RPG Review #78: Romancing SaGa 2

NuMetalManiak Surprise!

Bet you weren't expecting me to play a game I said I wouldn't do? Well, a few things made me do that. I had looked at Actraiser as the next game I would play, but after looking into its mechanics, some LP videos, and even its horribly received sequel, I have decided that Actraiser isn't really an RPG game as much as it is a hybrid building simulator/platformer. Yeah, it had a unique level system, but that never really took off past one part of the game. So I was at that impasse where I had no idea what to play next. I did, however, find out that Romancing SaGa 2 got a re-release VERY recently, so I decided to dust it off, or so you think. Again, I play this on a Super Famicom translation because I'm a classic fan moreso than one in the remake, but hey, to each their own. And unlike the previous Romancing SaGa, I actually complete the game this time, although not in the way I was hoping.

Gameplay: In this game, you play as the emperor/empress of Avalon, the leader of an entire wealthy nation. It's got the things you expect in an RPG, the shops, the castle, and whatever you can add to it. The money in this game actually comes from the castle treasury, and the 10000 crowns usually doesn't deplete unless you buy something out of town. So there is some sort of management to be done in this game. This game also allows you to expand your empire by doing quests. This will also allow the option of quick travel as well as recruiting new character classes. Yes, I believe this is the first game in the SaGa series to follow the gameplay of the very first game (Final Fantasy Legend). In other words, you are actually recruiting character classes by talking to them. More on that below.

The battles in this game get rid of the multiple rows the previous Romancing Saga had, and this time offered formations. It's possible to learn formations if your emperor is of a certain class. Speaking of emperor, your emperor is always in a static position in a formation. Battles in this game follow the SaGa protocol, having multiple tools or magic for attacking or helping, with some limitations to each. Of course, I found a lot of these battles to be HARD, with enemies doing lots of damage and having tons of health in return. This game also does something that only Final Fantasy Legend had done, and reintroduce a separate life counter, this one called LP. Like the hearts from FFL, these are finite, hard to restore, and if you run out, the character is permanently dead. If it was an emperor, you move on to the next one, and if it was a recruit, obviously, you need another one. And as usual, there's no real leveling up in this game, you level up skills and magic the SaGa way, although the more you do that, the more the enemies actually scale, which means grinding not really an option in most cases. There's also techniques and new magic spells, most of which are learned at Avalon, but a few can be learned in battle with the right level or if you're lucky. Some of those techniques are evasions, which come in handy. Well, at least it's possible to dodge enemies on the map, though running in this game has two consequences, impaired vision, and potentiality of surprise attacks.

There is a degree of nonlinearity like Romancing SaGa 1. There is also a degree of time constraints like that game. But not a whole lot as compared to that. Yes, the quests can be done in any order, and time shifts will happen, but only after you have defeated a number of monsters and have finished a quest or so. The first and last few emperors will be fixed characters, but all the emperors picked in between time shifts are actually four handpicked character classes. Their rules may end abruptly if they die by running out of LP in a battle, although it's game over if it's the final one. I'd give this gameplay a much higher grade if if weren't for these battles always getting excessively harder. Grade: B

Characters: Because of the character classes, I won't divulge into the many character classes in-game, but only a few select characters. This means there's no real grade either.
Leon: He's the first playable emperor, but only for a short bit in the plot.
Gerard: He's the youngest son of Leon (he has another one named Victor who doesn't play much of a role), and takes the throne after Leon.
Final Emperor/Empress: This character is actually chosen at the very beginning of the game, although it's not until nearly the very end when he/she is playable. This emperor is basically the culmination of the Avalon Dynasty's inheritance magic.
The Seven Heroes: Despite being labelled as heroes, these seven are actually the main villains of the game. Their names are Kzinssie, Noel, Rocbouquet, Bokhohn, Subier, Dantarg, and the leader Wagnas. All are apparently named after Japanese train stations, or at least what they are supposed to be named. I don't know.

Plot: So remember how I said I played the Famicom translated version? Yeah, there were some problems with it. The whole introduction to the game is done right, as are the first few bits, along with all menu screens and commands. But after that, if you played this translation, the rest of the dialogue is COMPLETE GIBBERISH. There's some leftover Japanese characters, which obviously I can't read. That's not the problem. The problem is that the dialogue is as I said, complete gibberish. Random letters, numbers, symbols, all inserted. This of course, negates the need for me to read into things. But without a guide to guide me through this entire game, I was pretty much stone cold clueless.

So these Seven Heroes apparently are the world saviors, then at one point they disappeared without a trace, then they return, AS DEMONS! The game also starts off with a bard telling the entire story, which the player actually plays.

The first playable emperor is Leon. He along with his recruits and son Gerard are simply ruining the monsters in some cave. They just do that for a while, then Avalon is attacked. Victor ends up dead, and apparently it was Kzinssie who was responsible for the attack. In an occupied town, Leon fights Kzinssie, but the latter pulls off his signature move, Soul Steal, completely killing Leon.

So since Victor is already dead, Gerard has to take the throne. Another attack happens, but at least Gerard manages to ward it off. Eventually, he gets his revenge and takes down Kzinssie, assuming he still has the evasion technique for Soul Steal. Afterwards, he gets to be a more experienced ruler, and from this point on the game pretty much is nonlinear. Several scenarios this game will offer include helping the fist fighters in the Dragons Den and infiltrating a monster fortress. At some point is a time shift, where Gerard isn't the emperor anymore, and you pick one. Investigating mines, preventing civil war, forming alliances with pirates, defeating an insect queen, helping (and later preventing) a sorceror with a volcano problem, gathering musical instruments, and for a male emperor, falling in love with a mermaid are just many of the sidequests this game provides.

But to really get anywhere in the game, the other six of the seven heroes must be defeated. Naturally, they can be in any order. Noel can be found in the wandering oasis in the desert, although it's possible to make peace with him first. Though, if you defeat Rocbouquet first (found in the jungle, you need a female emperor at some point to get a certain character too), he will attack you outright. Bokhohn the puppetmaster has a ship full of monsters in the grasslands, while Dantarg is flummoxing around caves apparently trying to feed from monsters. Subier apparently inhabits the waters, near a haunted ship, and the leader Wagnas corrupts the oriental eastern lands of the continent, even causing part of a castle to float in midair. Note that if some time passes, any of the undefeated heroes will be able to be in their second, more powerful form, and the very last one you kill will likely be in the final dungeon instead of where he's supposed to be.

For the final emperor/empress, they come into play after around five of the seven heroes are defeated. One of the first quests in this case involves taking down a newly reborn Kzinssie. Another involves the hive queen taking almost complete control of Avalon. Eventually though, it all boils down to reaching the final dungeon of the game, defeating the last hero alive, and then the apparent culmination of all seven heroes using all their signature maneuvers. Defeating them effectively ends the game, erasing the seven heroes from existence. The bard concludes the story, and the final emperor/empress is simply at the bar listening to the story. Surprisingly, the game becomes FULLY open-ended after this is finished, so whatever side stuff hasn't been done yet, have fun with that I guess? Grade: B

Music: Some songs were familiar, but in general, the music was of nice SNES quality. Grade: B

Overall Grade: B

B's across the board. Since I've actually finished this game, I was able to talk more about it. It's definitely one of the hardest SNES games I've played, due to how it's constructed. The return of features from Final Fantasy Legend and the revising of time constraints helped make this one a nice little experience. I think despite how hard it was and how incomplete the fan translation was, this game wasn't entirely that bad.