Video Game: Makai Toshi SaGa aka: Makai Toushi Sa Ga
The first game in the SaGa series, released in 1989 for the Game Boy. It was released in North America as The Final Fantasy Legend and received a remake on the WonderSwan Color in 2001. An English fan translation for the WonderSwan version can be found here.The tower at the center of the world is said to be connected to paradise. Long ago it was sealed off due to the hordes of monsters ushering from it. Dreaming of a life in paradise, many have challenged the secrets of the tower, but no one knows what became of them. A party of adventurers formed from humans, ESP-using mutants, and monsters now challenges The Tower. Their journey will take them through four worlds and pit them against Ashura and his four fiends.
This game contains examples of:
Abnormal Ammo: Rocks. Contrary to popular belief, that is an accurate translationnote They're called いわ in the original Japanese version, which does translate to "rock", and it's not a mistranslation of "rocket".
Artistic License - Economics: HP600 potions cost 5000GP, and will boost your max HP by a random amount from 5 to 20 points as long as your maximum HP is under 600. For that same price you could buy 50 HP200 potions which will still boost your maximum HP by one point apiece even if your maximum HP exceeds 200.
Blessed with Suck: Among the possibilities that can come up with Mutants for a new power is a vulnerability to an element (or all of them).
"Blind Idiot" Translation: It's not that bad, if a little stilted and lacking some of the subtleties of the original Japanese. But then you have items like "Balkan" (Vulcan) and "Catcraw" (Cat Claw). The ending credits are also completely missing from the NA version.
Something was definitely lost in translation during the final meeting with the Creator. For some reason, your character is offended at being offered exactly what s/he was expecting as a reward for having climbed the tower, and decide that punching out the offender is the only option.
It seems as though the characters took offense at not what was offered, but how. The Creator put a lot of people — and entire civilizations — through a lot of pain, only as a mere test for those who would climb the tower in the original NA release, and as entertainment in the remake (see For The Evulz below).
It's also a result of Nintendo of America's censorship policies at the time — they couldn't refer to the Creator as God, which stripped away the Rage Against the Heavens logic behind the final battle.
To someone more secular, it felt more like Meta Fiction: imagine if "the Creator" refers to the lead programmer of the little cartridge you're playing, and the characters scream, "You put us through all of that just for fun?Die, you bastard!"
Broken Bridge: The party must obtain the Sphere in each world to proceed further into the Tower.
Cain and Abel: The Sky World resistance leader has twin daughters. One is part of the resistance and the other works for Byak-ko. The latter is brought around by her sister's noble sacrifice.
The Cameo: Some graphics are reused from Final Fantasy I, such as the "Machine" miniboss, whose depiction matches WarMECH in the original Final Fantasy (in the Japanese versions of both games, this enemy is called "Death Machine"). Additionally, high-tier monsters include the Four Fiends from the same game (Kraken, Lich, Lilith, and Tiamat).
Contractual Boss Immunity: Subverted. Nearly every boss prior to the very endgame is susceptible to being instantly killed by petrification — and in the original Game Boy version, the final boss can be one-hit killed by a chainsaw due to a glitch.
Disc One Final Dungeon: Arguably, the whole Tower; Ashura seems by all accounts to be the final boss, but after you defeat him at the top of the Tower, your party falls back to Base Town and must enter a new version of the Tower that serves as the Very Definitely Final Dungeon.
Due to their rampant growth potential, mutants can easily become these without too much effort, as well. As for humans, it's not really possible to really cheese them too early on without some serious cash grinding.
Empty Room Psych: The game is loaded with these, to the point that players are usually surprised to actually occasionally find something in them.
Evil Chancellor: While the title is different, the disagreeable King Shield's steward definitely falls under this, as you return just after he kills the king.
Fantasy Counterpart Culture: The places you visit in the World of Ruins are based on their real-world counterparts in Tokyo. The town in the southwest is implied to be Shibuya. The skyscraper district is Shinjuku, though only mentioned by name in the original Japanese version. Ameyoko is a traditional-style shopping street just as it is portrayed in game. Akiba, where you can find the ROM, is a famous electronics district. Their locations on the map are roughly the same as in Real Life.
God: You've come at last. Congratulations. You are the first to complete this game. Char #1: Game? God: This game, with it's splendid story, which I created! Char #2: What do you mean? God: I had become bored with a peaceful world. So, I conjured Ashura. Char #4: What were you thinking! God: Ashura threw the world into chaos in a most entertaining way. But after that brief moment, he too, began to bore me. Char #3: And so, the game? God: Yes! Quite so!! I wanted a hero to strike down the devil! Leader: Everything that happened was part of the plot you wrote. God: You are quick to understand. There were many who could not become heroes and disappeared. I found it thrilling; the spectacle of tiny beings, burdened by their own mortal fate, desperately fighting to survive. I want to express my gratitude for moving me so! Whatever you desire, I will grant your wishes. Char #2: We didn't come through all that for your sake! How dare you treat us, and everybody, like toys! God: Is something wrong with that? I created all those things. Char #1: We are not 'things'! God: Picking a fight with God.... You are such persistently entertaining people! You intend to do this, no matter what? This is the destiny of every living thing.... Very well. Let the power of God be thoroughly burnt into your vision before you die!
Creator: Congratulations! I've been waiting for you. You are the first to finish the game. Char #1: Game? Creator: Yes, it's a game I created. Char #2: What do you mean? Creator: People did not know what courage and determination meant. So, I created Ashura to see what people would do. Char #4: You are crazy! Creator: Ashura tested all of you. Char #2: So it was a game? Creator: That's right. I wanted to see a hero defeat this evil. Char #1: We were all pieces of your design! Creator: You understand well. Many have failed the test, but it was refreshing to see courage in the face of danger. I want to reward you for your accomplishment. I will grant you a wish. Char #2: We didn't do it for a reward. Besides, you used us! Creator: What's wrong with that? I created everything. Char #1: We are not things! Creator: How amusing... You are trying to pick a fight with me! Are you sure? It's the destiny of mortals... Very well. Remember the greatness of my power!
The Guards Must Be Crazy: Tossing you into an unguarded jail without even bothering to strip you of your munitions (which by this point in the game should be rather copious) is par for the course, but extra bonus points for the fact that your daring jailbreak consists of nonchalantly bending the bars of your cell and strolling away as if nothing had happened.
We barely made it to this shelter. We've run out of food and water, so we won't last much longer. Ken and Yuki, forgive me for leaving you. Akira, take care of your brothers. Creator, please look after the children.
The last sentence is particularly hard-hitting, as the Creator created Asura, the threat they're fleeing from.
The dead children are still explicitly dead in the US release, which is surprising considering the sheer amount of censorship going on at the time.
Healing Spring: Scattered throughout the tower; they'll restore your HP. Sometimes subverted; some of them are fake and will do nothing. Also, once you get to Paradise, there is an orb there that will restore your HP.
Hopeless Boss Fight: Su-Zaku will randomly attack you on his world's overworld, but you can't defeat or even damage him until you assemble the machine to destroy his force field. (Technically, you can defeat him using the saw glitch, a character with the Revenge Sword and high HP, or by simply raising your stats enough to damage him in spite of his sky-high defense, but it doesn't affect anything - he'll keep appearing anyway.)
Karl Marx Hates Your Guts: And how! Selling a pristine weapon gets you half of its buying price. If the weapon is used, its value decreases exponentially with the number of uses. For example, a weapon with 49 remaining uses out of 50 sells for about 12% of its buying price.
Killed Off for Real: Jeanne and So-Cho. Can technically happen to any fallen party member aside from the protagonist, as you can have them replaced with new characters at the guild.
La Résistance: The Sky World has one of these against Byak-Ko, complete with (badly translated) French names.
Lethal Joke Character: The Darkrose has low agility and mana compared to other late-game monster forms, but it has an attack (called "Drink") that bypasses the enemy's defense stat, making it one of the few monsters that's able to significantly damage the final boss.
Locomotive Level: The final part of the World of Ruins. You walk through a subway train and fight Su-Zaku on the roof of it.
Luck-Based Mission: Mutants are essentially walking random number gods, far moreso in this game before the mechanics were somewhat refined in the sequel. Your game experience can very widely depending on how their growth pans out, and what you end up with can range anywhere from a Disc One Nuke to The Load.
Also, the final boss can randomly reset his hit point total to max whenever he wants. Needless to say, this can get annoying.
Money Sink: Characters who die in battle stay dead, unless they are resurrected at the Life House (one can be found in every town). Reviving a character is itself expensive, and this can compound if they keep dying and lose all of their hearts. To wit, every character starts with three hearts, and they lose one every time they die. Losing all of them means that the character will be completely unable to fight unless you purchase a heart for them. A single heart is one of the most expensive items to purchase in the game, and if your leading party member (who you chose at the beginning of the game) loses all of their hearts, then this can be problematic. This can be mitigated for your other party members by picking new ones at a guild, but every new party member you get starts off weaker compared to your party at the moment.
Never Say "Die": Averted, surprisingly for a Nintendo title of the time. Characters who lose all their HP are starkly put in 'dead' status. Not to mention the completely out of the blue roomful of explicitly dead children near the end of the game.
Nice Hat: One recurring character is identifiable solely by his incredibly awesome black silk hat.
Number of the Beast: Several monster types have 666 hit points maximum, including Boneking, Demoking, Tiamat, and some others.
Obvious Beta: The game engine had a lot of rough edges. One of the most annoying was that it didn't bother to notify you if your mutant gained or changed powers at the end of a battle, or if they gained max hit points or stats. Save Scumming becomes something of a requirement, especially in the late game, as each victory in battle runs you the risk of losing your fancy kill-beam attack. Fortunately, this is one of the many issues that were ironed out in the sequel.
Point of No Return: Paradise. There are no stairs to go back to the tower, though you can bypass this with a Door item, or a mutant with Teleport.
Save Scumming: The only surefire way to hold on to mutant abilities and get the most out of stat raising potions. The good news is that saving and reloading are both incredily fast and easy to do. The bad news is that there's only one save slot, which may lead to problems if you're not careful.
Shout-Out: The World of Ruins seems to be a reference to the "Neotokyo" genre, particularly to the film AKIRA. The game itself seems heavily inspired by the tabletop RPG Gamma World.
The in-game animation for the Saw weapon/ability in the WonderSwan remake, where it shows a vertical slash bisecting the target. This is a reference to the final boss's death animation, where he is bisected and splits apart.
Soft Reset: The inclusion of this feature is notable mainly because of the sheer amount of Save Scumming one tends to do in this game.
Stupid Sacrifice: When the party is stopped by a lethal energy barrier, So-Cho wades through the barrier and switches it off. Although there may not have been a better way, he certainly didn't give anyone a chance to think of one.
A Taste of Power: The King Sword can one-hit any enemy with a weakness, the King Armor provides +20 to defense and immunity to all elements, and the King Shield gives the whole party an elemental barrier. You get all of these in the first world, likely within the first half hour of the game. Of course, you don't get to keep them - to get the Black Sphere and enter the Tower you have to return them to the Statue of Hero.
What Measure Is a Non-Human?: Subverted. Glaringly non-human monsters (including, like, tigers and scorpions — not anthromorphic ones, mind, regular ones) are treated like ordinary humans and will wander around towns talking to you.