A turn-based RPG with a highly engaging battle system and innovative answers to some of role-playing’s toughest problems, but these innovations sometimes leave a longing for the traditional treasure-hunting and dungeon-crawling of yesteryear.
Overall score: 8/10
Release Date: 12/15/2016
Developer/Publisher: Square Enix
This little gem is the newest installment in Square Enix’s SaGa series, what I like to think of as the red-headed step child of the Final Fantasy series. The series is the product of Akitoshi Kawazu’s work, who designed the original Final Fantasy and Final Fantasy II. The SaGa series mostly follows a character progression system similar to FFII, where characters don’t level with traditional experience points, but get specific stat gains after battle, which is usually affected by actions taken in battle. The original three SaGa games were for the Nintendo Gameboy and were released in the U.S. under the name “Final Fantasy Legend.” The most notable entries in the series are SaGa Frontier and Romancing SaGa: Minstrel’s Song.
If you’ve played Romancing SaGa: Minstrel’s Song, you’ll probably be pretty familiar with most of Scarlet Grace. The game shares a lot with the last entry in the series (despite its release over ten years ago), but is innovative enough, both as a SaGa game and as an RPG in general, to keep even the most adderall-needy player hooked at least through a single character’s playthrough. The game includes enough nostalgia to make a SaGa fanboy (like myself) satisfied, while still acting as an easy gateway for new players into the series.
The Pros and Cons (in order of importance)
+ The battle system is one of the best turn-based RPG systems ever created. This is not hyperbole. It’s both visually and mentally stimulating in a way that makes even other SaGa games seem a little boring (and these games are known for their exciting turn-based battle systems). Every battle requires strategy and focus when choosing your attacks, which then leads to all hell breaking loose when the attacks start to fly. The enemies are challenging and will also do whatever they can to utilize the game’s deep rules of engagement. I can’t say enough about this aspect of the game. It’s great.
+The music is some of Kenji Ito’s best work. It easily rivals the sounds of recent Final Fantasy games. Genuinely great RPG music.
+The visuals are vibrant and attractive, without being cartoonish. The 3D character models are obviously designed with the beautiful art of Tomomi Kobayashi in mind, giving the characters a great 2d artsy feel to them.
+There’s a ton of characters with varying strengths and weaknesses and plenty of sidequests to keep you busy during the four distinct main narratives (although Leonardo’s is purposely pretty bland).
+Character progression is well balanced and not highly dependent on actions taken in battle, so there’s no real way to ruin a character.
-A lack of traditional dungeons leaves only the world map open for old school exploration. Dungeons that pop up on the map are literally just a series of battles with the occasional story scene.
-The inventory and equipment systems are simplified to the point of annoyance. Weapons and armor are upgraded with elemental orbs gained through battle (no traditional currency). There’s hardly any treasure hunting or looting in the game. It’s pretty squarely based on the elemental orb system.
-The battle movements are exciting and well done, but story scenes can be a little bit boring, with most being told by static pictures of characters with dialog bubbles.
– Characters attained from side quests are often bland, lacking any story interaction after recruiting them and often times having palette-swapped NPC twins elsewhere in the game. Even their side quests don’t give much insight into their personalities or motivations.
– Only 4 main characters, with one having little narrative at all, that all battle the same last boss feels like a bit of a rip off compared to others installments in the game.
Should you import it? Though there’s no news of a localization yet, the game is selling quite well here in Japan, and recent SaGa games have been localized in the past (including the mobile version of Romancing SaGa 2!?!), so it’s probably best to wait and just add a Scarlet Grace localization to your daily prayers.
Agree or disagree? Feel free to leave a comment!
Look for gameplay tips and SSG content here in the very near future.