Circle Entertainment specializes in affordable eShop games. Open up your 3DS any given Thursday and you’ll surely see a new title awaiting, offering a few hours worth of entertainment for under $5. Pleasant is a good word for them, unless you’re talking about Mercenaries Saga 2, the publisher’s latest strategic RPG and easily its best game.
Mercenaries Saga 2 is a cash-in, it’s true. It’s a port of a mobile game designed to appeal to people who won’t stop believing that Square Enix will make another Final Fantasy Tactics game. (One day.) The character designs and levels will give you such a case of deja vu. You may even feel a little conflicted about giving Circle and Rideon $4.99 for the game. Don’t.
I wanted something to play between rounds of Fire Emblem Fates. I figured Mercenaries Saga 2 would keep my mind fresh and thinking critically, while pulling me away from the grinding loop I’d trapped myself in. The Nintendo listing didn’t make it seem like much. Help Knight Captain Claude save a poisoned Prince Laz. I didn’t expect a game with free battles to allow grinding between story bouts, characters that had two intermediate and four advanced classes available to each of them, and two endings that would encourage me to go back and replay the affair in New Game+.
Take Lulu, for example, one of Mercenaries Saga 2‘s most helpful characters. When the time came for her to advance to an intermediate class, I could choose between making her a damage dealing Sorceress or a more supportive Shaman at level 10. I went with the latter, so she could Mana Snatch MP from foes, making it easier to cast Trance and Lightning. When the time came for her to promote at level 20, the Summoner and Dragonist classes were waiting. (I went with the Summoner, in case youre curious, for the resurrection and teleportation abilities.)
But who knows? Next time, I might get the class item necessary to make her a Dragonist. It’s always an option for New Game+. Though, the chance to see a different ending and work with different character builds isn’t the only reason to replay. Mercenaries Saga 2 has elements that can only be enjoyed if you come back to the game. There are hidden items in certain chapter maps, some which only can be found if you’re coming back from a previous game. Extra maps can have more difficult enemies roaming around them, ready to drop puzzle pieces for Class items. There’s even a map that allows you to fight replicas of your team. It wants to keep challenging you, something you don’t often see in full games, let alone a budget title.
When Circle brought Adventure Bar Story to the 3DS, I had some idea what I was getting into. Another mobile to handheld port, there was enough information online to show it was easily a 10-hour adventure. There was nothing to suggest Mercenaries Saga 2, a game that was $1 less, would offer double that. It’s astonishing.
Mercenaries Saga 2 reflects well on the company, despite its uncanny similarities to Square Enix’s game. Circle Entertainment has been working harder to make a name for itself with games like Adventure Bar Story, Karous: The Beast of Re: Eden, Tappingo and Swords and Soldiers 3D. But this strategic RPG goes above and beyond to impress players.