[floatleft]http://www.snackbar-games.com/images/reviews/romancingsaga/cover.jpg[/floatleft]Role-playing games: probably the most protected genre to video game fans. Usually, these games come in series, so when you change something, the gaming community goes nuts (see [i]Final Fantasy[/i] magic systems). Well, of course, the big dogs on campus are Square Enix-if you think RPG, you think Square Enix. It’s that simple.
Now, the [i]Saga[/i] series goes back a ways, though I’m not too familiar with it. I do know that previous incarnations did not get the best of reviews, and as I have gotten older, I pick and choose my 40+ hour games very carefully. As a big fan of character design, when I saw the art direction in [i]Romancing Saga[/i], it naturally piqued my interest. So it was only a matter of time before I got a hold of the game. When I did, I found a favorable RPG experience.
[heading]’I don’t trust actors'[/heading]
[floatright]http://www.snackbar-games.com/images/reviews/romancingsaga/ss03_thumb.jpg[/floatright]It’s funny that the movie [i]Team America[/i] comes to mind when I saw the character design. They look like puppets, mixed with super deformed anime art. It was a weird look, but one that grows on you. The game itself is beautiful. I really fell for the character design itself despite the strange direction it took. However, [i]Romancing Saga[/i] does a great job of immersing you in a world full of dungeons, villages, and big royal cities. Small things like thugs, paupers, and beggars are around the corner in the slums, and of course, the stuck-up type, in the nice part of town. Good detail to the NPCs, most of whom have interesting stuff to say, and you WILL be talking to them a lot.
[heading]OK, kid, just go[/heading]
The strange thing about this game is while it does have a central story arch (which you have to find), the game is pretty freeform. It keeps you on tab, however, so it’s nothing like [i]Morrowind[/i] freeform but pretty loose for an ‘attack, magic, item’ RPG. You choose from the get-go one character to play and then you take on his or her story. You will, of course, run into the other main characters and get to learn some cool backstory on them as they come and go. I love party members, so when I was able to pick up various members (and boot them) from pubs and various places, I was excited. It’s always cool to travel around with a diverse party, and especially one that looks cool. Of course, you can tell the generic characters from the actual real party members-but hey, the more, the merrier.
As far as quests go, you just have to look, ask, and pay attention. Sometimes upon arriving in a town or village, something will trigger; thus you must investigate. Other times, you can pick up jobs from some shady folks or just offer a lending hand. Again, it’s all up to you. You can spend hours just not doing anything in particular, looking about to find what to do. That frustrated me a bit, but when I got on an actual quest, it was dungeon crawling as usual.
[heading]Classes! Battles! Dungeons![/heading]
[floatleft]http://www.snackbar-games.com/images/reviews/romancingsaga/ss05_thumb.jpg[/floatleft]I love the class system used in [i]Romancing Saga[/i]; you must speak with various mentors in towns to learn new class abilities. Like most RPGs, learning some classes and leveling them up will get you some other classes. So you really get to make your characters personalized. There are a lot of classes as well, so those of you who are particular can really plan ahead. Good stuff here.
The battle system is pretty cut and dry, although each time you use your weapon, it wears. Also, you must save BP in order to perform special attacks (mages, that means you). So you just can’t go out there swinging your best material because you will find yourself fighting with your hands and not being able to do much of anything. Trust me, it happened to me.
Money is a tad bit hard to come by, so you must go searching for chests in various dungeons, forests, and such. You learn proficiencies that can be used outside of battle-these will help you get to places and uncover hidden things. Save your money because these proficiencies are what get you more bank roll.
[heading]Square Enix, baby![/heading]
Yes, I’m a bit biased-so what? Although I can tell it like it is, [i]Romancing Saga[/i] is not the best RPG I have played, but it’s damned good. I found myself at work wondering which class to take and whom to give it to. When a game does that to you, it’s done its job. In a world with a lot of cookie-cutter RPGs, [i]Romancing Saga[/i] is a breath of fresh air. It’s worth a rental if your wary, but a purchase if you’re a fan.