Posted on July 15, 2018
Romancing SaGa 3/ロマンシング サ・ガ3
Romancing SaGa 3 is the third and final installment of the “Romancing” SaGa series, and thus the end of the Super Famicom trilogy.
Released near the end of the Super Famicom’s life-cycle, Romancing SaGa 3 is one of the more polished RPGs to found on the system, not only in regards to art, but as an overall experience.
Was Romancing SaGa 3 able to end the series with a bang and leave players waiting for a next-gen sequel? Let’s take a look!
Score – 34/40
Story – 7/10
Gameplay – 9/10
Graphics – 9.5/10
Music – 8.5/10
Style: Japanese Role-playing Game (Turn-based)
Platform: Super Famicom
Release Date: JP: November 11th, 1995
Length: 20～35 Hours
If you have some extra time after the review, please check out my overviews of the 3 official Romancing SaGa 3 Guide Books below!
For overall general gameplay, check out the Romancing SaGa 3 Adventure Guide Book/ロマンシング サ・ガ3冒険ガイドブック!
If you’re just looking for a way to clear the game, then take a look at the Romancing SaGa 3 Complete Walkthrough Guide Book/ロマンシング サ・ガ3完全攻略編!
If you’d rather figure out what’s happening behind the scenes in terms of game-mechanics, then you gotta check out the Romancing SaGa 3 Fundamental Knowledge Guide Book/ロマンシング サ・ガ3基礎知識編!
Table of Contents
Romancing SaGa 3 SFC/SNES Review
Romancing SaGa 3 takes the torch and continues what Romancing SaGa 1 and 2 were known for -> Non-Linear gameplay, randomly learned abilities, and ridiculous difficulty. Anyone who has played Romancing SaGa 1 or 2 will feel at home playing 3. While some things have changed, for the most part Romancing SaGa 3 just takes parts of 1 and 2, mixes them together and adds a few extra mechanics. For the most part this is a good thing, but sometimes Romancing SaGa 3 takes a few steps back, even if sometimes only very small steps.
The story in Romancing SaGa 3 begins with an interesting premise. Every few hundred years, a “Death Eclipse” happens, which kills off all types of newborn life on the planet. A few hundred years before the game starts, somehow a baby survived the Death Eclipse and ended up becoming the powerful Demon King. During his reign, the Demon King summons 4 evil Guardians of the Abyss.
During the following Death Eclipse, another baby survives, this time becoming a hero and slaying the Demon King. With the Demon King banished, the Guardians of the Abyss wreck havok across the world. When the game begins, another baby survived the most recent Death Eclipse about 15 years prior. Will this baby become another Demon King, another Hero, or something else entirely?
Right off the bat, I think Romancing SaGa 3 takes a few steps back and completely erases the effort put in by Romancing SaGa 2 to have a somewhat flowing story. It steps all the way back to the original Romancing SaGa, where there’s basically only story for the first few minutes of the game and then there’s nothing mentioned again until the very end.
Romancing SaGa 1 had such a lack of story that I actually had to rate the game twice, one score including a story score and one without a story score. Romancing SaGa 2 took long strides to include a decent story in the game, through the use of the Generation system as well as incorporating the main story into some of the side quests. Romancing SaGa 3 doesn’t attempt to really include the main story in any of the side quests, at least not in any of the ones that I finished.
I actually think the idea of having a Doomsday event that kills of all newborns, but sometimes sparing one is quite fascinating. I wish the game would have gone a bit deeper into detail and explained during the course of the game why certain babies have a chance to survive, and why they seem to become powerful kings later on. You have to wait until the end of the game to have any semblance of closure, if you even became invested in the bit of story that’s available to begin with…
Romancing SaGa 3 actually boasts quite the roster of available characters to recruit! While pretty much all of them are optional characters, the game still gives you 8 main characters to pick from at the beginning of the game. Who you choose in the beginning has some minor effects on your experience in the game. Some characters have slightly different intro quests, some characters won’t join your party if they have a problem with your main character, and some main characters also have special mini-games that are exclusive to them.
ユリアン・ノール (Yurian Nooru, Julian Noel) – Julian is a young swordsman with a peculiar fashion sense. Green spiky hair, orange jacket, and blue boots! Considered the “vanilla” character to play through the game.
トーマス・ベント (Toomasu Bento, Thomas Bent) – Thomas is a merchant. Thomas has access to a business-oriented mini-game if you choose him as your main character.
ミカエル・アウスバッハ・フォン・ロアーヌ (Mikaeru Ausubahha Fon Roaanu, Mikhail Ausbach von Loanne) – With a name like that, you can probably tell he’s royalty. Mikhail sits upon the throne of Loanne as ruler of the city. Mikhail has access to a kingdom-building mini-game if you choose him as your main character.
ハリード (Hariido, Harid) – At first glance, Afro Samurai. At second glance, most likely a middle-eastern Mamluke since he wields Scimitars/Shamshirs and not Katanas. Pretty much 1 of the probably less than 10 dark-skinned playable characters in all of the SFC/SNES RPGs. Very powerful character, especially if you’re willing to power-game/glitch a certain weapon.
サラ・カーソン (Sara Kaason, Sara Carson) – Sara seems to have been involved in the most recent Death Eclipse. Seems to have a special Commander Mode if chosen as your main character.
エレン・カーソン (Eren Kaason, Ellen Carson) – Sara’s sister. One of the more capable axe-wielders in the game.
モニカ・アウスバッハ (Monika Ausubahha, Monica Ausbach) – Mikhail’s sister and princess of Loanne. One of the more versatile characters in the game, able to be built to use pretty much any type of weapons/magic.
カタリナ・ラウラン (Katarina Rauran, Katarina Lauran) – Monica’s bodyguard, who is on the search for an ancient artifact.
Aside from the main characters, there are I think 23 side characters in the game that you can add to your party. During my play-through I probably only saw about 10 of them, though. Most characters have a side-quest that you need to complete before you are able to recruit them. Each character has their own stats, but everyone can equip all types of equipment, so you can mostly build any character however you want, unless you want to delve super deep into the game mechanics and figure out character spark-types and all of that mind-boggling shit…
Here’s where Romancing SaGa 3 really takes a few steps forward. Given it’s most likely just a byproduct of being released at the end of 1995, Romancing SaGa 3 looks very good! The first thing that comes to mind when comparing it is Final Fantasy VI. That alone is enough to make any 16-bit era JRPG fan more than happy! I don’t know for sure, but I would go out on a limb and say that Romancing SaGa 3 either uses the FF6 engine or a modified version of it.
Towns are quite small, but usually full of detail. Most towns recycle the same tile-sets for roads and buildings, but there are also enough towns that have unique tile-sets to keep things from feeling too samey. The game includes desert towns, beach towns, forest-themed fairy towns, snowy towns, and even a flying town!
The dungeons are mostly unique, except for some that are purposely supposed to have the same feel to them. The Square artists really seemed to finally master diagonal staircases, which you’ll be able to see quite soon near the start of the game when you journey towards your first Abyss Guardian fight! The more exotic environments look spectacular, like the Ice Galaxy. Some of the Abyss Guardian Palaces look amazing too, particularly the Water Palace.
One thing that really stuck out in Romancing SaGa 3 was the smooth implementation of animated tiles. Many games before Romancing SaGa 3 also had animated tiles, but they were mostly just a single frame played against another single frame to create a sort of 2 frame “shuffling” movement, but they looked really laggy/slow. Romancing SaGa 3 has some beautifully animated tiles, especially like I said with the Water Palace. The shallow water on the floor rippling smoothly as you run through it, all while reflecting the walls and monsters around it looks absolutely mezmerising.
Not only animated tiles, but Romancing SaGa 3 has quite a few instances of animated backgrounds during boss battles, too. Each Abyss Guardian fight has a sort of distorted wave effect to it, which really gives off the sense of fighting near a portal to the Abyss itself! Another cool one is a particular route that you take to fight one of the Guardians, which lets you soar through the sky on the back of a dragon while you fight the boss, with you and the boss flying around and dive-bombing downwards with the sky racing behind you.
I guess one of the main points for me in regards to Romancing SaGa 3 is the smoothness. Running around the map is smooth, fighting is smooth, animations are smooth. Usually SFC/SNES RPGs are smooth on the overworld but sluggish during battle, or vice-versa. Like Final Fantasy VI, Romancing SaGa 3 just feels great to play. I’m still amazed as what the Square guys were capable of making with such hardware limitations and god damn Assembly.
Performance aside, i’d also like to mention how battles look. Battles look much better compared to Romancing SaGa 2! Magic and skills look way better than they did in the previous two games, so much that I was actually looking forward to seeing each new animation everytime I sparked a new skill. Full-screen attacks and flashy animations are quite normal, even for lower/mid tier attacks which is pretty nice. Seeing all of the cool attacks right from the start of the game will definitely ease the pain of the eventual grinding that you’ll have to start doing about half way through the game!
Last, i’ll talk about the world map a little bit. Romancing SaGa 3 continues the tradition of travelling to new areas that appear on the overworld map. Unlike the previous two games, the world map is not shaped like a scroll, but rather a flat surface world-view. The environments are a lot more detailed than they were in Romancing SaGa 2, instead of a forest just being a small green colored area on the map, you’ll actually see a huge sprawling forest with trees and rivers. Different parts of the world actually look and feel different, quite the opposite of the first two games in my opinion.
Overall, very few has actually changed if you consider both Romancing SaGa 1 and 2. The main premise in the same – Fight monsters by running into them on the map, randomly learn new abilities during battle, level up weapon/magic skills at the end of fights, all while doing tons of side quests. The basic formula hasn’t changed, but there are a few small changes in the game that help make Romancing SaGa 3 feel a bit different from the others in the trilogy.
One change that is evident right away in how LP (Life Points) are handled. LP were introduced in Romancing SaGa 2, and each character in your party has a certain amount of LP (usually around 12). If your character’s HP dropped to 0, they lost 1 LP. If a character lost all of their LP they would be killed permanently (for that generation, at least…). LP could only be restored by buying them from a certain NPC in an obscure area and costed the exact maximum amount of money your party could carry.
LP in Romancing SaGa 3 is similar in that you lose 1 LP if your character’s HP hits 0, but unlike Romancing SaGa 2 all LP for each character is restored upon resting at an inn. This makes the overall threat of actually losing a character very small, especially considering most dungeons are fairly short. The overall difficulty of the game also seems lower than the previous two games, so characters just don’t seem to die as often as they did in the earlier titles.
Another difference is that story progress is no longer based off of your battle counter. The one thing that is still based off of battle count is monster tiers, but in a similar fashion to Romancing SaGa 2. Fighting 50 frog-type monsters will increase the difficulty of frog-type monsters, but won’t have any effect on what type of undead monsters you will encounter.
Story events and side-quests are now dictated by the HP of your main character. The only stats that increase at the end of battles now are HP, Weapon/Magic skill levels, and WP/JP. For example, I believe the first Abyss Guardian quest can be triggered after hitting 250HP.
Romancing SaGa 3 goes back to the ways of Romancing SaGa 1, in which you can lock yourself out of quests by failing to do them before going over the HP limit (battle count in Romancing SaGa 1’s case). Since quests are the main way to find new characters to recruit, you’ll need to be careful regarding how fast you raise your HP or else you might permanently miss out of some characters.
One slight difference that is quite noticeable is that gear really determines how powerful your characters are, much more than Romancing SaGa 2. Equipping a new weapon will raise your damage by quite a bit, and armor will help you survive way more than it seemed to in the previous game. Even most of the store-bought equipment will allow your characters to become pretty strong. If you’re lucky enough to get some of the high-end random drop gear, it’ll pretty much carry you through most of the game. While Romancing SaGa 2 relied pretty much solely on abilities and weapon skill/spell levels, Romancing SaGa 3 feels a bit more traditional in that gear also plays a big part in becoming stronger.
Magic and Abilities work a bit different than they did in Romancing SaGa 2. This time around, any rank of magic can be learned instantly. If you have enough money, any character can suddenly be taught the strongest level spells of any school, even if they’ve never used magic before. The only limiting factor in being able to use a spell is having enough WP to cast it. This is particularly nice, especially when you hit end-game and realize you need to have Shadow Clone on every single character to even come close to doing enough damage to kill any bosses. Leveling Water Magic from 1 to 30 in Romancing SaGa 2 to break the game with Quick Time was a huge slog…
Abilities are pretty much the same as they were in Romancing SaGa 2, except for a new “Mastery” mechanic, which lowers the required JP to use an ability by 1, which can allow you to eventually use some decent damage skills for free. Progression also seems to be a tad bit more linear. In Romancing SaGa 2, if you were lucky (I never was…) you could learn your best techs right at the beginning of the game, essentially making the entire first half of the game trivial.
This time around, maybe it was just all a coincidence, but I seemed to get 1 JP skills, then 2-3 JP skills, then 5-7 JP skills, and finally 8+ JP skills towards the end of the game. This happened with basically all of my characters except for 1, who got a pretty killer 12 JP skill at around mid-game. All in all, damage seems to come much earlier than it did in the first two games, as I was already cranking 1,000 damage attacks after about 10 hours (I barely got to about 1,500 damage hits near the end of Romancing SaGa 2 with pretty much best in slot gear…).
Overall, I think Romancing SaGa 3 is the easiest of the three SFC games. Especially Romancing SaGa 1, and even Romancing SaGa 2 for the most part, monsters could pretty much one shot a character or your entire party just suddenly out of the blue. Besides stunning in Romancing SaGa 2, there wasn’t really anything you could do to not get insta-gibbed by random shit except hope to eventually kill all enemies before they had a chance to attack, and even then you couldn’t really do it until end-game. Bosses aside, random monsters never really posed much of a threat for me in Romancing SaGa 3, especially with the amount of low JP AoE attacks that you can learn with pretty much all weapon types.
The last main gameplay element i’ll talk about are the boss battles. Boss battles in this game are very similar to those in Romancing SaGa 2. The first time you run into a boss, you’ll most likely get wiped right off the bat. Then, you’ll probably die another 5 or 10 times before you finally get them down. They’re similar in difficulty to the 7 heroes, but thankfully they don’t scale this time in Romancing SaGa 3.
If an Abyss Guardian is giving you a hard time, you can go off and grind for a few hours and come back and kick their ass pretty easily. I do think the wall that you hit when you first encounter the Abyss Guardians is a lot bigger than when you fight your second or third heroes back in Romancing SaGa 2, but overall the game has a much easier and less “Old-school Hard” feel to it.
Finally, the last thing i’ll talk about are the character-dependent mini-games. As these are limited to your main character, you’ll only truly be able to experience one type of mini-game per playthrough. Since I chose Julian, I didn’t get any special mini-game to play during my playthrough…
The available types are a business/trading mini-game, a kingdom-building mini-game, and a war mini-game. I can’t comment on how the business and kingdom-building games work as I didn’t have an opportunity to play them in my game, but you’re forced to play the war mini-game once just before the last dungeon.
The war mini-game is essentially an army vs army fight where both sides select a tactic and hope that it beats the opponents tactic. It seemed like a giant rock/paper/scissors mechanic from the brief battle that I saw, but the fight gives you 2x the amount of troops as the enemy, so it’s probably meant to be an easy victory.
The music in Romancing SaGa 3 is pretty solid. Surprisingly, my most favorite tracks were all battle themes, so for the sake of actually showing what most of the game sounds like i’ll have to pick a few non-battle themes to showcase. I do want to make a point though, the boss battle themes in Romancing SaGa 3 kick ass and help soften the blow of having to re-fight the Abyss Guardians 10 times each.
One thing I also want to cover, which is going to end up being a complaint, is that Romancing SaGa 3 trips and falls down a 20-story staircase when it comes to town themes. It reverts to the god-forsaken ways of Romancing SaGa 1, and by that I mean it brings back character-specific town themes.
Once again, you’re stuck listening to the same song through-out 80% of the towns, all game long. They at least kept the game normal for dungeons/outside zone, but for some reason they thought that Romancing SaGa 1 did music better than Romancing SaGa 2 (HAHA…). Julian’s town theme is in no way good enough to make me appreciate this (if I had to listen to Frog’s theme from Chrono Trigger all day, then it might be a different story!).
Well then, first off! A song you’ll be hearing quite often while trying to seal those Abyss Gates!
Next up is a song that I wish was played a lot more than it is. You’ll get to hear this one right out of the gates!
Even though I said I should show more non-boss songs, I just can’t help it. This is as close to a symphonic metal song i’ve heard so far in all the SFC RPGs i’ve played. The double-bass is REAL! Sorry for another boss theme…
Overall, except for the dreaded repeated town themes, Romancing SaGa 3’s OST doesn’t have a single bad track. I never felt like I wanted to get out of an area to avoid the music, except for the Jungle, but that’s just annoying bird-chirping ambiance like it was in Romancing SaGa 2, which I also hated. Sadly, the Jungle in this game isn’t a single screen, but instead an RNG-filled nightmare that never seems to end… Other than that, no complaints about the soundtrack, and I had a blast listening to it during all of the boss fights!
Should you play it?
I think anyone who enjoys JRPGs should give Romancing SaGa 3 a try. Fans of the first two games will definitely enjoy it, and newcomers to the series will probably find Romancing SaGa 3 the easiest to jump into. While still an obscure game by any standard, of the 3 games available Romancing SaGa 3 looks the best, has the smoothest gameplay, and it seems to be the least likely to completely prevent you from completing the game if you don’t follow a guide 100% of the time.
For anyone looking for a high-quality RPG that isn’t Final Fantasy or Dragon Quest and was made near the end of the SFC’s life-cycle, Romancing SaGa 3 should scratch their itch.
Which version should you play?
Well, again I of course recommend playing the original Super Famicom version of Romancing SaGa 3. Ported versions seem to be available on the Nintendo Store in Japan, but i’m not sure if those add any content or change anything.
One thing I will mention, is that there are a few mods out there that add a ton of characters and bosses to the game. If you just can’t seem to get enough of the game, then looking into a modded version of the game might be a good idea. Beware though, all of the mods are going to be 100% Japanese (well, the original game is 100% Japanese too, so no problem I guess).
If you’re looking to grab a copy for yourself, you can find them from Amazon below! (i’ll earn a small commission if purchased through these links)
Romancing SaGa 3 (Requires a Super Famicom or modded Super Nintendo!) – Grab Romancing Saga 3 here! (affiliate link!)
Final Score – 34/40
Story – 7/10
Gameplay – 9/10
Graphics – 9.5/10
Music – 8.5/10