Sigma Star Saga Review
Sigma Star Saga has a great concept that was clearly inspired by any number of 16-bit classics, but it doesn't quite measure up to them.
- Fantastic concept: part shoot-'em-up, part adventure role-playing
- Great graphics and sound give it that classic 16-bit feel
- Gun data system is an interesting twist on shoot-'em-up gameplay
- Pretty good story.
- Random shoot-'em-up levels get very tedious, fast
- Not much to do while running around on foot
- Whole experience feels too dragged-out.
Where was Sigma Star Saga when we needed it most about 10 or 12 years ago? This hybrid action adventure game combines side-scrolling shoot-'em-up battles with top-down 2D Zelda-style sequences together with an original sci-fi storyline. The results create a fantastic first impression, featuring the very best of what 16-bit gaming ever had to offer. Sigma Star Saga unfortunately doesn't fully follow through on its intent to successfully splice together two classic styles of gaming due to some frustratingly repetitive and often bland scenarios. But its unique design and impressive presentation still make it worth checking out by those nostalgic for the glory days of 2D gaming.
Sigma Star Saga does put its best foot forward. The moment the game begins, you're in a starship defending a war-torn planet Earth from a ravaging alien race called the krill. This is great stuff, as your battle is joined by other fighters from your squadron. Together you take on the krill, both low to the ground and high in the sky, before finally repelling the invasion (unless you die trying). You're Ian Recker, an ace pilot and one of the sole survivors of the brutal battle. You return to base a hero. But the war is far from over, and your job is far from done. Your commander has unusual plans for your continued service: You'll be seemingly left for dead, allowing you to infiltrate the ranks of the krill so you can hopefully gain their confidence and then report their secrets back to Earth command. By disrupting the krill's operations from the inside, Earth may yet win the day. Soon enough, Recker finds himself on board a krill starbase being fitted for a "parasite," which is organic body armor worn by krill soldiers. So begins his true journey.
The game's anime influence extends from the look of its cast of characters to its complex storyline that will have Recker second-guessing his loyalties both to his commander and even to his race. The story unfolds through text-based dialogue between Recker and a small cast of key characters. There's some well-written dialogue, but some dense plot points and the sporadic way in which the story unfolds prevent it from really grabbing hold. Nevertheless, it's the story of Sigma Star Saga that will compel you to keep pressing forward when the gameplay itself bogs down.
Basically, Sigma Star Saga replaces the traditional, random turn-based battles of the role-playing genre with side-scrolling shoot-'em-up levels. That's a terrific idea, but in practice the game tends to throw far too many random, bite-sized shooter bits at you...to the point where making progress through the game's main levels becomes tedious. Most of the game takes place on various planets that are significant to both Earth and the krill's high command, for reasons you'll discover later. These are populated by monsters that are even easier to ignore than they are to kill, but every few steps of the way, you'll automatically get sucked into a krill ship and will be forced to shoot down some number of enemies, possibly a miniboss, before getting to resume your on-foot exploration. There are a few different spaceships and a multiple types of shooter levels per planet that you'll randomly be assigned to, but you'll be forced to see all this stuff way too frequently. The game adds insult to injury by forcing you to backtrack across planetary surfaces multiple times.
Each time you gun down an enemy in the shooter sequences, it drops a little experience bubble. Sigma Star Saga is part shooter and part role-playing game, so as you gun down hundreds of mindless foes in space, you gain experience levels, raising your ship's attack and defense ratings. The urge to keep leveling up is strong enough to keep you going for a while, but there comes a point where your ship becomes too powerful. This moment is a sad one, because shoot-'em-ups are fundamentally supposed to be skill-based affairs, after all. When stripped of challenge, they lose most of their charm and appeal. During the sluggish middle portion of the game, you'll be slogging through one pointless shooter sequence after another, and the on-foot exploration--while occasionally confusing--really isn't any more interesting.