Romancing SaGa 2 was first released in 1993 for the Super Famicom. Despite that being nearly 30 years ago (as of this writing) I found myself comparing its difficulty and freedom to the Souls series. I can’t remember the last time I played a game with such a brutal challenge and so many options available for overcoming them. These features combined with those of classic SaGa prove why this game is such a fan favorite; often regarded as the best in the series. I finished the game in about 25 hours, but I’m already chomping at the bit to begin a new journey.
The world of Romancing SaGa 2 centers on two narratives. The first is the legend of the Seven Heroes: brave warriors that saved the world thousands of years ago from a terrible evil. After their journey, the Seven Heroes vanished without a trace. In the present era, there have been rumors about The Seven Heroes returning and causing trouble. How could seemingly normal beings reappear after all this time? Why are they back? The other narrative focuses on the Kingdom of Avalon ruled by Emperor Leon. A small but mighty nation, Leon leads his beloved subjects with a kind heart and a mighty sword. Leon’s two sons are Victor and Gerard. Victor is a swordsman that enjoys a good battle. Gerard, on the other hand, would rather stay in the background and avoid conflict. But, Leon understands that he needs to toughen him up so he can assist Victor in leading the nation. The game opens with Leon, some of his trusted soldiers, and Gerard clearing out a den of monsters. This first taste of battle irrevocably seals Gerard’s fate and the fate of Avalon on a journey that spans hundreds of years.
The story’s introduction is linear, but it doesn’t take long until the series’ open-ended, often obtuse, gameplay is in full swing. It can be overwhelming when you’re given so much freedom and little guidance on how to advance. The goal of Romancing SaGa 2 is twofold: you want to defeat The Seven Heroes and expand Avalon’s territory. You do this by wandering to new towns, chatting with NPCs, listening to what they have to say, and accomplishing some sort of objective. It could be as simple as going to a dungeon to kill some big-boss or something more complex that involves a trek across multiple countries. One of your advisors in Avalon’s castle often has guidance on new quests. Additionally, this modern remaster has an Imperial Log which keeps a summary of everything you learn. But things can still be vague when trying to determine what to do next. Still, half the fun in Romancing SaGa 2 is figuring out how to finish new scenarios. Nine out of ten times I had enough information that let me piece together ways to reach a goal. A cherry on top is that the story has more depth and twists than other games in the series.
During the game’s introduction, Emperor Leon obtains the power of Inheritance. This lets him transfer all his abilities to anyone of his choosing before his passing. This power carries on through the entire the game. So, if an emperor gets an untimely death, then it’s not game over. Instead, you pick a new emperor, form a new party, and pick up where you left off. Another way to get a new emperor is to finish enough quests and advance the timeline. After you finish enough quests, the screen will blacken and a message tantamount to, “100 years later” will appear. Again, you’ll get to select a new emperor, form a new party, and carry on. This might sound like you’re constantly starting from scratch. In actuality, the game keeps a hidden experience counter which accumulates over the course of the game. This means all characters that participate in battle will slowly grow in power and their ancestors will obtain their abilities. It sounds like there’s a lot to consider in Romancing SaGa 2. There is, and that’s just the beginning. Outside of combat, the emperor must approve R&D for new weapons and armor and provide the funding for building new buildings to facilitate Avalon’s growth. Success in the game is reliant upon building a school, a magic research academy, and an imperial training center. When you’re not maintaining the livelihood of Avalon, you’ll be traveling around the world, encountering new cultures, shopping for new gear, and exploring areas filled with monstrous foes.
Combat in Romancing SaGa 2 uses the series’ familiar turn-based system. Your emperor and four other party members will exchange blows with the enemy party until one side falls. Enemies hit hard and fast; having one or two allies get KO’d in a round is the norm. The good news is that there is plethora of customization options available that allow you to build the perfect party. This includes party formation, weapon abilities, magic proficiency, and top-of-the-line equipment. Glimmering (learning new weapon abilities) mid-combat is as satisfying as ever. New abilities can be given to anyone as long as the character that first acquires it survives the next time jump. Magic is another factor to consider because the higher leveled spells are vital for survival. Eventually, you’ll be able to create fusion magic from the various disciplines for incredible results. Combat is always rewarding. Your kingdom of fighters will experience a slow and steady accumulation of power. This and clever strategy are necessary to survive the game’s tough combat.
The game’s presentation is a polished version of the Super Famicom’s version. The sprites are vivid and crisp. The environments have been modernized but still retain that cozy RPG style from the era. There’s a lot of creativity in the special effects and a lot of artistry with the game’s monster designs. Bosses have been gussied up with smooth animations. Kenji Ito’s superb musicianship is in full force. His style is immediately recognizable, and yet each track still has a unique sound to it. There are no notes for the way the game looks and sounds.
Unfortunately, I do have a few general notes before closing. This game isn’t perfect. Sometimes, the way forward can be too obscure even for SaGa standards. It’s very easy to mess up your game if you’re not careful. It wouldn’t surprise me if players made it to the final boss and ended up getting massacred before landing a few hits. The game is short, and a New Game Plus feature can make a restart easier, but I anticipate a lot of gamers getting frustrated in some form or fashion. Pro tip: us the multiple save slots. Despite this, I recommend Romancing SaGa 2 to everyone looking for a unique, exciting, and rewarding RPG. It took a long time for it to get here, but I can confidently say that the wait was worth it.
Overall, 9/10: Romancing SaGa 2 is a phenomenal game that is equal parts challenging and gratifying.