SaGa Frontier review.

I finally had the balls to review this game. Here you go.

Ever since I saw a promotional trailer for this game at the tender age of twelve (you can find it on Youtube; the running time is 2:56), I knew I had to play this game. Funny enough, SaGa Frontier was the fourth game released in the series released in the west (The first three were released in America as Final Fantasy Legends), and was deemed by most critics to be average or worse. Personally, I’ve put off reviewing this game for a long time, because it’s my favorite RPG - perhaps due to nostalgia - and I didn’t know if I could write a review that was critical enough. But, here I am, ready to give it a shot.

So, what is SaGa Frontier about? This is one of the most difficult questions to answer about this game. SaGa Frontier has no main protagonist, but rather, it has seven different ones. Each character has their own story and agenda to fulfill. While there are one or two quests that boil down to saving the world, most of the main quests are things that are only important to the main character. For example, T260 - the robot - is an ancient robot who lost its memory (or is it memory banks? I don’t know). So, it needs to find out its original mission, and complete it. Blue, the magician, is trying to learn various magics in preparing for an inevitable duel to the death. One of the characters, Lute, just wants to travel for its own sake! All the stories are pretty original, although all of them probably could have been developed a little better. The original story premises and refreshingly original goals can make the stories really fun to play.

That being said, many problems arise from this. For one, none of the scenarios are really connected, other than your paths might cross every now and then. The only unifying aspect of every scenario is that they all take place in the same world. This isn’t necesarily a bad thing, but what is baffling is that you can recruit main characters into your party and they seem to forget about their own goals. For example, if you are using Blue and you recruit T260, T260 will just merrily go along with Blue on his quest to learn magic. But, what the hell does that have to do with T260’s quest? You can even go to important places in T260’s quest, and nothing will happen. There are some times where storyline circumstances cause main characters to team up, but it would make more sense for them to part ways afterwards.

For two, all of the scenarios could be a bit more fleshed out. In Emelia’s scenario, there is some scant talk about an old romance between two of the main characters in her quest, Liza and Roufas. This could have been an interesting plot point to expand upon; but, after the first time it’s mentioned (in an offhand way), it’s only alluded to once more throughout the course of her whole story. In fact, the majority of Emelia’s story is pretty poorly localized, in contrast to all the other six, which have a lot of effective, natural dialogue.

For three, the length of most of the scenarios are very short. While you won’t be even CLOSE to ready to fight each quest’s final boss, you can generally get to the final dungeon within four or five hours, As short as they are, even a good two or three hours onto most of them could have made them all a lot more interesting and engaging.

Finally, the open-ended nature in which you can complete things make some scenarios boring. Blue’s quest of gathering magic is nothing special - you can acquire magic in other characters scenarios as well, making Blue’s scenario little more than a mandatory repeat of sidequests you’ve probably done many times. And don’t even get me started on Lute’s scenario - since the whole goal of his quest is to just wander around and do whatever you want, you can reach the last boss in under ten minutes!

I saved the last point for last because it ties in pretty heavily with the gameplay - in other words, some of that was done on purpose. SaGa Frontier is one of the first non-linear console RPGs America ever recieved. SaGa Frontier went down in history pretty notoriously for making it difficult to know how to progress each quest. I´m not entirely sure why it got such a bad rap, though; three of the seven scenarios have the main storyline neatly streamlined for you, so that you can continue it any time you’re done sidequesting. One scenario in particular, Red’s, progresses in a very cool way; the first half is a very controlled, linear quest. Eventually, there will be a point when Red can go wherever he pleases, but you now have a bunch of leads on where to go based on the events of the first half. I won’t lie, though; the quests that don’t have the main story easily accessible have points where the story just drops off. For example, in T260’s scenario, the game holds your hand until you reach a certain part, and then, if you missed a random, seemingly pointless conversation that was actually a HINT, then you’re just screwed. I wish the game had taken more steps to facilitate these hiccups.

As for the combat, it’s pretty frickin’ sweet. SaGa Frontier is a turn-based combat engine with many complexities. The most notable aspect of the game is that there’s four different ‘races’, each of which level up differently: Humans raise individual stats after battle depending slightly on your preferred method of attack, Monsters can change forms by absorbing a defeated enemy after battle, Mystics raise certain stats like humans, and certain ones in the same way monsters do (they never change forms), and Mecs (robots) gain stat bonuses entirely based on what equipment they’re wearing (If you’ve played Final Fantasy Legend 2, it’s almost exactly like that).

Also, instead of just the usual ‘weapons and spells’ that most games implement, there is a complicated system of special attacks, and how to learn them. Humans can learn magic as well as special abilities for their weapons, a lot similar to magic. Physical attacks are learned in the middle of battle, depending on the strength of the enemy you fight, and what abilities you use. Hands-off attacks (Guns and Magic) gain abilities after battle. Monsters gain a new ability when they absorb monsters, Mystics can gain a few monster abilities and can use magic, but not weapon abilities; and Mecs learn abilities from absorbing Mec enemies, a lot like monsters.

The world of SaGa Frontier is a world made to explore; once you’re set loose into the world, you can go almost anywhere and explore almost any place you come by. The game encourages you to do so, and you’re rewarded by meeting new characters, finding treasures, and leveling up in general, of which there’s usually a lot to be done.

Speaking of characters, you can have up to fifteen at once! You only use five at a time, but you can switch between three groups. anyone not fighting regains some of their Weapon Points (“MP” for physical abilities), Magic Points, and Life Points - a special kind of HP that lowers by 1 when a character dies; upon losing all LP, a character is unusable until you rest at an Inn.

Of course, now I have to talk about what sucks about the game, right? SaGa Frontier, while usually giving you a story objective for each quest, is meant to be played by exploring places everywhere and all the time. As such, each individual quest is very short (5-12 hours, and less if you know how to play the game quickly). This might not sound like a problem, but the trouble lies in the endgame for each character; if you play the main story without doing a lot of running around, you’ll be sorely, unprepared. The amount of leveling up you’ll need to beat a last boss is usually twice the amount of leveling you’ve done up to the point of reaching the final dungeon. This may not be a problem if you are in love with exploring; but after you’ve been around the block a few times, it will begin to feel tiresome to do the same superfluous dungeon exploring over and over again.

To add to that, you don’t know how strong you need to be to fight endbosses, because there’s no logical way of telling. The best way would be to look at the enemies you’re fighting, except that in SaGa Frontier, random battles ‘level up’ based on how many battles you’ve fought. So, you can be fighting enemies in the last dungeon with less than 100 HP, if you’ve managed to fight few enough fights before the end (more plausible than it sounds). Unfortunately, this factor makes it virtually impossible do determine how strong you need to be; you just need to try every now and then until you figure it out.

Also, without anyone to explain how the game works, the game can just be downright confusing. How do you learn techniques? Why can’t this guy learn techs with this gun? What’s the difference between a Sword and a Katana? How do you get money? How do you make a monster that doesn’t completely suck? These are the kinds of things that you might never learn without an FAQ to help you. The end result is, while the combat is really deep and fast-paced (especially for a turn-based RPG), the game suffers by applying a ‘sink or swim’ method to the entire game.

You might be wondering at this point, “Why the hell is this game your favorite RPG?” Well, the answer is pretty simple, actually: SaGa Frontier is, perhaps, the ultimate ‘Scientist’s RPG’. Once you’re figured out the basics of how to play the game, and get past the steep learning curve, the game becomes manageable (obviously) and fun. You’re no longer wondering what to do next, how much you have to level up, and a bunch of other crap you shouldn’t have to worry about.

Suddenly, a whole world of possibilities open up due to the complexity of the game, and you can start experimenting with damn near everything. How good is a team of all monsters? What’s the best ability setup for Riki’s final boss? I wonder if Liza’s better with swords than she is at martial arts? Which is more useful: Arcane and Rune magic? What are the best monsters to absorb for a Mystic who specializes in magic? The amount of things for you to experiment with are seemingly infinite, and this thrills me like no other game ever has. Ten years later, I still find myself going back to the game and discovering new things.

Admittedly, this isn’t even appealing for some - maybe most - people. If that doesn’t appeal to you, then SaGa Frontier probably never will. There’s nothing wrong with that; maybe it really is just a ‘bad’ game. However, the sheer amount of things you can do - or try - in the game is where the true appeal lies. If you love experimenting with the way things work, and learning all the facets and contingencies and nuances of a game, then SaGa Frontier is your kind of game. The learning curve is steep and unforgiving, and I wouldn’t dare make any excuses for it. Maybe it helped that I played this game for the first time when I was only twelve and had nothing better to do; but all the same, I made it past the learning curve, and beyond that was a frontier (hah) waiting to be explored. For any fellow scientist, I reccomend this game - my favorite RPG, its many flaws aside - to you.

SG: Saga Frontier was one of my first RPGs. Despite the fact I rented it instead of buying it, I was able to play it for a month… because Hurricane Georges hit the island, and the place I rented it from didn’t reopen in a month!! :eek: That gave me the chance to complete nearly all seven quests, INCLUDING the optional endings!! Ironically, the only part of the game I could not get was the “Secret Room” file, because I couldn’t complete the Rikki quest- the next-to-last-Boss there can ONLY be beaten by scoring a specific number of “points” with Combos on him, and I never mastered the Combo System. I really hated that part. > _ <

I had the advantage of having bought the game’s Strategy Guide first, as I usually do. This allowed me to plan out how I was going to play each quest; I ended up splitting the optional subquests fairly between the main quests, which both allowed me to sufficiently level up my characters for the Final Boss fights, while also keeping each quest about just as long and having them feel different from each other. :wink: However, I must say that the SF guide is one of the worst I’ve ever bought. It failed to explain the Combo System enough so that I couldn’t beat the Rikki quest, as I already said. I also never learned how to level up my monsters so their stats wouldn’t drop after a random change. It was very annoying.

Still, SF remains one of my favorite games ever, for several reasons. First, it’s amazingly original and well put together fictional universe; and second, the chance to play such a diverse cast of characters (from a superhero to half-vampire); I’ve quite never encountered a game like this since.

The game’s biggest problem is -and I’m not sure if SG is aware of this- that it came out unfinished. Apparently it was rushed out to meet some deadline; as a result, an entire eight quest (involving Fuse and the rest of the IRPO characters) got cut out, and some of the others were left less developed than they were meant to be. Too bad. Other than that, I only disliked the graphics; even for an early Playstation game, the characters were too small and the backgrounds too confusing in spots.

I keep hoping that this game will get the modern remake treatment someday; with better graphics, more detailed stories and more user-friendly systems, it could easily be the best RPG game ever!

I’m well aware of that; but, I can’t judge a game by what isn’t in it, right? It’s unfortunate, but that’s the truth of the matter.

Saga Frontier is somewhere in my backlog. I have to finish Romancing Saga 3 first though, which means mainly “leveling up” to kill some of the portal guardians.

I love Saga Frontier. sort of ironic, then, that it’s a surefire sign of when I’m depressed. The clinical levelling system is what I love about that game. I admit, I never bother with any of the magics but light/arcane/time. But still, levelling characters, teaching them new powers, getting my monsters such awesome powers… it’sso much fun. Riki’s quest always was the hardest, I thought. Just because you’re shoved into Tanzer immediately and can;t escape until you beat a fucking annoying boss. Oh, and though it made no difference, I always had to save Nomad. And of coure, that Points-based boss was a bitch, too, until I learned about a few 5-team combos that have amazing success rate. I haven’t played it in a while, but I definitely want to now.

…Oh, shit.

Yeah, Riki’s intro quests - the stuff you have to do in every scenario before you can freely explore - is easily the hardest cos of Tanzer. You can cheap it by doing the junk shop trick, though. You can cheap it even more by chilling in the junk shop until you have to many credits that you start finding osc-swords and cyber suits, but I don’t go that far.

Riki definitely has one of the harder final bosses, but it’s surprisingly easy if your party is decked out with multi-target attacks. I think the hardest final boss is Blue’s, if you don’t use Overdrive/Stasis, purely because the last boss uses its ultimate attack twice in a row most of the time, which racks up about 800 HP worth of damage. What the fuck?! I think the boss tiers go something like this:


I honestly hate doing the junk shop trick, because it clutters up my inventory. And that grates on me. The gold Selling, though, is useful to a point. And one enemy I remember always wanting to throttle is the Green Knight from Asellus’ Quest. Usually, if I’m lucky, I can make it to Shingrow to grab some Harmonium stuff before fighting him… unless he was positioned inf ront of THAT place, in which case, I was generally fucked.

The Final Bosses on SF are some of my favorite ever; I loved the action, the music and the effects on most of them. Killing Orlouge gave me a great satisfaction because I HATED that character (thought that might be because I hate Dracula, on whom it is clearly based.) My favorite is probably the Final Boss in Red’s Quest.

(Btw, has anybody here managed to get the special skill for Alkaizer that he can learn from fighting the Boss aboard the Black Ray? I don’t think I did because I didn’t know about it (and the stupid guide didn’t mention it.) I read somewhere that you have to kill it with Al Phoenix or something… )

You have to use Al Phoenix on the same turn that MBlackIII uses Dark Phoenix. The best way to ensure that is to just spam Al Phoenix the entire fight :stuck_out_tongue:

I’ve been needing to play through this someday. But I do need to finish Romancing SaGa 3 first, since I played about 1/4 of it, and kinda left it…got a real bad habit of doing that. I dunno what it is though, but I’m a real fan of the leveling system in the SaGa series. Though it does get repetitive.