RPG Review #83: Romancing SaGa 3

NuMetalManiak
And so we chalk another one up for the SaGa franchise. At this point, I've played more games from this franchise than all the other ones whose names aren't Final Fantasy. And, well, Romancing SaGa 3 is the most accessible of the three Romancing SaGa games, at least before 2's newest re-release. Of course, this is STILL a fan translation, but while I was having troubles trying to get Romancing SaGa 2's translation to the point where I didn't feel like actually playing it, I would always find links to a translation for this game.

Gameplay: Romancing SaGa 3's gameplay is pretty much the same ol' same ol' for those used to the SaGa series. Most of the stuff that was used in Romancing SaGa 2 is still here, although you're not in control of an Emperor this time around. This game takes after the first Romancing SaGa, having up to eight actual protagonists each with different intros and then the rest of the game is nonlinear. Running no longer eschews the vision (although sometimes you just see monster shadows), but it still could lead to ambushes if you run into enemies. And the battles are the same as before, you'll be fighting enemies who scale up to your own abilities and many of them can be tough. As usual no actual levels to gain, just stat increases, and techs (now called Waza) tend to be sparked at random. Some equipment already has some Wazas and other things available. Making this game rather hard (it
s #21 on the hardest RPGs for the SNES, where Romancing SaGa 2 was #16) is how many of the attacks you get hit by are pretty hard-hitting, that even someone at 999 HP would lose it real quick.

Yep, the saddest part of this game was a distinct lack of actual healing abilities. The Life Cane I found in multiple playthroughs has a free tech to heal people, and there's a few spells to help, but there's barely any help for group healing. Maybe it makes some sense, considering how HP is fully restored after every battle. Also despite stat gains as I mentioned, these don't pertain to LP or the character's core stats. And LP is certainly important, at 0 LP the character is permanently dead or if it is the main character then it's a game over. Also newly-learned Wazas need to be mastered to be reused by other party members, and sometimes the RNG does not want to do that, or give me the stat gains I have been trying to get! Grade: B-

Characters: So we have eight main characters, as well as a slew of other optional recruits. This time I can talk about all of them which is good. Starting with main characters.

Julian: He's a settler from some town and is good with swords. Nothing really spectacular, but he's probably the best male main character overall.
Thomas: He's a merchant with good skill in spears and water magic. He's also required for a weird business minigame.
Mikhael: He's the marquis of some castle. He's average in combat, but a good chunk of his intro is participating in war battles, which is a pretty difficult system to get the hang of. I forgot to mention it but it's not a good war system anyways. He also is the only main character who has the Ruling minigame, since he does have status.
Harid: He's a fantastic physical fighter but his first weapon slot is limited to a curve sword. It's possible to do a glitch to get an ultra-powerful sword there.
Sara: She specializes in bows and is probably the one main character who's most tied to the actual plot of the game.
Ellen: Another settler, she specializes in martial arts and axes.
Monica: She's Mikhael's sister and the Princess of Loanne. A jack-of-all-trades character that's probably the best choice for a female main character, except she's locked out of several quests. She was my main character when I played.
Katrina: She's a noblewoman who's really good with large swords. Late in her intro she cuts her hair and looks cooler. Katrina is only playable in her scenario.

Now for other characters to recruit. In alphabetical order since this game is nonlinear anyways.

Bai Meiling: This oriental grandma is a wind mage.
Boston: He's one of my overall favorite characters. A lobster-man who's really good with martial arts. He lacks the ability to equip good equipment though.
Black: He's a pirate or ex-pirate who specializes in axes and is pretty good.
Fat Robin: There's actually two character named Robin. This is the fat guy who actually is less awesome than the real Robin due to lack of magic ability. Surprisingly, he is very fast.
Fullbright: He's a businessman who doubles as an Earth mage.
Herman: Herman is a terrible character with very low LP and accuracy. If he's with the party when they fight the Water Abyss Gate Guardian then he becomes Black and is much better.
Leonid: He's a vampire, so healing spells actually hurt him. Good stats otherwise. He has 0 LP, and if he falls in battle he's out. But he cannot permanently die. Also Monica cannot recruit him.
Muse: Muse is a lot like Monica, except she starts with no actual stats. She can be raised as a decent character in anything I guess.
Nora: She's a blacksmith who's just a really good physical fighter.
Paul: Paul is hard to get but he's a decent bow user.
Poet: The illustrous Poet is frequently available and is a jack-of-all-trades character. He doesn't want to leave the party until you beat an Abyss Gate Guardian with him though.
Robin: This caped crusader thinks he's Batman. Really though he's a good spear/epee user with some wind magic.
Sharl: He's a really nice character given how early I got him. Good with spears and fire magic, and during Muse's dream quest, he can get the Silver Hand accessory which gives him a lot of strength.
Shonen: Also known as "Young Boy" he doesn't really want to join the party unless the main character is Sara OR at the very, very end of the game. He specializes in big swords but I don't use him due to how late he joins.
Tatyana: She's an annoying character that tags you and forcibly joins (unless you're Mikhael). She's only really good with epees. Also she always joins with a sweet name like Souffle, Eclair, or Tart.
Tiberius: The priest of the Divine Tower, Tiberius is nothing more than a water mage, he sucks at actual fighting.
Undine: She's basically the definitive water mage.
Wood: I'm not sure if he's an actual person or not. He's a physical fighter specializing in big swords.
Yan Fan: He's a general for the oriental army in the east. It's apparently possible to recruit him, and he's a good moon magic user, but since the only place to get him is late I don't bother.
Yousei: Also known as Fairy, well she's a fairy. Speedy and good with a bow.
Yuki: Also known as Snowman, he's not really good except for one thing, being completely immune to fire attacks.
Zhi Lin: She's an oriental bow user.
Zo: Also known as Elephant, you can guess he's really slow. But he's a tweakable fighter and his LP is the highest in the game at 36, so he can tank pretty well.

SO MANY CHARACTERS. Unfortunately there is an unknown recruit limit that I found out and that limits characters that can join entirely. But so many characters here is quite nice, and a small bit of backstory for each of them is also nice. Grade: B+.

Plot: Each of the Romancing SaGa games have these great overlord things that end up being the main bosses. Three wicked gods in the first game, the seven heroes in the second. Here we have Abyss Gate Guardians, along with a Destroyer. There was also this Death Eclipse that pretty much sets the plot in motion. Guess what the finale of this game is gonna be about?

So the intros. They all take place around the same time but all are different in a few ways. I played through everyone's intros, saving Monica for last since I intended to use her as the main character. Mikhael is the most unique one, where he is at a war camp ready to fight Godwin (oh boy, a character with THAT name). Meanwhile at the castle, Monica overhears about Godwin's plot to replace Mikhael earlier on, and compromises with Katrina who lets her escape. Katrina would later get captured (hint, hide her weapons somewhere to use them for a boss later on). Monica rides on a horse (which is never seen again afterwards) until it stops, and she's forced to go to the town of Shinon, where she meets the settlers Julian, Thomas, Ellen, and Sara, along with Harid. Monica asks them to help take her to Mikhael, and they all do so. The settlers then escort Monica to Podol where Leonid is, while Harid stays behind to help Mikael with the war. The settlers and Monica lay low, meanwhile when Mikhael and Harid get done with the war against Godwin, they go back to the throne room, where Katrina helps them against an evil demon Godwin leaves behind. The majority of intros end at this point, where Monica and Mikhael thank everyone for what they've done and everyone goes their separate ways. In Katrina's case, she loses her prized sword the Masquerade and prepares for punishment, but because she cuts her hair in determination she is then set off to find it. Meanwhile Thomas would be running errands at his home if he is the main character, while Sara, Ellen, Harid, and Mikhael don't have any more intro stuff. For Julian, he's a part of the princess guard where he is to help Monica, although she gets kidnapped by Godwin too soon. Later she is forced into a marriage with some guy, and a branching point occurs. Either agree to this proposal and have Julian and Monica on a ship, which eventually gets shipwrecked and whichever character that isn't your main actually is lost forever, or decline and have the two run off together.

And then the game opens up from here on out, where the main character can do a number of events, including:
-pet catching for an egotistical professor, then fighting a rat swarm to save someone from being sacrificed
-escorting goods and fighting thieves
-confronting the mystery of Robin
-visiting the Eastern land and helping out...insects
-saving a kid in Muse's care from the demon dungeon
-defeating a dream demon affecting Muse with Sharl's help
-settling a dispute between rival mages Undine and Volcano (or killing one of them)
-solving a murder mystery on a floating town
-getting said floating town to move
-getting Herman in the party to help with navigation (and the Water guardian)
-completing Lance's Holy King trials
-stopping a huge car that runs you over
-freeing Yousei from the circus
-finding and defeating Maximus with Herman/Black and tracking him down
-see the snowman village and the Aurora Borealis
-go through a fighting tournament (not possible for me since Monica was my main character)
-get the Holy Grail (I also cannot do since the tournament had to go first)
-get a dragon's help to fight the Wind Guardian, then slaying the dragon

Ultimately, the main goal in this game is to seal the four abyss gates from the guardians Aunas (fire), Forneus (water), Byunei (wind), and Arakes (earth). At the last gate Sara and Shonen (Young Boy) are involved, and Sara sacrifices herself for sealing the last gate (if she's in the party, she kicks Shonen away). Then a fifth gate is apparently revealed, showcased in the eastern lands where some emperor is nuts and wants to use the Abyss's power. This is where Shonen joins the main character in stopping the Abyss once and for all. For this part, you can either fight the Destroyer alone (which is harder) or rematch against the gate guardians to further weaken the Destroyer. After this is finished, wait, what? So I did all that and the world STILL GETS DESTROYED? Urgh. Alright, it looks like the world regenerates anyways, but come on. I was expecting a much better ending out of this. Sure everyone ultimately survives, even Shonen and Sara, but this ending didn't make much sense. Grade: B

Music: SaGa always has some decent to mediocre music. Like Romancing SaGa 1, each character seems to have a separate theme that plays in towns, offering some variety. I also really like the Dragon Car theme a lot too. Good stuff. Grade: A-

Overall Grade: B

Good? Bad? In-between. Romancing SaGa 3 does its job as a Romancing SaGa game and does it well. Intros, nonlinearity, tweakable gameplay, loads of recruitable characters, yeah.

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