TGS 2002: Hands-onUnlimited SaGa

We check out Square's latest entry in its SaGa series.

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We had a chance to try out Unlimited SaGa for the PlayStation 2 in Square's TGS booth today. The game was being shown in several cubicles with Dolby headphones to show off the game's Dolby Pro Logic II support. The game is another unique entry in the series, which has always offered distinctly different gameplay from its more popular Final Fantasy cousin. Although brief, our time with the demo gave us a feel for Unlimited SaGa's slick graphics and unique gameplay.

The game's graphics showcased the animation system developed with the help of Adobe Systems, which is supposed to display the characters without using sprites or polygons. While it sounds a bit unorthodox in theory, the technique looked pretty good in practice. The characters had a very crisp look that was similar to the incredibly clean appearance of the characters in Sammy's Guilty Gear X--when they weren't moving. Little things, like the idle animations, are a bit choppy. During combat, the characters move well enough, although they don't look quite as sharp. The fighting environment we saw was a large, barren hall, which serves to focus your attention on the combatants. The game's CG sequences mark the first time CG has been used in the series, and they feature a unique look that is reminiscent of cel-shading.

The actual fighting in this new SaGa game is very different from the previous entries in the series, and just about everything Square has done lately. Rather than issue orders to each member of your party, you'll actually have five command options for the entire party. So, for example, you could use all five command options on one party member in one turn, or divide them among all the characters in the party. Once you've settled on the commands, a slot-machine-style reel will appear onscreen and will show the different properties of the selected character's attack. Characters can execute double slashes or quadruple slashes if you hit the right slot in the reel, or the attack can be saved and then unleashed later in a combination attack with other characters in the party. Instead of using individual points for special attacks and spells, the characters' HP will be consumed when using these powers. Like in previous SaGa games, a little light bulb appears and lights up above a character's head when a new spell is learned. The field map is a unique departure from convention since it only shows a simple drawing that maps your current location. You'll engage in combat by discovering areas with enemies.

From what we've seen so far, Unlimited SaGa is shaping up to offer the unique hallmarks that the series is known for: unique gameplay and artistically impressive graphics and presentation. Unlimited SaGa is slated to ship this December in Japan. Final details on the game's US release have yet to be announced.

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