Most of the people I associate with personally already know this game and a fair bit about it. But, I’m going to talk about it anyway, because I streamed it right here, on Bottom Tier! Go check it out because it was a fun time. Honest. Okay! Enix, back before they merged/were bought out/etc by Squaresoft, produced some of the hardest goddamn roleplaying games to ever exist. You know, Dragon Quest/Warrior. But there was a game that we received for the SNES that was harder even than the original Dragon Quest titles on the NES. It wasn’t supposed to be difficult quite like this though. Elnard was a game that came to the US shores as “The 7th Saga”. I don’t really get the title, even after beating it with most of the cast. I figure it just had something to do with the Runes you collect in the game, but honestly, it’s probably just some gibberish to sell carts. At any rate, you play as one of eight characters, each with their own strengths, weaknesses, stats, spells, equipable gear, et cetera. They all stand out in their own way. For example, the Tetsujin [Tetujin in the game, likely due to character restrictions] Lux Tizer cannot equip but one or two pieces of gear the whole game. You know, because he’s a giant robot man. And Wilme Pelin is an Alien creature who craves power. He hits like a bus, has incredible speed/hp, but can only wield one weapon and one suit of armor in the whole game.
Admittedly, the SNES version, RE: 7th Saga is not so balanced. The majority of the cast feels about the same, other than what they wield/cast, and their stat growth is appalling. It might not seem that way right out of the gate, but… I tend to die at level 2, on every character I play in 7th Saga. It seems like once I hit level 2, everything hits me harder, at least for that level. As you level, you gain appropriate stats, gain gold for new gear, and learn new spells. You’ll probably feel pretty tough til you meet the other apprentices. Yes, you can team up with one other person from the main cast! But depending on who you are, they have a high/low chance of pairing with you. If you chose the demon, Lejes Rimul as your character, you have an incredibly low chance of being partnered with Valsu Saizer, the Priest with the best healing in the game. He also has Elixir, a spell that fully restores HP/MP. You read that right. You can pair with him, but it’s hard as hell. So why do I say you’ll feel weak? Some of them will challenge you to a fight, and at one point in the story, you have almost no choice but to fight a Rogue Apprentice. One of the others will be working for a mysterious power who wants you dead. Nobody ever says, but I think it’s Gorsia, or King Lemele. [Kenny suggested this too, in stream] Once you start acquiring runes though, some of them attack you immediately if you talk to them! Spoiler warning: They have three times your stats or so. No matter how much you level or work, they’ll be stronger.
There were some errors in the port of Elnard into 7th Saga, and as a result, our stat growth is horrible, and the other apprentices, as a result, are far superior to you in every way. This leads some players to make weird choices once they’ve played through once or twice. A fine example is going through to Patrof with no ally, and trying to team up with whoever has the Star Rune in said town. There are lots of little things that change depending on who you are playing as well. Some things get easier for certain characters, but that’s not what we’re here to talk about. I realize though I’ve used the word Rune a few times. I should probably explain. The goal is to acquire the Runes scattered throughout the land, for they wield immense power. Everyone has their own goals when they attain them too. Many of them have useful in-game powers too. Wind Rune teleports you town to town, Water Rune is a heal, Star Rune doubles your defense, et cetera. If you lose a fight to an Apprentice though, you lose all your runes, and have to fight them to get them back. They can, and will pilfer your hard work, making you have to work even harder. There is a patch online for the Elnard Stat Growth and Magical Bug fixes, but we aren’t supposed to condone that kind of thing. It does make the game easy, almost too easy, until… about the second or third rune, when magic really starts hurting and you have to spend some time leveling. Until then I didn’t have to grind at all for the Elnard Stats update.
Though I genuinely hate that the endings aren’t really that different [save a few], and the null-magic areas, and some plot points later really drive me batty, this was a sincerely challenging, new take on the turn-based RPG. Enemies constantly hunt you on the overworld [you can see them as white dots on an orb on the screen that shows towns, towns with runes in them, chests, etc], and they track you instead of vice-versa. It has a weird gimmick where if you defend, then attack, you deal double damage. It has secrets, a top-down to behind-the-character view, a sort of alignment system for character interaction, so who you play actually matters. Fighting the other apprentices is cool, but incredibly stressful, considering how powerful they are on the American cart. It’s almost worth getting the Elnard cart if you can read Japanese, to experience a version of this game that… won’t make you lose your hair. It’s hard to make an RPG these days, or even back then, that was unique, that stood out among the crowd. This without a doubt did. It was difficult, special, and despite horrific stat issues and a painfully bad translation [welcome to 90s RPGs everyone!], 7th Saga was special beyond words. If you haven’t played it, shame.