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Do you like a little randomness in your RPG’s? Have we got a title for you!

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    Romancing SaGa 2

    Rating: 3.5 – Good

    Do you like a little randomness in your RPG’s? Have we got a title for you!

    It’s pretty rare in this day and age to see a game as old as Romancing Saga 2 get ported to modern consoles (although, to be fair, it came to phones before consoles). Still, for a game that was only ever released in Japan until recently, it’s pretty cool to see Romancing Saga 2 come stateside.

    This series has some pretty cool history behind it, but let’s just hit the highlight for now. This game is actually the fifth game in the "SaGa Series". The first three were actually called "Final Fantasy Legend" 1-3 on the GameBoy. Yes, they put the "Final Fantasy" name on these first games just to try and get more sales! Romancing Saga 1 and 2 followed, but stayed in Japan on the Super Famicom. With this release though comes the first time many people outside of Japan can try Romancing Saga 2, so let’s go over what you can expect!

    A Family Legacy…


    You begin the game as Leon, the king of Avalon which is a kingdom in the top-left corner of the map. You start out on a monster extermination mission with your son, Gerard, who is… rather weak. Nothing like your son Victor, who looks to be a warrior ready to take over the kingdom. I should note that there’s a tale of the "Seven Legendary Heroes" before the game starts: Seven Heroes who saved the world in the past and disappeared, with a legend that they’d return when they were needed. Hmm… Ominous!

    While you are gone protecting the kingdom, your town is attacked by even more monsters, resulting in several of your soldiers and Victor himself dying. Leon learns that a monster named Kzinssie was responsible, who is… one of the Seven Heroes? This isn’t quite the heroic return that the people were hoping for! After talking to a roaming seer, Leon and Gerard head out to confront Kzinssie whose "Soul Steal" move takes out Leon. Leon and the seer have a secret weapon though: Inheritance Magic. This magic lets Gerard inherit his father’s abilities, including the ability to dodge Kzinssie’s "Soul Steal" attack, giving Gerard a real chance to defeat this "Hero".

    While the beginning of the game has this focused intro… the rest of the game’s story is very much open-ended. That’s because this game isn’t about Leon or Gerard… it is about Avalon as a whole and its succession of Kings and Queens. Your goal is to confront the "Legendary Heroes" and take them out one by one. The big kicker here is the running theme throughout the game: this story is non-linear. Heck, almost everything in Romancing Saga is non-linear! The game pretty much gives you free reign after that intro section, letting you explore at your leisure. From there you’ll explore new areas and find "scenarios" to play through. These are unique to the area you are in, but after finishing 3-4 of these scenarios the game will force you to choose a random heir and you’ll carry on from there (just several dozen years later…).

    This system has its pro’s and con’s. The biggest con is that the story really has no personal connection. After Gerard, every emperor (or empress) is just… kind-of a stand-in. The real focus is on expanding your kingdom and completing scenarios. This can be a real deal-breaker for a lot of gamers, as most RPG we grew up with have focused stories instead of open-ended objectives and I can see how that’s going to turn a lot of people off. On the other hand… it’s pretty fun to see your kingdom expand. Many of the scenarios also have multiple ways to accomplish them, which often change future scenarios. For example, I dealt with some "armed merchants" (pirates) in a town by striking a deal with them and bringing them into the empire. A few generations later, they started rebelling against me. That’s what I get for not stomping them out when I had a chance! These "generational changes" based on your past actions are the highlight of the game’s story for me, other than the simple thrill of exploration and discovering new scenarios of course.

    Hoping for that "stat-up" notification!

    (Game Play)

    The game play of Romancing Saga 2 comes off as a classic RPG experience, but trust me when I say there are plenty of quirks here, many of which the game never tells you about. Characters will line up in various formations (more on those later) and take turns exchanging blows with enemies. Pretty standard stuff. As you use weapons though, you level up with them (semi-randomly) and become more proficient with them. You gain HP randomly after battle as well. If you’ve ever tried the old-school "Final Fantasy II" battle system, you’ll get an idea of what I’m talking about. This also applies to learning skills and abilities. Your character will "spark" techniques randomly mid-battle and learn a new skill. This is awesome when it happens, but again… it’s pretty random.

    The biggest thing about fighting that the game doesn’t really tell you is that you regain all of your health after every battle. Awesome, right? Well, it is handy, that’s for sure. In lieu of keeping your HP up though, each character has "Life Points", and those don’t replenish. Lose them all and you are dead. Losing one of your soldiers is rough, of course, but you can always go back to Avalon and replace them. Lose your Emperor and you’ll be forced to pick another heir. There’s really no "Game Over" here… just constant progress (hopefully!).

    Once you get used to the systems in place here, the game plays pretty well. Since you are always getting stronger (your heirs inherit their abilities from you and your fighters always start off as strong as when you ended your last generation), "constant progress" really is what the game feels like. As you explore, you will also find and recruit new types of fighters. This adds more variety to your potential party (which you piece together with every new emperor), but will also let you learn new party formations if you make new types of classes your heir. For example, after helping a nomadic tribe of yak herders, my new heir (a yak herder… I can’t make this stuff up) taught my team the "Mu Palisade" formation, which makes every party member go last in the turn order, but has them auto-defend until their turn comes up. Very handy for boss fights!

    As Emperor, you gain taxes from every territory you control, which you can use to build new facilities, commission research on new weapons and armor, or even just take out some walking-around money with you on your adventures. This gives the game some (very light) kingdom-management game play, but you’ll really only ever use it when you happen to be back home (which for me is fairly rare, but be sure to keep researching new weapons whatever you do!).

    Ah, those 1993 Graphics!


    The game’s graphics and presentation are faithful to the 1993 original. In other words, this is a "Super Nintendo Title" all the way through, with great-looking pixel art (both sprites and background designs). One thing that stood out to me was the flair that the developers included. Once each character is selected (or levels up somehow) they twirl around and pose, which doesn’t sound like a big deal, but its little touches like this (and how colorful and varied the world can be) that make a difference.

    Another thing I enjoyed in the graphics was all of the variety throughout the game. You’ll go from your kingdom (a grasslands-type classical medieval affair) to snow-covered tundras, volcanoes and even "far east" cities and everything in-between. They really went out of their way to add a ton of variety to the places you’ll visit and the monster designs and pixel flair match every area wonderfully. Top-notch pixel graphics all around, for sure.

    Old-School Tunes Ahoy!


    The music in the game is thoroughly old-school as well, as you can imagine. Classic-sounding battle themes and village music liter the game throughout, but while I found the game’s audio solid, it just isn’t quite catchy enough to be memorable (which is a bit of a shame, because the soundtrack to "Saga 2" is just fantastic). Still, everything here is solid enough with classic-sounding tunes throughout so while you likely won’t find yourself remembering this soundtrack years down the road, you’ll have enjoyable tunes beginning to end.

    Another Emperor, Another Adventure!


    As you can probably tell, Romancing Saga 2 is a very open-ended game, so whether or not you’re into that kind of freedom will likely make or break this title for you. What the game may lack in a focused story it definitely makes up in re-playability and choice. The one thing you should keep in mind though, is that this is still a very old-school title. There’s very little here holding your hand, and the game is rather quirky to boot. For example, certain scenarios only play out when you have a male emperor, or only when you have a certain class available. This can make the game extremely frustrating as you search for something to do next (I definitely referenced a few guides and was pleasantly surprised by the active online community even to this day!). You can get a LOT of hours out of this title if you tried, but again that is very much dependent on if you enjoy the type of randomness this game brings or not.

    Overall: 7/10

    In the end… if you are looking for a quirky old-school RPG, Romancing Saga 2 is right up your alley. There’s a reason this game never got a release until now though. This is far from a "gamer-friendly" game. Many of the quirks that make Romancing Saga 2 so special are things that many modern gamers aren’t going to enjoy whatsoever, so be very sure what you’re signing up for before you lead the Kingdom of Avalon to glory. Have fun and keep playing!

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