The mid-'90s saw a wealth of top-notch JRPGs yet few of them released in the west. Now that Romancing SaGa 3 is available in a remastered and fully English translated release, let's see how it has held up over the years.
I remember being a teenager and jealousy watching the library of Square RPGs grow for Super Famicom while I only got to play a select few. Sure, games like Chrono Trigger and Secret of Mana blew me away but where was Bahamut Lagoon, Seiken Densetsu 3, Front Mission, Live A Live, and Treasure of the Rudras? Although I'm older now, I still relish any opportunity to fill in some of these gaps so I'm extremely happy that Romancing SaGa 3 is now available here. For the unfamiliar, most SaGa games merely put you in the middle of their worlds and it's up to you to make your own adventure by recruiting the party members that you want while uncovering the world map at whichever pace you prefer. So, right off the bat, if you prefer linear stories then this is probably not a game for you.
Personally, I find this open-ended approach to Romancing SaGa 3's campaign to be very rewarding as I feel like every single unlocked area, party member, and ability is the direct result of something that I actually did whether it was merely talking to the right NPC or resolving some sort of daunting quest. Also, the battle system is rather basic as all you essentially do is select commands for each of your party members. That being said, you'll soon realise that doing so mindlessly will not always work as monsters can be weak or strong against certain weapon types, abilities, and elements. As a result, some tough encounters may require a lot of experimentation to overcome but thankfully, you can freely run away if the odds are ever stacked against you. Of course, optimizing your party's equipment and learning new battle skills will turn the odds in your favour but that's not to say that things will be easy even if you stay on top of it all.
One aspect of Romancing SaGa 3 that really impressed me is its dialogue which is very well localised to make each conversation a joy to read with plenty of character inflections and accents being carefully woven into each line. I must also mention the fantastic pixel-filled visuals complete with charming character and enemy sprites, especially the animated bosses that really come to life. Finally, the soundtrack from legendary composer Kenji Ito offers a wonderful soundscape for every journey and town visit in between.
Romancing SaGa 3 is certainly a solid retro RPG but it does have some disappointing aspects. One regular annoyance that I noticed as I progressed is that many of the bosses require multiple attempts as you try and gauge which weapons and skills are most effective in the fight against them. Doing this often feels tedious and speaking of unintuitive, some of the quests can be a bit difficult to figure out. For example, the instructions may lead you in a general direction and if you pick up the quest later, you may forget an NPC's name or not remember what you were in the middle of which can cause much needless wandering.
This actually leads me to my last point; getting lost or stuck can easily occur. Once, I became completely lost in an enormous dungeon only to eventually find a locked door that I didn't even have the key to. Another time, I got stuck in a loop because I had to complete a quest before being able to exit a certain town yet the quest was far too challenging for my current party.
Fans of old-school RPGs who love open-ended campaigns will have a fantastic time with Romancing SaGa 3. Just keep in mind; the adventure within will contain plenty of frustrating moments, especially if you don't use a guide.
- + Rewarding open-ended structure
- + Loads of great characters with very well translated dialogue
- + Lovely graphics and music
- - Many bosses require trial and error
- - Some quests feel unintuitive
- - Getting stuck or lost can be a real bummer