Collection of SaGA Final Fantasy Legend Review – A Time Capsule into the Past
For the $20 price, the Collection of SaGA Final Fantasy Legend is still a fun bundle of games that serve as a wonderful time capsule for handheld RPG adventures, even if it is light on features.
Square Enix continues the retro-collection train with the Collection of SaGA Final Fantasy Legend on the Nintendo Switch. The SaGa collection brings together a series of decades-old games to give new players a look at the roots of the historic mobile franchise. After spending time completing this collection, I’m pleased to say that the experiences hold up and can still be a lot of fun, even if the bundle itself is rather barebones.
We begin things with the original SaGa title, known in the west as The Final Fantasy Legend, first released in 1989 in Japan and in 1990 in the West on the original Gameboy. In this world, a tower exists that is said to take those who manage to climb it to paradise. Your band of four adventurers, composed of individuals you choose, is the next party that attempts the challenge. Your quest will take you through different worlds each based on the various elements such as a sky world in the clouds or an ocean world with small islands amid a giant sea.
All of this culminates in your team of four making it to the top to fight a final boss. Compared to today’s titles, it is light on narrative. However, when put into perspective of when it was made and that it was the first portable RPG video game, what Final Fantasy Legend manages to accomplish is impressive.
The second title, released in West in 1991, retains most of the features from the first. That said, the area where Final Fantasy Legend 2 improves most is with the story. Featuring named side characters and a more fleshed out story, your team of four is now out to stop a force of gods from retrieving all the pieces of MAGI. These mystical artifacts are said to form the Goddess Isis and grant godhood when all are together. Unfortunately, doing so seems to also be causing the world to become unstable and wreaking havoc. Once more your quest will take you to various worlds, this time with different themes as opposed to elements. Each one is fairly different from the last, from an ancient Japan ninja-themed world to a post-apocalyptic cityscape.
The third and final game in the collection is 1993’s Final Fantasy Legend 3 (SaGa 3) which sees the biggest departure in terms of the gameplay. The first two entries rely far more on randomized elements (more on this in a bit), while Legend 3 feels much more like your traditional RPG. It features mechanics like MP, experience points, gaining levels, and weapons having a set number of uses. You also begin the game with a set party as opposed to building one from various race choices. These changes give it more of a traditional console Final Fantasy feel rather than a spinoff simply using the series’ name.
Story-wise, you will be jumping across time, changing fate and events to prevent the drowning of the world. The side characters have continued to develop and improve, and while not nearly on par with their console RPG cousins, are still leaps-and-bounds more fleshed out than the first game’s offerings.
Whereas many RPGs may provide you with a set of ragtag characters to take with you on your quest, the Legends game ask you to create your party from a range of different races including Human, Mutant (known as Espers in the Japanese translation), monsters, and in SaGa 2, robots. In the first two games, each race gains stats in various ways. For instance, the Mutants have a chance to randomly gain stats and learn or forget spells and abilities at random after each battle. And, in Legend 1, humans only gain stats via stat items, while in Legend 2 they gain stats in a similar vein as Mutants.
The robots in Legend 2 improve their stats depending on the gear they have equipped. And finally, there is the monster class, who don’t gain stats like the others. Instead, they are able to evolve by eating the remains of enemies from certain encounters. These will turn the creature into a new form from a pool of possible types, each with its own abilities and stats. In Legend 3, this evolution mechanic was expanded to your human party members.
The more I played these Legend games, the more I came to appreciate the variety that each race presented. I found myself thinking about how it could be fun to play a specific type of party, like all humans, or how crazy things could get with a party of only monsters. I appreciate that the different races mix up the gameplay. It’s not just whether or not they can learn a type of spell or are good with a certain weapon. There’s much more meat here.
However, my biggest gripe with this collection has to do, in part, with these various methods. But not because I think they’re flawed. These games all come from an era of pack-instruction books that featured critical information players needed to understand the game. This was done in an effort to save space on the cartridges. Heck, the first game’s manual was almost 80 pages of important details. This collection contains none of that information, meaning for new players, it’s almost required to search online for details on systems as basic as making your characters stronger. This is frankly unacceptable. They didn’t have to include scans of the original manuals, but some type of tutorial is sorely needed.
The offerings in Collection of SaGA Final Fantasy Legend are also scant when compared to many retro game collections out there, but it is also priced lower than most too at $20. Included are the three games, both the original US and Japanese versions of the games, a handful of different borders, slightly updated localization tweaks (the Colt is now just “Pistol” for example), an auto “quicksave” system that will keep your progress if you close the game, and a speed-up feature. These additions are nice and maybe welcomed by some, but anyone hoping for an art gallery, filters, or longing for the remade DS versions will have to look elsewhere.
For the $20 price, the Collection of SaGA Final Fantasy Legend is still a fun bundle of games that serve as a wonderful time capsule for handheld RPG adventures. Players can once again easily experience Square’s very first million-unit seller with The Final Fantasy Legend, and hear the surprisingly great tracks these games bust out. If you are a fan of old-school RPGs I highly recommend you check out the Collection of SaGA Final Fantasy Legend.