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SaGa Frontier II - Retroview

A little balance, please
By: Solon

Review Breakdown
   Battle System 5
   Interface 7
   Music & Sound 2
   Originality 7
   Story & Plot 4
   Localization 7
   Replay Value 5
   Visuals 7
   Difficulty Easy to Very Hard
   Completion Time 20-30 Hours  
Overall
5

Strange enemy, strange party, strange game...
Strange enemy, strange party, strange game...
SaGa Frontier II

   The SaGa games have always been one of those series that have very few fans. Over here in Europe, there are few who even know about the series. I picked up SaGa Frontier II a while ago, thinking that I at least should try it out, to see what it was. I think I can see now why this game doesn't have that many fans. I know, I know...everybody has their own taste... but there are some serious flaws in this game that no RPGamer can ignore.

   The game has a weird plot that I found quite hard to understand at first. You follow two different characters, Gustave and William, with two different stories that are somehow related. Later on, you also get to know (and play as) their families, friends and so on. This is what makes the plot complicated and irritating, as I often asked myself who I was playing, and why. Also, as the plot thickens, the new characters seem to play a bigger role than those who were meant to be the main characters.

   Gustave's scenario concentrates on war and conflicts within the royalty, while William's scenario is about him being a quell digger and adventurer, and his family following in his footsteps. The battle system also suffers some great flaws in this game. Battles are built up in two different ways; either one character can have a duel with a single enemy, or the whole party fight against a group of enemies (this is random). This is kind of cool, and that is why the battle system got a 5 instead of 1. When a character is in a duel, you have to experiment with different commands to create combos and spells etc.

   If the player manages to create a combo or a spell, that combo or spell is saved and can be equipped in the skill list to use in battle whenever he or she pleases later on. When the whole party is fighting against a group of enemies, this game looks mostly like every other RPG. You fight with 2-4 characters at a time (this depends on where you are in the game), and perform different moves through the different command lists the old fashion way.


Let's build a tree-house!
Let's build a tree-house!

   So what's so bad about this, you ask? Bad is a strong word, but what I don't like about all this is how you gain access to the different skills. For example, if a character wants to be able to cast a spell that is a mixture between the fire element and the stone element, one must equip stuff that has those attributes. This causes a LOT of problems, because you can't choose all the good stuff with high defense and attack power. If you do that, that character probably won't be able to cast any spells at all, or use any of the acquired skills.

   Some people might see this as a challenge, (to come up with the perfect setup) but I only found it irritating, as I was forced to re-equip my characters all the time so that they could perform the different skills. One thing that is quite original with this battle system though, is the use of LP (I forgot what it stands for, Life Points perhaps?). Each character has a different amount of LP, and when using one of these points they recover their HP to max. However, LP can't be refilled until a new story event occurs, and if a character's LP is depleted that character dies.

   Another thing I didn't like about the battle system is the way the characters improve. Instead of leveling up in the old traditional way, characters gain different stats, depending on what happened in the battle. This makes it very hard to create a powerful party, which is needed in the final dungeon here more than in any other RPG.

   As always, Square has made a smooth and good looking interface for this game. A lot of games have strange fonts and ugly backgrounds (that cannot be changed often), but this is all good. What was weird about it though, was that some commands were hard to discover (or perhaps I should read my manual more slowly). It took a while to master the menus, but after a few hours I was able to handle it quite well. Look through the manual before fooling around in the menu, folks, and you should be ok.


Setting up the party formation
Setting up the party formation

   Ah, we are getting closer to the really bad parts about this game. The soundtrack of SaGa Frontier II is probably one of the worst I have ever heard. Come on, it's ok to have a main theme, but that melody shouldn't be in ALL tracks. A little variation here wouldn't hurt. I was so sick of the same old melody looping no matter what happened in the game. The only song I can think of that didn't have this melody was the title theme and the end theme. As for the sound effects, there isn't much to say. I never really noticed them that much, except for the ones when performing highly advanced sword skills. Nothing was particularly bad about them though. That goes for the graphics as well. SaGa Frontier 2 has the odd hand-drawn backgrounds that Legend of Mana also had, making it look a little like a cartoon. This is a little original as well, and gives it a new touch that many haven't seen before.

   Square has made a good job with the overall dialogue and text. Everything is perfectly understandable, even though there weren't that much talking in this game. All square translations should be like this. I found some spelling errors actually, but not enough to make it a bad translation. The game is also fairly short, and with a final boss that might be the most irritating one I have ever fought. This is a warning for everyone out there that is planning to play this game. The final dungeon is HARD.

   Other than the final dungeon, the game is fairly easy. It is completed in 20 hours at normal, but then you will probably have some major problems in the final dungeon. So to complete it without problems, you will probably be staying around for at least 25-30 hours.

   Unfortunately, SaGa Frontier II has too many flaws to be one of those RPGs I really enjoy having in my shelf. After I was finished with it, I actually sold it. I have never, ever sold an RPG before and it will probably never happen again either. Too bad, but hey...I can't expect every RPG I play to become a favorite.

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