Monday, 31 March 2014

My 4th Favourite Video Game of All Time

SaGa 2 (a.k.a. Final Fantasy Legend 2) (GameBoy – 1990)

My 4th favourite video game of all time is one that’s not hugely well known. It’s an RPG that was released on the GameBoy in the early 90’s, although I didn’t play it until its re-release in the late 90’s.

In the West the game was released as Final Fantasy Legend 2, although it’s not really a Final Fantasy game. It’s actually the second game in the SaGa series, which is a separate series to the Final Fantasy series. When it came to releasing the game in the West it was rebranded as a Final Fantasy game due to the popularity of Final Fantasy in the West, but it is firmly a SaGa game.

It’s been many years since I’ve played the game – I’ve only ever played through it once – and so I’ve largely forgotten most of the plot. But it still features highly on my list of favourite video games as I can still remember how the plot, and therefore the gameplay, was structured. And this was something different which I haven’t seen before or since in a video game.

I’ve likened this structure as being similar to that in the Chronicles of Narnia novel The Voyage of the Dawn Treader. In that, the characters travel from place to place, and, as a reader, we never know what to expect at each location. Every location is different, and for me this made the story interesting and gave it energy. SaGa 2 is also like this.

The game is split into a number of worlds, which are all connected by a Celestial World. Only once you’ve completed a number of tasks in one world can you then move on to the next world. And, as with the locations in The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, each of these worlds was different, and you just didn’t know what to expect next. When playing through the game it was always exciting when reaching a new world to see just what that new world was going to be like.

(I once employed a similar plot structure in my novel “The Eiffel Tower”, which saw my characters going to very different worlds and having to complete different tasks in each one...)

The first three SaGa games were all for the GameBoy, and I bought all three at the same time. SaGa 2 was by far the best of the three (SaGa 1 was OK, but SaGa 3 was a huge disappointment). Since then there have been SaGa games on the SNES, PSOne, and PS2, and I’ve only played two of the later games in the series (SaGa Frontier 2 on the PSOne, and a brief part of Unlimited SaGa on the PS2). But the later games just aren’t the same as the earlier ones – SaGa 2 really is a highlight of the series. They’re currently aren’t any further games planned for the series, but if Square Enix ever do go back to it, I hope they reflect the gameplay and plot structure of SaGa 2...

Join me again next week when I reveal my 3rd favourite video game of all time, a game which was also rebranded when it was released in the West, but where this rebranding caught on in Japan...

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