Review by chandlerbing

"The first English SaGa game since the GB games fare pretty damn well"

SaGa Frontier

SaGa Frontier continues the the series of Square's 'other' series called SaGa. This is the first in the series to appear on the Playstation and fare pretty well on its own. Right from the start, you choose from a selection of characters (much like the prequel Romancing SaGa 3) the one that you want to begin playing as. Each character has his or her own story all set in the same world so each experience will be different for the different characters you play as.

GAMEPLAY

Battling is similar to the prequels to SaGa Frontier. Your party enters a turn-based battle and as always, your characters can specialize in weapon skills and/or magic to develop during the game. Your ability to learn new skills depends on how you use and adapt the choice of weapon or magic during battle. Successful learning of a skill is indicated by a lightbulb and it's always nice to be able to learn more stuff as you progress through the game. What is great about this system is that the game does not force you to develop characters in a certain way. If you want a specific person to specialize in magic, go for it and keep casting magic and so on and vice versa if you want someone to specialize in a choice of weapon. There is also a nice combo system in SaGa Frontier that allows characters to create a chain of attacks to really really hurt the foe - and this may be important in defeating some of the game's tough bosses. And the fact that there are plenty of characters to recruit into your party adds to the variety that you're already given with the battle system. There are different class of characters in this game - Humans, Mystics, Mechs and monsters. Each have their own strength and weaknesses and it is up to you to decide who you want in your party.

The storyline quality varies with different characters. None of them reach the epic-ness of other RPGs but in the game some are definitely better than others. However, I should stress that Lute's story is so short and so poor that it would have been better if they didn't include it in at all! Anybody thinking about starting the game with a character should NOT pick Lute first.

You can save anywhere in this game. Great, you may think. But this can also be a cause for a lot of frustration. Here is an example: Imagine having saved somewhere and you've played for 10 hours. You're in a place where you cannot return to shops to purchase stuff, and you have a severely weak party and there is a powerful boss blocking your path. You're stuck in a rut literally and you have to resign to the fact that you have to start the quest over from the beginning and those 10 hours you spent are wasted. ALWAYS have an extra save! This will save help save a lot of headache.

GRAPHICS

They're pretty and ugly at the same time... well, I guess I want to say that the graphics are nice looking but aren't spectacular in any way. Some battle skills and combos do look rather nice though. Don't judge this game on the graphics, let the gameplay decide your opinion of it.

SOUND/MUSIC

The music in the game are not spectacular but all of them are very decent. The battle music is easy on the ear and addictive too and considering you hear the battle music throughout the game, it is important that it is so. Sound effects are of the typical kind - sword slashes, magical explosions and the like but are certainly not bad at all.

DIFFICULTY

This is a factor that I must praise in this game. Some of the bosses in this game are very tough and really encourages you to develop your character's statistics before embarking on the final length of the particular character story in question. I like challenging games and this game really fits the bill in this particular category. However, any new comers to RPG games should steer clear of SaGa Frontier until they are more experienced because there are certain negative issues about this game that would make it very frustrating. Rush through the game and you will live to face the consequences!

REPLAY VALUE

Excellent replay value. There is an incentive for playing through all the character storylines and saving after each one. If you successfully do so, you WILL be rewarded. This encourages people replaying other storylines to reach this incentive. On the other hand, 'replaying' may also mean those frustrating restarts after you got yourself into an uncompromising situation before so basically, it works both ways - positively and negatively.

OVERALL

SaGa Frontier is a very solid game that is more about gameplay than about story. You are given a lot of choice in terms of character stories and stuff you can do in the game which is great. In terms of player role, the game is much less linear than a lot of other RPG games and there is a certain degree of freedom on your part to see your own path through.

However, this game is definitely not recommended for new players in the genre and they should stay away from this game until they become more familiar with RPGs. For SaGa fans, this game comes recommended and is challenging enough to maintain your interest. Though it can be a frustrating game depending on how you look at it, ultimately, if you put in the time and the effort to get to grips with SaGa Frontier, it is in itself a very rewarding experience.

This game never made it to PAL regions though the somewhat disappointing follow-up SaGa Frontier 2 did. For you PAL gamers, I definitely recommend getting hold of the US copy of SaGa Frontier and hopefully, reading this review will help give you a general idea of the cool stuff that this game holds.

PRO

- Loads of choices - characters, combos and so on.
- Challenging difficulty - cool for those who thinks RPGs are getting easier by the day.
- Good replay value.
- Lots of freedom for players to explore where they wish and develop who they wish.

CONS

- Some iffy stories.
- Not a game to be recommended for complete beginners of the RPG genre.
- Flawed save system.


Reviewer's Score: 8/10 | Originally Posted: 12/27/02, Updated 02/22/03


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