Romancing SaGa – Minstrel Song – Remastered – Review
Follow Genre: JRPG
Developer: Square Enix
Publisher: Square Enix
Platform: Switch, PC, PS4, PS5
Tested on: Switch

Romancing SaGa – Minstrel Song – Remastered – Review

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Good: Revolutionary approach to non-linear storytelling
Bad: Certain gameplay elements haven't aged well
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Rating: 9.0/10 (1 vote cast)

Almost two years ago, we took a look at Collection of SaGa: Final Fantasy Legend on the Switch, which bundled Square Enix’s first three SaGa games together in a handy package. If you’ve been eager to return to the SaGa universe since then, you’ll be happy to hear that the fourth game in the series has made the jump to modern platforms as well. Coming to us in the form of Romancing SaGa – Minstrel Song- Remastered, this re-release of the classic Super Nintendo game is decidedly more ambitious than the simple Game Boy ports of its predecessors. With Romancing SaGa 2 and Romancing Saga 3 already available on modern platforms for several years, this release definitely felt overdue. Now that it’s finally here, how does it hold up?


Taking a non-linear and choice-driven narrative approach, Minstrel Song presents players with no less than eight distinct protagonists, each bringing their own story to the world of Mardias. Whether it’s an unscrupulous pirate, an angsty orphan, or a powerful sorceress, there’s bound to be a character who you can identify with. Their individual stories all lead up to the same climatic ending, and major narrative events are present across the individual characters’ timelines, even if there is no real linear way to tackle the story due to the sheer amount of freedom of exploration present here. Because Minstrel Song is told through the lens of your chosen character, key narrative events are experienced in different ways over multiple playthroughs. The titular Minstrel ties everything together, as he acts as somewhat of a narrator, telling the story of each of our heroes and how their individual actions are tied together in a larger world. To fully grasp Minstrel Song’s narrative means playing through the game at least eight times. This does mean that the story is difficult to grasp and fully explain, especially because the game has so many extensive side quests and sub-stories to keep track of. The best way to experience the narrative is to simply play through the game yourself.


Prior to this remastered release, the most recent version of Minstrel Song’s visuals dated back to 2005. We’ve come a long way since then, of course, and Square Enix definitely put in the effort to make the game look the part. The game sticks close to its original art direction, but character models have been updated to look smoother and environments are vivid and filled with detail. Granted, the game still looks like a PS2 title, but a very polished one in terms of visual presentation. It’s hard to dismiss the similarities with the Bravely Default series, as there is a lot of shared aesthetic DNA. That said, not all is well when it comes to Minstrel Song in terms of graphical presentation. We should mention here that one of the most frustrating things about Minstrel Song is that the game relies on a fixed camera rather than one you can control yourself. We get this from a technical standpoint, as it’s likely that a free-floating camera would require completely rebuilding the game from the ground up rather than using a pre-existing release as the foundation. We eventually got used to this, but the fixed camera really highlighted the game’s age.


With the word minstrel in the title, it probably shouldn’t come as a surprise that music plays a very important part in the game. The game’s soundtrack is a delight, spanning a wide variety of tunes befitting of the various situations you encounter: traveling the countryside is accompanied by relaxing tunes that remind one of summer, whereas venturing deep into a cavern fills your ears with music that evokes a sense of mystery. The highlight here are the various boss themes, which really get the adrenaline flowing. The voice acting doesn’t rank up there with the music, sadly, as it often felt flat and lifeless.


Another niche classic from Square Enix’s vaults, Minstrel Song’s history dates back to 1992 when the JRPG title made its debut in Japan. Western audiences would have to wait until 2005 before they could play it for the first time when it was remade for the PS2. It’s that remake that forms the basis for this 2022 edition of the game. Naturally, the game comes with most of the bells and whistles that you’d expect for a release of this caliber, unlike the underwhelming port of Chrono Cross, but it also doesn’t reach the same heights that the Live A Live remake did. Before we dive into the QoL enhancements that are meant to carry Minstrel Song into 2022, however, let’s take a step back and take a look at what the game itself is like in terms of gameplay.

What you’re getting here is one of the earliest examples of a fully-fledged open-world JRPG. Your main objective is to play through the main story, of course, but there are a plethora of side quests to take on, characters to recruit to your budding party, and monsters to deal with in turn-based combat. The combat system feels unique as it isn’t built around grinding for experience points, but around improving how skilled a character is with the equipment it is given. At the end of a battle, stat attributes are randomly increased instead. In addition, using a particular weapon more often will unlock new weapon-specific skills. However, weapons also have durability points, so you can’t just spam willy-nilly and you’ll need to think carefully about using those skills. Given that this is essentially a thirty-year-old game, it’s almost mind-blowing to see how innovative and revolutionary some of Minstrel Song’s ideas were. A lot of emphasis is put on making the world feel open and giving players agency. Choices feel like they matter and side quests have consequences. Those side quests are often lengthy affairs too and can range from having a character escape after being kidnapped or looking for a pirate’s lost treasure to saving a race of lizardmen from extinction. The world truly is your playground here.

We already mentioned those shiny visual updates, but there is more to this release than a simple coat of digital paint of course. Apart from the obvious nostalgia factor, players returning from the PS2 release can look forward to a new playable character in the form of the sorceress Aldora, as well as a new dungeon to explore. Other enhancements include new recruitable party members, a New Game+ mode that carries over progress to subsequent playthroughs, an improved interface with a mini-map, and a much-needed fast-forward button that helps alleviate the combat grind.

While we appreciate these changes and the additional content, we weren’t entirely satisfied with Minstrel Song, however. There is a good chance that you’re going to need to look up a walkthrough for the game, as the game isn’t exactly helpful in telling players where to go or what to do next. While we’re not fans of forced hand-holding, the sheer vagueness of some of the hints can get annoying and we found ourselves having to deal with a lot of backtracking in order to advance a quest where we missed a vital clue early on. Tackling side quests is a necessary evil too: as we mentioned before, combat prowess is tied to weapon skills, and having better versions of those weapons translates into more powerful characters. Side quests are often your main source of better equipment. Given that the main story often throws players a curveball when it comes to difficulty spikes, it becomes necessary to grind out side quests in order to progress through the main game. At times, Minstrel Song feels like a needlessly slow grindfest, and this all ties back to game design choices inherent to that original 1992 release.

Ultimately, Minstrel Song’s gameplay stands the test of time but this has more to do with how ahead of its time it was in concept rather than in how things were executed. Even thirty years later, it’s impressive to see how well the game handles concepts like freedom and the consequence of choice. The game’s unique non-linear structure doesn’t just embrace the idea of multiple playthroughs, but it encourages this by carrying over content to its New Game+, allowing you to complete specific adventures over more than one run. Playing through the story once will take upwards of 30 hours, and although subsequent runs are going to be much shorter thanks to that New Game+ mode, you’re still looking at a game whose total runtime rivals that of Xenoblade Chronicles.


We feel like we’ve only barely scratched Minstrel Song’s surface, both in terms of reviewing it and in terms of having actually played the game. It’s easy to see why this is such a beloved classic and it definitely warrants a look if you’re a fan of JRPGs or open-world games. There are definitely areas where the game is showing its age, with its slow pace, fixed camera, and obtuse explanation of mechanics, but if you can look past these issues, then the world of Mardias truly is your oyster.

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Romancing SaGa - Minstrel Song - Remastered - Review, 9.0 out of 10 based on 1 rating

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  1. […] Digital Deluxe edition comes with 27 extra tracks and Season Pass 1 with songs from the series SaGa, LIVE A LIVE, The World Ends with You and NieR. This complete set has a total of 442 […]

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