Romancing SaGa Minstrel Song Remastered (PS4) review

For years, the SaGa series of JRPGs eluded me as some kind of stealth monster with no direction and a fun combat system. Previous attempts to enter the Final Fantasy Legend series and SaGa Frontier 2 have been met with frustration and a lack of drive to see each adventure through to the end. As I got older and wiser, I began to gain a deeper appreciation for Kawazu-driven RPGs over the years to where they became little more than a guilty pleasure between the cadre of KEMCO-published titles, the lengthy epics Falcom Trails, and the growing number of twisted indie likes of EarthBound that secretly revolve around Depression. While I didn’t give Minstrel Song its fair shake when I once played it on PS2, now that I’ve had time to sit down and interact with it properly in its reworked form, I can see the frustrating quality that hides just below the surface.

SaGa Minstrel Song Reward

Much like last year’s SaGa Frontier Remaster, Romancing SaGa Minstrel Song Remastered opens with a choice of eight scenarios to choose from, each led by a different eccentric member. Whether you’re in the mood to play as a pirate, a dancing entertainer, or a sullen noble knight, they each begin their adventure differently with a brief introduction. While Albert can be considered the main character in Minstrel Song, there is no obligation to choose him as the starting lead. In fact, if you just want to jump right in and start the adventure, Barbara is a solid pick and you even start with one of the legendary ten Fatest Stones, waiting for a little chat with the Minstrel himself.

After a brief introduction to your assigned character, you are pretty much thrown into the open world and required to fend for yourself. As time ticks by, the menace of mega-bad Sarroin draws ever closer before an inevitable final showdown. How players choose to move forward and spend their time is an open discussion with the worst answer usually being mindless grinding. Every battle won is spent time away as secret accounts work behind the scenes to boost the scenario in what is usually known as Event Rank. Whereas previously players had to speak with a child giving tutorials at the entrance to each town and count the number of new subjects available to determine their event order, there is now a handy clock in the main menu that displays the current phase of the game (very useful if you’re trying to figure out the best times to start a conversation with Schiele and the development of its time-consuming multitasking). Unfortunately, the hidden Battle Rank is still a mystery to the player, though the included player history can quickly show you how many battles have been fought for that particular one and all Romancing SaGa Minstrel Song Remastered Adventures so far.

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SaGa Minstrel Song Skill List

How the player approaches the order in which they visit locations or answer the Freelancer’s call for quests can dramatically alter their experience throughout the world of Mardias. There’s often no one right way to approach the world and quest for every single mission in a single game, so there’s a lot that players will and won’t be able to experience before their inevitable encounter with Saroen. Many tasks often lead to each other and have an invisible butterfly effect that can change or even eliminate subsequent opportunities. For example, when tasked with rescuing the daughter of the ruler of Kjaraht, players will lose a large number of rewards if they don’t take the time to meet Mr. Wuhan and introduce themselves first. When the time comes to save his daughter, the Water Dragon who is holding her captive offers a different quest path to retrieve the artifact in exchange for the girl’s life. Or, players can simply cut corners, slay the Strom the Water Dragon on her behalf, and skip a few moves. How was I supposed to know that Strom’s death would block the chambers in his domain, thus preventing me from obtaining the Water Imp and finishing a completely different task for the Fairy King in a different part of the world?

SaGa Minstrel Song Combo 2

Combat is undoubtedly one of the best parts of SaGa, despite the game’s intentions to steer you away from combat until you’re sufficiently prepared to deal with the dangers higher Battle Rank enemies can bring. While not as radical as, say, The Last Remnant’s range expansion, approaching boss fights where the enemy has a vastly increased health pool while the player only cranks out basic weapon techniques can be a recipe for disaster. Far more important than the numerical stats of your equipment, getting the right techniques can make or break the flow of combat. The battle usually progresses the same way, regardless of whether you’re facing off against a cool boss or encountering a chained enemy on the field. Players set up their entire team’s ability set for the turn and then watch the fight as both sides clash against each other simultaneously. Enemies can coalesce against the player just as easily (which is why having someone in the Entertainer class, like Barbara starting with, can help) and wipe each other out in one fell swoop. Once a player falls, they lose one LP for falling unconscious and another for each time their unresponsive body is hit. Similarly, many unique weapons and martial arts also consume LP to activate them. Deplete all of your LP and this is either instant game or the character is removed from your deck, which can be quite devastating to finish a run depending on how much you have invested in that character.

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SaGa Minstrel Song Barbara Cutscene

Most importantly, most important, and most of the advanced technology the game is wise to teach players the first time they accidentally do it, using various mechanics like Surges, Reverses, and the all-important Combo. Players may accidentally come across a group they like and this pops up from time to time but to ensure a higher rate of effectiveness players can manually select the order in which group members take. Advanced classes such as Imperial Knight / Marine can affect the rate of uniting with a party mate, taking full advantage of exploiting the combo system. By constantly attacking with a specific weapon type (noting which of the three modes their weapon is currently in), players can automatically learn, or ‘Spark’, a new technology that is often more effective than the previous one but with an increased energy cost. Spending gems on different skill trainers on each bottom can unlock new passive abilities for each character, including but not limited to reducing BP cost when using a weapon tech by upgrading that particular weapon (learning 90% or more of Weapon techs vs. spells also offer a secret cost cut, which means it’s better to keep spell casters out of the melee, just as it’s probably best to give all melee combatants a level or two in hydrology and teach them only a basic healing spell).

It wouldn’t be a proper rehash without something new to entice players back for a second round of Romancing SaGa Minstrel Song. In addition to some touch graphics (unfortunately, many of the pre-generated scenes are small character boxes and grainy low-resolution shots, so that it’s hard to watch and tell what’s happening on a high-resolution screen) and speed-of-the-field/fight modifiers, there are a number of The meticulously rendered fusions that only those familiar with the original Minstrel Song might notice. Among the offerings are five additional characters that can be recruited and brought on adventure. These characters are so neatly woven into ordinary scenarios that a new player might not even realize that Marina, the NPC that brought players to the place where the Black Diamond is being kept, could not be recruited into the adventurous party in the original release. Now, if players want a pure, unaltered experience (except for the graphical and speed tweaks), there’s an option to start a new save without adding additional content and then play it upon completion of the character and adventure path in New Game Plus, another useful addition that wasn’t there in the original.

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As obscure and undirected as Romancing SaGa Minstrel Song Remastered, it’s still an RPG experience very different from what players have experienced on modern consoles. It’s a charming Kawazu-led JRPG that gives players an unseen amount of freedom in how they choose to save the world from Saruin’s impending revival. While still unremarkable by modern standards, new additions and a fresh coat of paint revive this timeless classic for a new console generation.

SaGa Minstrel Song Featured
SaGa Minstrel Song Featured

Romantic SaGa Minstrel Song Remastered

Romantic SaGa Minstrel Song Remastered

Undoubtedly less cluttered than the PS2 original thanks to additional content to help streamline the experience, Romancing SaGa Minstrel Song Remastered is just as pure of the JRPG experience one could expect to get from Kawazu and new players can finally see why Sing. His praise after all these years.

Positives
  • Nothing is quite as satisfying as provoking a rank five technique and getting into regular battles with it
  • The freedom to explore as much of the world as you see fit
  • Additional content adds smart changes all the time, like recruiting Dowd on your first playthrough
  • New Game Plus to carry this hard work into future scenarios for a better chance of facing 10-Fatestone Saruin
  • Passionate rhythm still smacks
Negatives
  • Grind too much and it can be impossible to finish the game
  • The open narrative design gives players a little direction from start to finish
  • It’s easy to miss out on entire scenarios and tasks simply by bringing the time forward too far
  • Recruiting some new characters such as Schiele may be impossible without clues or extensive knowledge of the original game.
  • The pre-rendered scenes have aged slightly from the SD PS2 era

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