Sometimes the gaming world makes sense! Last year we talked about sequels to the Mario, Zelda and Pokémon series, for instance, which is a pretty straightforward concept: this game did well, here’s another one. On the other hand, sometimes we’ve got releases like the one we’re talking about today: here’s an updated port of a mobile localization of a game from the early 1990s that never saw a release in the West. That would be Romancing SaGa 2, and long-suffering fans of Square’s little-brother SaGa RPG series might be interested in checking this one out.
In the Empire of Avalon, the people hold reverence for the Seven Heroes, a Cream-esque supergroup that saved the world from demons in an age long past. Unlike Cream and more like most other supergroups, though, the Seven Heroes didn’t stay good. They’re back in somewhat less heroic form, as Emperor Leon of Avalon discovers when one of them eats his eldest son’s soul before having Leon’s own for seconds. Younger son Gerard, a boy who had originally been destined for the life of a scholar, is forced to take up the mantle of Emperor and lead the battle against the Seven Heroes. The Avalonian line has some tricks up its sleeve, though; in particular, each Emperor can pass their accumulated combat abilities and magic to their heir, allowing further generations to become progressively stronger.
That’s valuable because this is a SaGa game so getting stronger isn’t something that you can really plan on most of the time. As with many entries in the series, Romancing SaGa 2 uses a turn-based battle system that relies in no small part on random chance to determine attack success and your characters’ progression. At the end of a battle, characters may gain stats based on what they did during that battle; characters that took damage are likely to gain maximum HP, for instance, while spellcasters might gain additional skill points or magic power. New attacks are learned in a similar fashion, as using a lower-level ability might “spark” a new attack randomly.
Some characters are better at certain weapons and magic and might develop with those weapons and magic more quickly…but the game’s not especially eager to divulge this or any other information, so experimentation is the order of the day. The bottom line when it comes to all of this is that Romancing SaGa 2 demands both patience and a liberal use of the save system so you don’t accidentally get trounced.
We’re talking about the PS4 version of this game to be exact; both this and the Steam version are essentially ports of a mobile release from last year. The most obvious effect of this is that there’s some degree of input lag, even in the PS4 version, and it might take a little getting used to so you’re not sending your character careening into walls. Outside of that, it’s a fairly nice-looking game with notably antiquated mechanics that requires a different mindset than most modern games; SaGa vets, for instance, will know that grinding might be counterproductive as it tends to power up the enemies to match your party, but newcomers may not be familiar with how that system works and end up getting…well, creamed.
The value of Romancing SaGa 2 lies primarily in its status as a little slice of Japanese gaming history that never managed to make its way to our side of the planet before now. Romancing SaGa 3, released just two years later, was a significant improvement on many aspects of the gameplay and a game that I’ve found to be superior all-around, so hopefully we’ll see that one drop in the West before too long. For now, fans of classic Square JRPG adventures may find something to enjoy in this particular dusty tome.