Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Romancing SaGa III #1 - Ringwraith Avenue

Romancing SaGa is a venerable series in Japan, brought to us by Squaresoft. For the most part, it hasn't fared too well outside of Japan; in the U.S., the portable entries were renamed to become the Final Fantasy Legend trilogy, the Super NES trilogy wasn't even released, and we didn't really get an  unchanged SaGa game until 1998's SaGa Frontier.

Out of the three Super NES installments, Romancing SaGa III is the best... and, to my knowledge, the only one to get a full English translation at this point in time.

 There was a time when this logo meant magic was about to ensue.

Hell, any game that begins with a lens flare is destined to be good, right?

Damn those terrorist sons of bitches! Now they're blocking out the sun!

 Here's the story. Are you getting all of this?

The "world". This shot seems suspiciously CGI. Worth noting is that this game came out in 1995, the same year as Chrono Trigger. The graphic style is more like Lufia 2, despite that not being a Square game.

So, this game has eight main characters to choose from. On the surface this may seem like eight different games to play (ala SaGa Frontier...sort of), their scenarios tend to all be pretty similar. However, there is one character whose design and scenario seems to stand alone, above the others.



The greatest game to be posted on here today!

::Harid is seen walking in slow motion::

It's awesome to see an RPG with a black guy as a protagonist. Usually I have to create them myself in games like Mass Effect and Fallout 3 if I ever want to see a non-white main character. 

At the outset, the game lets you choose your "class" out of five choices...which basically determines your stat growth. It also lets you choose your favorite weapon style, which starts that weapon skill at 8 or so instead of 1. It takes a while to get weapon skills that high from the beginning, so this is actually a pretty big deal.
...and while this game has eight main characters, make no mistake...Harid is the game's star and the most powerful character.

Wow, those are seriously distorted text visuals. This isn't a screenshot error, it looks like that in my version of the game. Luckily, the menu text isn't really utilized that often, and it's at least a little bit readable.

The eight characters: Julian, a 20 year old heroic lad with spiky green hair. Thomas, a 22 year old gentleman. Mikhail, the 27 year old marquis. Harid, the 33 year old legendary warrior. Sara, the 16 year old frightened little waif who is completely useless in every regard. Ellen, the 20 year old sister of Sara, who has a passion for adventure...and Harid's penis. Monica, the 19 year old princess, and sister of Mikhail. And finally, Katrina, the 24 year old noblewoman who is unofficially Mikhail's lover.
Every character has their own "intro stage" before the regular game gets going. I played all of them. To my dismay, a lot were shared. Thomas, Ellen, Sara, Monica, and Julian all have the same intro, and it's short and not much of an intro...though Julian and Monica have a fight at the end that the others don't. Harid, Mikhail, and Katrina are the only ones with unique intros, and even theirs intersect with each other's a few times. Keep in mind after the intro, it's pretty much the same game for everyone, although some characters may have side quests that others don't.

...did you follow all that? Onward. I'm going to play this as Harid, but first I'll spend some time looking at the other characters.

I played as Mikhail first, the Marquis. He's on a quest to defeat all the monsters in his fiefdom.

...when suddenly, one of the noblemen stages a rebellion: The dastardly Godwin. Marquis is so badass that he just goes "oh yeah, I expected that"

That's most of the heroes in one room. Or rather, tent, since his castle is now under the control of...

..that bastardly Godwin and his foul minions!

Vastly outnumbered by imps, there appears to be little hope.
But then again...they're goblins. If Final Fantasy 1 taught me anything, it's that imps and goblins ain't got SHEEEIT.


In the end, the Marquis's army held. Problem is, Godwin's monster forces are now invading our town.

Mikhail and Harid SWING INTO ACTION. The battles in this game have the same stylish action (poses, et al) to them that Saga Frontier does. I like the cartoonish visuals.

In this series, characters get more powerful not by gaining experience or levels, but by upping their stats depending on their actions. Take a beating and you'll gain more HP, use spells to become more magically proficient, attack a lot to increase physical attack power, etc... it's pretty fun compared to traditional leveling up.

Each character has a set of LP (usually 10), which stands for Life Points. If a character runs out of HP, they're knocked out. If the enemy hits them while they're knocked out, they lose one LP. Run out of LP on a character, and they die. Gone forever. Luckily, resting at an inn restores LP, as long as they're above zero. It's actually pretty difficult to lose characters in this game, regardless.

Here's Katrina, Mikhail's lover ::giddy giggling is heard::

Back at Mikhail's throne room, Godwin apparently fled, leaving our heroes to deal with...

...this giant imp, the first boss in this scenario. Problem is, he's up against the three best characters, and falls quickly.

Harid takes off to go on a pilgrimage and exits stage left, since this is Mikhail's intro.

Mikhail sneaks out of town...
And that's his intro.

And we cut to Katrina's intro now, as Monica is telling her about the Godwin Uprising.

Katrina stalks about the castle during the takeover. Actually this is an ingenius section that I doubt would translate to an American game very well. You go around and hide your equipment and a jail key, so that if you get caught by Godwin's clampdown, you can escape. Or you can just not do any of this, get caught, and lose all your stuff. The game goes on either way. But I can't see an American game doing that kind of thing to players.

With that, Godwin's goons bust in and apprehend Katrina.

Those sons of bitches! First they invade the kingdom, now they're touching Katrina inappropriately!

Katrina wakes up in a jail cell, coincidentally the same one I threw a key into before. She is a Joker-esque genius, evidently. ALL GOES ACCORDING TO PLAN!

She quickly meets up with Mikhail and Harid during their liberation of the castle. Yeah, this is the same scenario. Every character's intro seems to occur concurrently.

Katrina has a sword called Masquerade. It's the strongest sword that any of the seven characters have, except for possibly Harid's Kamsheen; it can also be "awakened" into a two-handed sword that does even more damage. Her special attack, "Moulin Rouge" hits harder than anything else anyone has at this point. She's one of the characters worth playing as, along with Mikhail and Harid.

Katrina meets Mikhail outside and they make out.

But wait!~ That was Godwin in disguise. Eww. He steals the Masquerade sword and escapes. Well, nix what I said about Katrina being so powerful... also, ironic how he masquerades as Mikhail to steal the Masquerade sword.

...and then she cuts her hair, for she has shamed her family. Well, all her cool aspects as a character are rapidly vanishing. Now she's just a purple-haired gender-ambiguous ladyboy with a knife. So indistinguishable from a lot of other RPG main characters.

Onward to number three, Monica's intro. She's the first character to be seen in the storyline in almost every scenario. She's also the one who eavesdrops on Godwin and finds out evil tidings are afoot.

Next thing we know she takes off on her horse...rides him hard and fast, she does. I've never wanted to be a horse more in my life.

Ellen refers to Harid as an UNCLE TOM! WELL I NEVER! Not only does she diss Harid's age, but Ellen has the lowest "compatibility rating" with Harid of any character. That's right, the game has a hidden stat that affects whether or not characters like each other or co-exist well. Funny thing is, Ellen is the first character to join Harid despite their incompatibility.

In any case, Monica fields a party. She's the weakest starting character...I think.

I forgot to mention that enemies in this game are always visible, Chrono Trigger style. I like this. See the wolves walking around in this field? All avoidable. Pretty difficult to do so, but it's possible.

In the woods, our heroes battle...


Here's the first boss for most of the characters: A wyvern. It has a ton of HP, but not much else.

Here we see the SaGa system in action, as weapon classes improve with use.

Mikhail took our best warrior (Harid) with him to fight off the Godwin Incursion, while telling the other heroes to escort his sister Monica to the castle of some vampire. Apparently he trusted the vampire to protect her from Godwin, but still wanted us to bodyguard her so the vampire wouldn't do anything dis-reputable. Like turn her into a vampire, or impregnate her with a bat-child. This seems like bad idea city.

Shades of Wild Arms, as our heroes climb the steppes,

Thomas has an awesome attack where he literally makes it rain...he makes it rain on them naked pixies.

Finally we reach Castle De Los Vampiros.

So the vampire says, while puffing on his long English pipe. Vampires are notorious for their formidable libidos, so hopefully Monica can resist.

The next day...well, I guess the threat is over. Sending one's sister to be protected by a seedy vampire king seems pretty weird.

Ya know, if Mikhail weren't a main character I would suspect him of being behind the whole thing, since it all seemed to play into what he already knew.

Next up, the wildly incompetent Monica somehow manages to get lost in a cave.

BOSS FIGHT. It's that psycho imp again.
Monica is joined by some feathered-turban guy who happens to be lost in the same cave, and together they...still can't win, until Julian shows up to help out.

The turban guy is the Dandiest Lad In All The Land. He flips off the super-imp while singing a jovial tune.

What a dainty bard! See how gaily he prances!

The Dandiest Lad is the only survivor. Three people barely cut it here.

 Julian brings Monica back to Mikhail, who is kinda a dick.

Some sketchy guy shows up to check out Monica's bod. Apparently his son needs a wife, one with wide child-bearing hips.

Monica vacates the premises, sneaking out with Julian. They hop on a boat, and take off without Mikhail knowing it.

...and are attacked by weird sea creatures. This is both of their final intro battles, and the hardest final intro battle out of all of them by far. Unless you've done some building up, or better yet saved your "Sand of Mars" and "Spirit Stone" items (which hit all the enemies once), you're screwed here.
Next time on RS3...the rest of the intro stages. In other news, next time on RS3 may well be the exact same mail as this one... only now with much more HARID. He's on the way. Oh Yeah.

Harid-mania is gearing up. Nothing can prepare you...for Harid.


  1. So in this story, The Boy Who Lived and The Devil King are the same person...
    HARID! YEAH! You're absolutely right that more games should have non-white main characters.
    "Ha ha ha ha" "Ee hee hee hee"
    The LP system is interesting. More realistic than other games, really.
    Really great post, and thanks so much for showing all the paths to us.

  2. I do miss when that logo had such significance.
    I keep reading "Harid" as "Hagrid." Help!
    "Ha ha ha ha" "Ee hee hee hee"
    How does that big army battle work?
    Inn, town, 16-bit Square-looking NPCs... aw yeeeeeah.