The SaGa series is known for not being very friendly to newcomers in the genre, and even in fan favorite title Romancing SaGa 3, this is still the case, even from the very beginning. For better or worse, Romancing SaGa 3 holds true to its ‘Read the Manual’ roots despite being digital-only this time around, and falls short in explaining anything to the player.
Take the very beginning, for example. At the start of the game, we’re asked to choose one of eight main characters. After this, we’re asked to choose a ‘Star of Fate’, and a main weapon – all of these affect how your stats are distributed, and because there’s no way outside equipment to increase these stats to some extent, this becomes a doubly important decision. While you tend to do alright so long as you stick to that main weapon, it means you can also screw yourself over by accident without explanation.
There are also many unexplained menus that can be confusing to a first-time player, such as the Skill Learning menu. As you may know, the SaGa games have players unlock techs by essentially increasing proficiency with them, with techs being more likely to unlock when using other skills of that weapon category. In Romancing SaGa 3, you can actually teach other party members the sparked techs as long as they are mastered, an important fact that first-time players with no SaGa experience wouldn’t know unless they read the manual.
This really holds true for most of the game. Through the first few hours, I was constantly feeling lost, in part due to the relative freedom of progression in the game (that I appreciate), but also that I was stumbling upon mechanics that had their own twists in this game that I’d have to look up to know more about. The fact that two of the main characters, Thomas and Mikhail, have their own gameplay styles did not help at all.
It’s just that you have to slog through getting used to, well, everything. I’ve had experience with some Kyoji Koizumi-designed games like Legend of Legacy and The Alliance Alive, so I was accustomed to tech sparking and formations, but I can imagine these also being even more confusing to newer players. The only e-manual Square Enix has released for the game can be found here, but I still had to resort to reading old player guides online in times of need. Considering that a Tips section was even included in the newest game SaGa Scarlet Grace to help newcomers out, I’m surprised that nothing was added to a remaster of one of the old favorites, which newcomers are likely to play based on reputation.
While it’s true that these gripes are coming from a first-time SaGa player, it’s also telling of the complexity of the game’s systems, and how each player is likely to have a different experience as a result. The game thrives from its relative gameplay freedom, and I loved just walking around towns and talking to NPCs, and was surprised at how I’d randomly get party members that weren’t even part of the core eight main characters. There are a lot of things I already love about this game. It’s just that newcomers will have to stick it out through the confusing process of learning all of SaGa‘s unique quirks to get to it – or search online for guides and “read the manual” there.
Romancing SaGa 3 is available on the Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, PlayStation Vita, Xbox One, PC, and mobile devices. It originally appeared on the Super Famicom.