Well, I decided to start the adventure in Romancing SaGa 3!

When we start a new game, we get to choose between eight protagonists. They're divided into men and women for some reason.

And this time, we're going to choose Mikhail, the Marquis of Loanne. We're given the option to rename him if we want (the protagonist is the only character you can rename), but I'm going to leave him as Mikhail because I like that name.

After choosing and naming a character, you're prompted to choose one of five star signs for your protagonist to have been born under:

Jupiter, the Star of the Hunter
Mars, the Star of the Scholar
Saturn, the Star of the Noble
Venus, the Star of the Warrior
Dragon, the Star of the Merchant

To be honest, they don't translate very well.

But basically, each protag has a certain set of base stats, and then the star you choose will modify these.

In Mikhail's case, we're going to choose Venus, the Warrior Star. This will modify the stats this way:

HP +5
Strength +2
Skill -2
Speed -1
Endurance +2
Magic -1
Spirit +1
Charm +0

Other than Max HP, all of these stats will be permanent and can only be further modified by equipment (just like in SaGa SCARLET GRACE, if you've been reading that play diary.) And I'll get to what the stats do in a bit.

Next, we choose a weapon affinity for our protagonist. This further modifies the character's base stats, adjusts their starting weapon proficiencies, and selects their glimmer type. There are a bunch of different glimmer types in the game, and it basically makes your character better or worse at glimmering certain arts.

There are choices to cover all the available weapon types in the game: Sword, Broadsword, Axe, Club, Foil, Spear, Bow, Martial Arts, and Nothing. The "Nothing" option will focus on magic arts, rather than weapon arts, and unlike all of the other affinities, will let your character start with a magic art already learned, as well as some Jutsu Power.

After making all of these selections, you're shown what your final "build" of your character looks like, and you can decide to select again or continue the game and finalize your choices.

I'll go over what kinds of stats we have in this game, as they appear on the screenshot above.

At the top, we "Marquis of Loanne" and "Gender: Male."

Under that are physical defense (28) and magic defense (21). These are determined by equipment and do exactly what you expect them to do -- calculate and help prevent damage received from enemy attacks.

Below that we have HP (160) and LP (10). In this game, you start all battles with full HP, and getting knocked out (HP reduced to 0) or getting hit while knocked out will cause you to lose 1 LP. When a character loses all of their LP, they will die and be removed from the party. I think that the death is not 100% permanent in this game -- I think after a while, the character will re-appear, and if you're still able to recruit them, you can recruit them again. But they'll at least be gone for a while. You can recover LP at inns.

Below that, we have Waza Power (28) and Jutsu Power (0). You consume these points to use waza (weapon arts and martial arts) or jutsu (magic arts). The reason I refer to them as Waza and Jutsu is because they will be shortened both in this play diary and in the game to WP and JP. These can be recovered outside of battle with items or by staying at an inn, and you can't use your arts if you don't have enough Power for them.

Below that, along the left, are the base stats that do not change over the course of the game, but can be modified with equipment. The names for these I'm using are the ones used in UNLIMITED:Saga's English version, though for stats that don't exist there, I'm using a literal translation. There is a fan translation for this game and it uses different names but I'm not sure what they are.

Strength (20) governs your ability to use strength-based weapons (most weapons in the game) as well as martial arts.
Skill (12) governs your ability to use skill-based weapons, which as far as I know, includes only foil and bow. It also affects accuracy of most arts.
Speed (19) determines initiative order in battles and affects accuracy and evasion.
Endurance (22) governs your ability to withstand damage in general.
Magic (14) governs your prowess with magic arts.
Spirit (21) governs your resistance to and ability to inflict status ailments, other than 'charmed.'
Charm (16) governs only resistance to and ability to inflict the 'charmed' ailment.

To the right are the character's current weapon proficiency levels. Unlike the static stats above, these will rise over the course of the game as you use the weapons. Characters have hidden growth rates for these.

There are not proficiencies for every last weapon, so some get lumped into groups. The five weapon proficiency stats are:

Sword/Broadsword (2)
Axe/Club (3)
Spear/Foil (7)
Bow (2)
Martial Arts (1)

The higher the weapon proficiency level, the more damage you will do with weapons of those types, and the easier it will be to glimmer weapon arts of those types.

And with those explanations out of the way, we'll accept this build we've created for Mikhail and start the game.

Our game begins at a Loanne encampment where Mikhail is overseeing a monster suppression mission.

One of Mikhail's soldiers reports that nothing seems wrong, and Mikhail decides, since a storm is coming, that tonight everyone should rest as much as possible, since the monsters will be hiding, afraid of the lightning.

We're then taken to a scene of Princess Monica, Mikhail's younger sister, riding a horse through the woods. The horse suddenly stops moving, and Monica begs for it to continue running, but it will not continue. She dismounts and walks away from the horse as it begins to rain.

She turns around many times to check on the horse, clearly not wanting to leave it behind. But she also seems in a hurry to get somewhere else.

Eventually, she runs away, and then the screen pans over to show a small village visible beyond the trees.

The next day, a soldier notifies that Mikhail that Princess Monica has appeared to see him. He's quite shocked to receive her company, and she is followed by five strangers. Mikhail asks what she could possibly be doing all the way out here, and Monica urgently informs him that Baron Godwin is planning a coup.

Mikhail understands why such news would bring her as far as this, and asks her about the party behind her. Monica tells him that the five of them escorted her the rest of the way on her journey from Shinon to the encampment.

Mikhail laments that he has no way to reward the five for their help, but tells them once they've returned to Loanne and fought Godwin, he will be sure to reward them. Before that, though, since there's no need for them to get mixed up in the war at Loanne, he asks the group to do one more favor for him -- to escort Princess Monica to the nearby town of Podorle (I'm completely guessing on this spelling) to ensure her safety.

Julian, one of the Shinon group, is surprised that Mikhail wants to send his sister to the home of a vampire, but Mikhail assures them that Count Leonid will be able to protect them. Of course, they can't let Leonid drink Monica's blood or anything like that.

As they are about to set off to Podorle, Mikhail stops them, noticing something about one of them. He asks the man at the end of the line opposite Julian if he may be Tornado.

The man response that there are people who might call him by that name.

Mikhail changes his request so that the other four will still escort Monica, but he would rather the great Tornado fight alongside him against Godwin. Harid, the man called Tornado, agrees as long as there's something in it for him.

Later, Mikhail sees Monica off and says they'll meet again when she returns to Loanne.

After she leaves, Harid suggests the possibility of sending more protection with Monica, but Mikhail responds that doing so is not part of the plan, which shocks Harid.

Mikhail continues that he had already known that Baron Godwin and his lackeys were planning a coup since his father's death, and he intentionally left with only the minimum amount of soldiers to fight Godwin, or else they would not have planned to stage their coup at the time. His goal was to manipulate them into uprising, then return and kill the entire group all at once.

We return to the camp, where a strategy meeting is underway. A solider reports that there are two factions we're up against -- the main force led by Godwin himself, and the frontline force led by General Radom. Another soldier seems surprised that Godwin's reach extends as far as Radom, but another says it can't be helped, since Radom's wife is Godwin's daughter.

Harid asks if this Radom person is a good general, and Mikhail responds that he is -- he's a man who hates disorderliness(?), and even his subordinates like him. But let's not let the fact that we're fighting Radom turn this into a painful battle.

Another soldier rushes into the tent with a report: Godwin seems to have enticed a hoard of goblins to invade. A soldier curses Godwin for conspiring even with monsters. Mikhail decides that they will fight off the goblins, too. A soldier objects, as fighting the goblins will interfere with their plans to fight Godwin. Mikhail states that he is the Marquis of Loanne, and he cannot allow the goblins into his land.

Harid says he heard rumors that the new Marquis of Loanne was wise, and it seems those rumors were true.

Mikhail apologizes to Harid for troubling him, and tells him there's no need for him to put his life on the line. Harid says he's definitely getting his reward after this, which amuses Mikhail.

After the scene has finished, we finally have control of Mikhail, so I save the game, quit, and load the game again. There is a glitch in the game so that the glimmer type you select at the beginning will not come into effect until after you have loaded your game from your save file. Instead, you'll have that character's default glimmer type. This can be abused a little bit, but I'm fine with having the Martial Arts glimmer type right away.

I also do a bit of shuffling around the characters' equipment. The only controllable characters we have are Mikhail and Harid. I took a scroll (a consumable item that has a magical effect in battle) from Mikhail and gave it to Harid, and took the Longspear from Harid and gave it to Mikhail. I also dumped Mikhail's Estoc in favor of an additional potion. He's still holding the Life Cane that he came with, which will surely prove helpful. Unlike UNLIMITED:Saga, we don't get a bunch of random equipment to start here, even though you'd think we'd have a variety of equipment on hand in this kind of circumstance. Instead, we just have a few potions.

Unlike a lot of games, potions must be equipped to be used -- the party can't access the inventory during battle, so only the items you have equipped to your character are usable. And they don't equip a whole stack -- you have to equip individual potions. Characters have four equipment slots, though, which means you can even have four weapons if you want to.

We're in a little mountain clearing or something, and we the only thing we can really do here is have Mikhail talk with the soldiers. When we talk to them, we're given the option of starting our attack, preparing for the attack, or hearing information.

Opting for information, the soldier tells us that our enemy is the goblin band who have 4000 troops, while we have 2000 troops. I guess we're outnumbered!

Going to the 'preparation' option shows this menu. There's a section for formations and a section for commands, and we can view them. It's possible to move the commands around, but it doesn't seem to do anything. I think that it is possible to learn new formations and commands and swap them around here or something. I don't really know because I've never played a character who uses this system.

When we choose to start the fight, we're taken to the army battle screen. This is not what normal battles are like in the game, but a special kind of battle system only available in a couple of the stories.

Basically, the two armies will try to push each other off the opposite sides of the screen. If you successfully force the opponent to the other side, you win the fight. You can issue commands to change what kind of action your army is performing at the time, and this affects your morale gauge at the bottom, as well as how you square up against the enemies.

It's... hard to really understand how to perform well since most of it is just them bumping into each other, and you don't really have that many options to control them...

The goblins shoved us off the side. Whenever a unit makes it to their enemy's side, they say "OK" lol. I'm not really sure what this does but I'm guessing it boosts morale or something.

This results in a Game Over, so we have to load from that save from before. Good thing we did that!

If you manage to hold out long enough in the fight against the goblins, some reinforcements come, and this really helps a lot. It makes us evenly matched with the goblins.

The battle just... kind of ends. I really don't understand why. But then there's this weird ... note? From Radom, saying something about working with the goblins. I can't really understand it because it's written really strangely.

We return to the encampment, and it seems that Radom had sent the reinforcements, and he doesn't really want to help Godwin. He asks to atone for helping in the conspiracy, and Mikhail thanks him for his help.

During the army battles, you can press the A button to issue commands. The list of commands appears and you can choose from a few things, like an all-out attack that boosts morale but has no defense, or a defense position that lowers morale. There's also this special attack where all your units will hop around and recover a bunch of morale at once, and the enemy will lose a bunch of morale. But you can only use it once per battle.

The formations seem important, too. But I don't really understand what helps in what way, because nothing is really explained that much. It took a few tries, but I finally defeated Godwin's army.

We arrive back in Loanne, and Mikhail says that the only thing left is to face Godwin himself.

He says "let's move!" and then all the soldiers just start running around randomly. It's really funny. I think they're supposed to be looking for Godwin or something, but it just looks really ridiculous. If you try talking to them, they'll just say stuff like "Wah! Where's the enemy?!"

There are a couple stray goblins wandering around town, so now we can see what the normal battles are like!

There are a lot of similar aspects to other SaGa games, so hopefully this all seems familiar now if you've been following my other play diaries.

Before each round of combat, you choose an action for each member of your party. Unlike the other games I'm playing right now, you don't get to divide up your actions in various ways; here, you have to choose one action per character.

Each character's actions are divided into sections, and you can press left and right to move between different sections. Each piece of equipment gets its own section -- weapons will have all of the weapon arts you have equipped for that type of weapon available in their section, as well as a generic attack option for that weapon. Items like potions will just be their own section. So you can choose between a wide variety of options. The information in the top right corner tells you how much WP or JP the art will consume, and how much you have left.

Between each round of combat, you get a little preview of everyone's HP and LP. You can also see this during command selection by pressing... X or Y. One of them. I forget.

Like other SaGa games, of course, in this game, you learn new weapon arts through glimmers, which is a random event that can occur during battle where you'll use the new weapon art instead of the one you selected.

But there's a bit more to the glimmer and arts system in this game that is very interesting. During the first battle, Mikhail glimmered Leg Sweep, a spear art that can stun opponents.

And at the end of battles, your characters may 'master' a weapon art that they used during that battle. Mikhail also happened to master this art in the same battle.

And since Mikhail has now mastered Leg Sweep...

Harid can use it, too!

In this game, a mastered weapon art can be taught to any character, not just the one who glimmered it. But at the same time, characters can only have eight total weapon arts or evasion arts equipped at one time.

But once an art has been mastered, you have it forever, even if you dismiss the character who mastered it or have no one equip it for a while.

Weapon arts you have glimmered but have not mastered will be red in this list, and can only be used by the character who glimmered them. If you unequip a red weapon art, it can't be retrieved other than hopefully glimmering it again. Sometimes you may desperately want to equip eight particular weapon arts, so you might need to throw away a newly-glimmered one to make room...

I really love the way the glimmer system works in this game, and it's especially nice so you don't have to bother glimmering certain useful things on every character, or trying to get two characters to glimmer a very rare art. Of course, mastering rare arts can take forever, too...

We enter the castle, which is flooded with guard dogs running everywhere, and are met by Katalina, Monica's lady's maid and bodyguard, and the protector of the Masquerade, a treasure of the Holy Emperor that now belongs to Loanne.

Mikhail introduces Harid as Tornado, and Katalina seems relieved. She warns Mikhail that Godwin is in the throne room, and the three band together to face him.

At this point, I accidentally pressed the X button to open the menu, which is a pretty common menu button. The problem is, this game has really weird controls. The select button is the menu button, and the X button is... an automatically-teleport-out-of-where-you-are button. I'm not kidding. So we were placed outside of the castle.

Normally this only works in 'safe' areas -- you can't teleport out of dungeons or whatever. But since the castle is intended to be a safe area normally, I guess they didn't think to disable this function during this segment...

So all the dogs respawned and we had to fight them again...

Fortunately, though, Katalina glimmered Feint, which is a foil art that can stun the opponent.

Approaching the throne, we find not Godwin, but some kind of demon. Mikhail starts demanding answers from the demon, but then decides the first order should be to remove it from the throne. The demon gives the stereotypical "you really think you can beat me?" type boss enemy response.

The demon is actually pretty tough. I took this screencap just to show how the characters like yell out their art names before using them, like they're from a kids' anime or something. I think the real reason that the weapon art is stunning the demon is not because of Katalina's technique with her foil, but because the demon is confused as to why she just shouts out "FEINT!" before attacking him.

The Life Cane that Mikhail had equipped proved to be very useful -- it can attack like a normal club weapon, but it also has a special art called Power Heal which lets you smack your friends in the face, and then they sparkle and regain HP. There are several weapons with special weapon arts tied to the weapons themselves like this, and you can use them as long as you have that weapon equipped, but you can't use them with other weapons, even of the same type. Sometimes you have to glimmer the special art, though.

This thing had an attack that would knock everyone around the screen and do a lot of damage to them at once (they're not dead in the screencap, just fallen over lol)

But thanks to Feint, we were able to stun it quite a bit. Mikhail also has pretty good defense. I probably should have changed the party formation so the demon would focus on Katalina less, but I got lucky and it mostly attacked Mikhail anyway.

After defeating it, before it disappeared, it said "Amazing..." to Harid.

After battle, you can get boosts to your stats based on your actions:

Max HP - always has a chance of rising
Max WP/JP - can rise if you use weapon arts (WP) or magic arts (JP)
Proficiencies - can rise if you use corresponding weapon or magic school

You only have to issue the command, even if that character doesn't act (because you defeat all the enemies before they get the chance); if you issued a command to use, for example, a magic art, they could get JP up, or that school of magic proficiency could raise.

After defeating the demon, we cut to a scene of Monica rewarding and thanking everyone who helped out.

We cut again to a few days later, and Mikhail asks Harid what he plans to do. He says he's going to try going to the Tomb of the Holy Emperor in Lance.

Katalina arrives with her hair cut, wearing adventuring garb. Monica rushes to her in worry, asking why she's looking like that. Katalina confesses that she has lost the Masquerade, and is going on a quest to retrieve it. Mikhail says she is banished from Loanne until she has the Masquerade once more. Monica says that it's too harsh, but Katalina accepts gracefully.

After Katalina leaves, Mikhail calls Julian to the throne room, and asks him to become Monica's bodyguard in Katalina's stead. He's reluctant to accept at first, stumbling over polite speech and thinking he's unworthy, but accepts in the end when Monica asks him herself.

And with that, we regain control of Mikhail again, now a one-man party. Even though only a few battles transpired, I feel like a lot happened in just this opening sequence. There are still many more interesting aspects to this game, and lots of fun characters and stuff, so I hope you'll continue to read this play diary, and I hope you enjoyed the first one~!