The SaGa series has been around for almost as long as RPGs have, but it's seen a bit of a resurgence in the West lately with ports of both Romancing SaGa 2 and Romancing SaGa 3 making their way to modern consoles and mobile, in addition to the long awaited SaGa Scarlet Grace: Ambitions.
Along with those console titles, Romancing SaGa Re;univerSe brings many of the classic SaGa elements we love to the mobile platform. Our very own Patrick Gann is a big fan of the title, and when we were presented the opportunity to chat with Mananori Ichikawa, SaGa Series Producer and one of the lead developers on Re;univerSe, he jumped at the chance.
Patrick and Ichikawa's conversation ranges from SaGa's origins and the combat mechanics all the way to detailed conversations about the SaGa universe timeline. We hope you enjoy!
Ichikawa: There are all the individual titles, and then there's this title. They all complement each other.
The SaGa series has always been full of mysteries, and one of the things that fans have enjoyed the most is discussing them with each other, including the text that Mr. Kawazu incorporated into the story.
The story of Romancing SaGa Re;univerSe is set 300 years after Romancing SaGa 3, but the events that transpire are centered around a new main character, so even those who haven't played Romancing SaGa 3 will have no problem jumping right in.
The characters in the series are summoned through Towers. These so-called Visions are akin to those individuals' memories, so it isn't like the actual individuals themselves are being brought in. (The events of Romancing SaGa Re;univerSe don't have an impact on these characters' original stories.)
The SaGa series is a title that has recently experienced a revival in Japan as well, and we've named this game Re;univerSe, as in a reunification of the SaGa world, because it connects all of the SaGa worlds together.
Within this title lies our hopes for the SaGa series to thrive once again.
Ichikawa: All of the character dialogue and flavor text have been written by Mr. Kawazu, who created the original Romancing SaGa.
He's also been working on all aspects, like story supervision and development. Mr. Kawazu has incorporated some twists in the flavor text to include new facets of the original characters and ideas from other stories. Even the development staff find ourselves surprised by this.
I think there have been very few instances where a title's original creator has been this involved in a spinoff mobile title.
Ichikawa: All the characters' graphics have been modified to match those of Romancing SaGa 3, which released during the later days of the Super Famicom.
It may be a bit hard to tell, but this also means we've modified all the pixel art for the characters from the first Romancing SaGa and Romancing SaGa 2 as well, which were in the form of pixel art to begin with. This is a truly intricate task.
The humanoid characters are relatively easier to translate into pixel art form, but when we're turning monsters or massive boss characters into playable characters, the limitation in number of pixels makes things extremely difficult.
For example, this would include characters like the Seven Heroes, the boss characters from Romancing SaGa 2, who now join as allies. The cost (in terms of production hours) to create characters like these is several times higher than simple humanoid characters.
That being said, pixel art has experienced a resurgence in Japan, and many people gather for events focusing just on that, so it's something we aim to do very well in Re;univerSe.
Ichikawa: We haven't been able to make various events happen due to the effects of COVID-19. However, this year marks SaGa's 30th anniversary, and the SaGa titles on Game Boy are the series' origin, so they're very important titles for me, too.
Of course, I think they'll be added some day. (In Japan, a character called Mr. S from Final Fantasy Legend II was just added the other day.)
Ichikawa: We're not really thinking very much about doing crossovers. I think what we need to focus on first is to introduce the lesser-known characters from the SaGa titles to everyone.
However, moving forward, there may be a possibility of a crossover happening if we encounter a character that would be meaningful to do one with. Although, even in that case, I don't think we would do something where a popular SQUARE ENIX character appears just because.
Ichikawa: Polka and Liz are characters that I really like. This time, unlike the other entries in the series, the title doesn't use the free scenario system. However, a new story will unfold every month, so keep an eye out for those.
Ichikawa: We've taken quite a lot of inspiration from Romancing SaGa 3. That said, we also put in a lot of serious thought about how to incorporate the fun that's characteristic of a SaGa battle — specifically, how challenging they are and their strategic elements — into a mobile game. I think that in many mobile games, there are a lot of elements that can be too simplistic, or in the case of competitive games, too difficult.
The casual ease with which a mobile game can be played while watching a movie or video, and the strategic element of thinking hard and getting stronger through strategy — both of these elements need to be present in the game, in addition to the fun that's characteristic of a SaGa game.
Mobile games, with those two contradictory but coexisting elements, now become a part of SaGa. I encourage you to challenge yourself to try beating it. It's difficult but fun.
Ichikawa: Boston is popular in Japan, too, but I feel like he's more popular overseas than he is here. It's quite curious.
I think those who have played Romancing SaGa 3 with Boston in their party all the way through to the end can attest to this, but despite having little dialogue, he's an exceptionally cool character.
Why is he red while Valdor, his descendent 300 years into the future, is purple? There may come a time in the story when this is revealed.
Ichikawa: In Japan, we went through quite a lot of trial and error in one year of operation. Even with all that, there are still a number of areas where I wish we had done things differently. "Giving out healer characters in advance" is one of those things. I expect it will be difficult to replicate the exact same content update speed as in the Japanese version, but our current thinking is that we'll be able to implement updates at the pace of about 1.2 times the pace of the JP version, including areas we felt needed improvement in the JP version and modified partway through and speeding up the overall event updates schedule.
Ichikawa: I often read RPGFan's articles about SaGa. Especially the article about SaGa Scarlet Grace: Ambitions. That one made me genuinely happy. The reason is because I thought this is a title where the opinions about it are very split, so it made me genuinely happy to see that the article was conveying the fun of the title to the fans, just like in Japan. And I was given the opportunity to be the producer of this title, too. This is a great honor.
I think that among readers of RPGFan, there might be some who are thinking that a Japanese mobile RPG leaves something to be desired when compared to a console title, or that it'll require spending a lot of money.
A major difference between this game and other mobile games out there is that you can truly enjoy the game without spending money on the gacha element. You can keep up with the latest story developments and enjoy all the content. In fact, there was even a player in Japan who, as a form of self-imposed "restricted play," decided to play without pulling for any of the free gachas or by using jewels that we gave out for free. I'm not sure what he's up to these days, but I know that he was playing that way for over six months at least.
My hope is for many more people around the world to play the SaGa series. So, I would love for even those who don't normally play mobile games to try pre-registering, because I'm determined not to let you down. RPGFan, thank you for all the love you always give to Japanese RPGs.
We'd like to thank Masanori Ichikawa, the SaGa development team, and Square Enix for the opportunity to chat about Romancing SaGa Re;univerSe. It's currently available for pre-registration on iOS and Android in the West, with a release planned for this summer.