Romancing SaGa is a traditional role-playing game set in a fantasy world where players must navigate their characters through towns, dungeons, and other environments while taking part in the game's story by interacting with non-player characters. At the start of the game, the player is given the option of assuming the role of one of eight main characters, each with their own strengths, weaknesses, and starting points throughout the game's world. In addition, the player must select the profession of the character's parents from a list of eight choices each, which go towards determining their strengths. As a staple of the SaGa series, both gameplay and story are largely open-ended, giving the player the ability to play through scenarios in a number of different orders, with some areas and portions of the narrative only becoming available once they have spoken to specific characters or performed certain tasks. By completing story objectives and meeting new characters, the player is brought closer to the game's end, leading to the final confrontation where they must use all of their acquired skills to succeed.
While traveling through dangerous environments, the player's party can do battle with enemy monsters which roam around the screen and will enter combat when touched. Using a turn-based approach to combat, battle scenes are played out by having the player input commands for each individual party member at the start of each round, with the selected actions taking place in accordance with a character's "speed" statistic. A player may choose to attack an enemy, use a special weapon skill, cast a magic spell, defend themselves, or flee from battle entirely. Parties can consist of up to five characters that the player will recruit automatically as part of the story, or after they have completed certain story scenarios. As characters take part in more battle, they will randomly learn new weapon skills by attacking normally, as well as randomly gain increased statistics at the end of every few battles, thereby becoming stronger. All characters may become equipped with up to two different kinds of weapons, as well as become outfitted in protective gear that increases their defense against attacks.
Romancing SaGa is set in the fictional world of Mardias, which was created by the God Marda. Long ago, war raged between three wicked gods, Death, Saruin, and Schirach, and the lord of all gods, Elore. At the end of that long conflict, Death and Schirach were stripped of their powers, and Saruin was imprisoned through the might of the ten Fatestones and the hero Mirsa's ultimate sacrifice. A millennium had passed, and the Fatestones were scattered throughout Mardias. All this time the powers of evil festered, bent on releasing Saruin from his prison.