SaGa

Last updated
SaGa
RomancingSaGaSFBox.jpg
Cover of Romancing SaGa for the Super Famicom
Genre(s) Role-playing
Developer(s) Square
Square Enix
Publisher(s) Square
Square Enix
Creator(s) Akitoshi Kawazu
Platform(s) Game Boy, WonderSwan Color, mobile phones, Nintendo DS, Nintendo Switch, Super Nintendo, PlayStation, PlayStation 2, PlayStation 4, PlayStation Vita, Microsoft Windows, Xbox One
First release The Final Fantasy Legend
December 15, 1989
Latest release SaGa: Scarlet Grace
December 15, 2016

SaGa(サガ) is a series of science fiction open world role-playing video games formerly developed by Square, and is currently owned by Square Enix. The series originated on the Game Boy in 1989 as the creation of Akitoshi Kawazu. It has since continued across multiple platforms, from the Super Nintendo Entertainment System to the PlayStation 2. The series is notable for its emphasis on open world exploration, non-linear branching plots, and occasionally unconventional gameplay. This distinguished the series from most of Square's titles. There are currently ten games in the SaGa series, along with several ports and enhanced remakes.

In video games, an open world is a virtual world in which the player can explore and approach objectives freely, as opposed to a world with more linear gameplay. While games have used open-world designs since the 1980s, the implementation in Grand Theft Auto III (2001) set a standard that has been used since.

A role-playing video game is a video game genre where the player controls the actions of a character immersed in some well-defined world. Many role-playing video games have origins in tabletop role-playing games and use much of the same terminology, settings and game mechanics. Other major similarities with pen-and-paper games include developed story-telling and narrative elements, player character development, complexity, as well as replayability and immersion. The electronic medium removes the necessity for a gamemaster and increases combat resolution speed. RPGs have evolved from simple text-based console-window games into visually rich 3D experiences.

Square Co., Ltd. was a Japanese video game company founded in September 1986 by Masafumi Miyamoto. It merged with Enix in 2003 to form Square Enix. The company also used SquareSoft as a brand name to refer to their games, and the term is occasionally used to refer to the company itself. In addition, "Square Soft, Inc" was the name of the company's American arm before the merger, after which it was renamed to "Square Enix, Inc".

Contents

Development

Timeline of release years
1989 The Final Fantasy Legend
1990 Final Fantasy Legend II
1991 Final Fantasy Legend III
1992 Romancing SaGa
1993 Romancing SaGa 2
1994
1995 Romancing SaGa 3
1996
1997 SaGa Frontier
1998
1999 SaGa Frontier 2
2000
2001
2002 Unlimited Saga
2003
2004
2005 Romancing SaGa: Minstrel Song
2006
2007
2008
2009
2010
2011
2012 Emperors SaGa
2013
2014
2015 Imperial SaGa
2016 SaGa: Scarlet Grace

The SaGa series was created by game designer Akitoshi Kawazu, whose credits prior to the franchise's introduction include Final Fantasy and Final Fantasy II . At a time when Nintendo's Game Boy was becoming popular worldwide due to the puzzle game Tetris , then-Square president Masashi Miyamoto requested that a development team create a game for the handheld console. Kawazu and fellow designer Koichi Ishii suggested that the company develop a role-playing video game, thus making Makai Tōshi Sa·Ga, later released in North America as The Final Fantasy Legend , the company's first handheld title. [1] [2] The gameplay was designed to be difficult, described by Kawazu as the main difference between the SaGa and Final Fantasy series. [3] The character illustrations in all the games in the SaGa series were done by Tomomi Kobayashi, [4] who has also done the illustrations for the MMORPG Granado Espada . [5] Although the series has been long-running, as of 2008 none of the ten production teams at Square Enix is assigned to the franchise. Akitoshi Kawazu and Production Team 2 are devoted to the Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles series. [6]

Akitoshi Kawazu Japanese video game producer and designer

Akitoshi Kawazu is a Japanese game producer and game designer. He is best known for his work on Final Fantasy and SaGa franchise of role-playing video games. He was the majority shareholder for The Game Designers Studio, a shell corporation founded in June 1999 by Square and re-purposed in 2002 to exploit a loophole with the company's exclusivity deal to develop for Sony Computer Entertainment's PlayStation consoles.

<i>Final Fantasy</i> (video game) 1987 video game

Final Fantasy is a fantasy role-playing video game developed and published by Square in 1987. It is the first game in Square's Final Fantasy series, created by Hironobu Sakaguchi. Originally released for the NES, Final Fantasy was remade for several video game consoles and is frequently packaged with Final Fantasy II in video game collections. The story follows four youths called the Light Warriors, who each carry one of their world's four elemental orbs which have been darkened by the four Elemental Fiends. Together, they quest to defeat these evil forces, restore light to the orbs, and save their world.

<i>Final Fantasy II</i> 1988 video game

Final Fantasy II is a fantasy role-playing video game developed and published by Square in 1988 for the Family Computer as the second installment of the Final Fantasy series. The game has received numerous enhanced remakes for the WonderSwan Color, the PlayStation, the Game Boy Advance, the PlayStation Portable, and multiple mobile and smartphone types. As neither this game nor Final Fantasy III were initially released outside Japan, Final Fantasy IV was originally released in North America as Final Fantasy II, so as not to confuse players. The most recent releases of the game are enhanced versions for the iOS and Android, which were released worldwide in 2010 and 2012, respectively.

Common elements

The SaGa series emphasizes nonlinear gameplay and open world exploration, with its open-ended branching plot and free style of character development separating it from the more linear Final Fantasy series, which was ahead of its time [7] Like the Final Fantasy series, however, the story in each SaGa share little to no continuity to one another.

Nonlinear gameplay

A video game with nonlinear gameplay presents players with challenges that can be completed in a number of different sequences. Each player may take on only some of the challenges possible, and the same challenges may be played in a different order. Conversely, a video game with linear gameplay will confront a player with a fixed sequence of challenges: every player faces every challenge and has to overcome them in the same order.

The SaGa series is also considered a successor to Final Fantasy II , which introduced a more open-ended activity-based progression system that was abandoned by later Final Fantasy games but embraced by Makaitoushi SaGa (Final Fantasy Legend), which expanded it with weapons that shatter with repeated use and added new ideas such as a race of monsters that mutate depending on which fallen foes they consume. [8]

<i>The Final Fantasy Legend</i> 1989 video game

The Final Fantasy Legend, known in Japan as Makai Toushi Sa·Ga, is a video game released for the Game Boy in December 1989 by Square Co. It is the first game in the SaGa series and the first role-playing video game for the system. Square translated the game into English for worldwide release and renamed it, linking it with the Final Fantasy series to improve marketing. Sunsoft re-released it in North America during 1998; Square followed with a remake released for the WonderSwan Color and mobile phones in 2002 and 2007 respectively.

The early games in the series also feature some common gameplay elements and themes first established in Final Fantasy, such as random enemy encounters, but most of these disappear with the Romancing SaGa games, providing a unique gameplay experience. It also features a similar turn-based battle system, where a character's prowess is driven by numerical values called "statistics" which, in turn, increase with combat experience. Given the open-ended aspect of gameplay and the ability to play through multiple character scenarios, heavy emphasis is placed upon the replay value of SaGa games.

A random encounter is a feature commonly used in various role-playing games whereby combat encounters with non-player character (NPC) enemies or other dangers occur sporadically and at random, usually without the enemy being physically detected beforehand. In general, random encounters are used to simulate the challenges associated with being in a hazardous environment—such as a monster-infested wilderness or dungeon—with uncertain frequency of occurrence and makeup. Frequent random encounters are common in Japanese role-playing games like Dragon Quest,, Pokémon, and the Final Fantasy series.

Statistic (role-playing games) piece of data representing a particular aspect of a fictional character

A statistic in role-playing games is a piece of data that represents a particular aspect of a fictional character. That piece of data is usually a (unitless) integer or, in some cases, a set of dice.

Since the original Makaitoushi SaGa, much of the series has relied on loosely connected stories and sidequests rather than an epic narrative. Makaitoushi SaGa allowed players to travel through different worlds. Romancing SaGa expanded the open-endedness by offering many choices and allowing players to complete quests in any order, with the decision of whether or not to participate in any particular quest affecting the outcome of the storyline. The game also allowed players to choose from eight different characters, each with their own stories that start in different places and offer different outcomes. [7] Romancing SaGa thus succeeded in providing a very different experience during each run through the game, something that later non-linear RPGs such as SaGa Frontier and Fable had promised but were unable to live up to. [9] It also introduced a combo system where up to five party members can perform a combined special attack, [9] and required characters to pay mentors to teach them abilities, whether it is using certain weapons or certain proficiencies like opening a chest or dismantling a trap. [7]

<i>Romancing SaGa</i> video game

Romancing SaGa is a role-playing video game originally developed and published by Square as the fourth game of their SaGa series. The game was designed by Akitoshi Kawazu who had served as head developer for the previous SaGa titles, with fellow series veteran Kenji Ito providing the game's soundtrack. Set in the fictional world of Mardias, Romancing SaGa allows players to assume the role of one of eight main characters who must journey across the world to prevent the resurrection of an evil god named Saruin who was sealed away a millennium previous.

<i>Fable</i> (video game series) video game series

Fable is a series of action role-playing video games for Xbox, Microsoft Windows, macOS, Xbox 360 and Xbox One platforms. The series was developed by Lionhead Studios until the studio was closed in 2016, and is published by Xbox Game Studios. Flaming Fowl Studios released a Free-to-play card game called Fable Fortune in July 2017.

While in the original Romancing SaGa, scenarios were changed according to dialogue choices during conversations, Romancing SaGa 2 further expanded the open-endedness by having unique storylines for each character that can change depending on the player's actions, including who is chosen, what is said in conversation, what events have occurred, and who is present in the party. [10] Romancing SaGa 3 featured a storyline that could be told differently from the perspectives of up to eight different characters and introduced a level-scaling system where the enemies get stronger as the characters do, [11] a mechanic that was later used in Final Fantasy VIII , [12] The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion , Silverfall , [13] Dragon Age: Origins , [14] Fallout 3 , and The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim . [15] SaGa Frontier further expanded on the non-linear gameplay of its Romancing SaGa predecessors, with a setting that spans multiple planets and an overarching plot that becomes apparent after playing through each of the different characters' quests that tie together at certain places. [16]

Games

TitleRelease DatePlatformNotes
The Final Fantasy Legend

Released in Japan as Makai Tōshi Sa·Ga

  • JP: December 15, 1989
  • NA: September 30, 1990
Game Boy, WonderSwan Color, mobile phonesThe first RPG on a handheld video game console, and the first handheld game with a battery save feature. [17] The game introduced new systems of developing characters. The game released in North America less than a year later as The Final Fantasy Legend, presumably to boost sales on the strength of Final Fantasy's name. An enhanced remake of the game released exclusively in Japan in 2002 for the WonderSwan Color and 2007 for mobile phones, sporting more advanced graphics than displayed by the Game Boy's four-color set.
Final Fantasy Legend II

Released in Japan as Sa·Ga 2: Hihō Densetsu

  • JP: December 14, 1990
  • NA: November 1, 1991
Game Boy, Nintendo DS The game retained the same character classes used in its predecessor, but introduced a fifth ally that often helps the player's party in combat. The game's story is more developed than the first SaGa game, with a journey that spans across more than a dozen worlds. GameSpot's "History of Console RPGs" touts Final Fantasy Legend II as the best of the Game Boy SaGa games, calling it a "portable gaming classic". [18] An enhanced remake of the game was released in Japan in 2009 for the Nintendo DS. [19]
Final Fantasy Legend III

Released in Japan as Sa·Ga 3: Jikū no Hasha

  • JP: December 13, 1991
  • NA: September 29, 1993
Game Boy, Nintendo DS The game eliminated the non-level based individualized growth system of the previous two installments; instead the title introduced "experience points" and across-the-board stat leveling in the style of Final Fantasy, introducing two human and two mutant characters with predetermined backgrounds. An enhanced remake of the game was released in Japan on January in 2011 for the Nintendo DS. [20]
Romancing SaGa

Re-released as Romancing SaGa: Minstrel Song in Japan

  • JP: April 21, 2005
  • NA: October 11, 2005
Super Famicom, WonderSwan Color, PlayStation 2, mobile phonesThe first of three Japan-exclusive Super Famicom titles, this game allows players to choose from one of eight character scenarios to follow. The game was ported to the WonderSwan Color in 2001. An enhanced remake of the game was released in 2005 for the PlayStation 2, which was released outside Japan. The game bears the title Romancing SaGa: Minstrel Song in Japan, but was released as simply Romancing SaGa in North America. A mobile phone version was announced for release in 2009. [21]
Romancing SaGa 2
  • WW: December 15, 2017 (Windows, Switch, PS4, PS Vita, Xbox One)
Super Famicom, PlayStation Vita, iOS, Android, Microsoft Windows, Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, Xbox One The second installment of the Romancing SaGa series and the fifth in the SaGa series in general, places a greater emphasis on storyline than its predecessors. The game's story plays out across generations, so players cannot keep one party of warriors throughout the game.
Romancing SaGa 3
Super Famicom, Android, iOS, PlayStation Vita The third Romancing SaGa game features a battle system similar to that of Final Fantasy II and the first two SaGa games, where character development is determined by the player's commands in battle. If the player commands a character to cast magic spells frequently, for example, then that character will grow in magical power.
SaGa Frontier
  • JP: July 11, 1997
  • NA: March 24, 1998
PlayStation This installment was both the first SaGa game to be released in North America since Final Fantasy Legend III in 1993 and the first of the series to be released in North America as a SaGa game. Similar in style to the earlier games in the series, SaGa Frontier allows players to choose from multiple characters, each with his or her own unique storyline and scenario.
SaGa Frontier 2
  • JP: April 1, 1999
  • NA: January 31, 2000
  • PAL: March 22, 2000
PlayStation The game was the first SaGa title to reach PAL territories and was one of Square's last RPGs produced for the PlayStation. The game shunned 3D graphics in favor of traditional 2D hand-painted watercolor sprites. The game featured two separate storylines spanning across three generations.
Unlimited Saga
  • JP: December 19, 2002
  • NA: June 17, 2003
  • PAL: October 31, 2003
PlayStation 2 The game features a combination of 2D and 3D graphics known as "Sketch Motion" and a complicated battle mechanic called the "Reel System". It greatly resembles a board game. It was praised highly in Japan, but garnered heavy criticism elsewhere.
Romancing SaGa: Minstrel Song (enhanced remake)
  • JP: April 21, 2005
  • NA: October 11, 2005
PlayStation 2 In Romancing SaGa, you direct one of eight intriguing playable characters, each with their own adventures and goals, A mysterious minstrel sometimes guides your party to adventure, and at other times protects it from shadow. Occasionally he forces upon you grave choices that will change the world in which you travel and twist the plots you encounter
Emperors SaGa
  • JP: September 18, 2012
GREE Announced in September 2011, the game features a combat system utilizing digital playing cards. [22] [23]
Imperial SaGa
PC Announced in December 2014 for release in 2015. [25] The game is played in the user's internet browser and is single player, but features a new story within the SaGa setting. [26]
SaGa: Scarlet Grace
  • JP: December 15, 2016
PlayStation Vita Announced in December 2014, this title was released in 2016 - and is the first new entry in the franchise in over a decade. [25] [27]

Music

Music in the SaGa series have been composed by a number of people, the most prominent of which is Kenji Ito, who also composed some soundtracks for the Mana series. Nobuo Uematsu, responsible for a large portion of the music of the Final Fantasy series, solely composed The Final Fantasy Legend and co-composed Final Fantasy Legend II with Ito. Ryuji Sasai and Chihiro Fujioka worked on Final Fantasy Legend III together. SaGa Frontier 2 and Unlimited Saga are credited to Masashi Hamauzu.

Reception

Review scores and sales
GameUnits sold
(millions)
Famitsu
score
GameRankings
score
The Final Fantasy Legend
1.3 [28]
35/40 [29]
51% (4 reviews) [30]
Final Fantasy Legend II
33/40 [31]
90% (2 reviews) [32]
Final Fantasy Legend III
29/40 [33]
75% (3 reviews) [34]
Romancing SaGa
1.32 [28]
31/40 [35]
Romancing SaGa 2
1.5 [28]
26/40 [36]
Romancing SaGa 3
1.3 [37]
34/40 [38]
SaGa Frontier
1.1 [28]
31/40 [39]
71% (11 reviews) [40]
SaGa Frontier 2
0.67 [41]
35/40 [42]
74% (27 reviews) [43]
Unlimited Saga
0.43 [44]
31/40 [45]
52% (43 reviews) [46]
Romancing SaGa: Minstrel Song
0.45 [44]
32/40 [47]
63% (30 reviews) [48]

Games in the SaGa series have been popular in Japan, with many of them selling over 1 million units. As of March 2011, the series has sold over 9.9 million units. [49] In 2006, Famitsu readers voted Romancing SaGa as the 53rd best game of all time, and SaGa 2 as the 94th best game of all time. [50] Games in the series also received generally positive reviews from Japanese publications such as Famitsu and Dengeki .

However, the series has remained decidedly less popular in North America, many of the games receiving mixed reviews from printed and online publications. It has been suggested that this is due to the series' seemingly experimental gameplay and allowing the player to freely roam with little direction or narrative, atypical of what many North American gamers usually expect from Japanese role-playing games. [51] In their September 2004 "Overrated/Underrated" article, Official U.S. PlayStation Magazine cited the SaGa series as one ruined in the transition to the PlayStation 2, citing primarily Unlimited SaGa. [52]

See also

Related Research Articles

Masashi Hamauzu Japanese composer and pianist

Masashi Hamauzu is a Japanese composer, arranger, pianist, and lyricist. Hamauzu, who was employed at Square Enix from 1996 to 2010, was best known during that time for his work on the Final Fantasy and SaGa video game series. Born into a musical family in Germany, Hamauzu was raised in Japan. He became interested in music while in kindergarten, and took piano lessons from his parents.

<i>Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles</i> 2003 video game

Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles is an action role-playing game developed by The Game Designers Studio and published for the GameCube by Nintendo in 2003 in Japan; and 2004 in North America, Europe and Australia. A remastered version for Nintendo Switch and PlayStation 4 will be released in 2019. A spin-off of the Final Fantasy series, Crystal Chronicles was the first title released for a Nintendo console since Final Fantasy VI in 1994.

<i>Unlimited Saga</i> 2002 video game

Unlimited Saga is a role-playing video game developed and published by Square for the PlayStation 2 as the ninth game in their SaGa series. Originally released in Japan in December 2002, the game was later made available for North American players in June 2003 and in Europe the following October. The game was designed by series veteran Akitoshi Kawazu who is given a byline on the cover of the game's packaging, with music composed by Masashi Hamauzu who had previously provided the soundtrack for the game's predecessor, SaGa Frontier 2. A special limited collector's edition was made available exclusively in Japan and was released alongside the regular edition.

<i>SaGa Frontier</i> 1997 video game

SaGa Frontier is a role-playing video game developed by Square for the PlayStation and released in Japan on July 11, 1997. The game was later published by Sony Computer Entertainment (SCEA) in North America on March 25, 1998. It is the seventh game in the SaGa series, the first to be released on the PlayStation, and the first to be released under the SaGa brand outside Japan.

<i>Final Fantasy Legend II</i> video game

Final Fantasy Legend II, originally released in Japan as Sa・Ga2: Hihō Densetsu, is a role-playing video game developed by Square Co. for the Game Boy handheld console as the second game of their SaGa series. Initially released in December 1990 for Japanese audiences, the game was translated and released in North America in November 1991 by Square America Co, and again in 1998 by Sunsoft. Like its predecessor, the English version was re-branded as a Final Fantasy title due to the series' popularity in the Western territories. The game's development was headed by lead designer Akitoshi Kawazu, who had worked on the previous title, with a music staff consisting of Kenji Ito and Nobuo Uematsu. In 2009, an enhanced remake of the game was announced for the Nintendo DS titled SaGa 2 Hihō Densetsu: Goddess of Destiny, featuring three-dimensional graphics, new story elements, and an arranged soundtrack.

<i>Final Fantasy Legend III</i> 1991 Game Boy game

Final Fantasy Legend III is a role-playing video game developed and published by Square Co. for the Game Boy handheld system as the third game of their SaGa series. Initially released for Japanese audiences in December 1991, the game was made available in North America nearly two years later in August 1993. While the title retains many similarities to its predecessors in terms of style and gameplay, the game's development was headed by series newcomer Chihiro Fujioka, who also served as composer alongside Ryuji Sasai. The North American version of the game saw a re-release alongside the two other Final Fantasy Legend titles in July 1998 courtesy of Sunsoft. In 2010, an enhanced remake of the game was announced for the Nintendo DS titled SaGa 3 Jikū no Hasha: Shadow or Light, featuring three-dimensional graphics, new story elements, and an arranged soundtrack.

<i>Romancing SaGa 2</i> role-playing video game

Romancing SaGa 2 is a role-playing video game developed by Square and released for the Super Famicom in Japan on December 10, 1993. It is the fifth title in the SaGa series.

SaGa is a series of science fiction role-playing video games produced by Square, now Square Enix. The series originated on the Game Boy in 1989 as the creation of Akitoshi Kawazu. It has since continued across multiple platforms, from the Super Nintendo Entertainment System to the PlayStation 2, and like the Final Fantasy series, the story in each SaGa game is independent of its counterparts. The music of the SaGa series consists of musical scores and arranged albums from various composers. Some of these composers have created soundtracks and pieces for other Square Enix franchises including the Final Fantasy series and Mana series. The SaGa series is divided up between the original series, released as the Final Fantasy Legend series in North America, the Romancing SaGa series, the SaGa Frontier series, and Unlimited SaGa.

<i>Emperors SaGa</i> video game

Emperors SaGa is a downloadable social game in the SaGa series from Square Enix. The game was released on the GREE platform on September 18, 2012. In Emperors SaGa, players take the role of the emperor of a nation, and guide the country as its ruler.

<i>Imperial SaGa</i>

Imperial SaGa is a role-playing browser game developed by Think & Feel for web browsers. The eleventh installment in the SaGa series, the game was published by Square Enix in 2015. Designed as part of the series' 25th anniversary celebrations, it was developed with the supervision of series creator Akitoshi Kawazu.

The Japanese video game magazine Famitsū assigns scores to video games by having four reviewers each give a score from 0 to 10. The scores of the four reviewers are then added up for a maximum possible score of 40. From the twenty two games awarded with a perfect score as of 2016, three are for the Nintendo DS and five are for the Wii. The PlayStation 3 also has five games with a perfect score and the Xbox 360 has four, with both consoles having two titles in common. The others are for different platforms with only one title each. Franchises with multiple perfect score winners include The Legend of Zelda with four, Metal Gear with three, followed by Dragon Quest and Final Fantasy with two.

Final Fantasy is a media franchise created by Hironobu Sakaguchi, and developed and owned by Square Enix. The franchise centers on a series of fantasy and science fantasy role-playing video games (RPGs). The eponymous first game in the series, published in 1987, was conceived by Sakaguchi as his last-ditch effort in the game industry; the title was a success and spawned sequels. While most entries in the series are separate from each other, they have recurring elements carrying over between entries: these include plot themes and motifs, gameplay mechanics such as the Active Time Battle (ATB) system, and signature character designs from the likes of Yoshitaka Amano and Tetsuya Nomura.

<i>SaGa: Scarlet Grace</i>

SaGa: Scarlet Grace is a role-playing video game co-developed by Square Enix and Studio Reel. The twelfth entry in the SaGa series and celebrating the series' 25th anniversary, the game was published by Square Enix in 2016 for the PlayStation Vita. An expanded port subtitled Hiiro no Yabou is scheduled for release in 2018 for Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, Microsoft Windows, Android and iOS. A Western localization is in production.

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