Wednesday, December 04, 2019

A few impressions of and pieces of advice on the recently released Romancing SaGa 3 remake now that I've put more than 20 hours into it

My original plan was to wait until early 2020 to buy the recently released Romancing SaGa 3 remake. Everything changed, though, when Square Enix slapped a 20-percent discount on this long-awaited role-playing game during its launch window.

Still, I assumed I wouldn't actually play it for weeks, if not months--what with Pokémon Shield's imminent arrival (at the time) and all. Boy, was I wrong. Romancing SaGa 3 dug its hooks into me within minutes of being booted up for the very first time.

Over 20 hours later, I'm thoroughly enjoying it and ignoring the new Pokémon title.

Why am I enjoying this Romancing SaGa 3 remake-remaster-whatever-you-want-to-call-it so thoroughly? Here are the main reasons, plus a couple of complaints that, if addressed, would prompt me to like this pixelated adventure even more than I already do.

Oh, and I'm tossing in a few pieces of advice at the end as a bonus--just in case any of you decide to buy it down the road as well.

I love how the map opens up as you talk to NPCs--I'm sure other RPGs have utilized a similar system, where you only gain access to towns and dungeons and other locations after a non-player character (NPC) mentions them, but this is the first one I've played. There's something surprisingly thrilling about exiting to the world map and seeing a new area or two pop up out of nowhere, begging to be explored.

It's worth playing for the weird potential party members alone--My current Romancing SaGa 3 party includes a blue elephant, a pink-haired fairy, and a bard who bears a striking resemblance to Final Fantasy IV's Gogo. And they're only the tip of the iceberg here. Additional options include an anthropomorphic snowman, a similarly human-esque lobster, and a Batman wannabe. Eat your heart out, bog-standard JRPGs.

"Sparking" new skills here is as exhilarating as it is in every SaGa game--Admittedly, it isn't as exhilarating as it is in SaGa Frontier, or at least it isn't to me. But there's no denying my heart skips a beat whenever a little lightbulb appears over the head of one of my party members, alerting me to the fact that he, she, or it is about to learn a new battle skill. My only complaint is that I wish it would happen with more frequency. I've gone through a lot of dry spells so far in my 20 or so hours with the game, and that's not only unacceptable, it's boring.

Although I appreciate that Romancing SaGa 3 is mysterious, I wish it would explain things a bit more than it does--You've probably heard that this game, like its predecessors and successors, has the barest of stories. It's true, but that honestly hasn't bothered me much. Far more irksome has been that it's often similarly tight-lipped about how things like magic and combo attacks operate. Some of it can be sussed out via trial and error, but not all of it. Harrumph.

I wish the town music was more varied--I adore Romancing SaGa 3's soundtrack on the whole, but something that really bugs me about it is a good number of towns feature the exact same background tune. Even worse, that particular song is my least favorite of the ones I've heard up to this point.

Where's the fast-forward button, Square Enix?--Both Bravely Default and Octopath Traveler let players speed up battles with the touch of a button. Why on earth doesn't Romancing SaGa 3 allow the same? Especially since it features the slowest fights of this trio of titles. These lackadaisical battles aren't dealbreakers, mind you, but they do get a tad boring now and then.

Has what I've said thus far got you itching to pick up a copy of Romancing SaGa 3? If so, keep the following pieces of advice in mind as you continue to contemplate your purchase--or as you start your way through the game (if it's already taking up space on your PC, PS4, Xbox One, Switch, Vita, or phone).

If you hate RPGs that lack explorable overworlds, look elsewhere--I enjoy racing across an ever-changing overworld as much as anyone. That's not something you get to do while playing Romancing SaGa 3, however. Instead, you get to choose between icons--representing caves, forests, towns, and the like--unceremoniously plopped onto a map. It's kind of a bummer at first, but it saves time in the long run, so I personally consider the whole she-bang a wash.

Also look elsewhere if you absolutely need a grand story in your RPGs--Most SaGa games aren't story-focused affairs. Romancing SaGa 3 is no different. That doesn't mean it's story-free, though. In fact, it offers up plenty of little snippets of stories through the numerous quests it tosses your way. Many of them are surprisingly unique for the genre, too, so if you're at all open-minded in this area, give the title a go despite the fact that its gameplay isn't tied to a novel-worthy tale.

Try not to psyche yourself out--Yes, Romancing SaGa 3 can be obtuse. And yes, Romancing SaGa 3 can be difficult. It's not so obtuse or difficult that it's impossible to finish, though. In fact, if your first playthrough is anything like mine has been so far, you'll enjoy long stretches when the proceedings seem positively ho-hum. So don't keep the game at arm's length simply because you're scared it'll be too much for you.

Prepare to see your party wiped out a lot--Part of the fun of playing a SaGa game, in my experience, is tucking into dungeons or taking on bosses you know nothing about and seeing how you fare. That often results in your ass being handed to you, admittedly. As such, try to embrace dying in Romancing SaGa 3. It's going to happen a lot, no matter what you do. Accept rather than fear it and you'll get a lot more enjoyment out of the experience.

Don't worry about grinding--One of the main things that's made me wary about playing both Romancing SaGa 2 and 3 is the oft-repeated warning that grinding in either game can be a bad idea. As in, grinding does more than toughen up your party members; it toughens up enemies, too. Well, here's some good news for you: while that's true--to a point--you shouldn't have to worry about it much. Although there are no random battles in this game, you'll be forced into them regularly enough that grinding is sure to be the last thing on your mind.

Embrace FAQs and walkthroughs--Going through a game blindly is an admirable feat. That said, I wouldn't suggest doing so with Romancing SaGa 3. Not only will it make your journey a lot more challenging, but it'll likely cause you to miss a bunch of cool characters and quests along the way as well. This blog is a great source of information, as is this shrine.

See also: 'Five reasons I would've paid full price for the Switch version of Dandy Dungeon if Onion Games had forced me to do so'