The 7th Saga - Review

Because Sometimes You Should Throw Your Controller

By: jaraph

Review Breakdown
   Battle System 8
   Interface 8
   Music/Sound 6
   Originality 7
   Plot 8
   Localization 3
   Replay Value 7
   Visuals 7
   Difficulty Very Hard
   Time to Complete

25-40 hours

not average ;)

Title Screen

   When I first watched a friend of mine play 7th Saga a few years back, I must confess I was impressed. He was using the dwarf character (there are seven different characters from which to choose) and I definitely liked what I saw. Enix was nearly as big an rpg name as Square for us back then, so I was more than a little shocked when he offered to sell this gem to me for a mere $15. When I questioned his motives, my friend explained that while the game was a bit difficult and he hadn't actually beaten it, it was quite fun; he had apparently just tired of it. Of course, I bought the game. And just yesterday I beat it for the first time.

   The basic plot of the game is pretty simple. There exist in the world seven runes, each providing its possessor with a different power. Your mission is to collect the runes and return them to the king. Although the story is pretty straight forward, and the character you choose has no affect on the telling, there are a couple of major twists that make it a tale worth hearing. Dialogue is sparse, and mainly consists of short hints from the locals about what to do/where to go next. I didn't find any problems with the localization, but like I said, there isn't really much text anyway.

   7th Saga's interface is classic fare. Battles are turn and menu based, with the typical fight, defend, magic, item. Since there's no ATB like in most console rpg's, the battle moves at exactly the pace you want it to, a fact I was personally thankful for. One of the most original aspects of the game was the crystal ball. This is basically a circle in the upper left portion of your screen which has little colored dots to indicate monsters, towns, chests and runes. While not extremely useful, since it's very hard to avoid the monsters, the crystal ball was nice in that you could see you were coming up on a town before it appeared on the world map. Your character will learn new spells naturally as he levels up, so there's no need to worry about how to obtain magic.

Mighty ENIX
The beginning of another Enix epic.  

   The out-of-battle interface is very self-explanatory. You press your button, and a set of menu's pops up. There are the classic status, item, and magic menus, but there are also menus for 'talk' and 'search'. This can be a bit annoying since it takes two button presses every time you want to talk to somebody, and you have to select 'Search' to open a treasure chest. You'll get used to the system quickly, however, and it's not bad after that.

   My friend's description was actually pretty good. The game is very hard, at least compared to most console rpg's. Actually, I shouldn't say the game is very hard. If you choose a good character, the game is quite hard. If you choose a bad character, it's pretty close to impossible.

   As I said earlier, you get to choose one of seven different characters at the start of 7th Saga. The cast is quite diverse (including a dwarf, alien, and demon), and the character sprites are large and well-done for their time. As you progress through the game, you will meet up with the other six characters. Their reactions to you will vary: everything from vowing to destroy you, to offering to team up. This "team up" aspect was the best part of the game, in my opinion. It's actually like you get to pick two of the seven characters (as long as your choice doesn't want to run his/her dagger through your gut). However, the problem I had with character selection was the unbalanced nature. While it's possible to get through nearly the entire game with any set of two characters (assuming you're willing to put in six straight hours of level-building here and there) there are two events in the game that make it nearly impossible to continue with a certain set of characters. It just so happens that the first time I played the game, I ended up with this set of characters, which explains why I didn't beat it for such a long time.

   The only other extremely difficult part of the game is the battles against the other characters. All five (or 6) characters who aren't in your party are supposedly always at the same level as you are. Thus, when you meet them, it should be a pretty fair fight, right? Actually, nothing could be farther from the truth. When I was forced to fight the (physically) weakest character in the game, his regular attack would take at least one-half of my life every time. I had the physically strongest character in the game at the time, and my attack would take about 1/20 of the other character's life! This unfairness in the strength of the enemy characters, coupled with the fact that leveling yourself up only makes the enemy stronger, can make for some extremely frustrating battles. Also, since the enemy characters steal all your runes when they defeat you, the reset button will become your best friend. There is, however, a simple trick to winning these battles. I won't reveal it, but remember the fact that enemy characters' levels are based on your main character's level, not the level of your supplementary character.

Build!  Build!
Another day, another 4 hours of leveling up.  

   Aside from its difficulty, I found the game quite fun. In fact, I even enjoyed the frustration somewhat because I was proud of beating the game since it was so difficult. The graphics, while by no means beautiful, were decent. Mode-7 is used for battles, and the battle backgrounds are usually based on your exact surroundings, which is very cool. The enemy and character in-battle animations were nicely done as well. The sound effects fit the actions, and while some people I've talked to were annoyed by the game's music, I found some of the tracks very fitting and enjoyable (especially the music in the healer's house). All in all, 7th Saga was a good experience.

   Unfortunately, there really isn't much replayability here. The story plays out exactly the same no matter which characters you have in your party, so there's really no reason to go back through with different characters, unless you just want an extreme challenge. (pick the elf, then the human mage as your supplementary character. fun!!). If you pick decent characters, you should be able to get through the game in 25-40 hours. Be prepared - if you're playing through strictly for the ending, don't. I just started laughing when I finally saw it.

    Long ago I heard a rumor about a game called 7th Saga Platinum for the Playstation. I cringed at the idea then. Now I actually wish the rumor would have come true.

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