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Romancing SaGa (PlayStation 2) artwork

Romancing SaGa (PlayStation 2) review

"Snow capped summits and frozen glaciers in the winter-land of Valhalland. Sand that burns so hot under the sun that it threatens to eat through your boots, in the confusion of storms that are the Kaklim Desert. Kick back a drink with the local miners at the quaint workman's village of Aurefont. "

Snow capped summits and frozen glaciers in the winter-land of Valhalland. Sand that burns so hot under the sun that it threatens to eat through your boots, in the confusion of storms that are the Kaklim Desert. Kick back a drink with the local miners at the quaint workman's village of Aurefont.

Romancing Saga lacks slightly in story, especially compared to what recent RPG gamers are accustomed to, but makes up for that shortcoming by delivering an open-endedness that competitors within the genre can't match up to, whether it means spending time exploring or customizing weapons.

Having the ability to choose one of eight characters from the outset is another one of the main draws and while none of them are teeming with the kind of personality that will instantly attract you, it's no call for an instant dismissal. Each have well developed slides of back story scattered across their episode that, hopefully, help you get a better grip for their motives and angles. There's enough present in doing only the essential events, but you'll be spending a giant amount of time away from the main story anyway, so it won't hurt to keep an eye out. Why so much time? I'm glad you asked.

Romancing Saga's second draw - one that I didn't fully comprehend until a few hours into the game - is the large assortment of context based events. Timing, skill level, party members, item possession; all of these come into play when determining what you might see when you enter any given area. Bandits? Treasure? A cooler adventurer than the one you just hired? You don't know - and that's where the charm lies.

There's a difference between 'wandering around aimlessly' and 'getting to wander around aimlessly'. In the first case, it might be because of a switch that you can't locate, an item that's not where it should be, or forgetting to do something altogether. As for the second, it's more of an, 'Oh, I get to just kind of. . . walk around?' feeling. The traditional RPG introduction period takes far less in this game than in any other I can think of off the top of the head, no more than twenty minutes or so.

After all of that nonsense comes to a wrap, you'll literally find yourself without a clear goal. Stumble onto the world map, and be given a small list of destinations. Go looking around the first city or town, and find nothing of real interest.

Soon enough, you'll think, 'I should probably just explore'.

And that's where the ride takes off. Before you know it you'll have: died; fought a boss battle that you didn't know was a boss battle; been resurrected randomly; picked up a few crew members and undoubtedly gotten into several smaller enemy encounters. You're given the option to run from fights should you choose, as the enemy is displayed on screen before the encounter, but battling is where much of the fun lies.

Through battling, you'll gradually go through the mastery of Romancing Saga's strange but utterly addicting fight mechanics. At first, you'll be clueless, but thanks to the omnipotent voice of a mysterious man known as 'The Minstrel', you'll be picking up terms like: 'Fulcrum', 'Volley', 'Mistwalker' and many others - the coolest and most satisfying of which include all of your party members in a devastating combination strike.

The lot of them are tricky to pull off consistently and like the events system, are based on conditions that don't make themselves apparent. I actually found myself making a pen n' paper list of which moves would work best with each other, so that I could try and annihilate the fools who stood in my way before breaking a sweat.

Above the typical JRPG workings, you'll have to be wary of not only your HP level, but you LP(Life Point) guage. This time around, HP measures your character's conciousness level, rather than whether or not they're "dead" or "alive". Once it reaches that critical zero count, it'll be time to kiss the dirt - and still be left open to enemy attacks that will eat away at your LP. Should you become careless with those points. . . well, you'll have to find out for yourself.

In almost every sense, this is not your run of the mill role-playing experience, which so happens, is a fantastic thing. This is one title that I'm sure a lot of people may have decided to skip, put off by the chibi-styled, watercolor-esque graphics or even the lack of an epic storyline to follow. Keep your mind open, and you'll be pleased to find yourself immersed in the complex, yet comprehensive abilities of blacksmithing and alchemy. More importantly, you'll be pleased to find yourself enjoying an RPG experience that you can take at your own pace (for real, not an advertising ploy).

One that truly reignites the fires of adventure and exploration above the heady, heavy weight of emotional distraction in a often disappointingly bloated genre.

carcinogen_crush's avatar
Community review by carcinogen_crush (July 13, 2007)

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