Episode 125 unpacks the enigma of Final Fantasy Legend

This disguised trilogy of SaGa RPGs demands you approach it on its own terms... so we do.

Over the past year, we've been taking deep dives into the Final Fantasy series, game by game. It began last year with our Final Fantasy episode and continued with our exhaustive looks at Final Fantasy IV, Final Fantasy V, and The Final Fantasy Adventure (plus its sequel Secret of Mana). We largely glossed Final Fantasy II and III for Famicom, it's true, but we did circle back to FFIII for the FFV episode… and this week, we return to Final Fantasy II for one more in-depth exploration into the series before it hits its 30th birthday next month: The Final Fantasy Legend.

Despite the title, Final Fantasy Legend isn't really a Final Fantasy game. But, as we discuss in this episode, the spectre of Final Fantasy II and its quirky designer Akitoshi Kawazu loom large over the games. In Japan, The Final Fantasy Legend was called Makai Toushi Sa•Ga (which means, approximately, The Saga of the Warrior in the Demon World Tower), and all its sequels have carried forward the name Sa•Ga: Romancing Sa•Ga, Sa•Ga Frontier, Sa•Ga: Scarlet Grace, etc. Americans mostly know Sa•Ga from Sa•Ga Frontier, a game they probably picked up (as I did) thinking, "Oh cool, the next RPG from the people who created Final Fantasy VII." Which, I guess, is kind of true… but anyone expecting a Final Fantasy-like experience was sorely disappointed.

In truth, the two series have turned into very different creatures, connected only by a historic thread and the loose association that comes from both of them falling into the RPG genre. The seeds for Sa•Ga's unique journey were sown way back on Game Boy with the Final Fantasy Legend games. Final Fantasy Legend was the world's first-ever portable RPG, and the first handheld game ever to include a back-up battery to allow you save your progress anywhere outside of combat. It was also the first RPG that allowed you to eat the corpses of bosses so your cute monster pal could turn into a ferocious beast, so far as I know.

We explore all the weirdness of Sa•Ga in this episode, with the help of Shane Bettenhausen. The cover art above (which features chainsaws, bananas and/or heroin, broken weapons, and Zoidberg allies) only begins to touch on the basics… 

This isn't our last Final Fantasy deep dive, by the way. Please look forward to Final Fantasy VI and more in 2018.

MP3, 48.1 MB | 1:37:19
Direct download | Retronauts on iTunes Retronauts on Libsyn

Episode description: By patron request, we continue our Final Fantasy deep dive series by looking at a trilogy of RPGs that… aren't part of the series? The Final Fantasy Legend spun off from Final Fantasy II, but they became their own thing almost immediately. 

For reference, the games we specifically touch on this time around are: 

  • Final Fantasy II (Famicom)
  • The Final Fantasy Legend/Makai Toushi Sa•Ga
  • Final Fantasy Legend II/Sa•Ga 2/Sa•Ga 2: Goddess of Destiny
  • Final Fantasy Legend III/Sa•Ga 3/Sa•Ga 3: Shadow or Light
  • Final Fantasy Mystic Quest/Final Fantasy USA

The music in this episode comes entirely from the games listed above. 

Finally, thanks to Bobby Najari for supporting the show through our Patreon — the topic was his request as a topic-selection tier patron.