Life Points (LP) are an attribute which is a characteristic element of the SaGa series. As opposed to Weapon Points (WP), Spell Points (SP), Battle Points (BP) etc, they are constantly appearing in the games. While other video games may also use them, the SaGa series is special considering Life Points are not considered the same as Health/Hit Points (HP).
In general, in all the games, regardless of what other uses the LP had, there have always been a few similarities:
- Whereas HP always was in high numbers (sometimes even reaching 999), LP always was short (barely ever exceeding 20).
- Its number is fixed, aside from a few rare exceptions.
- When it runs out, the character cannot be used until they rest at an inn; in certain cases, they are removed from the party altogether.
- If a main character runs out of LP, it always means Game Over even if the rest of the party is alive.
- When a character's HP drops to zero or their unconscious body gets attacked, they lose one LP.
- A few opponents are capable of decreasing a character's LP even when their HP is intact.
- Some spells or attacks may require LP to be cast, though in some cases this can be circumvented.
In Romancing SaGa, there was no LP system, so no matter how many times the party members fell in battle they never get removed from the party. However, more work has to be put into keeping a character standing, since if they go down in battle they stay down for the remainder of the fight as healing does not work. In its remake, Romancing SaGa: Minstrel Song, the game adopts the LP system.
In Romancing SaGa 2, LP is introduced to the series for the first time, where its basic function would shape future games in the series. In this title, the amount of LP depends on various classes and sometimes genders. Classes such as the Nereid and Ocean woman had an overall low LP count while classes like the Mountain Monk or Salamander had LP that ranged from 12 or higher. LP could be lost by either getting all HP depleted or getting hit while unconscious. Unlike future games in the series though, LP can never be restored through sleeping at inns; instead rare LP-restoring potions were used to restore 1 LP per potion. There is one character who has maybe the highest LP count in the series as a whole: Coppelia, coming in with 99.
In Romancing SaGa 3, LP would work very similar to how LP would eventually work in future games in the series. LP amounts varied between different characters but most had an LP count of 10. Some characters had more, such as Zo, who has the highest count in the game at 35 LP. LP decreased if a character lost all HP or is hit while unconscious. Some magic spells also made LP decrease, such as Dragon God. One character that can never die to LP loss is Leonid as he is undead, and has a total LP count of 0. Even if he goes down, he would not be removed from the party but would simply be removed from the current battle being fought and return once its over.
In SaGa Frontier 2, LP was tweaked to function a bit differently. It decreased only when a character's unconscious body was hit by a specific enemy attack, and this title had the fewest number of instances where the enemy chose to attack an unconscious character; specifically, zombies were the only enemy type that had an attack designed to hit KO'd characters and reduce their LP. There are other monsters who have attacks designed to reduce LP on conscious characters, but these were limited to high level opponents, special encounters or the final boss. Additionally, you could choose to decrease LP through the "Recover HP" command, which for the price of one LP recovered the character's entire HP between turns, which was often more efficient than casting Life Water on individual characters. You can also lose LP by performing an attack without having enough WP or SP to perform it, in which case the game would allow the player to perform the action regardless, but for the price of one LP. The enemies also had LP, however due to the fact that dealing direct LP damage to the enemy was a very rare occurrence and nearly all enemies had more than 1 LP, this was not an entirely feasible approach.
The English version of SaGa Frontier 2 was a lot more challenging than the Japanese original. The enemies not only had more HP and stronger attacks, but in the case of the final boss, a lot of his attacks, which were weak in the original, were turned devastating by allowing them to deal direct LP damage with 100% efficiency. This, added with the fact that the main hero during the final battle, Ginny Knights, did not possess a large amount of LP, forced players to take several precautions in order to have any chance of winning, such as equipping her with a Dead Stone, giving her the "Wall" Role to reduce damage dealt to her, putting her in the back row or casting the Guardian Beast spell.
In Unlimited Saga, the LP stat was as important as never before. The player started each quest with max HP/LP, and had to survive to the end without losing all LP. The only way to recover LP in the middle of a quest would be through using rare herbs, which could only be obtained during a quest in the Chapa village. As opposed to nearly all other video games, if a character had 0 HP, this would not mean they would collapse. This confused a lot of players. In Unlimited Saga, HP serves merely as a shield to protect LP. As long as a character has full HP it's nearly impossible to deal LP damage to him/her, but should it drop to zero, then LP damage becomes much more likely. The game provides armor that has the "Life Protection" ability and the Endurance attribute, which both provide higher protection against the loss of LP (however these features are not 100% foolproof as even a character loaded up with Life Protection can still lose LP).
All enemies can only be defeated by deminishing all of their LP (the only exception being using an instant death spell or weapon skill on them).
Since protecting LP became such an important factor, the game provides several ways to recover HP to be able to protect one's LP: resting on the map (press R3) or having a character not participate in the current battle turn. Both these methods would recover a portion of the character's HP dependent upon the character's specific recovery rate (indicated by a letter grade), which added even more confusion to unfamiliar players.
In the PS2 remake, LP was present. It mostly was lost due to fighting specific opponents and falling in combat or the unconcious body being attacked. But it also was used as an alternative to DP if the weapon one was using was Martial Arts or Magic. Legendary weapons also applied to this and consumed LP instead of DP.
Enemies also posses LP. Just like in Unlimited Saga, aside from instant death attacks, the only possibility to kill an enemy was to damage their LP, however this did not mean that droping its LP to zero was necessary. Due to an unusual design choice by the programmers, at least one LP would be lost by the enemy upon death. Since the LP amount they have is far greater than that one point lost upon death, it seems to come across as a reaction to being defeated, in much the same vein as player characters collapsing and losing one LP of their own.
Also, if a character loses all their LP, they die and are gone permanently (unless it's the main character, which results in a Game Over). However, there is a way to get them back; if the player visits The Netherworld and talks to Death, the fallen characters can be revived, but only for the price of one LP from the main character being lost permanently. The game also features the possibility to increase one's max LP. If one accomplishes the Fairies' Grove quest, the main character's LP will increase by 2 permanently.