Interview: what can you expect from SaGa Emerald Beyond?

Want to learn more about SaGa Emerald Beyond? SaGa franchise creator Akitoshi Kawazu and Localization Director Neil Broadley reveal all about the upcoming new RPG.
By Duncan Heaney

SaGa Emerald Beyond is aptly named because it’s shaping up to be a real gem of an RPG.

It’s a game that hands the player incredible control over the narrative - the adventure will change dramatically depending on the protagonist you pick, the worlds you visit and the choices you make. All this means two different players can have wildly different experiences.

In short, it’s an exciting and ambitious new project - not to mention the perfect starting point for new players to experience this revered franchise.

We recently got a chance to speak with Akitoshi Kawazu – General Director of the SaGa franchise, and the Director of this new game - and Neil Broadley, Localization Director of the SaGa franchise about this compelling new game.

Read on for the interview:

What makes SaGa games different to other RPGs?

Akitoshi Kawazu (General Director for SaGa / Director, SaGa Emerald Beyond): The fun of RPGs lies in the collaboration between a player taking on a role and whoever is drawing that out, be it a human game master or through a piece of software. Together, they create a singular experience.

I think one of the defining elements of the SaGa franchise is how it always keeps this in mind. It encourages the player to take the lead and proactively participate in the creation of their own enjoyment within the game.

SaGa Emerald Beyond is a bold and ambitious new game for the series. What were your inspirations when you started development?

Kawazu: We wanted to create an experience where the user interface, game world, and game mechanics were all intimately connected.

That was our starting point, and it led us to the creation of our protagonists - who can see the emerald vision - the waves of light that present paths to possible fates - and face adversity head on.

What makes the game a great starting point for players new to the SaGa series?

Neil Broadley (Localization Director): For those interested in narrative, character development, and learning about the various worlds, SaGa Emerald Beyond features a return of the free-form scenario system with more different branching paths to explore than we’ve ever put in a SaGa game!

The world building rewards you for digging deeper into the story across multiple playthroughs, and with each foray you make you’ll learn a little bit more about each world’s problems, key character development, and more. If you like delving into the “whys” and “hows” of the worlds - shaped by your own individual choices, no less - you’ll find SaGa Emerald Beyond to be an incredibly rich experience.

Kawazu: It’s the culmination of 35 years of the SaGa franchise and has something for everyone - whether you’re a lore hound or a battle afficionado!

There are multiple protagonists, each with their own stories for you to guide and discover. How did you create these fascinating heroes?

Kawazu: We had the idea that the protagonists would have been born with the innate ability to see the emerald vision - that was the starting point. But I’d also been wanting to tell a story that draws more heavily from ancient and classical Japanese concepts of fantasy narratives.

And so, somewhat unusually for me, I created Tsunanori Mido, the more “Japanese” protagonist first. From there, I expanded out and tried to think of other protagonists who would bring something different to the table.

Broadley: Each protagonist has their own reasons for their journey, but the worlds they visit, and what happens in them, are left for you to discover. You will arrange the pieces of the puzzle as you see fit and no two people are going to come out of SaGa Emerald Beyond with the same experience.

This is true of most SaGa titles, but SaGa Emerald Beyond really ups the ante with how divergent one player’s experience will be from others’ playthroughs.

It must be challenging to write a story that changes and adapts based on the character, world you visit, choices you make, etc…

Kawazu: Actually that’s the most enjoyable part, so I didn’t find it particularly difficult.

Each protagonist has a different motivation for setting out on their adventure, but the one thing I’m conscious of at all times is to guide the narrative in such a way that any situation can be approached in a positive way

Even so, how do you account for all the many different scenarios and possibilities that players may encounter?

Kawazu: One way is by making the story of each world completely independent from one another. I’ve constructed a narrative system where there shouldn’t be any issues, as long as the storylines of each protagonist are controlled well.

The game experience will differ greatly between players, but it’s been created in a way that ensures that no matter what they do, the overarching scenario won’t break down.

What lessons have you learned from previous SaGa games that are being applied here?

Kawazu: In the previous game, SaGa SCARLET GRACE, we trimmed away the superfluous elements that you don’t need for a traditional roleplaying game. But, looking back, I feel like we perhaps went a bit too far, cutting some of the elements that people expect from a video game.

One of the challenges for SaGa Emerald Beyond was to make sure we were constructing the “roleplaying” elements on the top of a solid video game foundation.

Broadley: We’ve taken the Timeline Battle system that was universally lauded as one of the best things about SaGa SCARLET GRACE: AMBITIONS and iterated on it, providing even more options than before. By using abilities with different action point costs and speed ratings, you can manipulate the turn order to unleash devastating United Attacks and stop your foes from doing the same!

What can we expect from the game’s combat system?

Broadley: There’s a perception that turn-based combat is often “sluggish” and “samey”: attackers spam the same moves, you’ve got a healer, and maybe some buffs and debuffs that come up for one boss battle and are largely ignored the rest of the game. SaGa Emerald Beyond proves that turn-based combat can be very dynamic and diverse.

For example, in SaGa Emerald Beyond, the turn order changes from round to round and your available action points can fluctuate based on a number of user-controlled factors, you are heavily incentivized to adapt your tactics on the fly. What you did last turn just won’t work this turn. You won’t be spamming the same moves over and over, and you are rewarded for thinking two steps ahead.

If you’ve shied away from turn-based games because you think they’re a bit repetitive, you’ll find SaGa Emerald Beyond to be an eye-opener in just how strategic and tactical turn-based combat can be when done well!

If this game is successful, do you see it becoming the future of SaGa?

Kawazu: Videogames must always pursue new ways to be interesting and fun, so I don’t think you can just repeat the same thing - even if it is successful. Of course, as much as possible, I’d like to carry forward any aspects that are well-received by players.

Finally, what SaGa games would you recommend people play while they wait for SaGa Emerald Beyond to release?

Broadley: While all of the recent remasters and SaGa SCARLET GRACE: AMBITIONS are great entry points for new players, I’d personally recommend SaGa Frontier Remastered or Romancing SaGa -Minstrel Song- Remastered as two great entry points to whet your appetite as you wait for SaGa Emerald Beyond.

The games themselves have withstood the test of time - SaGa Frontier features a bevy of unique locales and protagonists that wildly shape how you experience the game, while Romancing SaGa -Minstrel Song- has a very cohesive world in which each protagonist is doing their best to forge their own path.  

If you prefer an experience that is diverse in all the best possible ways, SaGa Frontier Remastered will not lead you astray. If you prefer seeing a central tale from multiple different perspectives, then Romancing SaGa -Minstrel Song- Remastered will provide you with rich fabric from which you can weave a beautiful tapestry.

Both remasters also boast many quality-of-life improvements that make the games immensely enjoyable for modern audiences who don’t want to deal with the finicky-ness of 1990s and 2000s hardware limitations.

Many thanks to Akitoshi Kawazu and Neil Broadley for their time and their insight. SaGa Emerald Beyond launches in 2024 for Nintendo Switch, PS5, PS4, PC via STEAM, iOS and Android.

If you’d like to learn more about the SaGa series, be sure to check our full guide:

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