RPG Review #97: SaGa Frontier

NuMetalManiak It was 54 reviews ago where I expressed interest in a Playstation RPG named SaGa Frontier. But being an adventurer in the sense of playing every game from a franchise from the first game onward, I had to endure three Final Fantasy Legend games and three Romancing SaGa games to make my way here, to SaGa Frontier. And to think this game has a direct sequel too. Unfortunately for SaGa Frontier it came out about six months after the famous Final Fantasy VII, being completely overshadowed by that game and not being well-received in North America. But it's one of those cult classics, and a surprisingly fun entry in the illustrious SaGa series. Countdown is at number FOUR as we get closer to 100.

Gameplay: Well, if you know your SaGa games like I do, this shouldn't be new. You've got character classes, open-ended navigation, traditional turn-based battling, as well as a complicated stat-growth system which doesn't bother with character levels and just throws stats on characters in battle. There is of course tech-sparking, which actually only applies to the human characters, oh did I mention that the character classes are the same as in Final Fantasy Legend II? Yep. The Humans will be the ones who get the random stat gains, while the Mystics (formerly mutants), function a bit differently. They get SOME stat gains but in order to really increase their abilities they must use the mystic weapons on monsters, which sometimes absorbs them and gives them newer abilities in combat. Robots of course gain better stats upon equipping better equipment, while also recharging and/or downloading data from enemy robots, while Monster characters absorb monster abilities, and may transform into a monster variant.

Up to fifteen characters can be in any given party, and while it's possible to recruit more, they actually cannot be in any active party. Note that there's three parties of five, and it's actually possible to battle without using the main party. The concepts of WP (for special abilities), JP (magic), and LP (like the Romancing SaGa games) remain, and replenish after any battle along with any statuses. Enemies are on the field too, unfortunately there's no running from battles here which I don't really like. One new thing are combination attacks, which may be used by using certain abilities in tandem. These types of attacks made the game much more fun to play since getting higher damage numbers on the much tougher bosses is what you want. Also magic is done slightly differently than in Romancing SaGa, where you have to get "the gift" in order to allow certain mages to use stronger spells (and it can be gained at random).

Of course, that's not saying the game ISN'T hard, because it is. Enemies can use some powerful and annoying abilities, worst is when you come up to some that can attack multiple times in a single turn. Take note that several weapon types do exist, and gun weapons have limited ammo (replenished after each battle), useful for the humans who want to gain the best techniques. The open-endedness of the overall adventures of SaGa Frontier is important, especially for certain main characters who would be tempted to fight their final boss too early. It's recommended to find the sidequests in this game and get through them to really reap the rewards. Grade: B+

Characters: Seven main characters, in alphabetical order. Some may be recruited in other characters' games.
Asellus: She's an interesting character due to being half-human, half-mystic. In other words, she gets the best of both classes, although interestingly her Mystic abilities allow her to change form. She is only playable in her scenario and Emelia's, and temporarily in Red's scenario as well.
Blue: A human mage who's striving to find the best magic to beat his brother. He is only playable in his own game.
Emelia: A human female supermodel who ends up doing criminal jobs. She is available to everyone else and can be renamed.
Lute: A bard who likes women and has the shortest story overall. He is available to everyone else and can be renamed.
Red: A teenager who fights against a crime syndicate. He has the special ability to transform into a hero named Alkaiser in battle, granting him stronger abilities, although he can only do so in certain situations or when everyone on his team is dead. Only playable in his own game.
Riki: A monster trying to save his homeland. He has the hardest scenario if he's the main character. Can join anyone who isn't Red or Asellus.
T260: T260, or T260G (since you can rename him and he ends up with a G in his name regardless) is a robot who gets constructed from junk parts and is trying to find his memory. He can have different robot models which can augment stats, and can join Lute, Blue, and Riki on their quests.

Those are just the mains, the rest of the recruits in alphabetical order are here as well.

Annie: She plays a part in Emelia's story as well as Red's story, but can join anyone. Decent human swordswoman.
BJ&K: A medic robot aboard the Cygnus, only Red can recruit him.
Capt. Hamilton: A nice name, except it's a human female pirate captain! Only joins Lute's scenario though.
Cotton: A weird fuzzy monster who can join anyone. For some reason, an IRPO agent.
Doll: An undercover agent human who only joins in Red's story.
Dr. Nusakan: Looks a lot like Hojo from FFVII. A mystic and a creepy doctor but a good guy. Plays a role in Riki's quest but can also be recruited by Blue.
EngineerCar: A mech that is easy to recruit and sits in a robotics shop. Can be recruited by any male character.
Fei-On: Reminds me of the Fei from Xenogears and is a human martial artist. Can join anyone except Blue.
Fuse: An agent of the police force known as IRPO, he can join anyone. Also he was supposed to be a main character but was cut.
Gen: This human drinker will join anyone, and is said to have used an iron pipe like a sword, so he's good with swords. Plays a major part in T260G's story.
Ildon: This vampire-looking dude is a mystic only available to Asellus.
Kylin: A unicorn monster that offers Space magic should the player go for it, and can be recruited to use the best Space magic. Can join anyone except Blue, who will battle Kylin instead.
Leonard: Originally a human but had to transfer his brain to a robot, he's only available in T260G's scenario.
Liza: Plays a role in Emelia's story but can also be recruited by Red and Blue. Great human martial artist.
Measarthim: A mermaid mystic who will join Asellus or any party that has a mystic (who isn't Silence).
Mei-Ling: Human who plays a major role in Riki's story and has some magic and gun abilities. Will join anyone except Red and Asellus.
PzKwV: Yeah that name is garbage. Basically a robot shopowner who can be recruited if Leonard is with T260G.
Rabbit: Despite the name, this is a robot and an undercover agent that only Red can recruit.
Red Turnip: A random turnip Asellus meets in a dark labyrinth, meaning only she can recruit it.
Rei: An escaped mystic, hard criteria to get her, and you can only get her with Asellus.
Roufas: The cool human with shades and is good with guns. Will join Emelia as well as the other human characters.
Rouge: Blue's rival brother who is also searching for magic. Good human mage. Will join anyone except Riki, T260G, and Blue of course.
Sei: An undead monster who must be battled, then you can either get his sword or recruit him. Riki actually must recruit him.
Silence: He has a meaningful name, and can be recruited by talking to his shadow in the shadow realm, then him. Anyone who is able to go into the shadow realm can recruit him (meaning no robots or monsters), and he's a mystic too.
Slime: This is basically a random slime monster that joins out of nowhere on the rune sidequest, unless you're Riki.
Suzaku: This flaming bird monster is usually an enemy, but one can actually be recruited by anyone from a hard sidequest.
Thunder: A huge monster who can join anyone if Lute's in the party. He's probably the best monster, since if he absorbs anything, his stats skyrocket and he takes a great form.
TimeLord: Restoring time to the time realm's hourglass allows you to recruit TimeLord if you're Asellus or a human. Exception is Blue who has to fight him. This mystic comes with the best of Time magic and is a great character.
White Rose: Princess White Rose the mystic is with Asellus from the beginning up until a certain point, and can join Emelia and Red too (latter only temporarily).
ZEKE: A speedy robot that joins T260G.
Zozma: This Akuma-looking guy can join Asellus and Emelia, and has a hatred for other Mystics. He's also the only character in the game who can use Evil magic, so I recommend using him at least once.

Yikes we're getting into Chrono Cross territory with all these characters. At least there's more incentive to some of these characters, with a lot actually playing parts in different story lines. Grade: A- Oh, and speaking of which.

Plot: Yep, there's a total of seven plots to play through in this game because of there being seven characters. Each one of course has nonlinearity in-between major story events, so do those if you really must. Such events include graverobbing Sei's tomb and getting the Rune, Arcane, Time, and Space magic abilities. But enough about sidequests that take up time, let's look at the main character quests. I'll go in the order I did them.

I started with Red, he had the longest scenario overall. Red's family is killed by the terrorist organization known as BlackX and he's almost next but gets saved by a dude named Alkarl who transforms him into Alkaiser, warning him to use the power wisely. Afterwards, he gets a job on a carrier named Cygnus, doing multiple jobs before quitting, and this is where Red's quest opens up. The ultimate goal is to take down four emperors, one of which is Shuzer, the guys who nearly killed him at the beginning. After they're all dead, Red gets a radio call from the Cygnus, and Captain Hawk instructs him to infiltrate the Black Ray and find Dr. Klein, his nemesis. We then fight off the goons as Alkaiser before the boss rush: MBlack in different iterations, BlackX himself, the emperors once again, and finally BossX, of course not to forget Red saving his mother and sister. At the end, it is revealed that Captain Hawk was actually Alkarl, who helped Red through his journey.

Next I played Blue's scenario. He's slated to be the Chosen One in his Magic Kingdom. All he does is go on the quests to get the gifts for magic, and once he gets the gift for either Time or Space, he decides to duel with his brother Rouge. Whichever brother wins actually absorbs the other brother (which means that if you lose the battle, you play as Rouge for the rest of the game). Then returning home, the Magic Kingdom is in ruins. Blue fights his way through Hell, yes, Hell, although it looks like Heaven. His story...doesn't have an ending upon beating Hell's Lord, boo.

I played Lute's quest next. He has a bad mother who requests he find a job, so he goes. He finds a guy named Mondo, who is later revealed to have killed Lute's father. Lute teams up with Capt. Hamilton to get rid of him in what is actually the shortest quest in the game. He just needs to fight Spriggan, but due to how early he can get to the boss, it's not recommended to go THAT early.

Next was T260G, who is found by little kids Thyme and Rosemary and restored by an octopus named Taco. Thyme enters T260G in a robot competition, then fighting Caballero's bots. Gen helps out at this point, and the two travel away from the junkyard town appropriately named Junk. T260G then finds a man named Leonard. Leonard is later killed but transfers his conscious into a robot and joins T260G and Gen as they investigate RB3, the Doomsday Machine, and defeating the awesome boss known as Genocide Heart fulfills T260G's quest.

Riki is trying to save his hometown, Margmel, from being destroyed, and the elder gives him the task of finding nine rings, which is basically Riki's whole quest. Riki then gets the help of Mei-ling, who helps find all but one of the rings, then Riki makes a wish to restore his homeland. All of a sudden, his species is disappearing, and Mei-Ling betrays Riki by turning into the Master Ring. By beating the Master Ring, Mei-Ling is restored, but Riki decides that it's better to take the rings back to where they belong. Sort of like the last leg of a recent blockbuster movie that people are probably spoilering right now.

Asellus' quest is interesting and is actually narrated by a woman named Gina. It starts off with her getting killed. She awakens in a fancy chateau in a land called Facinaturu, then gets stabbed in the back and revealed to have purple blood (mystics have blue blood, mix human and mystic blood together...). In truth she is chosen to be the heir (so in this case, daughter) to the Charm Lord, Orlouge, who was in fact the one who killed her. Asellus escapes with White Rose. Upon attempting to return home, despite her lack of aging, Asellus isn't recognized, and in the meantime, several of Orlouge's assassins as well as Princess Lion attack Asellus. Orlouge then sends Asellus to a dark labyrinth, where White Rose stays behind so Asellus can leave. Upon returning to Facinaturu, Asellus hears that Gina has been taken, and here we can have up to three endings depending on whether or not Asellus uses her mystic powers and/or saves Gina. Upon defeating Orlouge, either she's a full mystic who wants to have all women with her, a full human who marries someone and dies happy, or half mystic who sees Gina and her friends from time to time.

Finally, I ended with Emelia's story, and it starts with her going to her boyfriend's house, only to find her boyfriend Ren dead on the ground and a mysterious man running off. She's framed for murdering her husband and sent to Despair prison. Emelia along with Liza and Annie escape by way of competing to find a rune, then Emelia gets in touch with Gradius, an organization run by Roufas where they do some criminal activities of sorts. Emelia gets several outfits to wear too, including a luchador costume, a bunny outfit, a belly dancer outfit, and a commando outfit. All this as she tries to search for the man known as Joker, whom she thinks killed her husband. Emelia gets two endings to her quest after defeating the final boss (which is some random Diva statue), she either shoots Joker, or the mask that Joker has. Joker is actually revealed to be Ren for some reason, and the ending is kinda lame. Emelia at least gets to wear her wedding dress to the final battle.

Oh, and finishing all of the quests on the same system data will allow you to reach the secret credits part of the game where you can talk to the developers, get game stats, and fight any of the final bosses along with optional ones. Loads of stuff to this game, and while none of the stories intertwine, they're all pretty neat. Grade: A

Music: Most of the tracks are pretty decent. One battle theme for the most part, it's pretty decent and drops to just okay after hearing it often, but at least the bosses have unique themes. The locations are quite decent, with lively or humdrum towns getting respective music pieces. I like how the TimeLord's area has no music until you restore the time there. Grade: A-

Overall Grade: A-

My favorite entry in the SaGa series so far, decent stories, not to much nonsense going on with them, and lots of characters and classes to work with. Certainly was expecting it to be a long ride, especially with multiple scenarios, but I'm glad for the arrangements of how long each individual character's quest took.