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SaGa Frontier - Reader Review

SaGa Frontier: Not for Everyone

By Tom Lynch


Review Breakdown
   Battle System8.0
   Gameplay8.5
   Music9.0
   Originality6.0
   Plot5.0
   Replay Value9.5
   Sound8.0
   Visuals7.5
   DifficultyHard
   Time to Complete70-80 hours 
Overall
8.0

    The game opens and presents you with seven characters. Whose story do you want to play through first? Even before the game begins, you are assaulted by decisions to make. Not that that's a bad thing...

    SaGa Frontier isn't a game for everyone. With seven different characters to play, seven different quests, and one world that all the quests are set in, there isn't much room for linearity. Though some quests are more linear than others, at one point in each quest, you're free to explore the world to your heart's content, though in most cases, a few parts of the world will be inaccessible. During this "free time", there are a number of sidequests to embark on that will help build your characters in one way or another.

    Every character is also very flexible, though some more than others. The game features a variety of races. Humans, which are the most flexible, Mystics, which have the special ability to absorb up to three enemy skills by way of their Mystic abilities (Sword, Glove and Boots), Monsters, which morph and gain abilities as monsters have in past SaGa games, and Mecs, which can absorb abilities from defeated Mecs, and have their stats enhanced by equipping different items. Monsters and Mecs are the only races which can't learn magic, but generally, they don't need to.

    The game's battle engine is quite good, though it lacks the real-time aspect of some other RPGs. Your choices of action are displayed in different windows, only one of which is visible at a time. There is a window for each weapon you have equipped (and you can equip up to 4 different weapons/items/shields,) with the exception of shields, and all the skills your character has learned with that type of weapon. There is a window for the items you have equipped, and a window for the magic you have equipped.

    Abilities are sadly limited, however. A character can learn any amount of abilities, but can only have eight equipped at once. Choosing the right ones, therefore, is essential. Also, if six abilities of the same kind (sword, gun, magic, etc) are equipped, the WP (or JP, in the case of magic) cost drops by one. This can prove extremely useful, as some spells and abilities will have their point cost dropped to zero, leaving you free to use the ability as much as you want.

    Learning new abilities seems to happen more or less randomly. When attacking with a sword, every once in a while, a lightbulb will appear over the character's head, and they'll learn a new sword ability. If a certain elemental magic is used during battle, your character might learn a new spell of that element after the battle - that is, if you don't have all the spells.

    Spells are learned in an interesting manner, which combines the methods of Final Fantasy and Final Fantasy IV. You can buy the first few spells of a given element, which are rather different from the common Earth, Air, Water and Fire of most RPGs, but to learn the others, you must acquire the gift for the magic by way of a completely optional side-quest.

    Where the game tends to detract players is its non-linearity, however. There is a lot of time spent simply building your characters for the next part of the story, which is often short, and involves fighting a big boss. Then it's off to more side-quests, more character-building, or both.

    The graphics in this one leave something to be desired... though not too much. Good luck finding polygons in this game - there aren't many. The graphics are primarily all sprites. However, not much life was put into them. Characters' strides are something we could have seen in Final Fantasy 6, or Seiken Denetsu 2 and 3. Animation isn't a strong point in this game. It is quite the same in the battles. Characters have about 4 different sides in a battle, as do enemies. Front-facing, left and right, and back-facing, left and right. Not very exciting. Some of the attacks, however, are very lively, and after seeing, left me saying to myself, "Cooooooooool..."

    SaGa Frontier is certainly not a game that everyone can enjoy, but if you like non-linear games, and are willing to check a guide or walkthrough, this is a game for you. If you're a casual RPG player, I'd reccomend that you rent this one, and see how you like it.

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