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SaGa Frontier

Platform:
ps
Developer:
Square
Genre:
Traditional RPG
Series:
SaGa
  • 03/25/98
  • 03/20/02
B- 27 total ratings
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SaGa Frontier

A SaGa Frontier review Author: Davon Alder Published: February 08, 1999
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Most readers likely already know that SaGa Frontier is far from a game everyone can or will enjoy- barring Final Fantasy Mystic Quest and possibly Secret of Evermore, no Square game has received so much negative attention. Released shortly after Final Fantasy VII, SaGa Frontier was a massive failure in North America, despite good sales in Japan. The failure of SaGa Frontier in the North American market was a clear warning that despite the new popularity of RPGs here, not every game which found success in Japan would automatically also sell well in North America. However, that doesn't mean it was a horrible game.
T 260G tells it like it is

Plot wise, SaGa Frontier is quite different from most RPGs, and probably came as quite a shock to those fresh from Final Fantasy-style epics, especially since many likely had just finished Final Fantasy VII shortly before SaGa Frontier's release. Instead of one heroic struggle, you are given the choice of one of seven different quests. None of the quests has a great deal of plot involved- usually only enough to give the player an idea of the character's goals , or in one case, only enough to make you fight the last boss. The quests themselves, however, are quite charming, and are for the most part breaks from RPG cliche (though they often parody other genre's cliches, such as in Red's quest, in which you play a super hero fighting a super-crime syndicate) even if they are short on characterization.
The real purpose of SaGa Frontier is exploration and gameplay. After about an hour of into most of the quests, you will be able to explore most of SaGa Frontier's world. This world is made up of areas called regions, which you may travel between by use of inter-region ships. These regions range from fully realized worlds to large dungeons , and each have a unique personality, from modernistic cities to Aztec ruins. Though you can move the story forward at any time in most of the quests, much of your time will be spent exploring the regions and taking up non-story quests in order to build a team powerful enough to tackle the main quest bosses. The fact that much of the game world is available at once has a variety of effects. Since all the game's stores are available from the onset of the game, for example, you may theoretically buy some pretty powerful items when you start out. This is balanced by the fact that money is a hot commodity in the game, so you'll likely have save up big time to actually buy the really powerful items- especially since you'll be spending quite a bit of cash on spells, which also cost money.
Margmel, the dying region

The downside of this freedom is SaGa Frontier's famed non-linearity. In actuality, most of the quests are more or less not non-linear at all- clear clues are given as to were to go next in Emilia, Riki, T 260G, and Red's quests. However, the three quests with the most initial attraction to players just starting out; Blue, Lute, and Assellus' quests, often leave the player wondering exactly what he or she should do next. Blue's quest consists of what amounts to a sub-quest in the other quests, Lute's is basically just a final dungeon and boss, and Assellus' has many major events which take place at randomly chosen in the SaGa Frontier world, forcing the player to either fight bosses before he or she is ready, or worse, leaving them to roam aimlessly looking for the next way to advance the plot. Though these problems are confined to their respective quests, most of the other quests have the occasional frustrating moments as well.
Like it's story and setting, SaGa Frontier's gameplay acts as a double edged sword. Its complexity offers those who enjoy spending time building a powerful party hours of enjoyment, and gives those same people a wide variety of challenges to test their strength against. However, only the most dedicated players will be able to work out the mechanics of the ability systems, because the instruction book offers only the barest explanation of how they work. Imagine if Final Fantasy VIII's instructions were limited to 27 pages, with no in-game tutorial, and you'll begin to understand the problem SaGa Frontier players face. Use of a good walkthrough is recommended for anyone hoping to use the game's ability systems effectively.
Red meets his arch-nemesis, Shuzer

The above mentioned ability systems are divided in several ways. The most important division is race- characters in SaGa Frontier are divided into Humans, Monsters, Mystics, and Mecs. Humans are the most common and powerful race, monsters are easy to find and generally weak, Mystics are rare and often have unique and powerful abilities, and Mecs are semi-common and can become powerful with a decent amount of effort (especially in T 260G and Red's quests). Each race uses different methods to gain skills and increase their statistics:
  • Human statistics increase at the end of battle. Whenever a weapon or ability is used, there is a chance that the statistics that type of attack uses will raise. Humans may use Sword, Gun, and Bare Handed abilities, as well as spells.
    • Swords have a wide variety of attacks. Whenever you use a sword attack, there is a chance a light bulb will appear above the characters head, and a new sword technique will be learned. Specific techniques have a greater chance of teaching certain other techniques. As well, there are specific techniques that may only be learned while using Katana-type swords.
    • Bare Handed attacks are weaker than sword attacks, but have a powerful secret technique that is more powerful than any other in the game. They are learned in much the same way as sword techniques, but are divided loosely among punch, kick, slide, and throw attacks. Using a punch attack will make learning another punch attack more likely, etc.
    • Gun attacks can become very powerful, and are relatively easy to master. They are learned the same way as spells, which will be explained below.
  • Mystics increase in power by absorbing enemies. Each Mystic has a Mystic Sword, Mystic Gloves, and Mystic Boots. If a Mystic finishes off an enemy with one of these, they will absorb it. As long an an enemy is absorbed, it will give the Mystic a statistic boost depending on the power of the particular enemy absorbed. As well, depending on which Mystic item was used to absorb the enemy, the Mystic will gain an ability. Besides this, Mystics may gain spells, and gain HP, CHARM, and SP points in the same manner as humans gain their statistics.
  • Monsters increase their statistics and abilities by absorbing enemies into their own body. At the end of combat, a list of defeated monster-type enemies will appear. You may choose one for the monster to absorb, and it will gain a random ability from it. If a monster has enough of another type of monster's abilities, it will become a monster of that type and take up its statistics. Monster abilities tend to be weak, since they are geared to be used against your party, and thus rarely deal more than 999 damage.
  • Mechs also gain abilities from enemies. Instead of absorbing the mech, they take its programs, and occasional learn a new one. Mech stats are based on equipped items. Equip powerful weapons, armor and motherboards, and their stats rise dramatically. A mech with the right equipment and abilities is a force to be reckoned with.
  • Spells, used by Humans and Mystics, are divided into groups of opposites. A character using Time spells, for example, may not use Space spells and vise versa. Spells may be bought in stores, but to learn the most powerful spells of each type, you must complete a quest to gain the "gift" for that type of magic. Once you have the gift (some characters come with a gift in one of the types) you may randomly learn a spell you don't already have at the end of any battle in which you used a spell of that type, including powerful spells that may not be bought. Gun skills are also learned using this method, but need not be bought, and require no gift.

As well as all this, most of the main characters have special abilites not available to the others. As you can see, this is quite a complex ability system, and the above explanation is much more through than the one found in the instruction manual. Attempting play SaGa Frontier with such a sketchy knowledge of the ability system naturally makes the game very frustrating.
Red talks the talk...but can he walk the walk?

Graphically, SaGa Frontier uses pre-rendered backgrounds, character spites, and spell effects. This gives the game and odd but distinctive look. Some of the backgrounds are quite beautiful, and spell effects are quite nice looking, but the pre-rendered characters look odd at times. Musically, SaGa Frontier offers some decent tunes, and a few memorable ones, but the music is so synthetic, you could easily believe that you're listening to a SNES and not a Playstation. Even if you love the tunes, you'll probably be turning the radio or a CD on by the last quest.
Overall, SaGa Frontier offers rich rewards for a few brave souls willing to take a risk on its non-standard and very Japanese style. On the other hand even the most dedicated gamers may want to pass on it. If you do decide to give the game a rent (or buy it, I picked up my copy second hand for a mere $15), get yourself a good walkthrough (I recommend the one by MHobbs), and start with T260 G or Red's quest. Oh, and should you polish off all the quests, you'll be rewarded with a bonus area in which you may talk to the programmers, fight any of the final bosses, listen to the soundtrack, and take on a special boss. Good luck.
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Editor's Grade
C+
dotted line "SaGa Frontier offers rich rewards for a few brave souls willing to take a risk on its non-standard and very Japanese style. On the other hand even the most dedicated gamers may want to pass on it."
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Author
Davon
Vapid Buttmunch
Square Haven V.I.P.
Member since July 06, 2002
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