Romancing SaGa Review

I have always thought that with experience you will general become better. For example, walking. None of us were good at it the first time, but after falling countless times we learned all the little things that go into a successful walk. Yet every now and then we might just be walking along and BAM! for no good reason we stumble. What does this have to do with video games and with Romancing SaGa for the PlayStation 2 in particular? Well with all of the tremendous experience of creating great RPGs that Square Enix has they are bound to stumble every now and then. In order to have a good RPG there are several areas that most be solid and there are a couple of areas where SaGa does not have solid footing and one is a big misstep (OK, enough with the walking analogies).

At the beginning you choose one of eight different characters to play; Albert, a young nobleman; Aisha, a nomad girl; Gray, an adventurer; Claudia, a ranger; Jamil, a thief; Sif, a female barbarian; Hawke, a pirate; and Barbara, a traveling dancer. The story takes slightly different paths depending on whom you choose, but not as much as I would have liked to have seen. The biggest difference is where each character starts the game from and after that they more or less do the same things. You'll run into the characters you didn't choose along the way and some will join you. Problem is that none of the characters are that deep and do not have interesting back stories so it's a little hard to like them.

The story is set in the world of Mardias which has a variety of people inhabiting it. It seems that Mardias had three evil gods long ago. These three decided to pick a fight with the good gods. Ends up that two of the evil gods were defeated while the most powerful one, Saruin, was subdued by Elore the most powerful god of them all, by using ten magical stones to seal Saruin. Naturally about a 1000 years later Saruin is ready to break out of this seal and destroy the world.

OK, we've all heard this story before in one way or another. Problem here is that this is basically all of the story that there is. You are way too often left to roam around without any clue as to what it is you are supposed to be doing. It's kind of like if someone came up to you at your house and told you that you must save the world and then walked away. What are you suppose to do? How are you going to do it? Where do you need to go? Saving the world may sound fun but there is really a lot of details you need to know and you just aren't given them here. Here you end up wandering around looking for people to talk to and just hoping that one of them will tell you something interesting that helps you figure out what to do next. To its credit, SaGa tried to create an open-ended RPG which sounds good on paper but turns out not to work very well in execution.

Because of the lack of a strong story SaGa throws in bunch of side quests in an attempt to keep you entertained. However even these quests leave you scratching your head. If these people really wanted you to help them wouldn't you think that they would give you as much information as they could? And a big problem is that way too often you are ill-prepared to complete the quest. Say that one quest require that you climb a mountain. It's not until you get to said mountain that you find out that you need to have a special skill. Fine, so in order to buy the skill you need to get some jewels...but to get jewels you'll need to complete quests. See the problem here? How do you know which quests you can complete with the skills you already have? You don't!