7th Saga, Revisited

I find the vast majority of things that Toastyfrog/GameSpite comes up with to be well-written, comprehensive, and correct.  Parish & co., who I have much respect for, consistently create good publications that I spend actual money on – a rarity when the internet is full of people who will tell you their opinion on video games for free (prime example right here).

However, Journal #10’s 7th Saga segment, posted just today, has in my view wronged a game.  I do not protest the overall treatment; I agree fully with the overall premise that 7th Saga is bad.

However, since I played the game to completion for the first time just a few months ago, I feel obligated to point out some incorrect or overblown parts of Jake Alley’s article.

First off, the article points out that because 7th Saga didn’t sell very well, we didn’t get actually good games like Dragon Quests, Terranigma, and so on.  This is a perfectly good opportunity for the article to be written as a tragedy – because Elnard, which became 7th Saga in the US, was actually a much more bearable game.  Its difficulty was magnified three to four times.  My guess is that it was partly on purpose and partly on accident – and, because Enix did not localize the game correctly, it received appropriately poor reviews and thus they didn’t localize more games.

I would argue, though, that the game not only has redeeming qualities, there are worse games.  Arcana, for example, is a grind-fest every bit as simplistic as 7th Saga mechanically.  Its story starts out dark, but asymptotically approaches the ultimate bland point of RPG plot.  7th Saga at least has a few decent betrayal scenes scattered throughout as well as a couple of randomly generated events that can spice things up.

I’ll address a few points that I particularly think are debatable, and then leave it alone.

Part 2 claims that 7th Saga “has no heart” because it is completely unlike the lively, happy worlds of other games.  To me, this is its draw.  A minimalist world, with small patches of humanity surviving here and there amongst monsters that actually look monstrous is different from other games in a good way.  The concept of each of the characters being entirely selfish is something that should make you think.  It was intentional – even the priest character starts to lose his faith when confronted with the unbridled self-interest of his companions.  The elf starts on the journey as a flight of fancy, and has to adjust quickly when things start getting serious.  This plot is there if you look for it – there is a heart, although it is told one line at a time.  The character development is brief, but dark by design.

Part 4 claims that all boss battles are one-on-one, and scale to your level.  Setting aside the localization difference (which screwed up the scaling) and the argument about status effects (other than de-buffs, there is one status effect in the game – de-buffs are effective against all enemies including bosses), this implies the fact that duels between adventurers are “boss battles” when only two are required in the entire game.  Real boss battles don’t scale at all.

Part 5 is absolutely true, and I posted specifically about it in September.  This is the primary reason the article should have the tragedy of 7th Saga, and not an excuse to bash a game that deserves our pity rather than ire.  I will point out, though, that the middle third of the game flows very differently for Lux and Esuna than it does for the other characters, and there are inherent character compatibilities that can make replays varied.  Among other things, your chosen companion can betray you when you get a rune if you are incompatible.

Part 6 claims that the game doubles in size at its “halfway point” – which was closer to the four-fifths point for me – and that you “lose your companion”.  You absolutely do not lose your companion for the final section of the game.  The game difficulty does spike significantly, especially in the US version, but the world is not exactly the same.  If you’re piling on reasons to hate a game, there is no reason to make things up (or misremember them, and not look up what actually happens).

Is 7th Saga a bad game?  Yes, absolutely.  But I don’t think it is the worst game on the system by any means.

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