Romancing SaGa 3 is a remastered version of a 16-bit RPG that will offer a nostalgia rush for SNES fans and frustration at its antiquated design.
Romancing SaGa 3 is a remaster of a turn-based RPG that was originally released for the Super Famicom in 1995. Romancing SaGa 3 was never localized in the '90s but it was playable to fans of SNES emulation thanks to a fan translation patch. Square Enix wants to create a digital storefront for its older titles, so games like Romancing SaGa 3 are finally being remade and released overseas. The game feels like a cousin to titles like Chrono Trigger and Final Fantasy VI and the people who experience Romancing SaGa 3 will find it to be a lost gem from that era gaming, so long as they are willing to dig through a number of frustrating design choices in the process of playing it.
The world of Romancing SaGa 3 is host to an apocalyptic event known as the Rise of Morastrum that happens once every 300 years, where the sun is blotted out of the sky and all life that is born will die before the year's end. The apocalypse was defied twice in the past, first by a child who turned to evil and became known as the Archfiend, and by a second child 300 years later who defied her fate and became known as the Matriarch. The next Rise of Morastrum is about to happen and the great powers of the world are starting to shift in anticipation of the arrival of another destined child.
Romancing SaGa 3 might be the most nonlinear RPG of its era. The player is given the choice between eight different characters, each with their own unique perspectives on the story. After completing the introductory quest, the player is given the freedom to travel the world, take on quests, explore dungeons, and complete minigames at their own pace. The choice of character can change a lot about the game, such as Mikhail the nobleman having his own unique kingdom building and mass-warfare minigames, while Katarina has a personal quest to recover a relic known as the Masquerade that was stolen from her. The remaster has greatly improved the quality of the graphics without diminishing the retro sprite work (unlike the dreadful PC port of Chrono Trigger), making the game a visual treat on larger screens, while the soundtrack is still as incredible as it was on the Super Famicom.
The turn-based combat system in Romancing SaGa 3 will be familiar to fans of old school RPGs. The enemy monsters appear on the overworld and can be avoided by the player if they keep their distance. The player can assemble their party into different formations that can offer stat boosts throughout the battle, while the enemy's formation also determines the effectiveness of attacks. There are eight weapon types and six schools of magic for the characters to use and they each learn new abilities randomly by using their preferred weapons/spells repeatedly.
There are no experience points to be earned in Romancing Saga 3, but the characters can improve their stats randomly in battle in a manner similar to that of Final Fantasy II. The randomness of character progression might be off-putting to some, but the sheer number of combat options available makes each playthrough feel unique. The fact that there are multiple main characters to choose from and over twenty party members to recruit means that Romancing SaGa 3 offers more replayability than most games of its era.
Romancing SaGa 3 is very much a product of its time and that leads to the game's biggest drawback, in that it never explains anything to the player. There are almost no tutorials for anything related to the combat system or the character-specific minigames, while the sidequests are poorly explained and most can easily be missed/ One major aspect of the game is that some quests are locked behind the character's maximum HP score, but this is never explained in-game and it can lead to lots of aimless wandering around. Romancing SaGa 3 is a game that almost requires the player to have a walkthrough open during their first playthrough, as it's most important systems are never revealed to the player.
The dungeons & towns in Romancing SaGa 3 can also feel flat in comparison to other 16-bit RPGs. The dungeons lack puzzles and treasure chests, with many being a succession of caves that are filled with random encounters. The NPCs in the towns tend to repeat non sequiturs and offer little in the way of useful information. The main story missions in Romancing Saga 3 offer some awesome dungeons and brutal boss encounters, but it requires a lot of grinding to get to them, due to how story progression is locked behind the maximum HP score of the party and the fact that increasing HP can only be done randomly in battle.
Square Enix has been remastering lots of old games recently and these have included some much-appreciated upgrades, like how Final Fantasy VIII lets players speed up battles. Romancing SaGa 3 badly needs this feature. as well as the ability to speed up the text, but they are surprisingly missing from the game. There are still many classic Squaresoft games missing on modern consoles and the release of Romancing Saga 3 is a good sign that other gems might also be on their way in the future, but they really need the speed-up features that were added in the recent Final Fantasy remasters.
Romancing SaGa 3 is a relic of a bygone era. The people who want an old school RPG experience will find Romancing SaGa 3 to be a lost treasure from the glory days of Squaresoft, so long as they are willing to forgo many of the conveniences of modern gaming in order to enjoy it.
Romancing SaGa 3 is available now on iOS, Google Play, Nintendo Switch, PC, PlayStation 4, PlayStation Vita, and Xbox One. Screen Rant reviewed the PC version.