A big part of Square Enix’s business involves revisiting its older games. It offers ports! It works on remasters! But typically it is Final Fantasy that received the bulk of the attention, with series like Mana and SaGa only receiving attention in later years. Collection of SaGa Final Fantasy Legend is a clear reflection of that. While it bears the “Final Fantasy” name, these aren’t Final Fantasy games. They’re SaGa’s first steps through-and-through. And now, it’s their turn to step into the spotlight again. While it’s good to see them and the games work well on the Switch, it feels a bit like a perfunctory endeavor.
Each of the three Final Fantasy Legends games in the collection involves the idea of adventuring and traveling across different spaces. In both Final Fantasy Legends and Final Fantasy Legends II, you’re climbing a tower in the center of the world, occasionally stopping in different “worlds” on different floors. In one, you’re searching for paradise, and in the other, you’re protecting mystical MacGuffins. Final Fantasy Legends III changes things up by instead involving time travel, as your party was sent from the future into the past as children to keep the world from ending. Now, as adults, you travel between the past, present, and future to keep an entity from flooding and destroying the world.
As early Game Boy RPGs go, they’re very basic games. You have a party of four characters and choose who journeys with you throughout the course of the story. There are humans, who are good physical fighters, magical mutants, and creatures like monsters or robots who have unique properties and might change after consuming monster meat. Battles are turn-based, with only the third dividing things like weapon-based attacks, talents, and spells into their own menus. Since these are SaGa games, your stats increased based on actions you take instead of experience earned for the first two games. (The third does have an experience system.) There’s also a weapon durability system in place, which is absent in the third entry.
The simplicity carries over to your motivations too. The stories aren’t as detailed as more modern SaGa storylines, though the second and third games are more elaborate than the first. You fight, search for items you need to get to the next world or era, and continue doing so until you’re done. Going through the three games again, I found myself thinking, “Okay, so 12-year-old me was wrong and Final Fantasy Legend III was the best one and way better than Final Fantasy Legend II.”
The really striking thing about having all three of these games clustered together in Collection of SaGa is being able to see how early SaGa games grew and aged. In the case of personal growth, we can see how they progressed in a more positive way. The first Final Fantasy Legend feels a lot like the original Final Fantasy. Your characters didn’t have a sense of identity and could feel disposable. While the concept of different worlds and layers is sound, it is very rudimentary. Final Fantasy Legend II rectifies that by giving your character more of a sense of purpose, adding NPCs, and a slightly stronger story. Final Fantasy Legend III ends up being the most cohesive of all, offering multiple locales and characters that can feel distinct and have depth.
But now that they have aged, having them all together shows how inconvenient these early RPGs could be. The encounter rate is quite high, with the difficulty in the first two games being high enough that you’ll need to stick around the initial town for a while to become strong enough to survive longer travels. I also didn’t realize how, in my 30-something year old mind, concepts and plots from the first two games sort of blended together a bit. The third is the one that shows real progress. (Though admittedly, it is lacking in character development.)
Which begs the question of if the compilation does enough for the games. Granted, its additions mainly offer the same sorts of changes as Collection of Mana, Square Enix’s prior re-release. You have the games all together again in Collection of SaGa Final Fantasy Legend. There’s a zoom-in function, which makes it a bit clearer. You can speed things up to make traversing empty expanses less tedious. There are also different wallpapers and a vertical mode, but both are superfluous. Some localization changes are present, like some names being different (Catcraw to Catclaw), which might take away from the charm or nostalgia people might feel for it. But after replaying it, I can’t help but wonder if perhaps another beneficial feature could have been an optional toggle to adjust the balance.
From a preservation standpoint, Collection of SaGa Final Fantasy Legend does everything people would need. You have all three games easily accessible in a single compilation. You can hop in without much effort, go through each one, and perhaps go through things a little more swiftly than you normally would. The three titles haven’t all held up as well as you might remember, but they were from a different era. It’s a way to honor the past, though only die-hard SaGa fans and people who played them when they were fresh and new might get the most out of the experience.