SaGa Frontier

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SaGa Frontier is an RPG for the PS1 by Squaresoft, now known as Square Enix. It was released way back in 1997 in Japan and 1998 in the US, and had multiple protagonists to choose from, different character types and nonlinear gameplay.

Upon starting the game, you get to choose between seven protagonists, each with their own story. Each character is unique; there’s a superhero fighting an evil organization, a robot missing its memory and a model convicted of her boyfriend’s murder, to name a few

The characters are the strong point of the game. Aside from the main ones, there are a wide variety of others join your party. All characters are divided into four types: humans, mechs, monsters and mystics.

Humans can use any weapon and armor and are capable of learning skills and magic during battle. Though they can equip any weapon, some are better with swords, guns or martial arts. They also increase stats after every battle.

Mystics are the game’s equivalent of Vampires. Like humans, they can learn magic and equip weapons but their growth is a bit different. While some of their stats increase in battle, some require absorbing monsters. They also have Mystic Magic, which can only be used by them.

Mecs are robots that increase their stats by equipping stronger weapons and armor. They gain skills by downloading data from other mecs you defeat in battle. Monsters grow by absorbing other enemy monsters, allowing them to learn their skills and take their forms. They can only equip accessories.

Leveling up is done differently here; instead of gaining levels, your stats increase individually. These grow depending o how you used your character in battle. For example, JP, which is used to cast magic, will only increase if you have that character cast magic during battle.

You can have up to five characters in your party during battle. Sometimes, characters performing their skills will link them into combos. These range from level two (with two characters) to level five (with the entire party). Combos are a great way to rack up massive damage complete with flashy effects.

As mentioned before, this is a nonlinear game. Like any RPG, there are tasks you need to do to advance the story further. But you don’t have to do them in order; you are free to explore almost all the regions of the world, gather party members and explore dungeons. While this can be a fun mechanic, some people might end up confused as there is often no clear indication on where to go, leading you to do side quests or spend time exploring a dungeon that is for another character’s story.

The graphics for the world are pretty good. The pre-rendered backgrounds are very detailed and colorful and work well with the character sprites. The look of the battles, however, is not as good. The backgrounds look dark with muddy colors and the monsters, while having good, detailed designs, have limited animation, making them look a bit awkward.

The music sounds great. The themes for each location fits very well. The battle theme adds a lot to the excitement and tension, especially against tough enemies.

The variety in the stories guarantees that each character offers a unique experience, albeit set in the same world. Finishing all characters’ stories unlocks a secret room where you can talk to the game’s developers and fight the bosses again. These add a lot to the game’s replayability.

So does SaGa Frontier hold up to today’s standards? It’s hard to say. The nonlinear aspect may not be fun for everyone and the different style of leveling might be a bit confusing as there’s no information provided about growing your characters. On the other hand, this might provide a fresh experience to people who are used to the traditional RPG style.

Given the date it was released, SaGa Frontier is a game ahead of its time. Talking about it just doesn’t do it justice, it’s something that should be experienced. And if you’ve played this before already, it might be time for a second look.

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