GameSpite Journal 10 | The 7th Saga

The 7th Saga| Dev.: Produce | Pub: Enix | Genre: RPG | Release: Sept. 1993

The Seven Sins of The 7th Saga

Poor U.S. sales of The 7th Saga are often cited as one of the major factors in Enix America Corporationís decision to take their ball and go home, depriving the U.S. of games like Terranigma?, Dragon Quest V?, and Dragon Quest VI. Many of the other games we Americans as a whole avoided were interesting, quirky, misunderstood little gems worth digging back up and reassessing, and one might assume the same is true here, but no. The 7th Saga is just a terrible, terrible game with no redeeming qualities, and it deserves all the scorn you can spare to heap upon it. In fact, I bet if we take a look, we can find at least seven reasons to leave it right where it is, should it ever tempt you in a used game store, or worse, some misguided anniversary rerelease.

1. Itís about as bare-bones as you can get.

Mechanically, The 7th Saga shares a lot in common with the original Dragon Quest. Itís a bit grindy, you have a very short and simple selection of spells, strictly gained from leveling up; no fancy skill systems here. Death is a financial setback rather than a game over. Regular random monsters are nothing to sneeze at. Most of the time you only control one character. The thing is, that sort of limitation just barely got a pass for Dragon Quest because it was one of the first console RPGs out there, and it had this weird sort of zen appeal to it. A 16-bit RPG has no excuse to be so lacking in variety.

2. It has no heart.

Most RPGs as simplistic as The 7th Saga make up for it with charm. Fans of the genre were used to nice cheerful, colorful worlds, populated by amusingly quirky characters, and sometimes even smiling cartoonish monsters. The 7th Sagaís world feels extremely drab and lifeless. All the characters, the player included, are greedy power-mongers out for themselves, and the way the camera pitches down when entering a battle to depict the whole world as a flat, lifeless brown expanse is an eerily perfect visual metaphor for everything else.

3. You have to walk everywhere.

While it has sadly become a trend with modern RPGs to reduce exploration to simply marching from one town to another along fairly straight and linear paths, in the early í90s every other RPG treated players to an interesting variety of vehicles, constantly opening up the world to reveal new side quests and secrets to players willing to explore. So in bucking that trend, The 7th Saga was a true pioneer... in the field of stripping out a cornerstone of the genre.

4. Boss battles are all about trial and error.

Funny little quirk here: While most of the game requires a fair amount of grinding to progress, and encourage the player to find a partner that complements their own abilities, major boss battles are one-on-one duels,scaled to the playerís level against opponents who are always immune to status-affecting magic and possess no special weaknesses. The only way to win is to memorize their AI behavior over multiple attempts, working out when to attack, when to defend, and hoping damage rolls play out in your favor. Oh, and naturally, the level-scaling formula accounts for what equipment you should have access to at a given level, making battles unwinnable if too much time is spent grinding beforehand.

5. It squanders an interesting premise.

The hook of The 7th Saga is that you begin by choosing from a diverse array of seven different characters, racing against each other to find seven magic runes. This could have lead to either a dynamic, open-ended game, with all seven characters really exploring the world and competing against each other, making for a different experience each time you play; or each character could have been given a unique story line, inherently giving the game a ton of replay value. The 7th Saga boldly decides to ignore either of those options and instead changes absolutely nothing of consequence based on the character you choose to play. Essentially, all your choice affects are your stats and spell selection. The other six characters do appear in the game, but only as potential party members or those aforementioned kludgey boss fights. Which is which isnít even dependent on any logical connection between characters; itís completely arbitrary.

6. It pads its length in incredibly lazy ways.

Remember how magical it was in Linkís Awakening when, after a fake-out ending, you had a whole new set of dungeons to explore in the strange Dark World, or the thrill of discovering and exploring the underworld of Final Fantasy II?? The 7th Saga does something somewhat similar at the halfway point, stripping away whatever partner you have and the seven magic runes you just finished collecting before sending you back into the past. The thing is, the world of the past is essentially exactly the same as the world of the present, except for a massive spike in the difficulty of all the random encounters. Plus, those seven magic runes arenít useless plot coupons. Each has a practical use, like restoring MP in combat, or teleporting back to town. So itís not so much a brave new world to explore as a grueling slog through places youíve been with half your abilities stripped away.

7. Thereís only one ending.

Arguably, this could be considered just a symptom of that fifth sin, but seriously. Thereís only one ending. It isnít even that thereís a basic template ending that plays out more or less the same for each character. It literally does not change at all. A convoluted little bit of hack writing keeps the game from having to actually depict your character, nor refer to their race, gender, occupation. Whatever motivation they had is also conveniently thrown out the window. Whatís worse is that there really isnít anything more to it than that. It establishes through a short text scroll and a static image of three generic NPCs standing around an unremarkable room that the character you chose ultimately doesnít matter, then rolls the credits.

So thatís The 7th Saga. A horrible black mark against the otherwise excellent RPG output of the SNES. Seriously, there arenít any redeeming qualities to this one. Itís just plain terrible.

By Jake Alley? | Jan. 11, 2012 | Previous: Shadowrun | Next: Sunset Riders