Romancing Saga Minstrel Song Remastered review – the original Octopath

In our Romancing Saga Minstrel Song Remastered review, we explore a lovely remaster with handy quality-of-life improvements – an excellent history lesson

Romancing Saga Minstrel Song Remastered review: a man with a stringed instrument and cowboy hat holds an orb in a celestial setting.

Romancing Saga is old. Romancing Saga Minstrel Song Remastered is brand new. But, this remaster of the 2005 remake of the 1992 original threads a line straight through the heart of the series – and therefore through JRPG history itself – in a way that feels like a vital history lesson made easy by an affable teacher.

This is hilarious, as I recently wrote up my Tactics Ogre: Reborn review – a game that is a remaster of a 2010 remake of the 1995 original. Different genres, same throughline. So, now I feel like I’ve been sitting in history lessons for months. And I’ve found much to love in exploring classics rejuvenated in HD.

Romancing Saga Minstrel Song has eight characters, each with individual prologues, who crossover in meaningful ways through a sprawling narrative that it’s impossible to see all of without multiple playthroughs. (Due to some tricky embargo timing, I could not complete multiple playthroughs, but I did play every prologue and followed through with Albert’s storyline for a few more hours, too).

These eight points of view then funnel into the main storyline to recover a bunch of MacGuffins and defeat a god. This is classic RPG fare, nothing too special, but there’s a little bit of extra magic imbued thanks to the multiple angles and crossovers in individual narratives.

Romancing Saga Minstrel Song Remastered review: a bonde woman next to a blonde man talking to a king sat on a throne.

As well as the swelling narratives, numerous sidequests add an extra layer of complexity. These quests are often only available for a limited amount of time, with a metre ticking up depending on how much you do. This is your event rank, and you don’t want it above ER2 before completing a character’s prologue if you’re trying to see everything.

This limitation poses a struggle – for my first four characters’ prologues I went without a guide, and my characters were well past ER2. For my next four, I used a guide, and still, my characters sneaked just over that threshold. There are improvements for this remaster, but that nebulous event rank metre is still hard to wrangle.

Romancing Saga Minstrel Song Remastered review: a fire breathing dragon in front of a blonde woman.

Luckily, many old-fashioned aspects have been tweaked to make life easier. You have a mini-map, new classes, and a double-speed option that lets you fly through everything at lightning speed (and it all looks a little ridiculous in the process). The user interface is also reworked, and it is incredibly easy to navigate.

The main attraction here is the HD visual upgrade, which is good, if revealing of some strangenesses. Everything is crisp and legible, but the character designs can look a little amusing. I personally love the big heads and shoulders of all of them, but chunky pirates and elegant dancers both look like they’ve been swimming daily since the age of six.

Romancing Saga Minstrel Song Remastered review: a handful of people stood in front of a palace, a woman with red hair saying "the king sure is nice,isnt he?"

The voice acting, however, fails to have a similarly clumsy charm. Every character talks like a cartoon character I’d be obsessed with if I was six years old, and this rarely feels like it fits. Even worse, I couldn’t find a way to have Japanese voice acting with English subtitles. I could change the language to Japanese, but then all the menus are in Japanese too, and I don’t read Japanese.

Still, every character has different elements that make them feel unique – one may sail the open seas in their prologue, while another may not have much of a prologue at all – which then blends with different gameplay elements, too. This uniqueness capitulates a little after the prologue, and the combat’s complexities fade into the background quite quickly.

Romancing Saga Minstrel Song Remastered review: a bear stood in the woods, looking direcctly at the camera.

Still, Minstrel Song makes up for its light story with mechanics. Strangely, one of the easiest-to-understand mechanics is the battle system. Characters improve and learn new skills by battling, and there are different ability points you gain and lose by using various skills.

In general, avoiding battles at the start is the main aim, so as to not increase your event rank too far. And, in doing only the bosses I need to progress, I found little in the way of nuanced challenges. I either win or I don’t, and losing a battle rarely feels like it was my fault. This isn’t to say things are simple. Rather, where you need to go next can be a mite confusing, and trial and error was often the solution I chose when I wasn’t sure where the story wanted to take me.

Romancing Saga Minstrel Song Remastered review: A large wooden pirate ship in a harbour.

This navigational confusion leads to nice discoveries, however. While at first aimless wandering, wondering where the next story beat is, can be a little frustrating for those accustomed to quest logs and littered icons, it starts to feel natural and helps you discover a lot more in the process.

In fact, Minstrel Song’s biggest selling point might be its world. There’s a dynamism in the way things can be missed and found, and any completionist absolutely must use a guide, though this may limit the joy of discovery that wide-eyed wandering brings.

Romancing Saga Minstrel Song Remastered review: a woman with a horned hat stands in snowy tundra littered by bodies and other people looking over them.

So, with all the ups and downs a 20-year-old RPG brings to a modern game player, the only two ways to think of Romancing Saga Minstrel Song Remastered is either as a history lesson or as a nostalgic walk down memory lane – but this time with your glasses on.

For me, it’s a history lesson. One which threads a line through a classic JRPG series in a unique way. And it’s a reasonably priced history lesson, too, well worth a look for anyone who loves this sorta stuff.

With its influence felt in Octopath Traveler alongside its numerous JRPG tropes that it feels like the game might have invented given its age, Romancing Saga Minstrel Song Remastered is a beautiful experience. It just doesn’t feel like it reaches beyond a journey of discovery – it never really wowed me. And that’s fine.

Romancing Saga Minstrel Song Remastered review

Romancing Saga Minstrel Song Remastered is a simple yet welcome rejuvenation of a classic JRPG. With no dramatic overhauls, just some additional content and quality-of-life improvements, it’s still a stroll through the past, but one that’s easy to access, priced reasonably, and packed with stuff to do. It never feels essential, but it’s still a lovely time.