In the pantheon of classic RPG games, The 7th Saga stands out as one of the more memorable titles for the SNES. In 1993 it was one of the first RPG’s to use Mode 7 graphics, as demonstrated with a revolving camera angle used in the middle of battle, where the camera would turn to face whatever enemy the main character was attacking as opposed to the more popular Final Fantasy model of having enemies on one side of the screen and the heroes on the other. It utilizes a unique random enemy encounter system where enemy positions would show up as moving dots on a mini-map. It has a myriad of unique and colorful looking enemies and took full advantage of the SNES 256 colors in bringing them to life. Unlike other RPG games for the SNES when it was released, the enemies in The 7th Saga aren’t still life drawings but actually animated creations in combat. These features make The 7th Saga more distinguishable from some of its contemporaries.
The story revolves around seven adventurers, each unique in their own way. There’s Lux the Tetujin Robot, Wilme the Alien, Lejes the Demon Warlock, Esuna the Elven Wizard, Valsu the Human Priest, Kamil the Human Knight, and Olvan the Dwarven Warrior. They’re summoned by King Lemile to journey into the world and collect seven runes scattered throughout the land. Once gathered, the holder is supposed to gain unimaginable power, which makes one wonder why the king is sending others to gain unimaginable power instead of getting it himself. Nonetheless, as one of these characters, the player’s task is to gain all seven runes and defeat Gorsia, a monster of immense power who was supposedly defeated a thousand years ago in a great war.
Though in the beginning of the game the player’s character starts out solo, at some point in the story each will begin to run into the other characters, some with whom they can join, some with whom they may end up fighting (after all, the one with all seven runes DOES end up with unimaginable power). After progressing through the game and defeating various bosses, the player will begin to accumulate the fabled runes, each with unique powers such as HP recovery, MP recovery, and bonus to stats that can be utilized during battle. Interestingly enough, the combat system has a unique aspect where if the characters defend themselves from attack, it raises their attack power so their next attack causes more damage.
In terms of game play, it’s a tossup. The controls are easy enough to master, with scroll down menus for inventory and actions. The speed of the scroll is kind of slow. Combat will usually consist of casting magic or defending one turn then attacking the next. Essentially it plays much like Enix’s other famous game, Dragon Warrior; though like Dragon Warrior, it progresses at a snail’s pace and requires tons of leveling in order to move on. Death is not an easy factor in this game, and should the characters die in battle, the player will find them in the nearest town without half of their money.
That being said, this is undoubtedly one of the most difficult and frustrating games ever created. The 7th Saga is literally the hardest RPG ever made for SNES and arguably the hardest RPG game in existence. I was twelve years old when I bought the game. It took me almost a decade to beat it, and even then I had to use a Game Shark to accomplish that. Though the enemies technically wander the world, they tend to gravitate towards the character’s position, so it’s nearly impossible to dodge nonstop enemy encounters, especially in the dungeon type maps. Not only that, but if one chooses to have a partner join their characters (a feature that is absent for a good portion of the beginning of the game), the experience gained from monsters is halved, making it twice as long to level. The inventory is limited to only nine items of any one type, forcing players to have to restock items regularly between towns. Unlike other contemporary games of its time whereas the story progresses the party has an adequate amount of experience, equipment, and money to face the situations presented, this game almost forces the player into a leveling treadmill against some fairly difficult monsters in order to earn enough money or levels to progress. Combat with the other characters, an aspect that’s both optional and in some cases part of the storyline, is also aggravating since the other characters are not only on level when a fight starts, but in some cases more powerful. What’s worse is if they beat are victorious, they will steal whatever runes that are collected and cause the player to search every town to find and defeat them to regain the lost runes, despite the fact that the A.I. will use those own runes in the fight.
The game’s real shining quality is its graphics. There is no wandering the map. The screen breaks, and the team is transported to a battle screen; this game actually makes some monsters come out of the ground in front of the team when they encounter enemies. The enemies themselves are all original designs, each with combat animations that brings more life out of them. The characters also benefit from good graphics, even though their faces in battle are left unseen unless fighting only one. Nonetheless, one can see a lot of work put into the look of their outfits and battle animations. While the world map may seem kind of bland, the player will visit small towns, large castles, and even technologically advanced cities.
The sounds are nothing special. The 7th Saga does have some very good music, themed for battles, traveling, and visiting towns. There’s no variety between them, however, so things get repetitive after a while. The same goes for the sound effects. Many of the attacks and spells sound exactly alike, even though the attacks may be completely different things. The sound of a fireball spell being cast is the same sound used for a demon’s melee attack, for example.
Though it can be tedious and downright aggravating, if one has some time and is up for a challenge, The 7th Saga can shape up to be a very fun game. It was one of the few RPG games of its time that broke away from the Final Fantasy mold of RPG’s. It is certainly one of the rare games where one regularly faces off with the other protagonists of the story, almost like a reality-TV show. Story-wise it did bring out more of an entirely different kind of fantasy world than the typical Dungeons and Dragons-themed games with several well done twists and turns placed throughout the story. However, the game could have benefited more from character development beyond the background story for each character since outside of skills, each character progresses the game in the same manner. Overall this is a decent RPG, not too great, not too bad, but still memorable for those who played it. After all, being one of the hardest games ever makes The 7th Saga both rewarding and frustrating at the same time, allowing players who finished it to have bragging rights while giving players who gave up something to curse at for years to come.