Romancing SaGa 2 (Xbox One) Review

By Gabriel Jones 14.01.2018

Review for Romancing SaGa 2 on Xbox One

In the year 1965, Empress Krystel defeated the dreaded Seven Heroes. The deaths of these demonic fiends marked the end of a centuries-long war, one that spanned many generations. Some say that Lord Krystel inherited a great power, one that can be traced all the way back to brave Emperor Leon. Indeed, the history books make mention of all of the emperors that preceded the Young Heroine, as well as their efforts to protect Avalon and its neighbouring kingdoms from the forces of evil. Witness firsthand the rise of a glorious empire in Romancing SaGa 2.

In the Super Famicom era, there was no shortage of RPGs that adhered closely to tradition. At first glance, Romancing SaGa 2 doesn't stray from that norm. After all, it utilises an overhead view for exploration and a turn-based battle system. The plot, which begins with a young man seeking vengeance, is practically interchangeable with most other entries in the genre. However, there is an understated brilliance to this gem. Even today, its innovations are the subject of much curiosity, and are better realised than games with ten times the budget.

It all starts at the mantra adopted by this critic: "Making the game yours." Originally released in 1993, this non-linear title allows its players to pursue a wide variety of quests, while developing an impressive arsenal of weapon skills and magical arts. Most importantly, the person holding the control is never shamed for failure. Every decision, even if it leads to a quick demise, is worth pursuing. This adventure can be quite punishing, but in a manner that makes it more approachable than similar titles. Confused? Read on.

Screenshot for Romancing SaGa 2 on Xbox One

The notion that the game ends when the emperor and their allies are defeated does not apply here, at least not usually. All that happens is that the dead emperor is lost to obscurity, and an heir is immediately selected to take their place. The idea of permanently losing a party member is bound to induce fear into the average RPG fan. Nobody wants to lose all of the time they have invested in developing a powerful character. Thankfully, stats are retained through each successive heir. Furthermore, seemingly lost equipment is conveniently placed in Avalon's storage room. In a way, failure is rewarded. The player is given a fresh start, an opportunity to move in a different direction, preferably away from whatever it was that soundly trounced them earlier.

In a clear break from tradition, Romancing SaGa 2 utilises a battle-scaling feature. With every encounter, the enemy's strength grows ever so slightly. Early on, fights with fragile bees and weak goblins are commonplace. After around 25 hours of game-time, or nearly a thousand battles, expect to battle end-game monsters, such as the vicious Chymera. This is actually an ingenious method for introducing level-scaling in an open-ended RPG. No matter where somebody goes, they are guaranteed a sufficient challenge. At the same time, they aren't trapped in an unwinnable scenario, if they decide to grind for an hour or two.

Of course, it helps to know exactly what to grind for. In this game, power is tied entirely to weapon skills and magic. Hit-point gains can also occur after successful battles, but the nominal gains simply can't compare to a strong blade or spell. During battles, there's a chance that a character will experience a glimmer of inspiration. Their next attack will take the form of a devastating special move. On this momentous occasion, the move is unlocked for further use, or to pass down to future generations. The heroes will occasionally sense an opening in an enemy's special attack, dodging it entirely. Both offensive and defensive skills can be taught to everyone. However, only eight can be equipped at a time, leaving no room for any other bouts of inspiration. Magic is a bit more direct. Frequent usage will unlock more spells, including the almighty fusion incantations.

Screenshot for Romancing SaGa 2 on Xbox One

It's fair to point out that battles tend to be almost hilariously one-sided. As the adventure progresses, enemies will frequently defeat healthy characters in a single blow. Devastating spells and debilitating status effects are also a constant fixture. Thankfully, the game was clearly designed to account for every possible angle. The aforementioned defensive skills mitigate a number of these powerful abilities. Unique pieces of equipment can outright deflect against dangerous elements, such as fire or electricity. Better still, it is possible to utilise skills and spells that prevent enemies from getting a chance to attack. The best defence is a great offence.

While it isn't exactly balanced, taking every advantage to snap the game in half is what the "Making the game yours" mantra is all about. People are free to do whatever they feel they have to, just to ensure the win. The adversaries don't play fair, and they will delight in the suffering of the ill-equipped and unprepared. This makes it all the more satisfying when using spells such as "Hasten Time," which practically eliminates the enemy's turn. Alternatively, if not wanting to rely on overpowered spells, instead you can send emperors into battles with the mightiest foes, figure out what tactics they use, and then decide on a proper counter. The short dungeons and save-anywhere functionality help to facilitate that style of play. Failure is merely a temporary setback, as it should be.

There are, however, a number of aspects that can only be described as "lovingly obtuse." Essential upgrades to the Avalon Empire, such as the magic academy and university, are locked behind a rather odd mechanic. Whenever the emperor sits on their throne, there's a chance that they will summon the chancellor to commission a new facility. The academy is where party members can go to learn magic, while the university allows access to the very important tactician, whose brilliant ploy helps to spell doom for one of the Seven Heroes. One of the NPCs makes a casual remark about the throne, but that's the closest Romancing SaGa 2 comes to hinting at its usefulness.

Screenshot for Romancing SaGa 2 on Xbox One

Speaking of NPCs, a lot of them either have nothing of import to say, say exactly what their identical twin brother has already said, or make an off-handed comment about a castle or cave, which unlocks another location to explore. Also, a few decisions can lock the player out from completing certain questlines. They aren't liable to miss out on too much, so there's little reason to agonise over strategy guides. Some even have alternative methods for completion, which is especially impressive for a 1993 RPG. If, for whatever reason, there is a feeling of having ruined the chances of completing the current adventure, the New Game+ feature takes away a lot of the sting. Still, there are elements that trend towards the inane.

For this game, the best approach is an open-minded one. The player is more likely to enjoy it if they set their expectations aside and learn to embrace whatever befalls them. There are going to be times where they suffer an unlucky death, or they make the wrong decision, and then get stuck in a practically unwinnable battle. This isn't like the other RPGs where success is required for progress. In time, they will learn not to reload their last save, and take things as they come. Again, this is not an epic to be taken lightly, but at least the threat of "Game Over" isn't constantly hanging over their head.

Screenshot for Romancing SaGa 2 on Xbox One

Cubed3 Rating

Rated 8 out of 10

Great - Silver Award

Rated 8 out of 10

A lot of RPGs produce what can basically be described as "junk data." They pile numbers on top of numbers in order to present a dizzying array of statistics, but they always lead to the same result. In turn, the player never really learns anything. Romancing SaGa 2 is a title that deserves to be explored. This isn't just in the sense of visiting each town and opening every treasure chest. There is a variety of sub-systems and mechanics that are quite unlike the norm, and they are used to startling effect. At times, one can be left feeling a little lost, but that's part of what makes it work so well. They will pick and prod until the solution reveals itself. Every aspect of this game blends into one another quite nicely, creating an experience that any fan of the classic era is sure to appreciate.


Square Enix


Square Enix


Turn Based RPG



C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  8/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now   


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