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Editorial: The Case for Save-Anywhere

An editorial inspired by my experience with Star Ocean: Till the End of Time:

An antediluvian, somewhat annoying convention of Japanese RPGs is the save point, prominent in even the most popular releases such as the Final Fantasy series. Heated debate has arisen over how exactly different kinds of save systems affect a game's difficulty and such, although this editorialist believes that there is a definite case for allowing players to save their progress anywhere.

There are those who argue that more liberal save systems make RPGs easier. However, some of the oldest RPGs such as the original Phantasy Star, the surprisingly-long-lasting SaGa series, and the recent The Dark Spire demonstrate that this argument is, quite frankly, a load of bull, given the difficulty of the aforementioned titles in spite of their save-anywhere features. Even the Diamond/Pearl/Platinum versions of Pokémon have plenty of tough spots in spite of their generous save systems.

There are also those who argue that save points add tension to RPGs; if you live in a place where power outages happen occasionally and/or your game freezes often (as Star Ocean 3 often did in my experience), then yes, there is indeed plenty of tension affiliated with playing a game that has a stingy save system. In fact, this editorialist is far more afraid of losing precious progress due to the aforementioned events rather than a Game Over screen, with sometimes over an hour between save opportunities in games such as the third Star Ocean and Arc the Lad II (the latter of which also froze on me one time after an hour without being able to save).

Even a supposed compromise to the dilemma of saving, the quick-delete-save, where the player can save and quit their game anywhere (except in battle, unless a tactical RPG), with the created save file deleting upon loading, like in Breath of Fire: Dragon Quarter, has its own drawbacks, namely the mentioned events of freezing or a power outage, if normal save points are scarce. The quick-delete-save, however, would possibly work wonders in the middle of standard RPG battles, especially if they were long fights and the player experienced a real-life interruption.

There are, however, drawbacks to being able to save anywhere, such as dreaded points of no return where the player is unable to leave a dungeon to perform tasks such as healing, level-grinding, or shopping for better equipment, akin to SaGa Frontier, which was fairly liberal in this equally-irksome RPG convention. In these cases, not saving in a separate save file (although some games such as Final Fantasy XII luckily warn you if you're in a point of no return), can potentially render an RPG unwinnable, forcing the player to restart the game from scratch.

In summation, Japanese RPG developers should definitely keep the above situations in mind when contemplating their games' save systems. There is definitely a case for RPGs to have a save-anywhere feature, and really has been no excuse for them to lack one as the original Phantasy Star demonstrated, but if they insist on continuing the dated convention, then at least have them frequently, like every few minutes, or so. This editorialist adamantly disagrees that liberalized save systems would make RPGs easier, although they would definitely make them less annoying, and ultimately make our lives easier.

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