Romancing SaGa 2 Physical
Romancing SaGa 2: This Is Your Grandparent's RPG
When it comes to retro gaming, an action game is a genre that developers look towards inspiration. It's easy to emulate, the difficulty is easy to balance, and action games are usually easy to grasp. It's why games like Okinawa Rush thrive because they are "pick-up-and-play." During the early 90s, Square released several RPGs outside of the fabled Final Fantasy brand which serves as the antithesis. These games usually refused to hold the player's hands and part of its challenge was in its exploration. Romancing SaGa 2 is a polarizing example.
Square's SaGa series is arguably part of the "Big 3" of Square Enix's RPGs, joining Final Fantasy and Dragon Quest. SaGa focuses on a traditional storyline with many of its characters and paths splitting into one larger plot. Its spinoff, SaGa Frontier was something that we looked at in the past on the Switch. Both titles had a recent physical release exclusive to Asian regions, despite both games releasing digitally for a while. This iteration of Romancing SaGa 2 is not the original release, but it's the ArtePiazza remaster originally released in 2016.
Visually Impressive, Thirty Years Later
The story for Romancing SaGa 2 centers around seven legendary heroes who saved the world from monsters in the past. Years later, history repeats itself as many individual pieces to the puzzle start to join together. The game actually starts "in media res" as the story begins at a tavern. A bard appears and starts to recite the story of Gerard and how his father handled the monster infestation plaguing his town. The cinematography is interesting as the opening cutscene uses several zooming effects. Clashes with monsters and various events are used in this way, despite aging graphics, leading to impressive art direction
The most interesting about the cutscenes is that the action is simply an in-game fight with the HUD turned off. Damage numbers are still shown but they tell a story to let players know how fruitless the endeavors are. It's nostalgic and retro, but sometimes simplicity is enough to tell a story. I've also said something similar about Bug Fables, a game that would come out several decades later, which would prove my point. You really don't need cutting-edge graphics to tell a story.
The Pacing Is Not As Impressive Sadly
Romancing SaGa 2 suffered the same fate as many older RPGs did during this time. Without a walkthrough, it's difficult to exactly determine where to go and what to do. In the beginning, it's not an issue, as generally speaking "exploring" the area until a prompt happens is the name of the game. When you're roaming a dungeon only to realize that the exit is right in front of you, that's when things get dicey. It could be because my sense of direction is terrible (it is), but it's as barebones as it gets.
There's no map, no indicator to tell you where to go, and no dialogue. It's your party and the horde of monsters that spawn. One good thing is, at least in the remaster, your health seems to recover after every fight. Even if members in your party begin to fall, they will start the next fight with a clean bill of health. The only issue is, should they die, they miss out on experience points. Formations are important as tanks in the front will "ideally" soak damage over the weaker party members in the rear. Some enemies will still attack those in the flank and rear, making this moot.
Romancing SaGa 2 Demands Respect
As one of the older JRPGs, it's best to look at Romancing SaGa 2 as a benchmark on how far JRPGs had come. Those who have grown up with modern JRPGs will find some of the game's "mechanics" frustrating. While you can escape all non-boss battles without worry, there is no invincibility from enemies in the overworld. This means that you cannot walk past enemies and chances are you'll instantly get placed in a fight again.
After a while, you start to feel like Pac-Man and the enemies start to feel like ghosts. In tight spaces, like the interior of a house, enemies will swarm and continue to engage despite fleeing from each fight. Moving between floors will respawn the enemies you fought before. All of this means is that you'll be forced to fight even if you don't want to.
It's an old-school JRPG, not by "genre," but by definition. Players who endure the rough introduction will be treated to JRPG historical royalty. However, there's a reason why remasters are bundled with anti-stress mechanics to "modernize" the games. This particular remaster doesn't feature such things, keeping things as authentic as possible. Ultimately, Romancing SaGa 2 wasn't my cup of tea though it's a score for collectors. I think if you could suplex a bat like in SaGa Frontier, I'd warm up to it a lot more.
The physical version of Romancing SaGa 2 is available on the PS4 and Switch.