i don't think they really have a collective name in this game); you can't visit the snow city or the one where ruby lives, and judy's family shop is closed because they're all out questing. you can use familiars to cast basic spells without using durability, but they're basically the magical version of martial arts: crucial in some ways but deeply lacking in the functionality of actual items. and there are other problems that come up at the end, and so i've realized: you have to craft, for real.

which was also true for mythe, but only because you have so little life points and the bosses have so many that you need to just run over everything really aggressively. this is like, yeah, you could technically do the same thing as other characters, load up armand and nuage with beastly weapons and try to just overpower the bosses with roy, thomas, and/or kurt tanking (which, i believe, is how speedruns finish this one in a little over an hour). but i'd already decided i didn't want to do that, i was just shocked at how long magic learning takes relative to the length of the game and started trying to compromise. but now i'm back in for real, after learning my preparation wasn't enough to do that stuff, i'm not disappointed or discouraged but excited that there's stuff i can still try to learn and will benefit a ton from doing, even if i'd hoped some elements of the magic system the notes promised would be prevalent in this quest would be a lot more accessible than they are. this may not be my favorite set of characters, but i'm excited to spend a while longer with the game before diving into (probably) armic's story, where i'm sure plenty of this stuff will be just as crucial.

tonight i realized a really cool trick that every character except mythe can take advantage of (though some probably don't "need" to in the same way): i used to think that fugar's mansion, a short quest where field and combat actions are both unused, was basically trading a magic tablet for downgrading your characters (if you can't do it in the first couple quests), but you can loot the magic tablet and fail out of the quest by waiting. it stays in your inventory, even though you can't see tablets in the list of items. because this is a sting game where failure to finish in time doesn't actually mean anything really.

also, in the process of doing this, i learned there are spike traps in the mansion

but also i learned the most comically wack thing i currently know about this game, which is that, in judy's final dungeon, you have to pick up a bunch of items to reach the final boss. they (and all chests, traps, enemies, and even the save point) are all disguised as identical looking objects until you inspect or are attacked by them. when you find the last one you fight the final boss.

i died to the boss once, went back to the same spot, and the item was there. then i lost again. when i went to that spot the third time and touched the fragment, it was a chest that exploded because of a trap. i opened the chest and the item wasn't inside. it wasn't anywhere on the floor.

so, my conclusion is: the game overwrote the macguffin with a random chest, and i would've had to loop through the whole dungeon to find it again (the paths are magical so the last floor has a portal to the first one) without reloading. i'm shaking my head as i recall this for the third time, but i'm also laughing because it's truly a saga moment. saga is a game series that truly loves being games, and one of the best things about games is that sometimes they are unfathomably stupid.

i really do think that's the last straw in my wondering about who to recommend people pick though; clearly laura is the one and only correct choice of what quest to play first
 

Peklo

Oh! Create!
(they/them, she/her)
There's very little that's going to keep me away from 30-year-old ex-pirate widow as RPG lead whenever I get around to Unlimited.
 

spines

cyber true color
(she/her, or something)
haha, yeah, i almost feel like it doesn't even need to be said to most people i know! and the game even says she's a good first choice, but even outside of those aspects, she's a great character, the story's good, she gets access to a lot of really strong party members and most of the towns that you'll want to visit frequently, and doesn't have to do too many confusing sidequests to power up or reach the ending. just really has it all for the first experience

at best it would've been "or judy i guess, if you'd *really* prefer", but i think she just doesn't have any of those features as strongly
 

spines

cyber true color
(she/her, or something)
and suddenly i'm coming up to the point of no...thing to do except go to the final dungeon. this actually took a long time, i was really taking it easy and fighting about everything to keep learning magic spells, and now that i've learned more ways to *find* magic tablets i basically have an endless drip of them to keep learning, such that i won't even be done before the game ends...so once again i've cranked the battle rank really high and seen monsters i can't remember knowing about, as well as seeing esoteric materials in the shops i still can't even tell what they're good for.

i really do think battle rank advancing faster is like the #1 thing that would make this game better though in general. you basically have to fight without progressing the game to get to a reasonable point before finishing the game, which is so weird considering there are saga frontier characters where the opposite situation (fighting super huge amounts of battles and maxing the rank, particularly with riki and t260g) is a bit frustrating. i think also that the fact that some characters can go to the final dungeon and still keep fighting enemies that die in one hit is a huge problem, and a big reason that the final boss is such a notorious difficulty spike! also like 1/4 of the quests need to have much longer turn limits, but i hope that's a given.

at a certain point my goal became single-minded, because i'd spent all this effort learning blaster and realized i had never seen an item that *had* forbidden arts on it. you have to craft it! you can't make armor, nor use it as crafting materiel, so it took almost this entire file to learn most of the level 2 and 3 dark magic and get a malleable demonite item to make a staff with the skill on it.

then i went to a sidequest and, several turns into a boss battle i remembered struggling with on my first playthrough, i queued up a big turn with judy using a bunch of spells. the boss died without showing a red life point number. you can instant death him. so now i really think this game doesn't have any other instant death moves.

i'm going to blaster the last boss. and then when that fails a couple times, i'm just going to mash seal of the abyss until judy doesn't have enough LP to fight safely anymore. it's pretty fun to use all these rare and powerful spells that the other characters basically can't get access to, but i will also never do this again unless the remaster of this game buffs the progression curve for magic and the whole game a lot, so i'm really trying to milk it for all it's worth. although some of the frontier and minsaga new game + wouldn't be nearly as impactful in this game, spell carryover would let you have a broken judy for most of laura's quest at least, so that would be funny.
in judy's story, you have a bunch of mages, but you can't buy magic tools (in the terminology of SF2, i don't think they really have a collective name in this game); you can't visit the snow city or the one where ruby lives, and judy's family shop is closed because they're all out questing.
also, this wasn't true. they just opened very, very late in the game, nivacolina first but loch vaan just a couple quests later. if i hadn't drawn this file out so long after being strong enough to finish i would never have gotten access though. because of that i was so confused at first, thinking i must have somehow missed it the whole time, but loch vaan is right next to wanda so once that suddenly became open i knew that it was just a very strange design choice. which there's no shortage of in this game, but even on that scale it feels so easy to just not have happen, and even by the time they did i'd already learned how to actually make my own items. so whatever.

i feel like even as i remember and discover new problems with the game, i'm loving it and learning more about it than ever, and i'm looking forward to my last few "first playthroughs" a lot, even as i'm likely to keep playing even after that and redo some of my first few characters again too. i was gonna do armic next, but now that i've given in to playing wonders without doing them as final dungeons first, i might swap around, saving him for last and doing ruby's instead, since that's one of the biggest reasons i was putting it off...or ventus, but i think i'm going to need a break before going for another super "complete" run, and his is kind of famously one you can drag out for a really long time if you want level 5 panels or chances for other esoterica
 

spines

cyber true color
(she/her, or something)
i started on armic.

this and kurt are the quests that the game basically warns about being for people who know the game. the thing is, kurt's quest is honestly really easy in terms of game mechanics, except that he has to do one tricky quest super early on to start opening up the world map. the gauntlet is a huge albatross on his character building mechanics, but that doesn't really matter that much. inevitably you'll end up relying on side characters to carry the damage anyway, since they have better gains in weapon stats and later on the last boss starts doing so much damage you can't just have your lead out there attacking repeatedly because they might lose 10 lp in one turn or something. and kurt's party has two of the game's strength gods and the highest LP total in the game, so it's easier to feel strong enough to fight the final boss than usual. the only problem is that you want to have a solid knowledge of most quests and maps because the gauntlet mechanic is so ANNOYING that if you keep failing them then everything feels awful.

kurt and armic are also the characters that make it the most clear this game was going for a kind of saga frontier thing, of each character having the crucial angle/gimmick. but even kurt's is pretty in line with the rest of the game! you do quests and get closer to the ending!

playing armic feels like learning the game again. except you still have to already know how it works, it's just that the game tosses you into such a difficult spot right away and you're subject to a completely new set of bizarre whims and pitfalls around what the goal of the game is that there's an entire other struggle that is totally alien to me in other parts of the game. the designer who decided you shouldn't start with a character who has lockpick was kind of a jackass. i feel like it's central to my enjoyment of the game flow in general, but also it makes it that much harder to get the money and items that are literally all that matter early on here

i defeated a boss two hours into this game that scared me just a little 20 hours into judy's though, so actually this is unlimited saga and maybe there's no difference between good and bad things
 

spines

cyber true color
(she/her, or something)
"it would be nice if it always went so well"

ok, i finished. honestly the quest is a bit unremarkable after you break through the starting walls and get the fourth party member; you get two more really quickly, half the world becomes available so you can start finishing reasonable-difficulty quests and shopping effectively, and quickly you'll unlock a couple more main quests to get the last characters. from there you kind of just pass time and make money till you tick off the whole list of 70 items. and a whole lot of them are things that are really useful against the final boss, since many of the materials you need can be converted or come in forms like "some of the strongest weapons you can get in the game", "good armors or shields", or "a bunch of magic casting items", all of which happen to be quite useful at the end, so despite a slightly weird gimmick and slow first part this might actually just be the easiest version of the final boss section too.

it turns out that speedrunners mostly just barter and unequip the starting items to get credit for that first part faster, which makes sense but is super counterintuitive, but i can also see how it's relatively reliable compared to having to beat some of the silly bosses in loch vaan with two minor LP sponges and norff's wood-magic armlet.

armic is a pretty funny protagonist, who not only has a pronounced disinterest in the task assigned to him but sort of a low awareness of anything going on at any point in the game, only rising a bit when confronted with something terrifying like the corpse that turns into the edgelord boss fight. when you roll for traps he just says "what's going on?" before getting hit by a rock or something. it's sort of awkwardly appropriate for a quest with obvious stakes for himself and others, but no clear progression or conflict until the end, and an ending that's only a bit less of a punchline than kurt's. i think this game's storytelling is not really as interesting as most of the other saga games, and even some of its most obvious throughlines and visions come off a bit half-baked (armic doesn't even have to go to the festival, and has nothing in particular to say about it; in the animated scene he only briefly encounters ruby and judy) but it still kind of slowly comes together across each character; in this case, the primary side character yun is a colleague of josef and clyde (appearing in judy's story), which makes the two stories kind of interesting counterparts to each other, the two storylines together casting the three in a more complete light than either has alone. or, similarly, you can get rebecca again; she asks why armic is following her, but as soon as he mentions that he's been asked to come on a quest to the volcano, she says "your parents must be proud", which of course reflects her actual role as the mother of a few of the games' playable characters but as a result is also the kind of attitude she never actually shows in judy's story that i remember.

also about rebecca...she got offered level 3 axe like 3 quests in a row, so the last time, i just took it, because it *did* raise her strength to a pretty nice amount. i was a little worried about her skill stat and was wondering if i'd have to get some kind of completely inflexible perfect 7-panel setup to use her effectively against the final boss, which is generally a poor way to make decisions because it leaves you subject to the whims of getting something you want from the tetra force. but she had no problem hitting him, hard, a lot. i feel like this is the first time i've really moved a character away from their "obvious"/starting archetype, and it was pretty fun, especially because i think she's just kind of rounded in general and not a character with super high peaks in any stat. also at one point the boss missed like 4 neutron slaps against her in a row and i wondered if she was somehow immune to it, but she did eventually get hit once, so i guess i just got really lucky? strange. unlimited saga moment.

armic was pretty useful too. super high endurance made him surprisingly tanky even though i didn't get that many expensive armors, and he learned some nice sword stuff that hit harder than i expected. probably because i have an unnecessarily low opinion of swords as a weapon after using grace and kurt with them so much...really all my characters pulled their weight, and did important stuff up to the end, making this feel like one of the better and more rounded parties. kongming eventually learned aegis shield and did most of my tanking on the last boss, lol. i had fun. i'll have more fun if i play it again and have better ideas for how to deal with the early game...and i might someday, certainly if there's a rerelease, because if nothing else i'm kind of sad i missed pharr. hahaha. i can't believe how rude this storyline is even now.

ventus next, i think! probably after doing something else a bit again, these 1 and 2/3 playthroughs came up on nearly 40 hours in this game, and the next one will probably be a really long one...i have lots of ideas and i know you can drag on his game a super long time.
 
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YangusKhan

does the Underpants Dance
(He/Him/His)
Yesterday I resumed my now long-running Romancing SaGa 2 file. I had about 27 hours in it but I think I was only on my 3rd generation. I picked up at a spot that led me right to confronting Wagnas. All I had left to do was talk to the castle daimyo to trigger Wagnas' attack and then get to Wagnas' castle. He was only my 3rd hero defeated and I didn't have much trouble beating him. Really love his design a lot too; it calls to mind something about like a fallen angel mixed with a harpee.

It seems my battle rank is pretty close to end-game despite my plot progress; that generation alone was ~200 battles and put me up to just shy of 800 total. After that next generation skip, I spent a lot of time reading about some mechanics and also gaming out my Emperor reincarnations in order to learn more formations. It was definitely worth the effort because I now have 5 new formations (admittedly 2 of those I could've already learned), and I can finally start playing this generation for real now.
 

YangusKhan

does the Underpants Dance
(He/Him/His)
So I finished Romancing SaGa 2 over the weekend. The final boss took me perhaps a dozen attempts and was a somewhat frustrating exercise in RNG; for the details: The way it scales with battle rank is to get additional actions per turn. The first phase of the fight is spent hitting it enough times to bring out all of the 7 Heroes, at which point it has access to practically the full arsenal from every Hero. Some attacks seem to "consume" more "actions" than others, so that you can't get back-to-back Tidal Waves in the same turn, for example. But even given that nicety, it could be a downright grueling exercise in trying to recover from relentless AOE attacks or unfortunate AI targeting. Still, it's a pretty cool final boss, and the ending montage combined with the framing story do an excellent job of tying the whole thing together.

It was very interesting to play this coming fresh off the heels of Minstrel Song, as that game is very much a "last hurrah" for all the Romancing-series game design trends. One particular mechanical progression I noticed was the movement of enemies in the field and how the player can avoid them. I don't know how much is the fault of the remaster's game engine, but I found it very difficult to avoid enemies in RS2, due to a mixture of input lag and needing to reduce walking speed when things get tight, lest I get caught out of formation (losing a formation for one battle in this game can be disastrous). But even so, the game still had different enemy categories behave and chase the player differently, an aspect which is expressed wonderfully in Minstrel Song; birds just kinda fly around chaotically and are faster than you can ever run, beasts tend to go slowly until they see you and then start running faster, ghosts will disappear and reappear frequently.

I know this same creature design tenet is present in RS3 as well, but I have definitely been interested in playing through the SFC version of RS1 to get a full picture of how this series evolved. Minstrel Song takes this the extra step by adding the Covert series of map skills to let you avoid detection, but what really makes that aspect of the game excellent to me is how skillful play and knowledge of the different chasing behaviors can still yield effective avoidance of encounters if you so choose. Like I mentioned earlier, the RS2 remaster felt like I was fighting too much against the game engine itself when trying to avoid fights, and I do have to wonder if the SFC version of the game is better about that. After all, RS2 was the very first of these modern remasters and consequently it seems to have the lowest budget on top of the disadvantage of being "the first" in a new engine.
 
RS2's last boss is definitely part of the series' reputation for tough final bosses. If you want to make it effortless, there are a few ways to do it, like using a lot of water magic to make sure you can develop Quicktime (time freezing spell), but spell development happens between generations so you kind of have to plan for it in advance or it's not an option.

I've played both versions and didn't find it significantly easier to dodge enemies in RS2 on SFC, for what it's worth. It does feel a little better to control, but on the other hand that's the game where they implemented reduced visibility (you can only see enemies in a little circle around your character) while running, so it's kind of a wash. That being said, the game is very replayable (advance knowledge of routing options adds a lot), so I think it's definitely worth it to try the other version if you're interested in a replay anyway.

I liked SFC RS1 a lot as a one time experience, but the game's reputation of having a map just chock full of symbol encounters that you're just not going to be able to avoid is definitely accurate. I'd definitely recommend an emulator with an accessible fast forward function.
 

Peklo

Oh! Create!
(they/them, she/her)
Most representative screenshots of the Romancing SaGa SFC experience:

fkqm96l.png
gJzVOsB.png
 
Honestly I thought it was a FFMQ fan game at first glance.

There actually is a tiny bit of tangential SaGa offshoot lineage in FFMQ, but with a separate game! The same team (a group at Square Osaka led by ex-XTALSOFT employees) made GB SaGa 3, Mystic Quest, and Treasure of the Rudras. GB SaGa 3 was Kawazu-less and developed in parallel with Kawazu's SFC Romancing SaGa, but I think there are some visual parallels that continue onto Mystic Quest, even though SaGa 3 was so different than the Kawazu led 1 and 2, maybe most strikingly in the way battles look between SaGa 3 and FFMQ.

(Also you know general Square house style of the period, obviously...)
 
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