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SaGa Frontier - Retroview

This Game Stands Up To the Test of Time

By: Robust Stu


Review Breakdown
   Battle System 6
   Interface 5
   Music/Sound 6
   Originality 2
   Plot 4
   Localization 6
   Replay Value 8
   Visuals 6
   Difficulty Hard
   Time to Complete

30-40 Hours per Quest

 
Overall
6
Criteria

SaGa Frontier
 

   Saga Frontier, while a pretty good game, fell under the unfortunate curse of coming out not many months after a Final Fantasy game, which usually means people expect another masterpiece from it, and are then disappointed when it doesn't live up to expectations. This oft-maligned game never really got a chance to shine on its own, and consequently people haven't played the game because their friends said it sucked. But now that it's been a couple of years and no longer has the shadow of Final Fantasy 7 hanging over it, can it stand on its own merits?

   Like most games in the Saga series, Saga Frontier lets you choose from several different main characters at the beginning, which each have a loose main storyline that basically consists of a linear beginning and ending, with a completely non-linear body. In this game some of the storylines include T-260G, a robot that was dug up at an excavation site one day with it's memory banks wiped, then sets out to discover its true purpose; Blue, who is charged with becoming a master magician so that he can confront and destroy his twin brother Rouge; Lute, a minstrel who sets forth from his homeland to discover his fortune; and Red, a superhero who must avenge his father's death.

   The battles are turn based as your team of up to five battles the enemy party. Everything is standard fare for a turn based battle system, except for one neat feature: while you can only have five members in a battle party, you can have up to fifteen characters in your overall party, which can then be split into three battle parties, and you get to choose which one will fight at the beginning of the battle. This is good, because it provides a chance for more even leveling up without having to go into the menu and switch characters in and out of the party when you want to develop somebody different.


Not the friendliest looking place in the world
Not the friendliest looking place in the world  

   Like I said, having come out soon after Final Fantasy 7, people were expecting a lot from it and were disappointed when certain features did not live up to those standards. The graphics were probably the primary reason people felt this way. While admittedly not up to FF7's standards, they were still pretty good. The backgrounds were well detailed, in a watercolor and neon kind of way. The characters were sprite based, and fairly detailed, but the animation kind of left something to be desired. It didn't quite look like it needed the PlayStation hardware to accomplish what we got, but they are perfectly acceptable graphics.

   The music was what you would expect from a Saga game, in that it had that sort of Saga sound to it. Those who have played a few other games in the series will know what I mean. The battle music was a fast paced rock beat, the world music was slow and relaxing, and there was a good variety of tunes that didn't necessarily sound too fantasy-like, like that other series Square makes. The sound effects were also quite good, and all sounded realistic, which kind of surprised me given the fact that it was one of the first games Square had developed for the system.

   Another thing Saga Frontier had going for it was a good translation. It definitely went a long way towards setting a new standard over the old, less well done translations from the SNES era and before. Everything was translated very well, and was able to convey the loose storyline and minimal dialogue very well, as most of the characters showed a bit of personality, even if not too much.

   This game has a decent amount of replay value, by virtue of the seven main characters. While a lot of the game is open to any exploring or adventuring you wish to do regardless of which character you're playing as, each character does have a unique storyline that is enough of a reason for a second or third play through the game. While you may not want to sit there and beat the game seven times in a row, you might want to go through it another time or two with different characters a ways down the line if you're between RPGs, just to see what else the game has to offer, as some areas of the game are only accessible to certain characters.


Lot of neon in this town
Lot of neon in this town  

   The multiple battle party idea is unique to this game, but pretty much everything else has at least been seen in earlier games in the series, so not much for originality in this one. One thing that might make you think about when and how often you'll start a new quest in this game is the amount of time it takes to get through each character's storyline. Put it this way: the bosses are really tough and you'll need to spend a lot of time strengthening your party to be able to face them, to the tune of about 30 to 40 hours per quest, depending on how much linearity the character's quest has.

Saga Frontier was a decent little game that was unfortunate enough to have come out soon after a major blockbuster like Final Fantasy 7, and as such I feel that it didn't get the attention it deserved. It might be a little hard to find these days, but if you can get your hands on it, give it a spin or two, you just might enjoy it.

Recommended.




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