Review by Joe the Destroyer
"Underrated in my book!"
I'm almost surprised everyone calls this one of the worst in the SaGa series. Yet, not many people (or not as many) attack SaGa 2 (Final Fantasy Legend 2). Sure, that game would not have been so bad if not for the weapon system. I mean, it costs more in the game to repair some weapons than it does to just buy new ones. Why? Almost every other game that has a weapon durability system at least makes it cheaper to repair than to buy new. Fortunately, this game did away with the weapon durability system. In the process, this one became more like a Final Fantasy than did the previous two games. Not just because of the weapon system, but the all around freedom, the progression of the storyline, the battle system, etc. The only thing that stays true to the SaGa name is the ability to change your character's forms from being just normal humans or mystics (mutants, as they are called in the game) into beasts, monsters, robots, or cyborgs. This adds dimension and variation of strategy to what would be just your average Joe Schmoe RPG.
In Final Fantasy Legend 3 , you play as Arthur, a young man who, along with some friends, plans to do a bit of space and time travel to defeat a strange creature called the Pureland Water Entity, which is constantly filling the sea with water. Monsters are also falling from the mouth of this menace, and there does not seem to be much hope for the future. After finally setting off and exploring much of time, Arthur and his companions discover that there is more to the Pureland Water Entity than they first imagined. In a sense, it almost has that typical RPG sound to it, but at the same time, different elements have been thrown in to make the storyline a bit interesting. While the progression of the story is unlike most other RPG's at the time, the story itself still lacks a certain element of twist to it. It's all pretty cut and dry; Good guys fight bad guys, casualties arrive on both sides, Good vs. Evil plays out into a final battle ''for the ages.''
Many who have started this game have probably taken one look at the way the game is laid out, the fact that you can jump, and battle system and almost had a heart attack thinking this is Final Fantasy Mystic Quest Jr. Rest easy, sleazy. This game is nothing like Mystic Quest; It's actually a bit more difficult. The battle is pretty much full of your usual suspects as far as options go: Attack, magic, talent, items. It really does not get more simplistic than this. Some may ask where the highlight is in battle. Two places. One, in talents. By having your characters eat meat or install parts in them, they can become new creatures and gain new talents. Some of these talents can be almost maniacally fun to mess with (i.e. Stone Gas, Stone Skin, Dispel). You can amass some major damaging attacks this way, or even just outright kill your enemies with the flip of a wrist. On the other hand, you do get a lot of junk attacks like kick or punch that do little to nothing. This can actually motivate you to obtain some better creature forms so you can gain better attacks.
Wait a minute... Did you not say that there were two interesting facets about battle? Indeed I did. Boss battles... Simply put. The bosses in this game are actually challenging and worth a damn to fight. They force you to not only make critical strategic decisions, but also to make critical sacrifices. Unless you're at some very high levels, the bosses will be quite the buggers. Most of them have one or two devastating attacks that can decimate your party in a matter of turns. What can you do about it? Defend. Having one of your stronger characters cover for a weaker, but still useful one, can help you to survive longer in battle. The key is knowing when to attack, when to defend characters, and when to heal wounded characters. This adds a rather cliffy suspense factor to the game that many old school RPG's sadly lack (see also: Sword of Hope).
Of course, you may think that there is still magic to use in battle, and that usually makes battles interesting. Not in this case. If it's one thing that really set this game back (even though it's a minor qualm when compared to the rest of the game), it would have to be the magic in this game. The spell system in this game is a lot like the original Final Fantasy, such that you have to buy spells. You'll find that many of the spells really aren't worth your time later in the game and that regular attacks prevail the most. The only spells worth having are the revive spells and the cure/heal spells. The attack spells just do not seem to do enough damage to really matter. Hence, they're usually just best left alone (although the instant kill spells are quite useful). You just should not have a magic system in an RPG if you're really just going to give it such a back seat. The spells should have been worth more than a damn, at least some more of them. It would almost seem that they were ignored since talents were already playing such a huge role in the game anyway.
Most of the graphics are indeed similar to Mystic Quest, with a few slight differences. For starters, there are no background graphics in battle. This is understandable for the times, as most Gameboy RPG's did not have backgrounds for battle. The Gameboy really does not have the power to do so easily or beautifully. Sadly, this also means that Square had to pretty much stick to tile-based graphics. I usually dislike tile-based graphics, but in the case of many upon many GB RPG's, I will make an exception. The only other issue to tackle is that a few of the enemy designs (like Nix) and even boss designs (like Balor) just look awful. Quite a few of the enemies look like a random mess of body parts or just a quick caricature thrown together to make an enemy. Thankfully, you have some saving graces in terms of bosses and enemies (Ryu-Sei and Agron to name a couple). All in all, FFL3's graphics really do not have a lasting impact, although they are workable for the game.
The sounds are pretty good for a Gameboy game. The music ran well with the game, particularly the battle music and the town music. Both set a good atmosphere for their given times. I actually got a better townish sense when I heard the town music. The battle music actually made me want to fight (not in real life, of course, but in the game). Your sound effects were actually pretty standard. Nothing to consider awe-inspiring, but certainly not bad. It's all the same POWs and thunder-crackling we've been hearing on NES and the like for years.
No, I do not smoke crack. Neither do I rob/kill old people or watch late night Cinemax (often). I am really not a bad person, aside from... No, never mind... Many may ask, ''How the hell could you rate SaGa 3 a 10?'' Simple. It deserves it. It was one of the few handheld RPG's that captured my attention consecutively for a very good, long time. Right after completing it, I started a new file and played it through again. Do you know how many games I've done that for? I can count them on my fingers. Usually, once I've completed a game, I give it a rest and pick it back up years later. I've played through this game several times over, and enjoyed it just as much every time.
The basis of the game and the emphasis are right where they should be: battle. Not on trying to pay ridiculous prices for equipment that doesn't last longer than a few battles or build stats for incredibly long lengths of time (SaGa 1 and 2, I'm looking in your direction). For some odd reason, it does not seem like both of those two flaws are supposed to be errors or bad planning, they're just part of the series. This is something that's caused me to shy away from just about every SaGa game that's come out since SaGa Frontier. Even Unlimited SaGa looks somewhat questionable. In a sense, this game is for anyone who hates the SaGa series. It seems to be the black sheep of the series, and in this case, it's a good thing.
Graphics: Okay, but needed better enemy designs for some 7/10
Sounds: Nice, nice 8/10
Control: Very easy to work 10/10
Plot/Storyline: Ahhh... Something new. On the other hand, not twisty enough. 7/10
Gameplay: Sometimes, basic is all you need! 9/10
All Together: 10/10
*Original storyline ideas (albeit some small plot holes)
*Weak spell system
*Some enemies practically cry for a better design.
Hardcore and old school RPG fans should apply, and anyone who has hated any other SaGa games for the flawed weapon durability system.
Reviewer's Rating: 5.0 - Flawless
Originally Posted: 01/15/01, Updated 05/23/03
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