What’s in a Name?
Developed by Square Enix and Akatasuki, Romancing SaGa Re;univerSe presents the latest in a series of turn-based RPGs that spans nearly 30 years. Set after the events of Romancing SaGa 3, a mechanic called Graves links the worlds of prior titles. This allows heroes from previous games to enter Re;univerSe and join your party. While this provides a nice bit of fan service for long-time players of the series, newcomers can still somewhat easily enjoy this latest installment.
I say “somewhat easily enjoy” because Re;univerSe suffers from the same affliction as many gacha games: an overabundance of options, modes, events, stores, upgrades, currencies and characters that will leave many players, old and new, confused and perhaps not enjoying themselves very much.
All SaGa games have had a plethora of characters to choose from. It’s kind of a hallmark of the series. Choosing the right character at the right time would affect the gameplay and even how the story unfolded. So it didn’t entirely surprise me to see that mechanic carried over to this latest iteration. I was, however, instantly overwhelmed to realize that there were not just 30 characters to pick from, but over 200 and counting.
So I did what any savvy gamer would do. I selected 20, based on the stringent criteria of their rarity level and whether I liked their character art, and ignored the rest. This decision undoubtedly made the game harder because I perhaps didn’t have the most well-rounded party. But it was the only way to keep my sanity.
Romancing SaGa Re;univerSe, despite having a nonsensical title and an excessive number of playable characters, is not all bad. I’d say it’s one of the better gacha RPGs I’ve played in a while. It has more than its fair share of shortcomings, but an inexplicable fun factor balances those out. Bewildered as I was by the lack of a clear story or goal, and even a little bored by the tedium of endlessly farming for loot and currency, I still kept logging on for more punishment. The gacha force is strong with this one. You feel driven to accumulate new gear, build your characters’ stats, and acquire more gold to buy items whose uses you don’t fully understand. It’s a puzzle, really.
It’s Not All Bad
Re;univerSe features tried and true game mechanics such as various battle formations that affect who enemies target first, which party members remain safely out of range, et cetera. The standard strategy of using appropriate attacks, such as wielding ice magic against enemies weak to it, makes a non-innovative appearance and forms the centerpiece of the game’s combat system.
However, the developers have introduced an interesting twist that enables characters to acquire new skills and level up old ones randomly during combat. This adds an aspect of luck and eliminates the skill tree or sphere traditionally used to teach characters abilities in RPGs. And although I didn’t quite figure out when or how it works, party members can combo their attacks to deal extra damage. I saw no real pattern to when it happened and, again, it just seemed up to chance. But it was satisfying to slam death upon the head of a tough boss who up until then was kicking my butt.
The art style of the game is a fusion of old and new. Re;univerSe really targets that nostalgic button for old-school players who remember the days of 16-bit JRPGs. The pixelated character sprites are highly reminiscent of that aesthetic, while the backdrops are high-res current gen. It’s an amalgamation that works and successfully brings the feeling of playing a console game to your handheld device. Add to that a truly impressive soundtrack composed by Kenji Ito—who worked on the Mana series and previous SaGa games alongside Nobuo Uematsu—and the game begins to stand out from the gacha RPG crowd. You will definitely want to play with the volume up.
But It’s Not All Good Either
The developers have pointed out that the game has been designed to not be pay-to-win. According to them, you don’t need to buy loot boxes or spend a lot of money to enjoy Re;univerSe. This is somewhat true. In the early stages of the game, you’ll have more gems and gold than you know what to do with. Because the game just came out, players are being gifted with a lot of goodies via pre-registration awards and launch events. This may give gamers a false impression of how easy it will be to play for free.
Inevitably, as you progress through the game, engaging in battle will cost more stamina, leveling up characters will require more tokens and gold, and upgrading armor and weapons will eat up more of your resources. I haven’t advanced super far into the game, but I can already see it happening. While I won’t have to buy anything to continue playing, my momentum will be slowed and I’ll have more downtime. What turns me off most is that some items can only be purchased using Paid Jewels, i.e. currency that you’ve bought with real money. Is that a deal breaker? No. But I do find it kind of shady and unattractive.
Ultimately, Romancing SaGa Re;univerSe is a cut above the rest of the gacha RPGs currently available. It offers a unique art style, stellar soundtrack, and attempts to do away with unnecessary money grabs. At the same time, it’s bogged down with too many options, a confusing storyline and menu system, and game mechanics that require a foray onto YouTube to puzzle them out.
Is It Hardcore?
I guess so.
While its unpleasant mechanics will turn some people away, Romancing SaGa Re;univerSe has what it takes to hold your attention.