Guest Author - James Shea
A remake of the 1983 Square RPG classic, "Romancing SaGa" for the PS2 attempts to recreate the old-timey charms and deliver them in a new graphic system. While many of the game's story segments seem cliche now, since this is a remake of such an old game these can be forgiven.
The game takes place in Mardias, a mystical world. Long ago, a battle raged between the dark gods and the light gods. The light gods gave 8 "fatestones" to heroes, who then died in battle defeating the dark gods. Now those dark gods have risen again, and 8 new heroes must rise up. The player (who enters his name and gender) must lead the 8 heroes through battle; during the course of their stories, the heroes' paths intersect, and the final chapter is the united group fighting against the dark gods and their avatars.
The 8 characters come from 8 different parts of the globe. Albert is a young knight with a naive viewpoint. Jamil is a vagrant accustomed to stealing. Claudia is a ranger in the deep woods. Aisha is a nomadic herbologist for her tribe. Hawke is a famed pirate. Sif is a powerfully built barbarian warrior woman. Gray is an amoral adventurer who desires freedom above all else. Barbara is a traveling dancer. These 8 characters are drastically different in terms of their abilities, their viewpoints, and their adventures. Because the characters are not united until late in the game, the characters also have their own companions, ranging from story characters to mercenaries recruited in taverns to secret characters that must be unlocked by doing quests. These companions also have their own ability sets.
The gameplay is of an RPG style. There are some magical elements, but these vary depending on the character. Certain characters are better with certain weapons, and can learn a wider variety of moves with those weapons. Picking the right people for the right job is an important part of the game. Because it is based on such an old system, it is only expected that it would take this relatively simple path.
The designs are, stylistically, incredibly neat, but the big-heads/small-bodies mismatch of proportions (seen also in Final Fantasy IX, but it was a little more cartoony there) throws it off. The costumes and character designs are very well done, with unique styles for each civilization (more than just "these guys are European", for example), but the characters themselves look sort of weird because of their mismatched proportions. The music is pretty good for an RPG of this type. For the most part, it is well-composed. The voice acting, especially on the part of the Minstrel who tells the story, is also surprisingly good.
Despite the drawbacks of remaking such an old game, Romancing SaGa for the PS2 has managed to pull it off pretty well. Even though elements like the story and gameplay are now cliche, the remake manages to do a decent job of bringing that spirit into more recent terms.