Today, I unexpectedly managed to get an opportunity to spend some time in the famed Square Enix booth for a test run of a few of its upcoming games. For the purpose of this impression, I'll focus on the time I spent playing Romancing SaGa: Minstrel Song. Unfortunately, since the only SaGa titles I've played before are SaGa Frontiers 1 and 2, I wasn't able to see all of the different elements from previous SaGa games that were supposedly combined to make this one. Although, I did see some similarities with the SaGa games I have played.
My first impression with this game, naturally, was more visually based than anything. That being said, I was disappointed in the look of the game. The character models were blocky and choppy in a way reminiscent of a PSOne game. The polygons that made up the models were very obvious, which is a surprise since visuals are usually Square Enix's forte. The part of the game I played had my character going through a gold mine. The background environment was bland and boring and going through the mine was repetitive as each floor seemed identical the one before it. But then again, this was a mine; there's only so much you can do with it. Also, in some areas, the character models seemed unusually disporportionate to the environment they were in. But this could have been the fault of the image-distorting widescreen televisions the games were played on. Some of the movement of the NPCs in the game was buggy as well. After trying, for several minutes, to make my way out of the maze-like mine of doom, I was finally forced to jump onto a different PS2 with the game in it in order to sample the battle system.
The battles are where I saw the most similarity to previous SaGa titles. The familiar lightbulbs that appear above each character's head when they learn a new attack are in this incarnation of the series. The battles themselves were fairly straightforward. Every character had their own library of magical and physical attacks at the party's disposal. The demo, unfortunately, was still in Japanese so it was difficult to sample the different abilities of some characters. The special effects were nicely done and were probably the best part of the visual aspects of the game, along with the clean interface and user-friendly controls.
Though I had high hopes for this game, they were shaken a bit by this less-than-impressive demo. Though, to be fair, the TVs the game was played on distorted the image; however, that's no excuse for the repetitive gameplay and buggy NPCs.