Very flawed game, but the good outweighs the bad.

User Rating: 7 | SaGa Frontier (PSOne Books) PS
The SaGa series is one of Square's oldest franchises, dating back to the original Gameboy. SaGa Frontier marks its first visit on the Playstation, and the first appearance under the SaGa name (on Gameboy it was the Final Fantasy Legend series). It's Playstation debut is a mixed bag however, but the good does outweigh the bad for the most part.

There are seven main characters whose stories you will play through. The stories range from fairly straight-forward (like Emily's story about a woman trying to avenge her murdered lover) to completely non-linear (like Lute the boy who just wants to go on an adventure) and can take anywhere from 2 to 10 hours to complete. Regardless of how tight the storyline is, you're almost always allowed to visit other lands in search of experience and new recruits to your party.

Each character will run into the others on their journeys as well as nearly 2 dozen other characters who can be recruited into your party (though only 5 can be used at a time). Due to the way characters increase in stregth however once you find a team of 5 that you like, you'll probably stick with them for the whole story.

While most storylines are enjoyable, the open ended nature of the game makes it dull after a while. Many times, especially while exploring, you'll feel like you're repeating yourself as you will have already visited the same areas and met the same characters during other storylines. Fortuntely combat does help keep things interesting.

Battles are traditional turnbased RPG battles but there is a twist. Regular attacks do enough damage but to do so some real damage you'll need to learn to string together some combo attacks. By keeping all your characters on a similiar level they can combine their attacks and make combos. It's easy to do 2 or 3 stringed combos, but the 5 string ones need to be practiced to get them right. There are also dozens of different attacks and spells and you'll have a good time fighting to learn new ones. The only problem with combat though is often you might not be strong enough to fight in a new area due to an unusual leveling system.

You do not level up in the typical way. In the world of Saga Frontier there are 4 types of inhabitants; humans, mystics, robots and monsters. Each group has their own way of getting stronger. Monsters and Robots are easiest. Robots get stronger by attatching stronger weapons and armor to them, while Monsters increase in strenth by eating the meat left by other monsters defeated in battle.

Humans and Mystics are a bit more different. Instead of collecting experience points to level up, different stats will go up depending on what types of attacks you use in battle. Attacking with a sword may make your strength increase at the end of battle. Getting attacked and losing a lot of health may make your max HP jump. Similiarly you gain new types of spells and weapon abilities while using them in battle. Cast some shadown type spells and you may learn a new one. Attack with a gun and you'll learn a new gun technique. This method of becoming stronger isn't exactly scientific and can sometimes frustrate you when a stubborn character never seems to get stronger.

Graphics are nice with 2-D sprites on 3-D rendered backgrounds, but even for the time were not outstanding. The music is quite good though, and it makes playing the game that much more pleasurable.

Overall the game is good, but the flaws are noticable and unfortunately cannot be ignored. Still if you're interested in a different kind of RPG, it might be worth your while to track this game down.
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