SaGa Frontier - Reader Review

SaGa Frontier seemed to be a promising title, but unfortunately it is anything but.

By Scott Mason

Review Breakdown
   Battle System5.0
   Replay Value5.5
   Time to Complete70 hours 

   With the successful releases of the best-selling Final Fantasy VII and the surprise hit Final Fantasy Tactics in the U.S., and continued success in Japan, 1997 had been an extremely good year for the RPG behemoth, Square. They have recently been churning out award-winning and chart topping games with every release.

   Due to this, Square figured it would be a great time to bring their latest edition in the Romancing SaGa series, SaGa Frontier, to eager RPG enthusiasts in the U.S. However, while FFVII and FFT were beautiful, awe-inspiring diamonds, SaGa Frontier turns out to be nothing more than a disappointing lump of coal.

   From a standpoint, it looks like SaGa Frontier has all the workings and potential of a superb RPG, great graphics, excellent soundtrack, and a non-linear plot with seven different characters, each with their own quests. While the graphics and the soundtrack are fairly good, the frustrating non-linear plot, along with seven extremely boring and dull characters and a agonizingly difficult premise completely destroy this promising title.

   In SaGa Frontier, you have the ability to choose seven different characters, each with their own story and goals that you must accomplish. The characters range from a sophisticated robot, named T260G, (which looks suspiciously similar to Robo from Chrono Trigger) that has forgotten its original mission, to a young magician, named Blue, that must kill his twin brother to obtain his true magical powers and strength.

   While some of these characters have interesting backgrounds, the designers of this game seem to have just made these potentially intriguing characters into just dull, wondering, clueless people. It's almost as if they have just been put in there for no apparent reason as an excuse to have you explore the massive and confusing world.

   SaGa Frontier touts a supposedly "revolutionary" Free Scenario System which basically gives you the ability to travel all over the world and explore a majority of its areas, even in the early going, instead of as in the fairly pre-determined linear styles of games such as FFVII.

   While at first, this may sound exciting and innovative, it makes the game extremely frustrating and unbearably difficult, and makes you realize the reason behind the linearity of FFVII.

   At the beginning of each character's quest, you will find yourself in a certain area and only given a brief 15 second background of the character, and from there, you are on your own. Too often, the game will give you no hint whatsoever where to go next, and you will be forced to wonder around the world praying that you will happen upon what you were seeking. Just try talking to the "helpful" townspeople for information about what to do next, it's about as useless as hoping for Pamela Lee to ask you out on a date. In most RPGs, people are put in there to help guide you along or add character to the game, these people seem to just be in there to annoy and frustrate you.

   The only real bright spot, if there is one, in SaGa Frontier is the games relatively good graphics and soundtrack. The pre-rendered backgrounds, similar to those found in FFVII, are actually quite gorgeous, although they aren't as detailed as FFVII and are not interactive at all. However, the unattractive, poorly animated sprite characters look very out of place in the game

   While attempting to navigate through this confusing world, very often backgrounds become very cluttered and it makes it very hard to find the exit in many areas. Final Fantasy VII had this problem, but fixed it with arrows that highlighted the exits, but these are no where to be found in SaGa Frontier. This adds to the overall aggravation and frustration that is experienced throughout this entire game.

   The soundtrack is also surprisingly quite good and is one of the few high points in the game. Each track really adds to each scene and gives it a lot of depth. While some tracks repeat frequently, for the most part, the music is very well orchestrated. Sound effects in battles are very standard, offering nothing new, and don't add much to the feel of the battles.

   The battles, a key part to any RPG, are not that great and could have been much better if more time was spent developing it. Similar to Chrono Trigger and Lufia 2, you have the ability to avoid monsters, instead of being forced to fight with random battles. You have the standard hit points, but must carefully conserve your weapon points, which allow you to perform various attacks. In order to progress and do well in battles, you must learn different techniques or your enemies will crush you. Battle graphics are horrific, however, and are very pixelated and detract enormously from the battle. Just like the game, the battles are uneventful, boring, and disappointing.

   SaGa Frontier suffers from so many problems it is simply bewildering. The translation of the dialogue is simply awful and a sixth grader could have written this script. Battles are boring and poorly done and use of the game's menus is also quite confusing. I believe that this game was simply a terrible game and that Square thought that if they brought it to the U.S. that we, the unsuspecting public, would buy it simply because the name Square was plastered across the cover. In the end, however, the game's main selling point, the Free Scenario System, is ultimately its downfall. The extreme non-linearity makes the game exceedingly tedious and so horribly frustrating, you will feel like crushing your controller in agony.

   Square boasts that SaGa Frontier has 120 hours of gameplay. If you manage to retain your sanity and play for more than a hour, consider it an accomplishment. If you somehow managed to complete this game, seek counseling.

   It is a shame that SaGa Frontier is such a horrible game, because it really had incredible potential. If just the developers had put more time into the basics of an RPG and what makes it fun, SaGa Frontier could have been a great game. It is just a travesty that the maker of the best RPGs of all time made this game. That is the real SaGa.

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