Originally released in Japan in 1993 for the Super Famicom, Romancing SaGa 2 is finally available on Western consoles after nearly two and a half decades. In a year full of JRPG releases, some of them good, some of them bad (looking at you, Revenant Saga), can a slightly graphically improved version of a game from 1993 stand out?
The Romancing SaGa games aren’t as similar to Final Fantasy as you’d expect, especially considering the fact the SaGa series was once known as Final Fantasy Legend in the U.S. These games are much less focused in providing a rich story and more focused on combat and, weirdly enough, kindgom management. Romancing SaGa 2 is no different. There’s a small plot revolving around multiple generations of a same royal family fighting against a series of villains who, at one point, used to defend the kingdom from evil forces.
The story is definitely not a big focus here, as there’s little character development (your roster completely changes with every new era). It doesn’t help that the translation isn’t very good, either. It really looked like I was playing a legit JRPG from 90’s, complete with weird English. The game differs from other Square RPGs of the era by being a lot more focused on gameplay. When the game begins, there’s an extremely short introduction, and right after that you’re already with five people on your squad inside a cave with the obvious objective of killing everything in the room. That’s basically half of what you need to do in the game: choose a place to go, kill all enemies there, withstand the clunky movement controls, leave the place, go back to your castle, get exposition, go to a new place and do everything all over until your party changes.
The combat system . . . well . . . it’s not very good. It’s not terrible either, but it’s very archaic and simplistic. Besides the cool little option of being able to carry up to four different weapons at once, each one with a different moveset and its own separate level-up system, fighting enemies is so simplistic and tedious you can easily go through the hundreds of battles you’ll face by simply mashing the A button until everybody on the left side of the screen dies. The game makes a very weird decision of increasing the power of each boss the more you grind and level up, therefore making things a lot more confusing: if you try to increase your stats in order to avoid dying in one hit, the game will become a lot harder.
The best aspect in the game, by far, is its second main focus: management. Given the fact you’re the richest and most powerful person in the kingdom, you’re given the opportunity to research new weapons and items by using your vast resources, or just act like a completely spoiled despot and force your servants to build monuments in your honor. Hey, my kingdom, my rules!
Technically speaking, don’t expect much from this game. This revamp is a straight port from what was originally a mobile game, therefore the game isn’t fantastic nor downright abysmal in its visual and sound departments, even if it manages to be above average when it comes to graphics. The game features some beautiful sprite work with some very detailed backgrounds, even if they tend to look a bit stretched on a big TV screen. The main problem with the visuals is the near absence of animations, both when traversing the world on foot and when fighting the static sprites the game calls “enemies.”
I’m not going to say that there isn’t fun to be had in Romancing SaGa 2. It isn’t a terrible JRPG, it’s not a generic one either. The problem with this game is that it clearly shows some ugly signs of aging, as it’s riddled with various issues that plagued other games from its era. If you’re a die-hard fan of everything Square has released back in the day, then you’ll most likely enjoy this title. Just don’t expect anything as good as Chrono Trigger or Final Fantasy VI, or else you’ll be in for a massively disappointing experience. By the way, if you do get a copy, consider getting it for a portable device like the Vita or the Switch.
Also available on: PS Vita, Switch, Xbox One, Super Famicom