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Video Game / The 7th Saga

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This is one of the stories that will be talked about for generations to come.

The 7th Saga (known as Elnard in Japan) is an RPG for the SNES, released in 1993. It is known for one thing, and that is difficulty.

You choose your main character from one of seven apprentices: a fighter, a dwarf, an elf, an alien, a robot Tetujin, a priest, and a demon. Trained by the wise King Lemele, you must venture out into the oddly desolate world in search of seven Runes. Unfortunately, much of the story's flavor is lost in the English version no thanks to poor localization, translating its ambitious premise into dry Excuse Plot.

This game is notorious for the absolutely brutal difficulty and the nasty tricks it pulls on the player, most of which were exacerbated by Enix's bean-counting localization team. In an effort to pad out the length, they had a habit of jacking up the damage output and random encounters in their games, rendering some of them unplayable. The English version of 7th Saga is one of the biggest casualties of this approach. Blessedly, it was also one of the last.


A sort of spiritual successor, Mystic Ark, was released in Japan. Through the magic of console emulation, it has recently been made available to Western audiences via a fan-made English translation patch.

This work contains the following examples:

  • Absurdly High Level Cap: Level 78, when you can complete the game at level 60 (solo) or 45 (coupled with another apprentice)
    • The highest level for the player is level 81. However, reaching it requires getting 16,777,215 (2^24-1) Exp, while reaching level 80 only requires 1,352,192 Exp. That's not even the highest possible in the game though - when you get another character to join you, they will randomly be either the same level as you, 1 level below, or one level above, and this does not change if you are level 81. Thus, it is possible to have a level 82 partner.
  • A.I. Is a Crapshoot/Applied Phlebotinum: New rule: You do not power a giant supercomputer with pure evil.
    Nakar: Okay, Foma is not evil per se, but runs on evil. I guess they're siphoning the Dark World — you know the place where all the monsters and GORSIA come from — to power a computer. This is quite possibly the most idiotic thing anyone in any RPG has ever tried.
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  • All in a Row: The apprentice and the occasional non-fighting NPC guest will follow you thoroughly through the adventure
  • All There in the Manual: The descriptions of the characters' personalities, motivations, and backstories.
  • Antidote Effect: Averted. Even if both party members receive purify (or equivalent spell), these spells expend the limited magic that you have. There are also items that prevent status effects from landing if they're in your inventory.
  • Arbitrary Headcount Limit: Your "party" can hold a maximum of 2.
  • Armor and Magic Don't Mix: Esuna and Lejes, the two magic caster characters, cannot wear armor at all, being very frail to physical attacks
  • Battle Theme Music: Quite the memorable tunes.
  • Beat Them at Their Own Game: Most of the enemies that abuse deadly status effects are susceptible to them: use them yourself (if you have a magician/hybrid character) or hoard on "Magic Mirrors", them being pretty much "Reflect" from Final Fantasy for such kind of spells (do not reflect instant death)
  • Bilingual Bonus: "Tetujin", referring to the robots in the game, is actually a variant transliteration of the Japanese "Tetsujin", meaning "iron person".
  • Black and White Magic: Most of the characters can use either one, either the other, or a mix of both, or rather a unique set of spells
  • "Blind Idiot" Translation: The game's translation is usually pretty solid, if dull. But the part where Pison later takes the name Red Pison makes much more sense if his Japanese name, "Paison", were translated as "Python".
    • Some shopkeepers, however, mess it up VERY bad. There are two kinds of shopkeepers, each with their own dialogue. One type asks the same confirmation whether you are buying or selling- "I will buy [Item] for [amount of Gold]". Repeat- he will say that even if you are buying FROM him.
  • Boss in Mook's Clothing: Sages when you first meet them are especially deadly, especially in groups of three. Silver Brains, and the B.Nights are also quite deadly until you gain several levels. Also, Tricks. Boss Music even plays during their battles, but they are far from unique.
  • Bounty Hunter: Pison.
  • Camera Lock-On: While fighting, you have to select an enemy and the camera locks on him
  • Canon Name: Each apprentice has one, just don't input any name when selecting a character at the start of the game.
  • Cataclysm Backstory: Half an eon later and the world is still limping away from Gorsia's destruction.
  • Chest Monster: These also qualify as Paranoia Fuel. You never know when a chest in a dungeon is going to yield a nice item, or a monster that will kill you outright in 1-3 rounds. The first one you meet will kill you unless you know exactly how to handle it (and you will need a defense-up item just to stand a chance). So will the second, and the third. Oh yes, and after you've become strong enough to handle them, the game introduces red ones, and then once you can stand up to those, blue ones. This last variety actually use boss music. Oddly enough, the blue ones still come early enough in the game that you will eventually become strong enough to eat them for breakfast, and while there's actually a stronger variety present in the game's files, it never actually appears in-game for some reason.
  • Chronic Backstabbing Disorder: When you get certain Runes, there's a chance that your ally will betray you and try to take the Runes from you by force. Lejes is the ally which is most likely to betray you, while Esuna and Lux never will. This can be avoided by having your character die in the battle where you get the Runes, since your ally betraying you would leave you at zero health and without anyone else in your party. Despite all the game's cruelty, it won't let that happen.
  • Combat Medic: Valsu, with heavy emphasis on 'medic'.
  • Critical Hit: Critical hits will either make or disrupt a match
  • Cruelty Is the Only Option: You are forced to kill a witch that just kidnapped kids to make them play happily together, because she lost her own child unfairly, to receive a required plot-advancing contrivance
  • Cruel Twist Ending: After getting tricked by Gorsia-disguised-as-Lemele and zapped 5,000 years into the past, you successfully track down and finally defeat Gorsia for good, but he also kills you as a final act of revenge. On behalf of Saro's gratitude, your soul is reincarnated 4,900 years a baby Lemele. Who, as revealed in the mid-game plot twist, will be assassinated by Gorsia just before the game's prologue, locking the player character in a Stable Time Loop. Ouch.
  • Crystal Dragon Jesus: Due to Nintendo's censorship policy at the time, the game' dialogue really dances around the issue, but Saro is meant to be God (or his equivalent) with Gorsia being his Crystal Dragon Satan counterpart. This makes Lemele and, by extension, the player character into a literal Crystal Dragon Jesus.
  • Difficulty by Region: Due to developer carelessness in the US and EU versions, you get smaller bonuses upon levelup, and the game was not rebalanced accordingly. (Naturally there are fan-created patches that fix this.) It's entirely possible for some characters to die on the very first monster they encounter. The amount of level grinding needed to get anywhere borders on the obscene with certain characters. But the game caps your level just a little too soon so you're never quite the level you need to be. Equipment is also overpriced and underpowered. Monsters regularly thrown nasty status effects and instant death attacks at you. It's the hardest RPG on the SNES without question.
  • Disc-One Final Dungeon: The cave where you fight Gariso.
  • Duel Boss: Even if you have a second party member, whenever you fight one of the other apprentices, you have to do it alone. (Sometimes, if your main character is dead, they'll be willing to duel your ally instead of you.)
  • An Economy Is You: No food, no house utilities: what is sold is just what you specifically need
  • Early Game Hell: You're under-equipped and the crows are lethal. Oh, and those crows are the second-weakest enemy in the game.
  • Enemy-Detecting Radar: The first RPG to have one, making random encounters only semi-random, has one; if flaired enough, you can skip a lot of them by zig-zagging through them. Doing so has its detriments.
  • Event Flag: Pretty much how the game works: once you have set on the flag for something to happen, it will happen.
  • Experience Booster: By going solo, you will level up twice faster, so you can just go solo until you are very high in level and then ask an apprentice that has not became an enemy of yours to join (him/her having stronger stats compared to you when you are at the same level, as the US version of the game decreases the stat gains a character YOU use obtains after a fight, while leaving the apprentice you ask help from intact)
  • Expository Gameplay Limitation: While visiting a foreign continent eternally covered in snow, for a while a curse won't allow you to use any abilities nor spells, greatly limiting caster characters
  • Fake Difficulty: The game (or at least the American version) practically is this, since the difficulty largely comes from insufficient stat boosts when you level up. Also, if you chose Esuna or Lux as your main character, you'll have to take a ferry to the northern continent. You get dropped in an area with monsters 7-8 levels above where you're supposed to be. Hope you can outrun them.
  • Fake Balance: Enemies have skills you cannot use; enemies have chances to resist/dodge status effects you can acquire only via very obscure to be found equipment garments; enemies will one-shot you often if unprepared/not defending.
  • Fallen Hero: Except for Esuna and Lux, one of the apprentices will randomly end up being the Traitor that uses the power of the Star Rune to take over Patrof and rule it with a bloody, iron fist. The only way to get the Rune is to put them down permanently.
  • Forced Level-Grinding: Calling this title Grind: The Game is an understatement. You're going to need it to get the gear and stats just to survive.
  • Game-Favored Gender: the only female character, Esuna the magician elf, is the worst to add as an end-game party, as magic-attacks are extremely weak by then (subversion for buffs and debuffs, being always useful regardless the situation); in comparison, the melee fighters and only hybrid spell caster are way stronger, with the hybrid mage/fighter reaching the pick at the end of his training, obtaining utility spells unattainable by any other character
    • This is inverted at the beginning, too- while physical characters have to constantly use half their turns defending to get anywhere with standard attacks, Esuna is casting powerful spells that one-shot enemies or leave them with almost no health, while dodging almost anything coming her way. This is far before Valsu gets the spells that truly make him great, or the truly great armors and weapons come into play for Kamil or Olvan, or Wilme and Lux can use their raw power to dominate- it's just the right time for Esuna to take over.
  • Game-Breaking Bug: In Ancient Melenam, a scientist can give Lux an upgrade. With the right methods, it is possible to get the stat boost and be able to get another upgrade, you originally cannot get another, but with careful inputs it is possible.
  • Get on the Boat: If you are playing as Esuna the female sorcercer or friendly clanky cluttery robot Lux, you will sail on a boat to reach a far-end area the other side of the continent, where enemies are MUCH stronger... this two characters are clearly the "hard mode" representative to an already difficult game (US Version only, JP version is piss easy)
  • Give Me Your Inventory Item: Don't give the Topaz to the lady with a secret. You need the 500G. She's getting married! Hahahaha.
  • Guide Dang It!:
    • The apprentice you fight for the Star Rune is pre-determined as soon as you show the Wind Rune to the sage at Eygus. Whoever you fight for the Star Rune is lost. If you want that person to be your ally in the rest of the game, they must be in your group before you exit the Melenam Ruins. The game makes absolutely no hint of this whatsoever. Also the fact that level of the traitor apprentice is determined by your own when speaking to the sage. So the sooner you speak to the sage the easier the battle will be.
    • The existence and locations of the unique equipment aren't given any hints at all.
  • Hard Levels, Easy Bosses: Downplayed in that 'easy' is a VERY relative term in this case, but you're still far more likely to die to a random encounter than to most bosses. Two reasons:
    • After running into Pison for the first time, you start building the heck up before touching any other bosses.
    • You'll run into a hell of a lot more random encounters than you will bosses, some of which are potentially fatal even to a high-level team. And unlike bosses, they tend to come in packs.
    • And despite this, the bosses still aren't easy by any means. If you don't get defense buffs on right away, or fail to put power buffs on your physical attackers, you're often as good as dead.
  • Hell Is That Noise: Whenever Vacuum2 is used - an attempt to insta-kill all members of the opposing party that a startling number of enemies possess - a high pitched screech is played.
  • The Hero Dies: The ending has the player character die twice! Not only does Gorsia kill the player as he dies, the player then reincarnates into King Lemele, who Gorsia also kills.
  • Heroic Mime
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: Carrying a Mirror in your inventory has the hilarious effect of petrifying the enemy that cast it on you in the first place. Most monsters that cast Petrify are not immune to petrify. This can easily turn an Oh, Crap! moment into an LOL moment.
  • Incendiary Exponent: Wilme attacks monsters by setting his arm on fire and punching them in the face.
  • Job System: Each character represents a class: Electric Magic Tank (Lux), Red Mage (Kamil), Glass Cannon Black Knight (Lejes), Fire Magic Tank (Olvan), Fire Magic Heavy Hitter (Wilme), Evasive Black Mage (Esuna)
  • Killed Off for Real: The apprentice who becomes the Butcher of Patrof doesn't come back after being defeated.
  • Level Grinding: Required to just beat the second-weakest enemy in the game.
  • Level Scaling: There are points where you fight other playable characters as bosses, and in any instance that isn't plot-mandated, they are matched exactly to your level. Also, if you lose to them, they'll take your runes, making the inevitable rematch that much harder.
    • In the US and EU versions, the player character has very limited stat increases compared to the Japanese version, but the apprentice opponents retain their original high stat increases from the Japanese version. That means that the apprentice opponents get exponentially stronger than you as you level up.
  • Luck-Based Mission: Pretty much the entire game, really. Because many enemies can one-shot you just by using the right (or wrong, depending on how you look at it) attack, there are very, very many situations where your only hope of survival depends on how generous the Random Number God is feeling.
    • Exaggerated if you try a Solo run. The run between Dowaine and Belaine is especially difficult, particularly the Sage + 2 Coccoons or 2 Sages + Red Demon fights will have you silently mumbling prayers the whole time.
  • MacGuffin Delivery Service: Once you obtain all of the runes, Gorsia steals their power and breaks them into pieces.
    • Unusual in that you aren't even aware of the recipient until he reveals himself. Up until then, you're simply on the setting's equivalent of the Quest for the Holy Grail.
  • Master of None: Kamil. Intended as a Jack-of-All-Trades, the stat growth bug leaves him worse than everybody at almost everything. Literally the ONLY two people he beats at ANYTHING are Lux and Wilme in MP and Valsu and Esuna in Power; he's got more magic than the non-magic classes, and more combat ability than the non-combat ones. Whoopee. Lejes or Olvan are better jack of all trades than Kamil is, due to having better growths and a better spell selection.
    • Which is the very definition of Jack-of-All-Trades. If one steps back and looks at the big picture, they will realize that Kamil is the middle-ground in-between all of the other apprentices, and anybody who has done enough solo playthroughs will realize that Kamil can do what nobody else can: Olvan can't handle magic damage anywhere near as well and will get destroyed by Sages, Coccoons, Brains, etc. Lejes has pathetic defense and lacks heals, Valsu has bad defense and only medium physical offense, Esuna really gets weak later on, Lux and Wilme require too many potions and have no useful magic whatsoever. Kamil does not win hands-down in any category, but yet he's not the worst in any category either, therefore he lacks weaknesses that everybody else has.
  • Meaningful Name: Take a guess how competent Dr. Fail is.
  • Mechanical Lifeforms: The Tetujin. They employ robo speak.
  • Metal Slime: "Brain" family monsters in the US Version, with the "running away" technique replaced with "massively powerful 1-hit kill electricity-based spell". Good exp and gold rewarded too. Also, Naked Golden Man (US Version only) function as this.
  • Multiple Endings: Oddly not present, even though you have a choice of characters who allegedly have different personalities and motivations.
    • Considering the ending, this is almost justified. Since the character is part of a stable time loop, they were essentially destined to end the game by reincarnating, with the actions and history of their reincarnated self predetermined.
  • Nintendo Hard:
    • The game is all about Forced Level-Grinding and making suicide runs to the towns selling the best equipment. If you do enough of it, even that Manrot that has been killing you again and again and again will seem feasible in a couple levelups. Gain another 2-3, and you're wondering why you were ever afraid of those guys in the first place. Make a Suicide Run to the next town to buy the newest set of armor/weapons, and come back. You'll be eating them for breakfast.
  • No-Gear Level: You lose your magic at one point, and immediately after you get it back, you lose the runes you've been depending on the whole game. To add insult to injury, you lose access to B. Protects, the only other way besides magic that you could've buffed your Defense.
  • Not Completely Useless: Wind Balls. They allow you to warp to any town instantly from the map. However, they are consumable, and yet they only become buyable in Pell- by then you have the Wind Rune, a plot-important item that does the same, but isn't consumable. And at 80 G per Wind Ball, with only 1 very well-hidden one available for free, many consider these useless. That changes, however, if you lose to an apprentice. Losing causes them to take all your current runes- including the Wind Rune. Depending on your character and what point in the game it is, bottle items (most notably Bottle of Protect), along with other necessities like Mana Herbs, are almost mandatory to beat that apprentice and take your Runes back. And since the town you're in might not sell those items, keeping Wind Balls on hand could save tons of time playing.
  • One-Hit-Point Wonder: The player character for a long time when facing unfair mobs of overpowered enemies. Esuna the mage girl all the time against heavy-hitting enemies, IF they hit her.
  • One Stat to Rule Them All: Speed: it regulates chance to hit, chance to dodge, chance to escape, which pretty much guarantee the protagonists survival (Lejes + Esuna have the Highest Speed Combined, making them a very evasive and escapist team, but very, very weak to physical attacks).
  • Permanently Missable Content: Any apprentice you get in a fight with can never join your party from that point on. If you want them in your party, you really should make them your partner in Bonro or Zellis (the third and fourth towns in the game), since they are far more likely to pick a fight without asking in later towns, and the one who gets the Star Rune will fight you no matter what.
    • Then again, getting them on early makes them all the more likely to betray you...
  • Random Event: The allied apprentice has a chance to betray you, with a minimum of 1/256 up to a maximum of 1/8 (it changes in relation to the apprentice you are sided with, and only at very important events or when you are deciding to swap the apprentice you sided with for another). Averted if said Apprentice is dead at the time.
  • Palette Swap: "I've returned from the Dark World and become Red-Pison."
  • Peninsula of Power Leveling: Since the game splits XP between the Hero and his buddy, you will level far faster solo than you would with an ally. When you do recruit a new ally, their level is equal to yours and their equipment is appropriate for your level, even if said equipment is not normally obtainable yet. If you already have an ally, just let him die so you can earn all of the XP. When done, get a new ally, and the old will happily rejoin you with enough Save Scumming.
    • A better example would probably be the Isles of Beore (where Luze is located) due to its infestation of S. Brains, though it's more of an Island of power-leveling.
  • Plot Coupon That Does Something: Each rune has a special power when used in combat, from boosting stats to healing health, and can be used an infinite number of times.
  • Point of No Return: Once the past it is reached, you cannot fight easier enemies anymore
  • Random Encounters: Sort of. You have a crystal ball that allows you to detect monsters. In theory, you can dodge them and avoid combat. In practice, the monsters move through walls, there are many long hallways present where you aren't dodging anything, and they're fast and numerous enough to hunt YOU down. Additionally, they move around no matter what you're doing, so if you stand still outside of a menu, they'll quickly come and say 'hi' with their fists.
  • Prophetic Names: Never give your civilization-changing project to a man named Dr. Fail.
  • Recurring Boss: Pison again.
  • Scratch Damage: 1 is the minimum amount of HP you will lose by any attack.
  • Secret A.I. Moves: Poisoning Touch, inflicting "Poison", an enemy-only status effect.
  • Self-Imposed Challenge: Beating the game with very bad pairings (Wilme + Lux for example) is a well known challenge.
    • A Solo Run, where you don't use an Apprentice for most of the game (get the one you want, get them killed and let them dead until/unless you must recruit one to get the Rune from Luze and let them get killed afterward) makes for an excellent challenge.
      • Ironically, because your character gets double Exp in solo runs they are often considered easier than playing through with a partner.
  • Shaped Like Itself: An enemy called the sword has a chance of dropping a weapon called Sword (famous for being Wilme's only equippable weapon) when it's defeated. Except 7th Saga equipment is automatically suffixed with the type of item, so the item's full name is "Sword Sword".
  • Side Quest: The game has exactly one, in the form of an optional dungeon only Olvan can enter.
  • Standard RPG Items: Pretty much, with the added utility of some items that imitate buffing/debuffing spells.
  • Story Breadcrumbs: The backstory of the game is quite vast but most of it can only be discerned by talking to random NPC more times.
  • Stone Wall: Lux
  • Stupid Evil: Gorsia's elaborate plot works; though depowered he escapes into the future where Saro is dead, and tricks the apprentices into collecting all the Runes for him. So once he has been brought back to full power, in a world where his archenemy is long dead, what does he do? He returns to the past to kill Saro before he has a chance to depower him; he also sends the apprentices back with him just for the hell of it. The apprentices then proceed to put history back on track.
  • Suicidal Overconfidence: Averted, annoyingly so. Many enemies love running away, especially while you do your Forced Level-Grinding. This is especially annoying when you're trying to kill the silver brains and they decide to run away once you've got them on the ropes.
  • Taking You with Me: Win or lose, you don't leave the final boss fight alive.
  • Thematic Series: The first, followed by Mystic Ark for SNES and Mystic Ark 2 (very obscure) for PS1.
  • There Can Be Only One: You and the other apprentices are in direct competition for the Runes.
  • Tier System: It changes in relation to how far in the game one is. At the beginning of the game, as characters obtain spells and abilities that make them better at facing various enemies with stats to match. It works like this: Lux>Wilme>Esuna>Olvan>Kamil>Valsu>Lejes at the beginning; Lejes>Lux>Valsu>Wilme>Olvan>Esuna>Kamil at the end of the game
  • Treacherous Advisor: Once you collect all seven Runes, Lemele reveals himself to be Gorsia all along, who has murdered the real Lemele and assumed his identity to get your character do the MacGuffin Delivery Service.
  • Underground Monkey: As in nearly all Role Playing Games of the era, many enemies are just palette swaps of earlier enemies with higher stats and maybe new powers. This even happens with a boss: Pison becomes Red-Pison (seriously, that's his name) and finally Metal-Pison.
  • Universal Poison: Enemies-only status effect to boot! And it is always afflicted by a strong physical attack.
  • Unusually Uninteresting Sight: Nearly all NPCs will act exactly the same regardless of which character you play as, even if you happen to choose Lejes the demon, Lux the Tetujin, or Wilme the alien.
    • Occasionally Averted, especially with children who think that the Tetujin is really, really neat.
  • Unwinnable: Make sure your levels are in the high thirties before fighting Gariso, and that you're well stocked on B Protects. Trust us on this one.
    • Well, perhaps 'unwinnable' is too strong a word as you won't be beating Gariso by accident, but remember how the early game was spent being murdered by anything stronger than a Hermit? Replace 'Hermit' with 'Ghoul', and welcome to second verse, same as the first.
    • It's often said that Valsu becomes impossible to defeat beyond level 42, but fortunately this is a myth. His ally version learns a Game-Breaker spell called Elixir that full-heals both HP and MP, but his enemy version can never cast this. That said, lack of Elixir will not stop the Badass Preacher from murdering you with his other healing, buffs, and ice magic.
    • Also averted with a boss later in the game who has stupidly high physical defence. You can beat him, but you only deal one point of damage per physical attack. It's entirely possible, but long and stupid, to win without magic. Have fun if you picked a team that doesn't use it well.
  • Useless Useful Spell: Averted. Petrify, Defense2, Vacuum1, and Vacuum2 are all very useful, due to how hard normal enemies are.
    • Some enemies appear to be weaker to these attacks than others, apparently based upon some sort of intelligence/magic defense stat. Some enemies are notoriously vulnerable to it (those tall fire guys are a Peninsula of Power Leveling to anyone with Vacuum 2), while others, Vacuum almost never works (Sages and Brains).
  • Villain Forgot to Level Grind: The only mandatory fight against an apprentice has the apprentice being set at +5 levels in relation to when you exited from an early-game cave after beating Bounty-Hunter Pison.
  • We Can Rule Together: The apprentice who takes the Star Rune will make you this offer, and you can even take him up on it - strangely, you really want to do so. If you refuse, you fight immediately. If you agree, the front door of the castle will be unlocked so you can go heal up, save, and skip the trek through the dungeon before the battle.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: More precisely, what happens to the other allied apprentice after Gorsia kills the main character at the moment of his defeat? They're just left standing there, if still alive. It's especially a headscratcher if the ally character is Lux, since Tetujin can apparently survive for thousands of years anyway....
    • Tetujin forget their oldest memories in order to store new ones. There's nothing that prevents Lux from surviving the battle with Gorsia and taking The Slow Path through the intervening thousands of years to one day become an apprentice to King Lemele...
  • Your Princess Is in Another Castle!: What at first seems like it's going to be the end of the game just ends up being a time warp back to the past.
  • You All Look Familiar: The water sage being identical to other sages around the world, children being carbon-copies of each other and much more.