SaGa: Scarlet Grace

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SaGa: Scarlet Grace
SaGa Scarlet Grace cover art.jpg
PlayStation Vita cover art featuring central antagonist the Fire Bringer.
Developer(s)Square Enix Business Division 3
Studio Reel
Publisher(s)Square Enix
Director(s)Masahiro Kataoka
Producer(s)Masashi Ichikawa
Designer(s)Yoshimitsu Inagaki
Akitoshi Kawazu
Artist(s)Tomomi Kobayashi
Writer(s)Akitoshi Kawazu
Composer(s)Kenji Ito
Platform(s)PlayStation Vita
Nintendo Switch
PlayStation 4
Microsoft Windows
ReleasePlayStation Vita
  • JP: December 15, 2016
NS, PS4, Win, Android, iOS
  • JP: August 2, 2018
  • WW: December 3, 2019

SaGa: Scarlet Grace[a] is a role-playing video game co-developed by Square Enix and Studio Reel. The twelfth entry in the SaGa series and celebrating the series' 25th anniversary, the game was published by Square Enix in 2016 for the PlayStation Vita. An expanded port subtitled Ambitions[b] was released in 2018 for Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, Microsoft Windows, Android and iOS. This version was released in the West in December 2019, localised by 8-4.

The story follows four protagonists pursuing separate missions across the splintered remains of a lost empire; central to the plot is the Fire Bringer, a deity hostile to humanity. Gameplay focuses on the game's four protagonists exploring the world in a nonlinear fashion, taking part in turn-based battles where skill growth depends on usage in battle.

The game was the series' first original console title since 2002's Unlimited SaGa, beginning development in 2013. Series creator Akitoshi Kawazu returned as co-designer and scenario writer, series artist Tomomi Kobayashi designed the characters, while the music was composed by Kenji Ito. The team designed several aspects of the game based on player feedback from Unlimited SaGa, and features from both SaGa Frontier and the Romancing SaGa games were incorporated.


SaGa: Scarlet Grace is a role-playing video game in which players take control of four different protagonist through separate scenarios; each character can pick up a group of followers, with up to four joining them in battle. Prior to starting the game, the player is asked a series of questions; the answers allow the game to recommend which character to start with.[1] The core narrative is advanced by completing events on the game's world map; these events range from battles to story-based interactions with non-playable characters (NPCs). Due to the nonlinear gameplay of Scarlet Grace, events can be completed in any order or ignored entirely, with which events were completed impacting the narrative and later events.[2][3] The world map is represented using two-dimensional (2D) artwork, while the chosen protagonist is represented using a three-dimensional (3D) model.[2] Prior to triggering a battle, the enemy's strength and loot are displayed.[4]

Battle system[edit]

The battle system of SaGa: Scarlet Grace uses a turn-based model, with turn order influencing elements of battle.

Once a battle is triggered on the world map, the player and enemy parties face each other in a themed arena. Battles use a turn-based combat system, with each side able to perform an action per turn. The party is arranged in different formations which impact their abilities and tactics. The party's actions are dictated by Behaviour Points (BP); depending on the amount of available BP, different actions can be taken, and those characters who cannot be assigned a move skip that turn.[2][5] There are eight weapon types, each with different attributes which impact both how a character fights, how they attack different enemies, and the effectiveness of attacks against enemy types.[6]

Each character has access to battle abilities called Techniques which cost BP to execute. During battle, player and enemy actions are displayed along the bottom of the screen as a "Timeline". Some Techniques can alter the flow of the Timeline, and some attacks can knock an enemy back, pushing their action further down the Timeline.[2][5] If all characters are adjacent on the Timeline following the end of a turn, a Consecutive Attack is triggered, allowing all characters to attack. A Consecutive Attack allows actions for the next turn to cost less BP, with the amount of BP reducing further if stronger characters took part and dealt higher damage.[7]

Each party member have health points (HP) and Life Points (LP). While HP can be replenished in battle using items and varieties of healing magic, but LP cannot be replenished except by a party member not being in battle. Once a character's LP is depleted, they cannot be used in battle, with LP recovering at the rate of one LP every two completed battles. LP can also be restored in towns in exchange for materials. If the party loses all HP during a battle, the game ends.[8] The player party can also access "Graces", boons gifted by the world's deities that can remove status effects from the party, heal the party, or aid them with attacks. Activating a Grace cancels all the party's moves for one turn.[9]

As with previous SaGa titles, raising a character's statistics and acquiring new or more powerful skills is not tied to an experience point-based leveling system. After each battle, a particular statistic is raised based both on the battle's events and which weapons and abilities were used by any particular party member. Using a Technique enough upgrades it to become more powerful, while new Techniques are unlocked by using similar Techniques. Techniques have five levels, with each level yielding more powerful effects. Weapon have a similar system, where Weapon Skills—battle actions tied to weapons—can raise their rank through usage to become more effective and cost less BP to execute, or unlock new Skills. Many Skills and ranks are tied to specific weapons.[2][5][10] After completing each battle, players are awarded with weapons, armor, accessories and materials. Weapons and armor can be strengthened using specific materials, with the rank of blacksmiths increasing the quality of the upgrade.[4]



Scarlet Grace is set in an unnamed land once dominated by a powerful Empire, now in shambles. The world worships the Star Gods, a pantheon represented by the stars who gave wisdom and culture to humanity; each Star God governs a different aspect of human life, with each receiving the worship of particular groups such as farmers or magicians.[11][12] In ancient times, one Star God later dubbed the "Fire Bringer" betrayed his brethren and was turned into a comet; every 150 years, the Fire Bringer would return to the world, causing monsters to spawn across the world. With each cycle, the Star Gods chose a man to face the Fire Bringer and his demons; the constant attacks necessitate the formation of the Empire. At the seventh battle, after a thousand years of fighting, the Fire Bringer was destroyed. The celebrations gave way to fragmentation as the Empire saw rebellion from those who thought it was no longer necessary with the Fire Bringer's death; the last Emperor was assassinated, the Empire divided by his warring sons, and seventy years prior to the game's opening the Empire had completely collapsed.[12] In the world following the Empire's collapse, the remaining forces have created new nations out of the Empire's provinces.[13] The game opens seventy years after the empire's collapse, in a time when the new nations have settled into an uneasy coexistence, although attacks from magical monsters persisted.[12][13]


The narrative of Scarlet Grace is divided between four protagonists with separate storylines; Urpina, Leonard, Taria and Balmaint. Urpina is the daughter of a noble family whose peaceful existence is torn apart when their family home comes under attack, forcing her to take up arms to rescue her brother. Leonard is a young farmer who helps a dying woman determined to reach the legendary city of Ai-Khanoum, prompting Leonard to set out and complete her quest after she dies and leaves him a red gemstone identical to one he received as a child. Taria once led a hectic life before becoming a potter, but is forced on an adventure when she senses dangerous disturbances through her pottery and goes in pursuit of phoenixes appearing in the world. Balmaint is the latest in a line of state executioners—after his former cruel ruler Sigfrey vows to be reborn seven times following his beheading, Balmaint goes on a journey to find and execute Sigfrey seven times.[1][11] Each protagonist is accompanied by a variety of companions.[1] Two significant characters are two of the Star Gods, the God Mulligan and Goddess Wach; the respective patrons of warriors and mages, they are veterans of the battle against the Fire Bringer and once shared a close sibling bond.[14][15]


Series creator Akitoshi Kawazu (pictured 2007) acted as game designer and scenario writer for SaGa: Scarlet Grace.

The SaGa series had been dormant since the releases of 2002's Unlimited Saga and the remake of Romancing SaGa in 2005, both for the PlayStation 2 (PS2).[16] Series creator and executive producer Akitoshi Kawazu's commitment to other projects within Square Enix, including the Crystal Chronicles series, prevented him from pursuing further SaGa projects.[17] Kawazu had created a concept for Scarlet Grace some time before, but no-one seemed willing to develop the game with him. At the same time, Square Enix staff member Yoshimitsu Inagaki noted the surge of casual mobile titles and felt challenged about what kind of game he should make next. With this in mind and following the completion of another project, Inagaki decided to revive the SaGa series, which he had worked on during production of the PS2 games. Inagaki approached Kawazu, and the two agreed to create a new SaGa game.[16] The game was co-developed by Square Enix Business Division 3—who are in charge of the SaGa series—and Studio Reel.[18][19] The game's director was Studio Reel's Masahiro Kataoka, a former Square Enix employee who worked on the Final Fantasy and Dragon Quest series.[19] The producer was Square Enix's Masashi Ichikawa, a self-professed fan of the SaGa series.[20] Production began mid-2013, with Kawazu describing development as "turbulent".[16] It was built using the Unity engine.[21]

Scarlet Grace was first announced in December 2014 under the title "SaGa 2015" as part of the series' 25th anniversary celebrations.[22] Its official title was revealed at the Sony press conference at the 2015 Tokyo Game Show.[23] Instead of releasing a game demo, Square Enix restricted the game's public pre-release appearances to trade shows.[3] Prior to release, based on feedback from fans and players, the team worked to improve aspects of the game including shortening load times.[24] The game released on December 15, 2016. The game released as a standard edition and a limited edition which included a soundtrack album and artbook. Unlike many Vita titles, Scarlet Grace did not support PlayStation TV as Kawazu decided to focus on optimizing performance for its native PlayStation Vita.[25] Sony and Square Enix collaborated on special edition Vita consoles themed after Scarlet Grace.[26]


Inagaki acted as the game's lead designer, while Kawazu was both game designer and scenario writer. Prior to being joined by battle designer Ikuta Yasuhiro, Kawazu deliberately avoided creating anything but rough battle design concepts, instead focusing on other aspects of the game to Inagaki's frustration. Yasuhiro was responsible for creating most of the battle system, including the data related to what enemies would appear in encounters, which was difficult as random encounters were removed from the game entirely. Many of the mechanics related to skills, weapons and enemies were inspired by Yasuhiro's love of card and board games, and his dislike of characters starting out with unfavorable weapons and abilities.[16] The Timeline mechanic was implemented to give players greater freedom of choice during battle, while also giving them battle and turn information in a streamlined way. Developing the Timeline mechanic was challenging for the team due to the necessity of incorporating both the player party and enemies into the system.[20] The lack of 3D dungeon environments was due to budgetary constraints, as they required a sizeable dedicated team to design.[27]

LP and skill names were also carried over from earlier SaGa titles, although LP was changed to remove its earlier implementation of permadeath. Kawazu had pushed to change the names of returning battle moves, but the rest of the staff opposed this. During early development, navigating the world map was just a question of selecting a town or dungeon location, but it was changed to a free roaming world map to increase players' enjoyment at exploring the world and finding new locations. It was also a reaction to player complaints about a lack of character control in Unlimited Saga. Dungeons were also cut from the game entirely, with their equivalents being player-triggered events and battles on the world map.[20] Consecutive Attack, while similar to the Collaboration attack mechanic from earlier SaGa titles, was a new mechanic meant to keep battles from becoming repetitive. The lengthy load times were something the team accepted when developing for the Vita, incorporating them into the battle system to give even normal battles more weight.[28]

Similar to the Romancing SaGa series, Scarlet Grace was set in a pure fantasy setting.[3] The concept of a scenario and game design offering maximum freedom to players was in place from the start of production.[16] The game made use of an expanded "Free Scenario" system, first introduced in SaGa Frontier, allowing players to following various scenarios through multiple characters.[3][29] While the Empire which originally dominated the world of Scarlet Grace was based on the Roman Empire, the setting for each scenario was drawn from both Asia and Europe, the latter influence being similar to that of Romancing SaGa 2 and its sequel. Kawazu initially planned eight main characters, but during development four were cut. Urpina was designed to be an orthodox protagonist with a background typical of the series, with Kawazu comparing the character to the character Albert from Romancing SaGa. Leonard was designed as a straightforward character, something Kawazu had never done before. Talia's artistic skills were added as such features were rare in RPG protagonists. Balmaint was intended as an unorthodox protagonist due to his profession as a headsman; although the theme of a villain reviving was fairly standard, it was rare for the protagonist to be prepared for the event. Each character's narrative was designed to be very different from one another, echoing the style of SaGa Frontier.[20]

The characters were designed by Tomomi Kobayashi, who had designed characters for the series since Romancing SaGa and had last worked in that role for SaGa Frontier. Rather than a rough sketch idea she had worked from for earlier SaGa games, Kobayashi was given a detailed setting document by Kawazu prior to beginning work, with further input if she did not understand what she was supposed to do.[30] Due to the varied origins of characters, Kobayashi designed their clothing based on different real-world cultures. Due to the large number of male characters, she was very forceful in her illustration to convey their strength, exhausting herself due to feeling deeply connected to a character during its creation.[31] Kobayashi's illustrations were completed in March 2016, with her then moving on to promotional artwork.[32] While the character models for exploration and battle were rendered in 3D, the rest of the world was designed to appear 2D, with all the artwork emulating Kobayashi's concept and character art as closely as possible. While the setting generally incorporated Western elements in its characters and architecture, the world map and many other elements were inspired by traditional Japanese paintings.[16] The differing clothing styles of characters were Kobayashi's response to Kawazu's wish for variety rather than a conscious choice related to the game's world.[20] The team went through an extended trial and error phase before finding a style and balance they were satisfied with.[16] The world map design was meant to emulate the pop-up artwork from picture books.[28]

SaGa: Scarlet Grace - Ambitions[edit]

An expanded port of the game was developed for Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, Microsoft Windows via Steam, Android and iOS. Titled SaGa: Scarlet Grace — Ambitions, the port features voice acting, expanded story content, additional characters and music.[33] There were also several mechanical alterations, including reducing load times, increasing movement speed, screen resolution options and customisation for the game's graphics and gameplay.[34] The port released in Japan on August 2, 2018.[35]

Kawazu returned as designer, writer and lyricist. Original battle designer Yasuhiro Ikuta took on the role of director. Production of Hiiro no Yabou began in December 2016 following the original game's release. Porting to other platforms proved easier than it might have due to the engine choice.[21] Kawazu said the success of Scarlet Grace was why he was able to create Hiiro no Yabou.[27] The difficulty modifiers were inspired by similar systems Kawazu designed for Romancing SaGa: Minstral Song. The different battle cry options were inspired by the voice actor options from the Dragon Age series. Kawazu was involved in how the voice acting was directed, as earlier SaGa titles had made little to no use of it.[21] One of the biggest challenges was adapting the mobile version for touchscreen controls. As the team had not used the Vita's touch functions for the original, they had no frame of reference for the team.[27]

Up until 2018, all versions of Scarlet Grace were exclusive to Japan with no confirmed localization. Kawazu had expressed his wish to localize the title, with a Western release depending on the performance of the mobile port of Romancing SaGa 2 outside Japan.[36][37] Kawazu later announced that a Western version was in development, although it was too early to give it a release window.[38] The Western port was officially announced at the 2019 Electronic Entertainment Expo alongside an enhanced port of Romancing SaGa 3.[39] Ambitions is set for international release on December 3, 2019.[40]

The localization was handled by 8-4, a small production house dedicated to video game localization. While the SaGa series was previously only known in the West for its non-linear gameplay, in Japan it was mainly popular due to Kawazu's narratives. 8-4's localization aimed to bring out the "unique mixture of drama and dry wit" in the script. Each lead character was different a different accent and style of speaking to represent coming from different regions of the world. The workload was compared to four small-scale RPGs, with its greatest challenge being the non-linear design. Another major challenge was how the main campaign was presented, as it revealed story details in a fairly cryptic manner through NPC conversation and minstral ballads found through the world. Urpina was described as the hardest story arc to translate due to the variety of ways she can change. In contrast, the side quest were easy to localize as they were self-contained and well explained.[41]


The music for Scarlet Grace was composed by Kenji Ito, who first co-composed the music for Final Fantasy Legend II and was sole composer for the Romancing SaGa games and SaGa Frontier.[42] Arrangements were done by Ito, Yoshitaka Hirota, Noriyuki Kamikura and Tsutomu Narita. Orchestral arrangements were done by Kousuke Yamashita and Natsumi Kameoka.[43][44] Ito produced the soundtrack, while Hidenori Iwasaki was music director.[43]

Kawazu's wish for the soundtrack was for it to be different from earlier entries in the SaGa series. Ito found finalizing the game's musical image and challenge during the early stages of production. Several themes needed to be rewritten as Kawazu was dissatisfied with them. Each of the main character themes were written to reflect both their personalities and their stories.[28][45] Music production had not begun in 2015, with Ito still waiting for materials from Kawazu.[46] In total, Ito composed over forty tracks for Scarlet Grace, working in parallel with his contributions to the browser game Imperial SaGa.[44] Ito returned to provide new music for Hiiro no Yabou.[33]

The theme song, "Mune ni Kizande",[c] was performed by Japanese soprano Ayano Nonomura.[42] Kawazu's wish for the main theme was for a Classical style, with the theme being performed with a live orchestra. Kawazu also wanted music that sounded "feminine", focusing on strings rather than brass instruments.[45] The original theme song melody was different prior to Nonomura being brought on board to sing it, but after the first demo Ito rewrote the song as the original theme was wrong for Nonomura's voice.[44] The lyrics were written by Final Fantasy XI scenario writer Yeako Sato, then fine-tuned by the director Kataoka, who had previously written music lyrics for Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles. Additional contributions to the lyrics were made by Kawazu.[44][45] For Hiiro no Yabou, a new theme song for the opening movie was created. Titled "Kudaka Reshi Hoshi",[d] it was performed by Nonomura, with lyrics written by Kawazu.[47]

The themes "Scarlet Spider" and "Mune ni Kizande" was first performed at a concert celebrating the series' 25th anniversary. Nonomura's performance of "Mune ni Kizande" was her first time performing video game music live on stage.[42] A two-disc soundtrack album was published on December 21, 2017.[48]


Review score

Upon its debut, Scarlet Grace reached fourth place in gaming charts, selling nearly 65,000 units; while low, it was noted as being a solid performance for the game.[50] The following week, the game had dropped to fourteenth place with further sales of over 14,000 units, bringing total sales to nearly 80,000.[51] By late January the following year, the game had sold nearly 94,000 units.[52]


  1. ^ Saga: Sukāretto Gureisu (Japanese: サガ スカーレット グレイス)
  2. ^ Hiiro no Yabou (緋色の野望, lit. "Scarlet Ambition")
  3. ^ (胸に刻んで, lit. "Engraved On Our Hearts")
  4. ^ (砕かれし星, lit. "Crushed Star")


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