Romancing SaGa 3 (Nintendo Switch) Review

By Albert Lichi 27.03.2020 1

Review for Romancing SaGa 3 on Nintendo Switch

The SaGa series was the other RPG franchise that Square would produce that wasn't Final Fantasy during its heyday. These were always much less linear in design, and had humble origins on the Game Boy no less. To the west, they were the Final Fantasy Legend trilogy. What made these games unique from Final Fantasy, was the emphasis on nonlinear open ended exploration. In the '90s, Japanese RPGs especially tended to be very linear adventure games with lots of turn based combat. The Romancing SaGa experience was all about finding and recruiting weirdos, and having a very loose story that tied all the side quests together. Perhaps it was due to the cost of localization, since in the '90s, Square's RPGs had a ton of text, or maybe it was because by the time it would take to translate Romancing Saga 3, the Nintendo 64 would have been out. The complete lack of localization would not stop Square fans from translating it themselves, and if anyone wanted to play Romancing SaGa 3 or its predecessor, then patching a rom and emulating it was the only option... until now. Square Enix has revamped Romancing SaGa 3 in a big way; for better and for worse.

The 'SaGa' games tend to make Final Fantasy look like a line of corridor simulators. There is almost a disregard for cinematics or extensive story scenes in Romancing SaGa 3 after the introduction. For some, this can be overwhelming since there is so little handholding after the initial premise is set up for any of the eight playable protagonists. Not all heroes will be given the same amount of flexibility. Some campaigns are more structured than others, and one in particular involves playing as a commander who will wage an all out war that involves a separate battle system. Generally, learning the mechanics in Romancing SaGa 3 is made very difficult due to the lack of a manual.

Screenshot for Romancing SaGa 3 on Nintendo Switch

For anyone unaware going into it, there are surprisingly a lot of things going on under the hood that this does not explain. This was originally a Super Famicom title, and games from its era always came with dense manuals that go into great detail about everything. How abilities are learned, and the means to decrease the cost to use said abilities is nowhere to be explained in here proper. It practically expects anyone going in will have an understanding of how to play. Even at the very start, RPG pros might become confused at the star sign selection screen, since it is not apparent how these affect stats - just a vague description is available.

Learning abilities and spells is determined mostly by character, weapon, and a bit of luck - Romancing SaGa 3 demands players to experiment, and to play. Battles are not random, and enemies appear on the map, freely roaming. The best way to learn more abilities, is to constantly use them until all threats are dispatched, or all magic and weapon points are depleted. Since this is an open-world RPG from the mid '90s, expect to get stuck and confused often. Even with Square Enix's official translation, figuring out where to go and what to do can still be a burden. A bit of patience is required to get the most out of this RPG.

Screenshot for Romancing SaGa 3 on Nintendo Switch

It is not terribly unforgiving, since all HP is restored after battle, and saving is possible during most of the time when out of battle. More often than not, the best way to figure out what to do is to talk to everyone. This is an RPG from a different time; when developers were more likely to gate progress with cryptic solutions than to hand them out. This is both a strength and a weakness for Romancing SaGa 3. Some impatient gamers might not have the attention span to comb the world for a NPC who will trigger the next quest. Others might enjoy the more laid back approach since things are rarely urgent. Things only get really tense when fighting a boss, since these tend to rely on bad status effects to wipe out the party gradually, and have a ton of HP.

Fans of the PlayStation cult classic SaGa Frontier will thoroughly enjoy all the similarities found in Romancing SaGa 3. From the attack combos, to the eclectic fantasy setting; there are details that tie these two together. Even Kenji Ito's insanely fast paced music energizes the combat and sweeping swash buckling adventure. Characters even have the SaGa signature kicking pose in combat when selecting moves; a quirky yet endearing trait throughout the franchise.

Screenshot for Romancing SaGa 3 on Nintendo Switch

While the original Super Famicom version has no official way to be enjoyed, this remake is mostly adequate with a few less desirable tradeoffs. Originally, Romancing SaGa 3 had beautiful pixel art and a 4:3 aspect ratio. This remake, or remaster, or whatever it is, ditches all the original overworld assets in exchange for redraws that are rendered in a higher pixel count than the characters which are still in their original dimensions. The UI and menus are all designed in a very high resolution vector that clashes with the old school appeal, and resembles the kind of assets seen in mobile games.

The boss sprites were even mangled by some cruel savant in order to make them animate in ways they were not intended. The effect is basically breaking up the original sprite into pieces and making the parts function like limbs. It looks awful, and was unnecessary to what was some of the best pixel art '90s Squaresoft was producing at the time. Most confusingly of all, this remake of Romancing SaGa 3 runs at 30 frames per second, for some reason. The original was in 60 like every 16-bit game ever made. This is a laid-back turn based RPG, so responsiveness is not a factor for gameplay, but anyone who is familiar with games like this will find the lower frame rate to be very jarring and distracting.

Screenshot for Romancing SaGa 3 on Nintendo Switch

Cubed3 Rating

7/10
Rated 7 out of 10

Very Good - Bronze Award

Rated 7 out of 10

The new UI is ugly as sin, and the animation added to the boss sprites is laughably out of place. The new background art is a mixed bag of some decent work and a couple examples of soulless imitation that fails to capture the intent of the original. All of this applies for those who are familiar with the original Romancing SaGa 3. For everyone else, this is an excellent RPG that has a lot of content and replayability. A vast cast of weirdos and miscreants to recruit, and shenanigans to get into await in this saga.

Developer

Square Enix

Publisher

Square Enix

Genre

Turn Based RPG

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  7/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now   

Comments

Our member of the week

Bought a complete in box copy of all three Romancing Saga games like... over 10 years ago? And like much of my collection, I still have to play those. Sad to see that this didn't turn out quite as good as I had hoped :/. Square are a bit clueless it seems when bringing those over, these days.

Cubed3 Limited Staff :: Review and Feature Writer

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