Review by Calamity
"This is one frontier worth traversing, but be cautious the road is filled with a few bumpy spots."
SaGa Frontier was a game released by Squaresoft to much disapproval. Several RPG fans did not enjoy the game. While in some ways I can understand why certain people would not enjoy it... I do not believe this game deserves all of the hate it gets. Curious to see why this game was shunned, I gave SaGa Frontier a try. Was it really just a disappointment like everyone said or was it good? It was actually a extremely good game, but it had a few flaws that prevented it from being nearly perfect.
Graphics:7.5/10:SaGa Frontier's graphics could be a lot better to be honest. The resolution of the sprites aren't done too well and the character designs are either excellent or terrible. However, what's nice about the graphics is they they are extremely colorful and vibrant. Area designs are bland and you won't run into any areas that will impress you in terms of design unfortunately though. If I had one word to describe the enemy designs it would be... Unique. Yes, unique. SaGa Frontier sure has some odd enemy designs. Throughout my playthrough of SaGa Frontier I ran into: Killer Cactus's, Airplanes with blades attached to them, Goblins with rocket launchers and man eating starfish etc. Just to give you a few examples. So, overall the graphics get a 7.5/10. Next is the gameplay where SaGa Frontier is greatly bashed, but really is ultimately the game's saving grace.
Gameplay:8.5/10:SaGa Frontier is far from a typical RPG. When you begin, you'll be at a character select screen. Where you choose a scenario to play. Once, you've chosen a character you obviously begin their scenario. Each scenario has different locations, storylines, bosses and characters which adds a lot of replay value to SaGa Frontier. A flaw to the scenarios is some are much worse then others. When you've chosen a scenario, the game truly begins.
You'll be able to walk or run around. Have a menu you can access for obvious purposes of equipping items, abilities, using items, etc. Battles and exploration in SaGa Frontier is done a with a 5 man party. Now, a thing that's nice and bad about SaGa Frontier is the progression is not too linear. Most of the dungeons are composed of multiple pathways making them extremely complex. You'll follow a path only to have three exits available to you at times. Towns aren't too complex, but really this is one of the bad points of SaGa Frontier's gameplay. At times, it can take 10-20 minutes just to get yourself acquainted with a area. Plus, the game provides almost no hints on where to go at times. Another annoying aspect of the exploration is what I like to call 'exits that blend in too well'
Occasionally, you'll find yourself running in circles. Going "Okay, I'm sure I went down every single path where is the exit?" When really, the answer turns out to be... You missed a exit in one of the areas you passed by. Due to it blending in with the design too well. This is really annoying at times and can cause you to waste a lot of time. Once you do discover this the first time though, you'll be used to it so it won't be as big of a problem. The first time though it will annoy you a lot. As you're exploring a dungeon, you'll notice enemies moving around. Like Chrono Trigger battles are initiated by coming into contact with a enemy.
Battles in SaGa Frontier are quite unique. The game uses a unique, satisfying and extremely entertaining battle system with a lot of depth to it. It doesn't add too much strategy to be honest, but it's a load of fun simply put. You'll notice you have a list of attacks as soon as your first battle begins. These are skills and some of them cost Weapon Points(WP). As for your other options, characters can use Magic which costs(JP) or Defend. So, you're most likely going to use your skills. At one point, you'll notice that a character sparks a light bulb above their head. This means that character has learned a new skill. When this occurs, that character automatically instead of doing the skill they were ordered to will use the new one they learned at no WP cost. Which is a nice feature. Either way though speaking of how skills are learned in SaGa Frontier...
Skill learning in SaGa Frontier is a lot of fun and is essential. In order to learn new skills you need to use certain ones and get lucky. A nice factor is the more powerful the enemy the better of a chance you have to learn a new skill. Speaking of enemies being more powerful if you get more powerful from battles and return to a previous area the enemies will be stronger. Now, don't worry I know what you're thinking. "Oh, no not another Final Fantasy VIII!" Fortunately, that is not the case. Due to the fact, only enemies not bosses level with you. So, fighting enemies is still worthwhile. Also, on the note of getting more powerful and gaining skills, SaGa Frontier does these two things in a unique way.
Gaining stats is done differently from nearly every RPG out there in SaGa Frontier. When a battle is won, random stats go up. If a enemy is powerful most likely a lot of stats will go up. If not, then probably no stats or little will go up. This system does not hurt the game and it oddly is satisfying to see your characters get all those stat increases. Then to access the Status menu and slowly watch their stats grow with happiness. Skills have a unique feature to them as well known as comboing.
Combos are a truckload of fun to pull off. They require party members to use certain Skills in a certain order. So, often luck is a factor in pulling Combos off. The Combos are worth the trouble you need to go through in order to do them. When successfully executed, Combos will do an insane amount of damage. There are varying levels of degrees you can do combos up to. The higher up the level of a combo combination, the more powerful it will be. You can do up to Level 5 Combo Combinations. Each Level represents how many party members are involved in the Combo. So, if Level 3 then three party members are involved in that Combo.. The battle system is not the only aspect of SaGa Frontier that contains unique mechanics however. SaGa Frontier also has various races with their own power gaining mechanics.
Humans to begin with are probably the most basic. They learn all skills using weapons and the skills from those weapon types. After battle, their stats go up and that's it. Next, is Mechs. The robot race and they get stronger in a different way. What they do is equip equipment and certain stats boost. As for skill gaining, they have a chance to download skills from a nearly dead enemy. For our third race, we have Mystics. They can use certain weapons/skills such as Mystic Sword, Gloves etc. To absorb a certain skill from a enemy. This allows for a crazy amount of customization with your Mystics. Last is Monsters. Monsters basically absorb abilities as well, but in a different way then Mystics. When a battle is won, your Monsters will have a choice of what Skills they want to inherit from the defeated enemies. If their Skill List is maxed they may have to give up a Skill in order to learn the desired one. This adds a lot of customization to monsters as well, but it's a flaw itself. Due to the fact, you'll never know what Skills to keep or get rid of. As for all other races, they can just simply seal the skill temporarily, but re-equip it to their skill list anytime.
Overall, the gameplay of SaGa Frontier is pretty good, but it has its flaws. On the positive side, it features several unique RPG mechanics that many games have not used before. Due to the sheer complexity of the races, weapon types, amazing amount of different recruitable characters and etc. A insane amount of customization is possible in SaGa Frontier. Plus, the game boasts seven scenarios to choose from each different in several ways. It's bad aspects consist of the game sometimes being too non linear, not knowing what Skills to choose from, exits in dungeons sometimes blending in too well with the environments and being hard to find, battle system that at times can make you get very sidetracked by needing to go out of your way for a desired skill etc. So, the gameplay gets a 8.5/10. It's extremely fun and I don't know why people hated it. Everything has been pretty good so far, but next is the storyline which hurts SaGa Frontier badly.
Storyline:4/10:The storyline in SaGa Frontier is kept to a minimal. Scenes have very little dialogue, but decent writing. There is no character development to be found in any of the scenarios. As for the concepts of the Storylines, they range from bad to extremely good, but due to the minimal dialogue and absolutely no character development...Every scenario ends up terrible regardless of how good the concepts of the plots regarding the scenarios are. SaGa Frontier's storyline is certainly a weak point. So, do not expect a amazing storyline out of this title. Last, is the music which is a pretty good aspect.
Music:9/10:SaGa Frontier's soundtrack is actually really good, but was just barely short of being amazing. All of the music in the game was composed by series composer Kenji Ito. Most of the songs were extremely good. However, there were a decent amount that I didn't really care for. The extremely well done songs though are the following: Despair(My favorite dungeon song Kenji Ito has ever done), With Orlouge, Battle 1, Battle 5, Asellus's final boss song, along with Emelia and T260G's, Fighting Machine Arena, HQ and last A Blue Town. Overall, the soundtrack was quite good, but just a tad bit short of amazing. So, you're probably asking yourself. Is SaGa Frontier worth a purchase?
Overall:8/10:Yes, SaGa Frontier is worth a purchase. It's a extremely fun game with a few glaring flaws. Such as its poor storyline, and slightly above average graphics. Not too mention how the game is extremely beginner unfriendly and sometimes too non linear. I feel that this game is terribly underrated though because many did not understand what the game was trying to accomplish. Overall, it gets a 8/10. Now for SaGa Frontier II...!
Reviewer's Score: 8/10 | Originally Posted: 01/12/09, Updated 08/23/11
Game Release: SaGa Frontier (US, 03/31/98)
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