At the center ofÂ Romancing SaGa 2, you wonâ€™t find a plucky gang of heroes off to save the world, travel to the far reaches of time, or bring an end to a destructive war.Â Romancing SaGa is a game about building an empire and passing the burden of leadership from generation to generation.
The opening scenario itself might not set it apart much. King Leon rules the tiny country of Avalon and earns the respect of his people by ruling with a firm yet fair hand. His two sons, Gerard and Viktor, are also beloved by the people, but many expect the mighty Viktor will take his fatherâ€™s place as his heir since Gerard is seen as the weaker of the two. Instead, monsters raid Avalon, killing Viktor and leaving Leon and Gerard to avenge him. They do so, and Leon is tragically killed in the process. Leadership falls onto Gerard to guide his country to glory and to bring about the destruction of Seven Heroes, demons who threaten the land.
Sounds generic enough to you yet?
A year passes and Gerard grows into a respected, strong king who is called upon to settle several territorial disputes. Bringing these conflicts to an end adds new lands, new wealth, and allies to Avalonâ€™s empire. Gerard overseas a glorious generation of expansionâ€¦ and then dies before getting to kill another one of the Seven Heroes.
Yup, he just dies. Old age, war, whatever. We donâ€™t know. It happens off-screen. Emperors pass away frequently inÂ Romancing SaGa 2Â and pass on their knowledge to the next in line as if a new chapter had been turned. It is at this point that the game shows its true colors. Gerardâ€™s story is just one of the hundreds to be told, and with his death comes the passing of leadership to a new emperor and a new band of warriors who must settle more disputes. Gain land, solve regional conflicts, gain wealth, gain allies, repeat, repeat, repeat.
InÂ Romancing SaGa 2, very few characters ever have a unique personality or backstory, and every single one of them is expendable. Even Gerard, should he fall in battle before his time is up, can vanish into history like an average Knight or Monk who winds up in your party, and this is becauseÂ Romancing SaGa 2 is not a game about drama or inner conflict. Itâ€™s a game about the larger picture where the one consistent is the Kingdom of Avalon.
As said before, each generation is tasked with making Avalon just a little stronger than before. This generation can use their time to research new magic or weapons, expand Avalonâ€™s castle grounds, conquest rival kingdoms, or seek out allies to aid in their thousand-year war against the demons that plague the Earth.
As if it needs to be said, donâ€™t get too attached to your emperorâ€™s party members. Permadeath is a thing inÂ Romancing SaGa 2, but unlike Fire Emblem,Â itâ€™s somewhat supposed to happen here. Grinding away and battling monsters generates money for Avalon to grow, and ultimately, any characters you lose in the process of gaining wealth will not be as valuable in the larger picture. Their deaths allow the next generation that much stronger, be it with new weapons or new abilities.
No matter either. When a character inevitably dies, just return to the castle and scoop up a new one. No questions, no qualms, no backstory, just a new face to fill in the ranks and take down monsters.
In fact, should all of your characters die in battle, thatâ€™s Game Over, right? Nope, no such thing inÂ Romancing SaGa 2. When your party is wiped out, you simply pick a new heir, hire new hands, and get right back to work. All progress is saved from fighter to fighter, so the only real downside to this is having to re-equip your new band of fighters and make sure their skills are aligned.
After enough generations have passed and youâ€™ve killed enough demons, aÂ story will eventually find its way back into the game, but for a majority of the game, progress is determined by you and how you best see to make Avalon strong enough to bring down the Seven Heroes.
16-bit JRPGs are often beloved for their fun stories and thrilling characters, but they are all tales of special individuals who unite to accomplish great deeds. InÂ Romancing SaGa 2, no characters are special, and the accomplished deeds are the result of a collaboration by an entire population of ordinary fighters and citizens. This adherence to a larger picture, a constantly growing and evolving kingdom is what makesÂ Romancing SaGa 2 such a beautiful and unconventional 16-bit gem.