The Seven Wonders and the Legend of Iskandar
"The Seven Wonders" is a group of ancient structures shrouded in mystery. Legend has it that the powers of long-absent gods lie within and their release will trigger a rebirth of the Golden Age. The Seven Wonders are scattered across parched deserts, frigid tundra, harsh mountains, and raging seas -- all remnants of a time when evil forces ran amok. Some believe the legend; others dismiss it as a fairy tale -- still, adventurers strive to conquer the Seven Wonders and discover their long-entombed secrets.
In the complex mosaic of human history, Iskandar has been classified as a young conquering king, a legendary hero, a ruthless tyrant, and even a dragon's descendent. Conquering nearly half the known world, along with vast, unexplored territories, the crusades of Iskandar laid the groundwork for a newfound exchange of knowledge, people and commodities across the world.
Iskandar became a legend in his own time and is one of the most frequently researched figures in history. His existence, however, is nothing short of enigmatic. Iskandar's ultimate fate has been attributed to assassination, sickness, elopement, or even ascension. Others claim that he never existed at all. Some attribute his success to the legacy of the Seven Wonders.
The town that he founded, Iskandaria, is adjacent to Undercity Pharos, one of the Seven Wonders. Legend has it that his minions used both magic and supernatural weaponry.
The Festival of Regina Leone
After Iskandar's death, Lord Dixon continued to protect the land until he was eventually defeated in battle. He withdrew to his home, the Island of Elve, where he had built Iskandar's Mausoleum in tribute to his fallen lord. Due to local governmental concerns, the town was renamed Vaftom ("Protected Land"), and the mausoleum was frequently remodeled during the town's development. The final renovation brought the mausoleum to its current form. Lord Dixon died shortly after the work was complete. His casket was laid beside Iskandar's.
Two days after the elaborate funeral, Lord Dixon's widow, Regina Leone, climbed the mountainside behind the mausoleum and lit a memorial fire to send the spirit of her beloved husband on its way. The people of Vaftom saw the fire and were moved by the touching at. During Leone's lifetime, the memorial fires became a local custom, drawing many to Vaftom to see the event and leading to the town's prosperity. The festival continues to amaze year after year.
The rise of Iskandar's Knighthood kept the festival from falling into disarray. The Knighthood's seventh leader, Keith Lombardo, organized the festival in its modern-day form, officially titling it the Festival of Regina Leone.
The first day of the Festival begins early. The descendants of Lord Dixon, the feudal lords of the Island of Elve, conduct a worship service at Iskandar's Mausoleum. Prayers for the departed are offered throughout the morning. At noon, a bell signals a change in the Festival's atmosphere: merchant stalls spring up in the plaza and performers take to the streets. The morning's solemn attitude all but vanishes in an outburst of energy and excitement.
On the second day the festivities continue, the highlight being a series of offertory plays presented at the mausoleum. Both professional and amateur performers take part in the pays which range from historical dramas to contemporary comedies.
The third day serves as the grand finale. In the afternoon, merchants' stalls are cleared from the plaza and all make way for the early evening parade. Extravagantly designed floats parade through the town, beginning at the plaza in front of the mausoleum. At night, the excitement reaches its peak. The wealthy pilot their boats into the salt lake that borders Vaftom and enterprising townsfolk charge exorbitant fees for seats with a view of the parade. All of this activity ceases at midnight when the floats are put away and the lights are dimmed throughout Vaftom.
With the town encompassed in darkness, memorial fires appear one by one on the mountainside behind the town. Those who have lost their loved ones in the preceding year participate in the lighting of the fires. At the end, three memorial fires are lit behind the mausoleum. These are for Iskandar, Lord Dixon, and his wife, Regina. Everyone watches in quiet contemplation until the break of dawn.
It is at this festival where our seven adventurers' paths will cross...
Welcome to my play diary for UNLIMITED:Saga! This is the 9th game proper in Square-Enix's SaGa series, and one of my favorite games of all time, if not my number one. Sticking to the experimental nature of the series, and with the creative direction of Akitoshi Kawazu, we got a game that is certainly unique. With its unorthodox game systems, heavy emphasis on player-influenced random chance, board-game aesthetic, convoluted user interface, and handful of flaws that let you know the game was rushed, UNLIMTIED:Saga has quite a limited appeal. It often appears in 'Worst Games of All Time' lists and things like that, and has been a critical failure both from professional reviewers and fans alike. The game was slightly more well-received in Japan, probably due to the series itself being a bit more popular, but it still often is labeled as 'kusoge,' a mark meaning literally 'shit game' for games that are considered to be utter garbage.
And I'm not here to tell you that all these people are wrong and that this game unfairly received all this negativity. This game honestly has its share of shortcomings and is obviously left unfinished, with parts of the game being thrown together at the last second to make it complete. By most people's tastes and standards, this game is confusing, boring, poorly-designed, and almost unplayable. And I think most criticism of the game is accurate and well-deserved, and I definitely understand why people would not like this game.
But under that bitter and ugly crust, there is a unique game unlike any you've ever played before. The battle system is strategic and deep, with every choice the player makes having several impacts on the flow of the fight. The character growth system combines random chance with complex strategic descision-making without a lot of opportunity for raw grinding to make the party stronger. The Dungeons-and-Dragons-inspired board game mechanics offer a unique way to explore the world and make even walking around and opening treasure chests an exercise in critical thinking skills.
In addition to the high level of strategy and focus on making educated decisions, the game has an artistic side, as well. Towns, buildings, and all of the spaces on the various board game maps are accompanied by beautiful hand-painted sceneries and landscapes. With gorgeous character designs by Tomomi Kobayashi and Yusuke Naora, battle sprites are hand-drawn illustrations with tons of great frames to watch. The music is epic and moving, and personally what I would consider Masashi Hamauzu's magnum opus (though sadly, he's not as fond of it himself -- he says because the game was rushed, he didn't get to spend as much time on it as he would have liked, and so the soundtrack feels unfinished to him). The stories suffer from poor localization writing and a bit of missing information, but the world is built in a way that makes it feel alive and special in a game that is essentially nothing more than menus.
If the shortcomings of the game are enough to drive you away from being able to enjoy the unique beauty hidden beneath them, I perfectly understand that, and think it's quite reasonable. But for me, this game is a brilliant masterpiece, and I only wish that they could have spent more time on it to turn it into the vision it was meant to be. Though, knowing this series, it probably still would have been wonky and confusing, but still, I want more of it.
I originally picked up this game because I thought the box art looked neat when I went to get a preorder of Final Fantasy X-2. I knew almost nothing about it, and had only vaguely heard of the SaGa series before. Taking the game home and excitedly putting it into my PS2, I instantly hated it and regretted my purchase. I spent about two years like this randomly popping the disc back into the system and trying again, because... just... look at that art! And the music! I really felt like there was something to this game I just wasn't getting. But every time, I got frustrated at the horrible interface and unexplained game systems that didn't seem to make sense coming from games like Final Fantasy.
Until one day, it just kind of ... clicked. I wrapped my head around the game systems when I realized they were more like a text adventure game but with buttons instead of written commands, and I paid closer attention to all the systems to see if I could understand them better. Suddenly, with knowledge of how to actually control and play the game, I found that I was making all kinds of interesting decisions and exploring an exciting world full of surprise and adventure. After that, I was pretty hooked on the game, enough to end up trying out all the rest of the games in the series, and now I can't imagine another game ever stealing away the love I have for UNLIMITED:Saga.
There are seven scenarios to choose at the beginning of the game (after a gorgeous intro sequence), and each one has its own little unique traits and a different story following one of seven different adventurers as their fates ultimately lead them to the Seven Wonders. While each character has their own story events to play through and a unique cast of recruitable characters for the player's party, all of the optional questing is the same between every story, so there is a lot of overlap between scenarios as far as content goes. Not every character has access to every location and subadventure, but after playing a few scenarios, you'll likely be seeing a lot of things over and over again. But you'll have a different party, arrive at them at a different point in the game, and have different available abilities among your party, making the experiences possibly quite unique nonetheless.
For this play diary, I'm going to play through all seven scenarios and try to highlight some of the more interesting shared content between them while focusing on the unqiue stories and systems each character's quest has to offer. Since this diary is meant to share my experience with the game in full, spoilers will not be marked.
To start reading a certain character's scenario, click on their face below the logo at the top of the page. They are ordered from left to right in the order I played through and wrote them for this diary. Or, if you'd rather choose a chapter specifically, here is a list of every entry in the diary:
- Ruby's Scenario
- Here, Kitty, Kitty... ~ Cave of the Undead
- Travels with Iskandar 1~2
- Travels with Iskandar 3
- Travels with Iskandar 4
- Travels with Iskandar 5
- Ice Slab Sea
- Seven Wonders #1 Starship Anchor
- Seven Wonders #2 Nakle Lines
- The Festival of Regina Leone
- Seven Wonders #3 Flying Island
- Healer's Hills ~ Lumina Stone
- Seven Wonders #4 Two Moons Temple
- Subadventures Digest #1
- Seven Wonders #5 Deities' Table
- Seven Wonders #6 Undercity Pharos
- Subadventures Digest #2
- To Hanging Garden
- Mythe's Scenario
- To The Fortuneteller
- Bottom of the Old Well ~ Tiffon's Secret
- In Search of Grace
- The Road to Iskandaria
- Undercity Pharos ~ Salvage the Photo! ~ The Festival of Regina Leone
- Temple of Iskandar
- Vale of Swords
- Jade Forest
- Subadventures Digest #1 feat. Sunken City
- To Iskandar's Shrine... Again
- Subadventures Digest #2 feat. Mayor's Nightmare & Regal Lion's Treasures
- Subadventures Digest #3 feat. Titan's Flute
- Subadventures Digest #4 feat. Hanging Garden & Leith Torles's Tower
- For the Love of the Girl
- Kurt's Scenario
- The Depressed Carrier
- Vale of Swords ~ Big Ol' Rascals
- Jade Forest
- The Three Keys
- Monster Hunters ~ Fugar's Mansion
- Cemetery ~ Healer's Hills ~ Sunken City
- Waiting for the Shrine
- Subadventures Digest #1
- Subadventures Digest #2
- The Festival of Regina Leone
- Subadventures Digest #3
- To Starship Anchor / Jeanne's Challenge
- Armic's Scenario
- Off to Gather Some Herbs!
- Sparkling Waterfall
- Insect Extermination ~ Bottom of the Dry Well ~ Scared Knight
- Mayor's Nightmare ~ Monster Extermination ~ Regal Lion's Treasures
- Jade-Colored Adventure
- Cavern Adventure
- Lumina Stone ~ Abandoned Castle
- Mine Adventure ~ The Festival of Regina Leone
- Subadventures Digest #1 feat. Knights' Mausoleum
- Subadventures Digest #2 feat. Coliseum Ruins
- To the Flying Island
- Laura's Scenario
- The Road to Vaftom Part 1
- The Road to Vaftom Parts 2-4
- The Festival of Regina Leone ~ Return to Escata
- The Water Elemental Gear
- The Wood Elemental Gear
- The Earth Elemental Gear
- The Metal Elemental Gear
- Subadventures Digest feat. Secret Adventure
- Decisive Battle with Dagul Bos
- On Somebody's Trail
- Judy's Scenario
- Where's My Family?
- Save Ursula!
- Follow the Crystal Hoop ~ Bandits Are Attacking!
- That Familiar Big Back ~ The March to the Sea
- Ships Ahoy ~ The Festival of Regina Leone
- The Creepy Magic Tablet ~ Looking for Mom ~ I'm Coming For You, Mom!
- Save Grandpa!