Square Enix’s long lost Super Famicom RPG arrives in North America, giving us an interesting RPG with some unique ideas.
Romancing SaGa 2, originally released for the Super Famicom in 1993, never got a western release until a couple of years ago when it finally came out on mobile. Having fond memories of Square’s role-playing games of this era, hearing it would be arriving back on Nintendo consoles on the Switch made me eager to try it out. In the end, Romancing SaGa 2 is a game very much of its own time, meaning it hasn’t aged gracefully. If you can get through some of the more archaic features and the lack of any interesting story or characters, it can be a pretty decent experience.
Romancing SaGa is different from other RPGs in that while the main goal is to stop the seven former heroes (who once saved the world from evil) turned demons, another part of the game is kind of like a management simulator. Talking to various people within the kingdom of Avalon, you can choose different options and ways to expand your empire and collect weapons that will help your journey. Finding money within the dungeons adds to the kingdom’s treasury. As this game takes place over multiple generations, you can see these additions grow and prosper as you play along.
The overarching story is fine, and the generational aspect is actually cool, but there isn’t much here in terms of story or characters, which dampens the experience a bit. The writing is also awful for a Square Enix game, with much of the dialogue coming off as stilted and blunt.
Gameplay wise, SaGa 2 is varied, and feels rewarding. Instead of just having one weapon, you can wield multiple weapons, up to four. As you use the weapons, you’ll accumulate points that will go to leveling up the weapons and other abilities you or your party use. While battling is fun, the grind of the game can get tedious and difficult pretty quick, especially if you grind, since the difficulty increases as you defeat more enemies. Backtracking in the game is also a big chore because enemies repopulate as soon as you re-enter an area, which isn’t a particularly fun when you’ve spent the last 10 minutes or so clearing the screen.
Presentation-wise the game looks pretty nice. ArtePiazza, who is well known for their work on the Dragon Quest games, made this game not only faithful to the Super Famicom original, but added detailed, wonderful new backgrounds that helps create a retro vibe that stays true to the original with a modern touch. It looks a ton better than the Final Fantasy remakes that have appeared on Steam or mobile devices in the last few years.
One gripe I have to get out in the open is that controls are pretty annoying. I had dash turned on throughout my run and I had a hard time getting through doors, which isn’t fun at all, especially if you’re trying to run away from enemies. Turning it off or going slowly feels better, but still doesn’t feel completely right.
Romancing SaGa 2 has a certain old school charm that invites any old school RPG fan to give it a shot. I don’t think it’s as polished as Square Enix’s other titles that came out during this ’90s era, but it’s something worth investing in if you want a different take on the standard RPG formula. It’s not for everybody, but Romancing SaGa has enough good qualities to give it a go if you’ve never played it before.