SaGa (series)


Cover of Romancing SaGa for the Super Famicom
Genres Role-playing
Developers Square Enix (formerly Square)
Publishers Square Enix (formerly Square)
Creators Akitoshi Kawazu
Platforms Game Boy, WonderSwan Color, mobile phones, Nintendo DS, Super Nintendo, PlayStation, PlayStation 2, PlayStation Vita, Microsoft Windows
Year of inception 1989
First release The Final Fantasy Legend
December 15, 1989
Latest release Emperors SaGa
September 18, 2012

SaGa (サガ) is a series of science fiction open world role-playing video games produced by Square (now Square Enix). The series originated on the Game Boy in 1989 as the creation of Akitoshi Kawazu. It has since continued across multiple platforms, from the Super Nintendo Entertainment System to the PlayStation 2. The series is notable for its emphasis on open world exploration, non-linear branching plots, and occasionally unconventional gameplay. This distinguished the series from most of Square's titles. There are currently nine games in the SaGa series, along with several ports and enhanced remakes.


Timeline of release years
1989The Final Fantasy Legend
1990Final Fantasy Legend II
1991Final Fantasy Legend III
1992Romancing SaGa
1993Romancing SaGa 2
1995Romancing SaGa 3
1997SaGa Frontier
1999SaGa Frontier 2
2002Unlimited Saga
2005Romancing SaGa: Minstrel Song
2012Emperors SaGa
2015Imperial SaGa
2016SaGa: Scarlet Grace

The SaGa series was created by game designer Akitoshi Kawazu, whose credits prior to the franchise's introduction include Final Fantasy and Final Fantasy II. At a time when Nintendo's Game Boy was becoming popular worldwide due to the puzzle game Tetris, then-Square president Masashi Miyamoto requested that a development team create a game for the handheld console. Kawazu and fellow designer Koichi Ishii suggested that the company develop a role-playing video game, thus making Makai Tōshi Sa·Ga, later released in North America as The Final Fantasy Legend, the company's first handheld title.[1][2] The gameplay was designed to be difficult, described by Kawazu as the main difference between the SaGa and Final Fantasy series.[3] The character illustrations in all the games in the SaGa series were done by Tomomi Kobayashi,[4] who has also done the illustrations for the MMORPG Granado Espada.[5] Although the series has been long-running, as of 2008 none of the ten production teams at Square Enix is assigned to the franchise. Akitoshi Kawazu and Production Team 2 are devoted to the Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles series.[6]

Common elements

The SaGa series emphasizes nonlinear gameplay and open world exploration, with its open-ended branching plot and free style of character development separating it from the more linear Final Fantasy series.[7] Like the Final Fantasy series, however, the story in each SaGa game is independent of its counterparts. The SaGa series is also considered a successor to Final Fantasy II, which introduced a more open-ended activity-based progression system that was abandoned by later Final Fantasy games but embraced by Makaitoushi SaGa (Final Fantasy Legend), which expanded it with weapons that shatter with repeated use and added new ideas such as a race of monsters that mutate depending on which fallen foes they consume.[8]

The early games in the series also feature some common gameplay elements and themes first established in Final Fantasy, such as random enemy encounters, but most of these disappear with the Romancing SaGa games, providing a unique gameplay experience. It also features a similar turn-based battle system, where a character's prowess is driven by numerical values called "statistics" which, in turn, increase with combat experience. Given the open-ended aspect of gameplay and the ability to play through multiple character scenarios, heavy emphasis is placed upon the replay value of SaGa games.

Since the original Makaitoushi SaGa, much of the series has relied on loosely connected stories and sidequests rather than an epic narrative. Makaitoushi SaGa allowed players to travel through different worlds. Romancing SaGa expanded the open-endedness by offering many choices and allowing players to complete quests in any order, with the decision of whether or not to participate in any particular quest affecting the outcome of the storyline. The game also allowed players to choose from eight different characters, each with their own stories that start in different places and offer different outcomes.[7] Romancing SaGa thus succeeded in providing a very different experience during each run through the game, something that later non-linear RPGs such as SaGa Frontier and Fable had promised but were unable to live up to.[9] It also introduced a combo system where up to five party members can perform a combined special attack,[9] and required characters to pay mentors to teach them abilities, whether it is using certain weapons or certain proficiencies like opening a chest or dismantling a trap.[7]

While in the original Romancing SaGa, scenarios were changed according to dialogue choices during conversations, Romancing SaGa 2 further expanded the open-endedness by having unique storylines for each character that can change depending on the player's actions, including who is chosen, what is said in conversation, what events have occurred, and who is present in the party.[10] Romancing SaGa 3 featured a storyline that could be told differently from the perspectives of up to eight different characters and introduced a level-scaling system where the enemies get stronger as the characters do,[11] a mechanic that was later used in Final Fantasy VIII,[12] The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion, Silverfall,[13] Dragon Age: Origins,[14] Fallout 3, and The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim.[15] SaGa Frontier further expanded on the non-linear gameplay of its Romancing SaGa predecessors, with a setting that spans multiple planets and an overarching plot that becomes apparent after playing through each of the different characters' quests that tie together at certain places.[16]


Title Release Date Platform Notes
The Final Fantasy Legend

Released in Japan as Makai Tōshi Sa·Ga

  • JP: December 15, 1989
  • NA: September 30, 1990
Game Boy, WonderSwan Color, mobile phones Not only was it the Game Boy's debut role-playing game, but it marked the first appearance of an RPG on any handheld video game console. The game introduced new systems of developing characters. The game released in North America less than a year later as The Final Fantasy Legend, presumably to boost sales on the strength of Final Fantasy's name. An enhanced remake of the game released exclusively in Japan in 2002 for the WonderSwan Color and 2007 for mobile phones, sporting more advanced graphics than displayed by the Game Boy's four-color set.
Final Fantasy Legend II

Released in Japan as Sa·Ga 2: Hihō Densetsu

  • JP: December 14, 1990
  • NA: November 1, 1991
Game Boy, Nintendo DS The game retained the same character classes used in its predecessor, but introduced a fifth ally that often helps the player's party in combat. The game's story is more developed than the first SaGa game, with a journey that spans across more than a dozen worlds. GameSpot's "History of Console RPGs" touts Final Fantasy Legend II as the best of the Game Boy SaGa games, calling it a "portable gaming classic".[17] An enhanced remake of the game was released in Japan in 2009 for the Nintendo DS.[18]
Final Fantasy Legend III

Released in Japan as Sa·Ga 3: Jikū no Hasha'

  • JP: December 13, 1991
  • NA: September 29, 1993
Game Boy, Nintendo DS The game eliminated the non-level based individualized growth system of the previous two installments; instead the title introduced "experience points" and across-the-board stat leveling in the style of Final Fantasy, introducing two human and two mutant characters with predetermined backgrounds. An enhanced remake of the game was released in Japan on January in 2011 for the Nintendo DS.[19]
Romancing SaGa

Re-released as Romancing SaGa: Minstrel Song in Japan

  • JP: April 21, 2005
  • NA: October 11, 2005
Super Famicom, WonderSwan Color, PlayStation 2, mobile phones The first of three Japan-exclusive Super Famicom titles, this game allows players to choose from one of eight character scenarios to follow. The game was ported to the WonderSwan Color in 2001. An enhanced remake of the game was released in 2005 for the PlayStation 2, which was released outside Japan. The game bears the title Romancing SaGa: Minstrel Song in Japan, but was released as simply Romancing SaGa in North America. A mobile phone version was announced for release in 2009.[20]
Romancing SaGa 2
  • JP: December 10, 1993
Super Famicom The second installment of the Romancing SaGa series and the fifth in the SaGa series in general, places a greater emphasis on storyline than its predecessors. The game's story plays out across generations, so players cannot keep one party of warriors throughout the game.
Romancing SaGa 3
  • JP: November 11, 1995
Super Famicom The third Romancing SaGa game features a battle system similar to that of Final Fantasy II and the first two SaGa games, where character development is determined by the player's commands in battle. If the player commands a character to cast magic spells frequently, for example, then that character will grow in magical power.
SaGa Frontier
  • JP: July 11, 1997
  • NA: March 24, 1998
PlayStation This installment was both the first SaGa game to be released in North America since Final Fantasy Legend III in 1993 and the first of the series to be released in North America as a SaGa game. Similar in style to the earlier games in the series, SaGa Frontier allows players to choose from multiple characters, each with his or her own unique storyline and scenario.
SaGa Frontier 2
  • JP: April 1, 1999
  • NA: January 31, 2000
  • PAL: March 22, 2000
PlayStation The game was the first SaGa title to reach PAL territories and was one of Square's last RPGs produced for the PlayStation. The game shunned 3D graphics in favor of traditional 2D hand-painted watercolor sprites. The game featured two separate storylines spanning across three generations.
Unlimited Saga
  • JP: December 19, 2002
  • NA: June 17, 2003
  • PAL: October 31, 2003
PlayStation 2 The game features a combination of 2D and 3D graphics known as "Sketch Motion" and a complicated battle mechanic called the "Reel System." It garnered heavy criticism for its difficulty.
Romancing SaGa: Minstrel Song (enhanced remake)

Released in Japan as Romanshingu Sa Ga -Minsutoreru Songu

  • JP: April 21, 2005
  • NA: October 11, 2005
PlayStation 2 In Romancing SaGa, you direct one of eight intriguing playable characters, each with their own adventures and goals, A mysterious minstrel sometimes guides your party to adventure, and at other times protects it from shadow. Occasionally he forces upon you grave choices that will change the world in which you travel and twist the plots you encounter
Emperors SaGa
  • JP: September 18, 2012
GREE Announced in September 2011, the game features a combat system utilizing digital playing cards.[21][22]
Imperial SaGa PC Announced in December 2014 for release in 2015.[24] The game is played in the user's internet browser and is single player, but features a new story within the SaGa setting.[25]
SaGa: Scarlet Grace
  • JP: December 15, 2016
PlayStation Vita Announced in December 2014, this title is set to release in 2016 - and is the first new entry in the franchise in over a decade.[24][26]


Music in the SaGa series have been composed by a number of people, the most prominent of which is Kenji Ito, who also composed many soundtracks for the Mana series. Ito scored a majority of scores for the series. Nobuo Uematsu, responsible for a large portion of the music of the Final Fantasy series, solely composed The Final Fantasy Legend and co-composed Final Fantasy Legend II with Ito. Ryuji Sasai and Chihiro Fujioka worked on Final Fantasy Legend III together. SaGa Frontier 2 and Unlimited Saga are credited to Masashi Hamauzu.


Review scores and sales
Game Units sold
The Final Fantasy Legend
51% (4 reviews)[29]
Final Fantasy Legend II
90% (2 reviews)[31]
Final Fantasy Legend III
75% (3 reviews)[33]
Romancing SaGa
Romancing SaGa 2
Romancing SaGa 3
SaGa Frontier
71% (11 reviews)[39]
SaGa Frontier 2
74% (27 reviews)[42]
Unlimited Saga
52% (43 reviews)[45]
Romancing SaGa: Minstrel Song
63% (30 reviews)[47]

Games in the SaGa series have been popular in Japan, with many of them selling over 1 million units. As of March 2011, the series has sold over 9.9 million units.[48] In 2006, Famitsu readers voted Romancing SaGa as the 53rd best game of all time, and SaGa 2 as the 94th best game of all time.[49] Games in the series also received generally positive reviews from Japanese publications such as Famitsu and Dengeki.

However, the series has remained decidedly less popular in North America, many of the games receiving mixed reviews from printed and online publications. It has been suggested that this is due to the series' seemingly experimental gameplay and allowing the player to freely roam with little direction or narrative, atypical of what many North American gamers usually expect from Japanese role-playing games.[50] In their September 2004 "Overrated/Underrated" article, Official U.S. PlayStation Magazine cited the SaGa series as one ruined in the transition to the PlayStation 2, citing primarily Unlimited SaGa.[51]

See also


  1. " クリエイターズ・ファイル:自分の信念を貫く事で『サガ』を作り出した河津秋敏氏". (in Japanese). Retrieved 2009-05-09.
  2. DeWoody, Lucas (August 15, 2005). "Trial and Error – The History of Square Vol. 3". Retrieved 2009-05-09.
  3. Nutt, Christian (2005-05-26). "Romancing SaGa: Minstrel Song". GameSpy. Retrieved 2009-06-05.
  4. Ciolek, Todd (December 7, 2011). "Ultracity 2020 – The X Button". Anime News Network. Retrieved 2011-12-07.
  5. Winkler, Chris (June 11, 2005). "Granado Espada Event Held in Tokyo". Retrieved 2009-04-18.
  6. Chris Winkler (2003). "Square Enix Talks Current Status". Retrieved 2008-06-15.
  7. 1 2 3 "Romancing SaGa Review". IGN. 25 June 2006.
  8. Parish, Jeremy (2009-04-28). "8-Bit Cafe: Game Boy Essentials, 1989 Edition". UGO Networks. Retrieved 2009-11-17.
  9. 1 2 Patrick Gann. "Romancing SaGa". RPGFan. Retrieved 2011-03-02.
  10. IGN staff (February 18, 1997). "Square, The Final Frontier". IGN. Retrieved 2008-12-13.
  11. Romancing SaGa 3, RPG Fan
  12. "RPGamer > Staff Retroview > Final Fantasy VIII".
  13. "Community Blog by Shawn Kelfonne // Good Idea/Bad Idea: Level Scaling". Destructoid.
  14. James Cullinane – Gameplanet (November 5, 2009). "Review: Dragon Age: Origins". Retrieved November 7, 2011.
  15. "GameSpy: First Major Details on Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim - Page 1".
  16. Rorshacma, SaGa Frontier, Hardcore Gaming 101
  17. GameSpot:Video Games PC Xbox 360 PS3 Wii PSP DS PS2 PlayStation 2 GameCube GBA PlayStation 3
  18. "Final Fantasy Legends 2 Set for DS". IGN. 14 January 2009.
  19. "『サガ3時空の覇者 Shadow or Light』あの名作が新生!".
  20. Ashcraft, Brian (2008-12-01). "Dragon Quest IX Playable This Month In Tokyo". Retrieved 2009-01-16.
  22. "Emperors SaGa Finally Comes Out In September, Makes Players An Emperor". Siliconera.
  23. Aetas Inc. "「インペリアル サガ」のサービスがスタート。さまざまなアイテムがもらえるログインキャンペーンも開催中".
  24. 1 2 "SaGa 2015 announced for PS Vita". Gematsu.
  25. Sato (2014-12-14). "Square Enix Announce Imperial SaGa For PC". Siliconera. Retrieved 2015-04-24.
  26. "SaGa: Scarlet Grace launches for PS Vita in Japan in 2016". Gematsu.
  27. 1 2 3 4 "February 2, 2004 – February 4, 2004" (PDF). Retrieved 2008-12-13.
  28. "Squaresoft". Famitsu Scores Archive. Archived from the original on February 21, 2009. Retrieved 2014-12-14.
  29. "The Final Fantasy Legend Reviews". GameRankings. Archived from the original on 2009-03-31. Retrieved 2008-12-13.
  30. 30 Point Plus: Sa・Ga2 秘宝伝説. Weekly Famicom Tsūshin. No.358. Pg.32. 27 October 1995.
  31. "Final Fantasy Legend II Reviews". GameRankings. Retrieved 2008-12-13.
  32. "Google Translate".
  33. "Final Fantasy Legend III Reviews". GameRankings. Archived from the original on 2009-04-24. Retrieved 2008-12-13.
  34. "Google Translate".
  35. "ロマンシング サ・ガ2".
  36. "The Magic Box – Japan Platinum Chart Games.". Retrieved 2008-12-13.
  37. "ロマンシング サ・ガ3".
  38. "サガ フロンティア".
  39. "SaGa Frontier Reviews". GameRankings. Retrieved 2008-12-13.
  40. "Sony PS1 Japanese Ranking". Retrieved 2008-12-13.
  41. Chinn, Marty (2000-06-23). "Famitsu Top 120 PlayStation games". Archived from the original on 2003-11-23. Retrieved 2008-12-13.
  42. "SaGa Frontier 2 Reviews". GameRankings. Retrieved 2008-12-13.
  43. 1 2 "Sony PS2 Japanese Ranking". Retrieved 2008-12-13.
  44. Winkler, Chris (December 11, 2002). "Famitsu Rates Zelda: The Wind Waker and Unlimited SaGa". RPGFan. Retrieved 2008-12-13.
  45. "Unlimited Saga Reviews". GameRankings. Retrieved 2008-12-13.
  46. "2005's Famitsu Scores Archive". Famitsu Scores Archive. Archived from the original on 2009-02-05. Retrieved 2008-12-13.
  47. "Romancing SaGa Reviews". GameRankings. Retrieved 2008-12-13.
  48. "Businesses – Square Enix Holdings". 2011-03-31. Archived from the original on 2012-03-25. Retrieved 2012-03-25.
  49. "Japan Votes on All Time Top 100". Edge Online. 2006-03-03. Archived from the original on 2008-07-23. Retrieved 2008-12-20.
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