Square Enix’s Akitoshi Kawazu, director of the SaGa series, says he doesn’t want to go back to Final Fantasy. He hopes to bring more SaGa games to the West. And, believe it or not, that jarring ending to Blue’s campaign in SaGa Frontier was totally intentional.
In 2016, Square released a mobile remake of Romancing SaGa 2, a 1993 role-playing game for the Super Nintendo and the fifth game in Kawazu’s quirky series. Last Friday, Square brought the remake to modern consoles (including Switch), and to celebrate the occasion, the company offered me an e-mail interview with Kawazu. I sent over a bunch of questions about the game, his plans for the series, and my obsession with SaGa Frontier, a game that is wonderful, maddening, and almost certainly unfinished.
Here’s the whole Q&A:
Interview has been lightly edited for clarity.
Jason Schreier: To readers who might not be familiar with Romancing SaGa 2, can you talk a little bit about the game and why you think people should check it out on these new platforms?
Akitoshi Kawazu: The main character is the Emperor. The enemies that need to be defeated are the Seven Heroes. They were once heroes but now, they are different. That said, they are powerful beings, so much as to have once been called heroes, and defeating these enemies is no easy feat for the main character. That’s when the Emperor discovers a way that enables the succession of his own abilities across generations.
Romancing SaGa 2 is a story about the conflict between the Seven Heroes and the Emperors across several generations. The game was created over 20 years ago, but to this day, it still stands as a title that upholds a unique mechanic with no comparable RPGs in existence. It’s finally available on current gaming devices, and furthermore, it can be played in English, so we would love to see everyone attempt to take on this challenge.
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Schreier: There’s been a lot of focus on Romancing SaGa 2, both with the iOS/Android ports last year and now these new ports - why did the team choose to focus on that game specifically?
Kawazu: We focused on this title because we determined there is value in playing this particular game in modern times due to its unique game mechanics. Furthermore, an English version hadn’t been developed for gaming consoles yet, so that became another reason for taking on this project. We wanted as many players as possible to have an opportunity to experience this game.
Schreier: SaGa Scarlet Grace never made it to the West - do you plan to ever bring it here?
Kawazu: I would like to make this decision after monitoring the situation of Romancing SaGa 2 in the overseas market. Of course, I would like to if I could.
Schreier: Similarly, in Japan, Square released DS remakes of SaGa 2 and SaGa 3 but never released them here. Are there any plans to release those remakes in the West? Are there plans to remaster any other SaGa games？
Kawazu: It happened to be a time in which it was extremely difficult to determine whether the games should be released overseas or not, and we unfortunately had to forgo the overseas release. As the latest releases for both titles were on the DS, there are high hurdles to realizing such a project since the games would need to be rearranged to fit the current landscape of single screen gaming devices. That said, we are hoping to continue bringing titles from the SaGa series to a wider audience—I don’t know when this will be, but I would love to tackle those projects.
Schreier: Remakes of classic games like Romancing Saga 2 are great to see, but unlike Japanese gamers, we in the West don’t have the option of legitimately playing these games as they originally appeared. Have you considered localizing original versions of those games?
Kawazu: The latest version of Romancing SaGa 2 also implements modes that are very close to those in the original. Of course, we wouldn’t be able to make it exactly the same as the SNES version, but we feel everyone should be able to get a grasp of the overall feel of the game.
Schreier: I have many fond memories about SaGa Frontier, and I really enjoyed that game, but it’s also infamous for having parts that seem to be unfinished. For example, Blue’s scenario ends in the middle of the final boss, simply by saying “The End.” Also, parts of the game like Fuse’s scenario were reportedly cut from the game. What happened during development?
Kawazu: The final boss battle in Blue’s scenario is complete as it currently stands. That’s the way we envisioned it when we created the game. The Blue versus Rouge sequence is the true last battle, and anything thereafter merely serves as an epilogue. Additionally, the Fuse scenario and other events/dungeons that were cut did exist. Unfortunately, we had to forgo implementation due to the size of the CD-ROM and the timing of release.
Schreier: Would you ever consider remaking SaGa Frontier with the content that was cut from the game?
Kawazu: Of course I’d like to, but I’m not sure if god would keep me alive until the day it can be realized.
Schreier: Do you ever want to return to Final Fantasy? If you could make a new Final Fantasy game, what would it look like?
Kawazu: If there is ever a time when no one is around to develop Final Fantasy, then I feel like I would have no choice but to work on it. That said, it would be best if a situation like that never occurs, and it is also highly unlikely to occur. As such, there’s no need to think about what it would look like.
Schreier: How do you feel about Legend of Legacy and The Alliance Alive, games that are sort of spiritual successors to the SaGa series?
Kawazu: It’s easier to play games (rather than creating them), so should more games along the lines of what I’m thinking get released, all I’d have to do is play those games every day. But, that day has yet to arrive.
Schreier: Would you like to give any sort of message to SaGa fans in the West?
Kawazu: We have finally been able to release Romancing Saga 2 on gaming devices for the West. Whether you’re a passionate fan who struggled to play the Japanese version, or a player who will be experiencing SaGa for the first time, how you enjoy the game is completely up to you, so I hope you’ll thoroughly experience the various aspects of the game. We plan on continuing to release titles overseas in the future, so we hope you look forward in anticipation.