SaGa Series Interview 2021 - Talking the current state and future potential of a renewed franchise

As I stated in my recent review for SaGa Frontier Remastered, the SaGa series is a favorite of mine, and I am here for whatever Square Enix decides to do with the franchise going forward. Seeing the series revitalized in recent years with several good-to-great re-releases, as well as one of the best RPGs of all time with SaGa Scarlet Grace: AmbitionsI'm very excited to experience what's next.

I had a chance, once again, to meet with Square Enix's SaGa team, including creator Akitoshi Kawazu and producers Masanori Ichikawa and Hiroyuki Miura. Our time to chat was limited, but there were a handful of things I wanted to get some input on straight from the mouth of the series' leads.

You can check out my discussion with these three below, which includes my previously reported comments about sales expectations and future hope to do more with the series.

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Adam Vitale, RPG Site: To start things off, we last spoke at E3 2019, when you announced English versions for Romancing SaGa 3 and SaGa Scarlet Grace: Ambitions. Since then, Square Enix has now released both of those games - for the first time in the West - plus the Collection of SaGa ports for Nintendo Switch, Saga Frontier Remastered, as well as the global release of the mobile game Romancing SaGa Re;univerSe - all within the two years. I was curious, what ultimately sparked this renewed interest in the SaGa series in recent years, not only to re-release SaGa titles but to bring some of them to the West for the first time?

Masanori Ichikawa: So first and foremost, thank you very much for interviewing us back in 2019 at E3, where we mostly talked about SaGa Scarlet Grace: Ambitions. But going back a year before that, in 2018, Romancing SaGa Re;univerSe was released in Japan, which, thankfully became a big hit. That wasn't necessarily the sole trigger for us to start releasing in the West, though, as we had already discussed plans to release more games overseas as well. It was really ‘one-step-at-a-time’ in trying to test out waters in the overseas market. We had originally released Romancing SaGa 2 first (in 2017), then Romancing SaGa 3, and after that SaGa Scarlet Grace: Ambitions.

But then after that, we were able to follow up with the mobile game, Romancing SaGa Re;univerSe, thankfully. And then, looking at Collection of SaGa and Saga Frontier Remastered, those titles had already released in the West originally. So of course, we felt like we definitely needed to release those again worldwide.

Looking back at these two years, I feel like the reason we have been able to push this series forward is largely because of Western fans that have voiced their opinions for a long time asking to have these games released in the West, especially the ones never released in English before. There have been many hardcore fans who have voiced their opinions over the years, just waiting patiently for us to finally release these games. So I talked with Kawazu-san telling him ‘You know, we definitely need to do something to address these voices that we're hearing.’ That is why we were ultimately able to release all these games, including titles like Romancing SaGa 3 and SaGa Scarlet Grace: Ambitions, which weren't originally released for the West, and have them localized into English for the first time.

RPG Site: How did the reception of both Saga Frontier Remastered and Collection of SaGa meet your expectations? I mean critically, commercially, or socially. Was there anything about the response to the games that surprised you or was unexpected?

Hiroyuki Miura: So first regarding Collection of SaGa: In terms of sales, it's actually a little bit above what we have forecasted, so it’s on a good path. In terms of reception for the content itself, this was a complete port of the original Game Boy titles, and in that sense, we feel that it aligns with what the users were envisioning and that it met the player’s expectations.

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And then for Saga Frontier Remastered: when we look at the sales so far, this is also above what we were forecasting. One thing that was especially unexpected was the number of Steam sales, which have been more than what we had forecasted, and there are more Steam players than we had anticipated. When comparing across the board, though, the Switch version has produced the most sales, which were a lot higher than what we had predicted.

Continuing with Saga Frontier Remastered, as for how the content was received from the users, we have received very favorable feedback and sentiment. One point that was definitely well received was the additional content added to the game, which has a lot of volume and seems to have been received well. Another point is the addition of several useful quality features that were added to the game, which were also received well from players. As for how we approached remastering the game, we tried to leverage the gameplay sentiment of the original and try to preserve that in this remastered version. I feel like we did that successfully, which is one reason why it's been received well from the fans.

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RPG Site: Romancing SaGa Re;univerSe - the mobile game - seems to be a key focus of the SaGa brand going forward. Is that the case? How does it fit in with what are you hoping to achieve with the series going forward?

Masanori Ichikawa: It's been about one year since the global version of Romancing SaGa Re;univerSe was released. That being said, we have received some unexpected reactions from what we had originally anticipated, but it is great to hear the fan receptions directly. When we released the remastered Romancing SaGa 3 and SaGa Scarlet Grace: Ambitions, I wasn't fully able to kind of grasp and look into the fan sentiment back then. But with RomancingSaGa Re;univerSe, we do live streams for this title. So, I'm more able to grasp what fans are thinking directly through those live streams.

It's very helpful for us to take that in as feedback when we're thinking of strategy or tactics moving forward for the SaGa series as a whole. When we look at Romancing SaGa Re;univerSe, it is the only free-to-play game that we have for the series. So, as such, it is the most accessible of the series. Our hope is that this title becomes the ‘hub’, essentially, for the series itself, for people to start exploring, whether it'd be new titles or existing titles of the series. We're hoping that this game sort of serves as a trigger for people to get into the other titles of this series.

RPG Site: Localization is, of course, crucially important to releasing any media product into other languages. With SaGa specifically, is there anything about this series that needs special consideration when it comes to making these games and releasing them for a worldwide audience in other languages?

Akitoshi Kawazu: So back then we released Romancing SaGa 2 over in the West, the localization wasn't met with good reception, unfortunately. So with that, our takeaway was that we definitely need to be more careful with localization, and we then built a wholly new structure in this regard. We're trying to definitely be careful with each entry in the series. 

With SaGa Scarlet Grace: Ambitions, we partnered with 8-4 - our localization partner - and the English localization there was met with praise, so we feel we are definitely going in the right direction. I wouldn’t say that there is anything especially different about SaGa in our approach to localization that we are cognizant of when compared to other projects. That being said, Square Enix as a whole is very careful and tries to be meticulous as possible with our translation and localization. We will definitely keep moving in that direction.

Masanori Ichikawa: For SaGa, after we started working with 8-4, we've built a glossary of terms that we've been using for the series. So with our work with 8-4, we've been able to build that glossary with which we can reference across the board for our various titles, and that’ll definitely help us going forward.

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RPG Site: I do agree that 8-4’s work in localization is often excellent and that the Scarlet Grace localization is also excellent!

For my last question, in the launch stream event for Saga Frontier Remastered, Kawazu-san broadly made mention that the team would also like to re-release the remaining games in the series that haven't ported yet, which would include SaGa Frontier 2, Unlimited SaGa, as well as the original Romancing SaGa. I understand if you cannot say much about this at the moment, but for any or each of those games, what are you considering in terms of possibly re-releasing those?

As an example, Unlimited SaGa is has a reputation for being nearly impenetrable to play, and very difficult to figure out. Would you consider making it more approachable if you were to re-release it? As a second example, there are two different versions of Romancing SaGa - the Super Famicom version and PS2 remake. What considerations for any of those games will you have to make?

Akitoshi Kawazu: This is a very difficult question, and as you mentioned, I can't go into many details. There are probably titles that we will need to really look into revamping the content before they can be re-released, such as Unlimited SaGa. For these titles, we definitely will need time to consider this, and of course, the development of such a remaster will take more time than usual as well. On the other hand, there might also be titles that we can more easily re-release right away, without the need to make too many adjustments to them. It really is like a case-by-case scenario, where we're looking at each title one by one. I'm afraid I can't go into details at this moment in time, but rest assured, that we are planning the remastering of these titles and making those considerations. Please stay tuned for when we are able to make those announcements.

RPG Site: Thank you for your time.

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