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SaGa Frontier

Traditional RPG
  • 03/25/98
  • 03/20/02
B- 27 total ratings
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Square's Communist Manifesto

A SaGa Frontier review Author: Matt Payte Published: August 15, 2007
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Karl Marx' incendiary essay pissed off a lot of people for suggesting that everybody take care of one another. Those angry neighbor-haters were proven right, as is common knowledge; what looked so good on paper smelled of so many goat turds and ice pick-related head wounds in real life.

Saga Frontier is very similar to the Communist Manifesto in this regard.

I wasn't quite as jacked into gaming horizons in the mid to late 90's, when Saga Frontier was released. But if I had been, I'm sure that the prospect of seven games in a single, sumptuously sprawling, salaciously surreal setting would have set me salivating; Saga Frontier, on paper, promised an interweaving tapestry, bridging unlike genres and flavors (including but not limited to a superhero/organizational vendetta hybrid, a sort of Bildungsroman involving growth in ability rather than character with perhaps the most androgynous individual I've ever seen, a fairy-gothic horror hybrid, a thrillingly lurid find-the-killer with a woman as tear-assingly dogged in her pursuit as Domino Harvey and as forcibly home-grown as a killer as Luc Besson's Nikita...and those are only four of the aforementioned seven story arcs) that could've set a template for a new generation of masterpieces evoking the masterful structure of Paul Thomas Anderson's "Magnolia," albeit almost surely with fewer maladjusted child game-show stars.

In an almost "Forty Days and Forty Nights" sense, Saga Frontier was then born, so that the on-paper promises could be held to their actual merit, and it seemed that like an angry Old Testament God, Square Haven had completely rejected this promising creation to a hell of idiotic pacing and plot developments so incoherent or underdeveloped that the experience could be likened to periodically muting the TV for three minute spans while watching a show.

The soft gameplay could be characterized, in this game, as the series of story-driven cutscenes and side-quests. Unfortunately, all characters in this game are -not- created equal. While Red's arc is sprawling and intricate, Lute is so underdeveloped that he feels like a sidequest that provides no benefit whatsoever. Many intriguing concepts - such as Trinity, or the Mystics and their relation to the various realms, receive no development whatsoever. It's positively pathetic; If I bought a book with a slew of torn out pages, I'd return the book and expect my goddamn money back.

So the game comes down to the hard gameplay - the battle system, which is really the most damning sin the developer's committed with Saga Frontier. On paper, it still looks good - the random monsters scale to your level (except there -are- no levels in the game, although there are all of the stat-related level bonuses. That shortcoming speaks for itself, it's like acing the Dewey Decimal system just for the novelty of it.) while the bosses are set in their ability. It worked for FFVIII, why not here? Add in the interesting spell development system of opposing schools and complex side-quests to attain them, and it sounds pretty good. Sometimes it is; the scaling in some stories (ie, the more complex, involved arcs) is just fine, up until a point. But what seems to be a recurring motif is that the final boss is a dramatic jump in difficulty. Lute (the deserved piss-bucket of this travesty) is again a quintessential pariah in this aspect - you can literally visit the final level when you first begin his game. Why? Because that's his entire story - that one level. And thanks to the scaling system, you can reach the final boss in perhaps twenty minutes, if not less, but cannot even chance defeating that boss without logging perhaps fifteen hours of training.

And that's the heart of the issue. It is absurd to train so intensively for such a short game. Rather than just fix their pacing, or simply make it an easy game, the developers chose the route most agonizing for the player.

Kudos to all those who finished an arc. Personally, I stopped caring long before it happened. Nuts to this game, sucks to it for all of the the great things it could've included if only Square had cared to try.
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