Remember Enix? It was Square’s main console RPG competitor before they merged to form Square Enix. It was probably best known for Dragon Quest games. Here we have a forgotten RPG from that same company. It has many qualities but is rendered so-so by its extreme difficulty.
Plot: 6 out of 10
Pretty generic. Our story involves seven characters, one of whom you pick, who have been trained by King Lemele for five years. The game opens with Lemele sending all seven students out into the world to find seven runes. The one who finds them all will rule the world.
So basically, it’s a rehashing of something that really didn’t always work in the Final Fantasy series. The concept of all-powerful magic items is kinda cool but it’s got its problems. Firstly, there’s the question of where the protagonist would be without these things. Second, why didn’t the whoever who had the runes last do more with them?
Still, the story does redeem itself with the different motivation of each of the seven characters you have to choose from. Not much, though. Your character choice doesn’t impact the ending enough for that.
Graphics: 4 out of 10
The graphics of the 7th Saga can be described in one word: gimmicky. This game makes full use of the SNES’ Mode 7 graphics. That’s a fancy item to describe advanced (for the time) rotating and scaling that the SNES perfected in games like Pilotwings and Star Fox. This is used especially effectively in battles, where there is the sort of face-to-face staredowns that were otherwise unheard of in this era.
Beyond this trick, though, there’s not much to write home about. Everything is rather basic and of limited variety. Backgrounds also repeat themselves a lot. Finally, there’s a problem both Enix and Square always had: they’ve never been good at doing faces. The character designs in this game often even lack mouths.
Sound: 7 out of 10
The music is certainly the high point of this game. The music is very solid and memorable. The same can’t be said for the sound effects. They’re not bad but They’re not particularly good. They’re simply generic effects.
Gameplay: 8 out of 10
Those who have played the Dragon Quest games will find themselves on familiar ground. You begin by choosing a character. He begins at the first level and has some level grinding to do. You can also find treasures in chests. Some items are hidden in pots or underground and can only be found with the Search command.
Dungeons and the outside world are easier to find your way through than some other RPGs. This is because you have a map that shows you nearby locations outside and treasures in dungeons. It’s very convenient.
On a number of occasions, you’ll find another of the seven in a town. Talking to this character will get you conversation, an offer to join up (this doesn’t happen if you already have two people), or a really tough fight.
Challenge: 3 out of 10
The biggest problem by far with this game is the difficulty. You see, the opposition is overpoweringly hard. The normal enemies are actually only moderately challenging, but the bosses are exceptionally difficult. They hit hard, boost their stats, and use magic that can kill you very quickly. You better be at full strength before you take one of them on.
Which would be perfectly fine, except that your attacks don’t hit much more than half the time. And not just your physical attack but your spells as well. That’s just wrong. Who thought handicapping the player like that was a good idea?
It gets better. Your attacks strengthen if you Defend. This wastes a turn but halves the physical damage you take for a turn and increases the damage you inflict the next time. In fact, you have to do this a lot after a while. The problem is that you’ll often end up wasting lots of turns because, as noted, you miss a lot.
Difficulty is one thing, but combining it with a handicap is just too much. Who would really suggest climbing a mountain with a disabled limb?
Overall: 5 out of 10
If the difficulty were fair, this game would actually be quite acceptable. I frown on giving a game low marks based on high difficulty unless absolutely necessary. But if being stuck with unqualified characters doesn’t count, what does?