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Makai Toushi SaGa
Makai Toushi SaGa, originally titled The Final Fantasy Legend in North America, is the first entry in the SaGa series, released in 1989 on the Game Boy. While it shows very few features of what makes SaGa so famous, it plays slightly more like its sibling franchise, Final Fantasy franchise. This game also has a remake on the WonderSwan Color which itself was ported later for smartphones.The story primarily revolves around a single character, and up to three allies who traverse a magic tower to explore multiple worlds, help solve their problems, and take on Ashura's minions as they climb higher up the gigantic tower, hoping to reach the top to defeat Ashura once and for all, and possibly live an easy life in Paradise.
Battles utilize a classic turn-based style in which turn order is determined at the beginning of battle based on their speed stat. The player must choose from their own individual inventory what weapon, spell or skill to use. Unlike other RPGs, weapons have durability, giving the player only a limited use of them but it is compensated by a character's ability to carry multiples of the weapon.
Equipment and items are bought in various stores found in town or found in treasure chests scattered across the world and Tower. In addition to standard stores and inns, there are also House of Life which will restore a character to life if killed in battle for a certain price.
Players then switch between exploring a world map, dungeons or towns as they explore the world. The Tower they climb is unique as it jumps from typical dungeon levels to actual worlds which feature a unique map and towns to explore. The flow of the game usually involves solving a story dilemma to receive a key item needed to open the magically sealed doors that lead to the higher floors.
Characters have individual menus which acts as both their inventory screen and ability screen. Humans can equip up to eight items including weapons and armor, while four of the Espers slots are reserved for magic or support abilities. Monsters slots are predetermined by its class and tier and even if they have open slots, they cannot equip items or gear. In addition, there is a shared item screen which is only accessible in-between battles and often carries extra items and key items.
Another unique feature to the game are Hearts which act as a Lives System in other types of games and serves as a precursor to the Life Point mechanics seen in later installments. If a character is felled in combat, they lose one of their hearts but can remain in active duty as long as the player spends the money to revive them at a House of Life. Should the character lose all of their hearts though, they are permanently killed off and the player will have to visit a Guild to select a new character.
Other unique features include the ability to save anywhere outside of battle. While initially designed for the "pick up and go" nature of handheld games, creative players have utilized this feature to turn the game's myriad of RNG features to their advantage.
The Final Fantasy Legend used a guild system allowing the player to select from a variety of characters, each with their own strengths and flaws, making customizing a party either remove most of the challenge to the game, or adds greatly to the challenge of the game. Players make their first character and can then choose up to three more party members for a total of four playable characters. Though the main player character cannot be dropped, players can freely drop and recruit the other three party members in case they accidentally develop them in less than ideal ways.
- Character Race
At the beginning of the game, the player is asked to create their initial character to lead the party. They are given a choice of three races:
- Human - Humans are hardy front line fighters. Though they have no talent in magic, their physical prowess allows them to wear multiple pieces of armor and carry more weapons. This makes them ideal offensive units. Humans do not level, but instead need special stat boosting items to grow stronger.
- Espers (called Mutants in the English version) - Espers are a versatile race capable of usingMagic including spell books. Espers level up in a unique way, utilizing a simplified and more random version of Final Fantasy II's leveling system where stats will grow stronger after each battle.
- Monsters - Monsters are a unique and versatile race. The evolve and grow stronger by devouring the meat of other monsters. They are capable of transforming into several types of monsters which spans the games full roster of enemies and each monster has their own unique skill set and stats. Unlike Humans and Espers, monsters are incapable of using equipment or items.
The player is then asked to choose the gender of the character which slightly affects starting stats as well as starting equipment if applicable. Players are encouraged to use the Guild to recruit a full party of four people.
- Other Characters
Throughout the story, the party will meet a variety of characters they must help or fight to continue on their quest to defeat Asura.
- King Armor - The king of the castle to the northeast, and generally a kind fellow to be around. He gives players the King Armor if they help rescue his lover and her home village from the bandits in the cave to the south.
- King Sword - The king in the castle to the south, surrounded by mountains. His castle is rampant with monsters, and some of them even serve him as his guards. The king himself is a very aggressive person, and will attack anyone trying to take his precious sword. Players will obtain the King Sword for defeating him in combat.
- King Shield - A sickly old man who rules the castle in the forest right next to the central village. His guards do not take very kindly to visitors, and will throw anyone out if caught. The king himself prefers isolation, and greedily hoards the shield, but does not take an aggressive route like King Sword does, possibly due to his frail condition.
- Steward - King Shield's personal servant. He secretly poisons the king and makes off with the shield while leaving the king to die. Players will obtain the King Shield upon defeating him.
- Ryu-O - The king of all dragons. He fled the underwater world and lives on an island in the guise of an old man. Players will obtain the second half of the Blue Sphere, the Blue Orb, upon answering his riddle.
- Gen-Bu - One of Asura's four minions, and the guardian of the Black Sphere. He comes to attack the party when they return all three pieces of the King set to the statue in the central village and obtain the Black Sphere.
- Sei-Ryu - One of Asura's four minions. He guards the Red Orb, one of the halves of the Blue Sphere, in his underwater palace. To further protect anyone from getting the orb, he surrounded himself with many fake orbs guarded by ferocious monsters.
- The Man in the Black Top Hat - A mysterious man who appears throughout the tower offering advise to the party. Who is he, and why does he seem to know so much?
"It has been said that the tower in the center of the World is connected to Paradise. Dreaming of a life in Paradise, many have challenged the secret of the tower, but no one knows what became of them. Now there is another who will brave the adventure.."
- Gen-Bu and the Three Kings
When the journey begins, the adventurers discover that the Tower is sealed and require a magic Sphere to enter. Exploring the world leads them to discover that the Sphere is hidden away in the Hero's Village. There they learn that the relics of the Great Hero have been taken by three greedy kings who believe that if any were to posses all three pieces, they would be the king of the world. The King of Armor trades his piece when the heroes unite him with a woman he is madly in love with. The King of Sword's is battled to the death for his piece. The King of Shield is assassinated by his Steward who tries to wrap the blame onto the heroes before they chase him down and take the final piece from him. Uniting the pieces with the statue reveals the Sphere, but also summons one of the Four Gods, Gen-Bu who guards it. After defeating him, the party enters the Tower where they find a place where people are punished for their sins by terrible demons and await forgiveness so they can reach Paradise.
- Sei-Ryu and Ryu-O, The Ocean Kingdom
Eventually the heroes reach a floor that opens up to a vast world of oceans and small islands. Here they learn that the world was once controlled by a pair of Dragons. The two dragons had a falling out some time in the past and split the Blue Sphere into two before parting ways. Ryu-O took the Blue Orb and moves to the surface world where he vanished from memory. Sei-Ryu took the Red Orb and rules the ocean from his palace beneath the waves. After exploring the islands, the party finds an island that can sail the oceans like a ship and use it to find a mysterious Old Man who gave them a clue needed to find the AirSeed needed to breathe underwater. With it, the party enters the ocean realm and search through Sei-Ryu's castle looking for his half of the Sphere. To counter thieves, Sei-Ryu his the Red Orb among several counterfeits, but the party find the true one and battle Sei-Ryu for it's possession. With the first half of the stone discovered, they return to the surface and speak with the Old Man to find the Blue Orb. He gives them a riddle which they solve and hands them the Blue Orb, revealing that he is Ryu-O in a human disguise. With the completed Blue Sphere, the party climb the Tower again.
- Bya-Ko and the Sky Kingdom
When the party reaches the next world, they find a world among the clouds of perpetual sky. The Sky Kingdom is ruled by Bya-Ko, who runs the place with an iron fist. A Resistance movement has sprouted to overthrow him, but their leader has recently died and his twin daughters now lead it. Bya-Ko is after the White Sphere which will open the door to the higher levels of the Tower, but in order to obtain it, he needs the twin sisters Jeanne and Mileille. Mileille is a prisoner of Bya-Ko and the resistance is led by her sister Jeanne. The heroes enter a Pub that is a hangout for Bya-Ko's men and start a fight, impressed by their skill, the group is asked by Bya-Ko himself to join his forces and help hunt down the Resistance.
The group eventually tracks down Jeanne to a small cottage in the woods where she is being apprehended by Bya-Ko's men, after defeating them, the party asks her where her sister is only for Jeanne to explain that Bya-ko has already captured her. Retruning to Bya-Ko's lair, the party rescues her from her cell only for Bya-Ko to capute them, revealing that he already knew the party had slayed his companions Gen-Bu and Sei-Ryu. Mileille is revealed to have also sided with Bya-Ko, believing that only power will prevail. Thrown into the dungeons, the party easily escapes and heads to the Sacred Palace to stop Bya-Ko from obtaining the White Sphere. With Mileille's purpose fulfilled, Bya-Ko tries to dispose of her, but her sister Jeanne takes the blow for her and the party kills Bya-Ko in retaliation. Realizing her mistake, Mileille cries for her dying sister, revealing their tears held the White Sphere all along. Indebted to the party for saving their world from Bya-Ko, the dying Jeanne gives the party the White Sphere.
- Su-Zaku and the Ruined World
Traveling further up the Tower, the party reaches a world that resembles a post-apocalyptic Tokyo. The world is terrorized by Su-Zaku who lays waste to anyone he can find and proves too powerful for the party due to his force field, making them resort to traveling low key through the city's subway. There they meet a girl named Sayaka whom they save from monsters. She leads them to a city with other humans where they meet her brother So-Cho and his biker gang. At first, the gang is hostile but Sayaka explains to them how the party saved her and how they want to defeat Su-Zaku. So-Cho explains how he is building a device to bypass Su-Zaku's forcefield but he still needs a computer board, some rom, and plutonium to make the device. The party volunteers to track down the parts and So-Cho offers them his hoverbike to help them traverse the ruined landscape while avoiding Su-Zaku's constant attacks. The Rom is found in the ruins of an old part of the city which is overrun by monsters. The board is located in another hidden settlement.
This leaves the plutonium to find which is at the Atomic Reactor. So-Cho and his gang offer to come along to help, but the party tries to sneak out to do it themselves, fearing the ordeal will be too dangerous. So-Cho and Sayaka figure they would try to sneak out and wait for them outside.Finally agreeing to accept their help, So-Cho journeys with the party to the reactor while his sister and the gang protect the base. The reactor proves to be perilous with several monsters and their path way blocked by active radiation rods. When the party finds the reactor core, it is blocked off by radiation rods. So-Cho sacrifices his life to hit the switch to remove the rods giving the party the device needed to stop Su-Zaku as well as his bandanna.
While they search the Atomic Reactor for plutonium, Su-Zaku raids the biker hangout and murders everyone but Sayaka, whom he captures and takes to a skyscraper for a final showdown with the party. The party scale the tower and chase Su-Zaku into the basement area where they have their final duel against him on a bullet train.Su-Zaku is confident he will win until the party uses So-Cho's device to destroy his shield and finally defeat him for good. The team reunite with Sayaka at So-Cho's grave where she hands them the Red Sphere that Su-Zaku was guarding. She tells them not to worry about her and thanks them for saving her world.
- Ashura, The Guardian of the Tower
On their way to the top floor, the party encounter Ashura, leader of the Four Gods, who sent his servants to try and stop the party from reaching Paradise. Ashura tries to bargain with the party, tempting them with rulership of one of the four worlds they traveled in exchange for joining him and stopping their pursuit of Paradise. The party refuse his offer and he flies into a rage. After an epic battle, the party emerges victorious. Just as they reach the door to Paradise, a trap door opens beneath them and sends the party back to the base of the Tower. Using the Four Spheres to re-enter the Tower, the party climbs the exterior and encounter the Four Gods again as undead.
- The Secret of the Tower
Once the party reaches the top floor, they enter Paradise to find nothing but a barren room and the Man with the Black Top Hat who had appeared throughout their journey offering advice. He Reveals his true identity as the Creator, who built the tower and created Ashura as a sort of game to entertain himself. Though he offers to give the party whatever they wish, the group refuses after feeling used by him. The Creator brushes it off saying that his creations don't have any sway in his design and they should be grateful to him. The party instead attacks and a climatic battle ensues. With the Creator dead and the mystery of the Tower solved, the party question what they should do. They find one more door in the tower, but instead choose to return to their homes, feeling accomplished for all their hard work.
SaGa was conceived by producer Nobuyuki Hoshino, and was developed by lead designer and director Akitoshi Kawazu. Square at the time was seeing the success of the GameBoy thanks to titles like Tetris and sought to capitalize on the growing interest in handheld gaming. Coming off of the success of Final Fantasy II, Kawazu was tapped as the lead designer. Choosing to stick with their strengths, Kawazu and his friend Koichi Ishii (Seiken Densetsu/Mana) began work on developing an RPG for the system.
The plan was to build a game that could be finished under ten hours and played in short spurts for commuting. Kawazu chose to make a difficult game with advanced features to keep the game entertaining. He increased the encounter rate in order to guarantee a commuting player would have at least a few battles between traveling, and designed systems like the Monster Meat mechanic to add variety and depth to character building.
The limitations of the GameBoy proved to be the biggest hurdle in development. Certain spell effects were difficult to show with the GameBoy's limited color palette. Other features were eventually dropped in order for the game to play smoothly.
Music was handled by Nobuo Uematsu, marking this as the only SaGa game scored by the Final Fantasy composer. The limitations of the hardware made it difficult for him as he was used to the Famicom system at this point, but Uematus was able to develop sixteen tracks for the game including series staple "Heartful Tears" which became a recurring theme for the franchise.
SaGa was the first game by Square to sell over a million copies, most of which were in Japan. Due to its success, the game quickly received a sequel a year later. The game received high marks in Famitsu magazine and has been cited as a influence on games such as Pokemon and Final Fantasy XIII.
While the game was not as highly praised in Western media, it still maintained strong reviews and sales. Enough for the two sequels to be brought over to the West. By 2003, the game had sold over 1.37 million copies worldwide.
Remakes and Ports
In the U.S. the game was renamed The Final Fantasy Legend in order to capitalize on the name recognition of the parent company's main franchise. The Western release saw a few minor changes such as raising weapon durability, removing some of Ryu-O's Riddle Quests, and minor censorship such as renaming God to The Creator and certain religious connotations in the final confrontation dialogue.
In 2001, Sqaure announced they would remake SaGa1 for the WonderSwan Color. The remake featured several changes from the original. The graphics were updated to 16-bit level with new sprites and artwork drawn by Toshiyuki Itahana. New animated sequences were added to the game as well like the intro sequence. Other new features included the ability to see what a monster would change to if they eat a new meat ahead of time, a bestiary, and the ability to re-target enemies when a previous target is slain by another character. There was even an option to play a straight port of the original Game Boy version as well.
In 2007, Square-Enix ported the WonderSwan version to smartphones. It removed features like the Bestiary, Original Version Mode, and shortened some cutscenes, but it also added in new shops and access to new gear that made the title more manageable.
Neither the WonderSwan or Mobile port ever saw an official Western release. Unofficial English translations for the WonderSwan port exist.
|Player Characters||Humans - Espers - Monsters|
|Non-playable characters||King of Shield - King of Armor - Girl - Ryu-O - Jeanne - Mileille - Sayaka - So-Cho|
|Villains||King of Sword - Bandits - Steward - Genbuu - Seiryu - Byakko - Machine - Suzaku - Ashura - The Creator|
|Worlds||Tower (The Final Fantasy Legend) - World of Earth - World of Ocean - World of Sky - World of Ruins - Paradise|
|Gameplay||Abilities - Armor - Bosses - Enemies - Glitches - House of Life - Items - Key Items - Magic - Weapons|