Review by Wrath_ofda_Bees
"A 2005 Look Back at SaGa Frontier"
SquareSoft, maker of the much-acclaimed Final Fantasy Series, tried something new with Saga Frontier. Though it is still an RPG you find yourself playing many short RPGs all with different plots. Though this is not a groundbreaking idea, let us remember Live A Live for SNES; this is not the convention style of RPG. For ever character you can have a party of five people and you can choose from about 10 20 of characters depending on which character you are playing to have in your party. There are many different class types (magic users, gun users, sword users, etc) and four different races, but I will explain all that in the game play section. After beating the game, looking back and reflecting on it, I feel that Saga Frontier had the potential to be another huge hit, but SquareSoft rushed it out and it did not get all the polish it needed.
Sadly this was the most unpolished section. Throughout the game you play as seven different characters all with a different story and all with a few playable characters that only they can get. All seven of them exist in the same world and have a few unique dungeons. Despite this, many of the characters go to the same dungeons, same towns, fight the same villains, etc. One possibly awesome aspect I think SquareSoft dropped here was having a Pulp Fiction kind of effect with the character's plots weaving in and out of each other's. This is done, but to a very small aspect in the game. Instead of having Pulp Fiction with your characters you have Sin City where familiar faces from other stories are just kind of there. (I am not knocking Sin City I am just using it as an example). The most annoying thing is that to obtain certain magic you must acquire the gift for it. This means that you have to go on a quest and obtain special items, you know the standard RPG way. However, every single character has the exact same way of getting these items. By the time I was playing the last character I was very annoyed at it. Overall some of the characters have very fun plots, like a robot that forgot what his mission was and a woman looking to avenge her husband's death, but the stories do not go far and always leave more to be desired.
More than likely graphics are not even a concern of yours if you are thinking of playing such an old RPG. The game's graphics are prerendered backgrounds with sprite characters that do tend to get very fuzzy at times. Some of the attacks in the game do look pretty cool, but overall the graphics are not jaw dropping, but not bad for the time the game was made either.
The sound is one of the best sections of the game. Each boss has a different theme and so do most towns. All the music is very unique and ranges from techno to acoustic guitar. My third favorite song from a video game actually came from Saga Frontier (the theme from Capt. Hamilton's ship incase you were wondering). The sound effects on the other hand leave something to be desired. Don't get me wrong they are not horrible, but they do not equal the caliber of the music. Most stuff does not even have sound effects and when it does they always just seem so so at best. Though the sound effects were not very high the music is still good enough to bring the sound rating to a solid 9.
Game play 7/10
I found myself going back and forth between what score to give the game play. I kept thinking about what was actually there, but kept imagining what they could have done, but in the end I am sticking with a 7. The learning curve for the game can be very tough. If you do not know how to use certain characters you will be dead in the water. Also you need to know when to train before moving on with the game. Several times this game will throw you into the boss's lair without any warning. This game is uber non-linear. All the ideas are great and innovative, but just could have used more. Unlike most RPGs there are no character levels. By fighting enemies you get stat upgrades depending on how you fought. For example if you used swords your strength would go up, compared to a magician getting his intelligence boosted, but not all races gain stats like that. There are four races as I mentioned before humans, mystics, mecs, and monsters. Humans are the ones that gain their stats purely through experience. Humans also gain skills almost randomly. In a battle you might learn a new skill and it is based on your stats, the enemies stats, what weapon you use, and even the skill you are using to effect the learning of new skills, but even with all that there is no way to guarantee you will learn the skill. Mystics on the other hand have special mystic weapons that can absorb enemies. This not only gives them special spells, but also statistics. Mecs get all their stats from the equipment they wear which would make them very powerful if they were not so restricted in how they learn skills. When a mec on your team kills an enemy mec they can try to absorb skills from it, but it is not 100% that they will. Seeing as how you do not fight many enemy mecs in the game your mecs usually end up with good stats, but lacking in skills. The last race, monsters, is perhaps the least useful in the game. After a battle with an enemy they can absorb that enemy's power. Depending on which skills they have absorbed they transform into a different monster and that is where they get their stats. Personally I felt that unless you sit down with a guide and know exactly what to get monsters are worthless.
Now you know how the classes level up and get skills, but like most RPGs you can do combos, but there is still a Saga Frontier twist. Combos are all random. You could do attack A with one character, attack B with another, and attack C with another and end up with an awesome, devastating combo. If you try it again though it is not guaranteed it will work. There are set combos, as in move A, move B, and move C will combo but move A, move B, and move D won't, but there are hundreds of combos so making them is never a problem. You just have to hope that good ones will randomly work.
There are many different characters that will join you throughout each character's chapter and this makes the game play enjoyable. Every single human character (which there are the most of) can learn any type of skill (magic, gun, sword or fist) this leads to a downfall however. Though you play seven different characters and can have different teams for all of them you usually end up having if not the exact same team you usually have characters with the exact same skills. Generally I felt that the foundation for an awesome game play was there, but it lacked in refinement.
Though many people claim that the re-playability of this game is what makes it great I disagree. I felt that almost every single character after the first few is a re-play of the first character. Though you could make new teams and try different skills a re-play of Saga Frontier would not yield much that was different from your first time playing.
Saga Frontier is a game with ENDLESS potential. If more time and more love were given to this game it easily could be considered one of the most groundbreaking RPGs of all time. Due to SquareSoft's rushing of the game its fate is that of being an unheard of game in the used PS games shelf in your local EB. Ultimately I say buy it for no more than 10 dollars if you see it used somewhere, but if there is another game you really want don't worry about not getting Saga Frontier.
Reviewer's Score: 7/10 | Originally Posted: 08/11/05, Updated 08/24/05
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