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Recurring version of the SaGa logo
Square Enix
Square Enix
Creator(s)Akitoshi Kawazu
Platform(s)Game Boy, Super NES, PlayStation, WonderSwan Color, PlayStation 2, Mobile, Nintendo DS, Android, iOS, PlayStation Vita, Windows, Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PlayStation 5
First releaseThe Final Fantasy Legend
December 15, 1989
Latest releaseCollection of SaGa: Final Fantasy Legend
December 15, 2020

SaGa (サガ) is a series of science fantasy role-playing video games by Square Enix. The series originated on the Game Boy in 1989 as the creation of Akitoshi Kawazu at Square. It has since continued across multiple platforms, from the Super NES to the PlayStation 2. The series is notable for its emphasis on open world exploration, non-linear branching plots, and occasionally unconventional gameplay. This distinguishes the games from most of Square's other franchises.


Release timeline
1989The Final Fantasy Legend
1990Final Fantasy Legend II
1991Final Fantasy Legend III
1992Romancing SaGa
1993Romancing SaGa 2
1995Romancing SaGa 3
1997SaGa Frontier
1999SaGa Frontier 2
2002Unlimited Saga
2012Emperors SaGa
2015Imperial SaGa
2016SaGa: Scarlet Grace
2018Romancing SaGa Re;univerSe
2019Imperial SaGa Eclipse

The SaGa series was created by game designer Akitoshi Kawazu, whose contributions prior to the franchise's introduction include Final Fantasy and Final Fantasy II. At a time when Nintendo's Game Boy was becoming popular worldwide due to the puzzle game Tetris, then-Square president Masashi Miyamoto requested that a development team create a game for the handheld console. Kawazu and fellow designer Koichi Ishii suggested that the company develop a role-playing video game, thus making Makai Toushi Sa·Ga, later released in North America as The Final Fantasy Legend, the company's first handheld title.[1] The gameplay was designed to be difficult, described by Kawazu as the main difference between the SaGa and Final Fantasy series.[2] The character illustrations in all the games in the SaGa series were done by Tomomi Kobayashi,[3] who has also done the illustrations for the MMORPG Granado Espada.[4] Although it has been a long-running series, as of 2008, none of the ten production teams at Square Enix is assigned to the franchise. Akitoshi Kawazu and Production Team 2 are devoted to the Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles series.[5]

Common elements[edit]

The SaGa series emphasizes nonlinear gameplay and open world exploration, with its open-ended branching plot and free style of character development separating it from the more linear Final Fantasy series, which was ahead of its time [6] Like the Final Fantasy series, however, the story in each SaGa share little to no continuity to one another.

The SaGa series is also considered a successor to Final Fantasy II, which introduced a more open-ended activity-based progression system that was abandoned by later Final Fantasy games but embraced by Makai Toushi SaGa (The Final Fantasy Legend), which expanded it with weapons that shatter with repeated use and added new ideas such as a race of monsters that mutate depending on which fallen foes they consume.[7]

The early games in the series also feature some common gameplay elements and themes first established in Final Fantasy, such as random enemy encounters, but most of these disappear with the Romancing SaGa games, providing a unique gameplay experience. It also features a similar turn-based battle system, where a character's prowess is driven by numerical values called "statistics" which, in turn, increase with combat experience. Given the open-ended aspect of gameplay and the ability to play through multiple character scenarios, heavy emphasis is placed upon the replay value of SaGa games.

Since the original Makai Toushi SaGa, much of the series has relied on loosely connected stories and sidequests rather than an epic narrative. Makai Toushi SaGa allowed players to travel through different worlds. Romancing SaGa expanded the open-endedness by offering many choices and allowing players to complete quests in any order, with the decision of whether or not to participate in any particular quest affecting the outcome of the storyline. The game also allowed players to choose from eight different characters, each with their own stories that start in different places and offer different outcomes.[6] Romancing SaGa thus succeeded in providing a very different experience during each run through the game, something that later non-linear RPGs such as SaGa Frontier and Fable had promised but were unable to live up to.[8] It also introduced a combo system where up to five party members can perform a combined special attack,[8] and required characters to pay mentors to teach them abilities, whether it is using certain weapons or certain proficiencies like opening a chest or dismantling a trap.[6]

While in the original Romancing SaGa, scenarios were changed according to dialogue choices during conversations, Romancing SaGa 2 further expanded the open-endedness by having unique storylines for each character that can change depending on the player's actions, including who is chosen, what is said in conversation, what events have occurred, and who is present in the party.[9] Romancing SaGa 3 featured a storyline that could be told differently from the perspectives of up to eight different characters and introduced a level-scaling system where the enemies get stronger as the characters do,[10] a mechanic that was later used in Final Fantasy VIII,[11] The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion, Silverfall,[12] Dragon Age: Origins,[13] Fallout 3, and The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim.[14] SaGa Frontier further expanded on the non-linear gameplay of its Romancing SaGa predecessors, with a setting that spans multiple planets and an overarching plot that becomes apparent after playing through each of the different characters' quests that tie together at certain places.[15]


Title Original release date


North America

PAL region

The Final Fantasy Legend December 15, 1989 September 30, 1990 December 19, 2020 (Nintendo Switch)

The first RPG on a handheld video game console, and the first handheld game with a battery save feature.[16] The game introduces new systems of developing characters. The game was released in North America less than a year later as The Final Fantasy Legend to boost sales on the strength of Final Fantasy's name, something also done with the Mana series.[17] An enhanced remake of the game was released exclusively in Japan in 2002 for the WonderSwan Color and 2007 for mobile phones, sporting more advanced graphics than those displayed by the Game Boy's four-color set.

Final Fantasy Legend II December 14, 1990 November 1991 December 19, 2020 (Nintendo Switch)

The game retains the same character classes used in its predecessor, but introduces a fifth ally that often helps the player's party in combat. The game's story is more developed than the first SaGa game, with a journey that spans across more than a dozen worlds. GameSpot's "History of Console RPGs" touts Final Fantasy Legend II as the best of the Game Boy SaGa games, calling it a "portable gaming classic".[18] An enhanced remake of the game was released in Japan in 2009 for the Nintendo DS.[19]

Final Fantasy Legend III December 13, 1991 August 1993 December 19, 2020 (Nintendo Switch)

The game eliminates the non-level-based individualized growth system of the previous two installments; instead, the title introduces "experience points" and across-the-board stat leveling in the style of Final Fantasy, introducing two human and two mutant characters with predetermined backgrounds. An enhanced remake of the game was released in Japan on January in 2011 for the Nintendo DS.[20]

Romancing SaGa January 28, 1992 October 11, 2005 (PlayStation 2) December 1, 2022 (Remaster)

The first of three Japan-exclusive Super Famicom titles, the game allows the player to choose from one of eight character scenarios to follow. The game was ported to the WonderSwan Color in 2001. An enhanced remake of the game was released in 2005 for the PlayStation 2, which was released outside Japan. That version bears the title Romancing SaGa: Minstrel Song in Japan, but was released as simply Romancing SaGa in North America. A mobile phone version was released in 2009.[21]

Romancing SaGa 2 December 10, 1993 December 15, 2017 (Remaster) December 15, 2017 (Remaster)

The second installment in the Romancing SaGa series and the fifth in the SaGa series in general, the game places a greater emphasis on storyline than its predecessors. The story plays out across generations, so the player cannot keep one party of warriors throughout the game.

Romancing SaGa 3 November 11, 1995 November 11, 2019 (Remaster) November 11, 2019 (Remaster)

The third Romancing SaGa game features a battle system similar to that of Final Fantasy II and the first two SaGa games, where character development is determined by the player's commands in battle. If the player commands a character to cast magic spells frequently, for example, then that character will grow in magical power.

SaGa Frontier July 11, 1997 March 31, 1998 April 15, 2021 (Remaster)

This installment was both the first SaGa game to be released in North America since Final Fantasy Legend III in 1993 and the first of the series to be released in North America as a SaGa game. Similar in style to the earlier games in the series, SaGa Frontier allows the player to choose from multiple characters, each with his or her own unique storyline and scenario.

SaGa Frontier 2 April 1, 1999 January 31, 2000 March 22, 2000

The game was the first SaGa title to reach PAL territories and was one of Square's last RPGs produced for the PlayStation. The game shuns 3D graphics in favor of traditional 2D hand-painted watercolor sprites. The game features two separate storylines spanning three generations.

Unlimited Saga December 19, 2002 June 17, 2003 October 31, 2003

The game features a combination of 2D and 3D graphics known as "Sketch Motion" and a complicated battle mechanic called the "Reel System". It greatly resembles a board game. It was praised highly in Japan, but garnered heavy criticism elsewhere.

Emperors SaGa September 18, 2012 none none

Announced in September 2011, the game features a combat system utilizing digital playing cards.[22][23] As of April 2017, the game is no longer available.[24]

Imperial SaGa June 18, 2015[25] none none

Announced in December 2014 for release in 2015.[26] A single-player game played in the user's internet browser, it features a new story within the SaGa setting.[27]

SaGa: Scarlet Grace December 15, 2016 December 3, 2019 December 3, 2019

Announced in December 2014, this title was released in Japan in 2016 and in North America in 2019, making it the first entry in the franchise to be released outside Japan in over a decade.[26][28]

Romancing SaGa Re;univerSe December 6, 2018 June 24, 2020 June 24, 2020

Smartphone title released in 2018 in Japan and released in the rest of the world in 2020. It features a new story set 300 years after Romancing SaGa 3, characters from previous games and some of the characteristic elements from the series. As of November 2019, the game has been downloaded more than 15 million times.[29]

Imperial SaGa Eclipse October 31, 2019 none none


Music in the SaGa series have been composed by a number of people, the most prominent of which is Kenji Ito, who also composed some soundtracks for the Mana series. Nobuo Uematsu, responsible for a large portion of the music of the Final Fantasy series, solely composed The Final Fantasy Legend and co-composed Final Fantasy Legend II with Ito. Ryuji Sasai and Chihiro Fujioka worked on Final Fantasy Legend III together. SaGa Frontier 2 and Unlimited Saga are credited to Masashi Hamauzu.


Review scores and sales
Game Platform Units sold
The Final Fantasy Legend Game Boy
51% (4 reviews)[33]
Final Fantasy Legend II Game Boy
90% (2 reviews)[35]
Final Fantasy Legend III Game Boy
75% (3 reviews)[37]
Romancing SaGa Super Famicom
Romancing SaGa 2 Super Famicom
Romancing SaGa 3 Super Famicom
SaGa Frontier PlayStation
71% (11 reviews)[43]
SaGa Frontier 2 PlayStation
74% (27 reviews)[46]
Unlimited Saga PlayStation 2
52% (43 reviews)[49]
Romancing SaGa: Minstrel Song PlayStation 2
63% (30 reviews)[51]

Games in the SaGa series have been popular in Japan, with many of them selling over 1 million units. As of March 2011, the series has sold over 9.9 million units.[52] In 2006, Famitsu readers voted Romancing SaGa as the 53rd best game of all time, and SaGa 2 as the 94th best game of all time.[53] Games in the series also received generally positive reviews from Japanese publications such as Famitsu and Dengeki. As of 2019, the series has sold over 10 million units.[54]

However, the series has remained decidedly less popular in North America, many of the games receiving mixed reviews from printed and online publications. It has been suggested that this is due to the series' seemingly experimental gameplay and allowing the player to freely roam with little direction or narrative, atypical of what many North American gamers usually expect from Japanese role-playing games.[55] In their September 2004 "Overrated/Underrated" article, Official U.S. PlayStation Magazine cited the SaGa series as one ruined in the transition to the PlayStation 2, citing primarily Unlimited SaGa.[56]

See also[edit]


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  2. ^ Nutt, Christian (2005-05-26). "Romancing SaGa: Minstrel Song". GameSpy. Archived from the original on 2011-06-15. Retrieved 2009-06-05.
  3. ^ Ciolek, Todd (December 7, 2011). "Ultracity 2020 – The X Button". Anime News Network. Archived from the original on December 8, 2011. Retrieved 2011-12-07.
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External links[edit]