Out of the properties that Square Enix is known for, the SaGa series might be one of the lesser-known, especially the Romancing Saga games, released in Japan back on the SNES, but only in Japan. Which is a real shame, because these games had a lot to offer and probably would have become as beloved as Chrono Trigger. They tried to bring Romancing Saga to the States with Romancing Saga: Minstral Song for PS2, a remake of the original game, but it didn’t do well, considering the PS2 was already flooded with JRPGs. The series again just sorta fell away. Until 2017, when they released Romancing SaGa 2 on PSN. More Remaster than Remake, this would be the game’s first American debut since it’s release in 1993.
So why am I talking about a game from 2017? Well a few months back, Square announced the western release of Romancing SaGa 3 on November 11th of this year. In light of this, I want to try to give the series as much love as possible, to try to get more people to try it.
Let’s start by talking about the presentation. Graphically, the game is gorgeous for a sprite-based game. They completely revamped every asset except character sprites, making the locations you explore very hi-def and bright. At first, it’s a bit strange having little pixel sprites running around these locations, but it’s very nice at the end of the day. That having been said, the variety of locations in RS2 is pretty wild. You’ll find open fields, ice caves, a desert maze, and even a volcanic island. There is always something new to look at as you explore.
On the music side of things, there isn’t super much to talk about, outside of the battle themes. While it isn’t awful by any means, there aren’t many tracks that stand out as fantastic. After hearing the Avalon theme for a few hours as you resupply and recruit your characters, it can be a bit grating. It still isn’t awful, however, and the battle themes, especially the battle theme when you face off against one of the Seven Heroes, are all fantastic. Each theme is very high energy and appropriate for each instance. It makes me look forward to each battle.
As a JRPG, the plot and its structure are honestly a bit unique. The first character you control is the son of Emperor Leon, and each subsequent character will also become Emperor. Your primary goal is to expand your Empire, peacefully for once, and find out more about the Seven Heroes. I’d go into more plot details, but it really should be explored yourself. Expansion is a key point, and after completing certain scenarios, you obtain certain regions for the Empire of Avalon, which allows quick travel to that region and an increase in your revenue. Most regions also sport a new Character Class to recruit, giving you loads of variety at the start of each generation. That’s right after a certain number of events time will pass. You will have a new four characters to select as the new Emperor. This also means you have to construct a new team for each generation, giving you a chance to try the new classes you’ve unlocked. The only flaw in this system is that you can’t remove a member manually. The only way to get rid of an unwanted teammate is for them to die in combat.
Yeah, there is actual death in the game. This can happen in two ways. First, is a full party wipe. If everybody on your team hits zero HP in battle, they are all dead and you are sent to select a new Emperor. The other way is for a character to lose all of their LP or Life Points. They demonstrate this in the story’s first generation, but it’s still important to note. If the current Emperor dies, the generation is over and you have to select a new Emperor. You lose an LP for a few reasons. But, the traditional method you’ll experience a lot of is hitting zero HP. Doing so will spend one LP. Also, if a fallen character gets hit again, they will lose another LP. Yes, fallen teammates can continue to get hit. Fortunately, a Life spell isn’t needed to restore characters HP after hitting zero. Any potion or healing spell used on someone at zero HP does revive them but their lost LP stays lost. The only way to restore the LP is by using Life Potions from your storage or buying them from a particular witch somewhere in the world. HP is also fully restored after the battle. SP (used for skills) and MP (used for magic) remain used.
Speaking of skills though, we should discuss the leveling system! Unlike games like Final Fantasy, there isn’t a traditional leveling system. Each character grows stronger organically. This means that while HP will increase as you fight, you won’t become stronger unless you use your weapons and each weapon type gains strength individually. The more you use swords, the better you become at them and the stronger you are with them. But if you don’t use spears, they won’t become stronger. This is shown in a Skill Level for each weapon type. The higher your Level with that weapon, the stronger it is. This also affects your Global Skill Level. The more you increase your skills during the current generation, the better the next generation will be as well. That having been said, a weapon skill will never improve unless you use it. Magic works the same way. The more you use it, the better it becomes. Each magic class has its use, making them all valuable. Diversity is the name of the game. Try out different weapons and magic as often as you can.
Each weapon type also has several skills to learn as you gain Skill Level. Every character class is better at learning, or “sparking”, different skills. In these classes, each CHARACTER can also spark different skills. On top of that, using certain skills can spark others, making experimentation important. There is no real way to monitor this, however, which makes sparking new skills exciting because you’ll never know what you’ll get. Every skill you spark can be taught to anyone you choose in Avalon, so learn as many as you can.
Magic works differently. Instead of learning spells randomly, the spells you have access to are determined by the Skill Level of the element. On that note, there are six Magical Elements, Earth, Air, Fire, Water, Light, and Dark. Opposing elements can’t be taught to a single character, so no Fire and Water mages. However, if a character’s Skill Level is high enough, and you have the magic lab built in Avalon, you can fuse magic elements to create new spells. The magic lab can be a pain to acquire, but the results are more than worth it. And just as each class is better with certain weapons, mages are better at certain elements. Experiment!
Since I’ve already mentioned the Magic Lab, let’s discuss Avalon. As Emperor, you can start certain projects to expand the city, such as the magic lab, at a pretty high cost. There are a university, a garden, barracks for your characters, and more. Each can happen randomly from sitting on the throne in Avalon and can cost anywhere from 500,000 Crowns to 5,000,000 Crowns. There is also a blacksmith in your castle that you can pay to make new gear, costing 400,000, 800,000, or 1,200,000 depending on the project. Each upgrade is very worth the time.
So how do you get money?? Treasures in dungeons may be gear or it can be GIANT STACKS OF CASH. The usual amount is 100,000 but can be as much as 500,000 if you’re lucky. You also gain money after every battle, regardless of whether or not you flee from battle, according to the revenue of the Empire. The more territory you have, the higher your revenue. It’s usually in your best interest to fight, however, so you can increase your skills. Fight, explore and get stronger, because there is a tiny system in place that will make you want to.
Enemies get stronger. Not necessarily with you either. They get stronger according to the number of battles you’ve been in, regardless of whether or not you ran from it. You might think it best to mostly ignore fights, but one group of enemies DON’T scale like this. The Seven Heroes. They are your main objective in the game and can be done in almost any order. Each has special skills and is extremely dangerous. There are even cases where they can become STRONGER, so always be ready. Fight every battle, learn every skill and remember to go for variety. Even as a turn-based RPG, you can never plan too much.
I’ve said it a few times by now, but it’s important to note for clarity. RS2’s plot is non-linear. You can approach almost any scenario in whatever order you choose. Some scenarios even have multiple different paths to take, some even offering unique rewards, making multiple playthroughs a fun experience. Explore a ton, take some chances and TALK TO EVERYONE. Most locations only open up after talking to someone about them. While some of these are optional, there is never a pointless quest. Since there is a ton to do, they have the Imperial Log in your menu, that lists each region and what you’ve done there, as well as a person in your palace that will tell you of any notable events happening during the current generation. There is also someone there telling you how many fights you’ve been in, so, neat.
The final scenario begins as soon as you become The Final Emperor, which you choose at the very beginning of the game. This Emperor is the last, and if you fail to finish off the Seven Heroes, it’s game over.
It sounds stressful, but the remaster has New Game+, which starts you over, but with your current Global Levels and every piece of gear you had in the other file, all stored in the Palace Storage. This makes multiple playthroughs easier and allows you to make different choices to get a more positive outcome. The remaster also adds a special dungeon, that adds ever so slight amounts of lore to the story.
Romancing SaGa 2 is an absolute gem of a game. For a game originally released in 1993, the idea of an open-ended plot and world, and the depth of the battle and skill systems make it truly revolutionary for its time. This remaster does it amazing justice, and also gave westerners a chance to experience it. If you’re looking for an engrossing RPG to spend your time on, and also a fan of the retro style it presents, this game is one of the best. Don’t forget that Romancing SaGa 3 releases on November 11th! Be expecting a similar review when it lands!
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[Editors Note: Wade Lawson is a content contributor for 181GAMING. If you would like to have your content published on 181GAMING, click here. We are always looking for content creators and community moderators.]