Unlimited Saga update

The next installment in SquareSoft's Saga series is on its way to the US.

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SquareSoft has revealed that Unlimited Saga, the next installment in the Saga Frontier series, will be released in the US this summer. The game, first shown at last year's Tokyo Game Show, was released in December 2002 for the PlayStation 2 in Japan. Unlimited Saga marks a new direction for the series, as it incorporates a new visual style and a unique gameplay system that blends elements from the original games with entirely new combat and exploration systems.

The game's story will let you assume the role of one of seven characters who set out on individual journeys with the aim of bringing a new golden age to the world. Judy is the 10-year-old granddaughter of a wizard, and she has already mastered the use of three familiars. Ventus is a 19-year-old who has decided to follow in the footsteps of his late brother, who died while working as a courier. He hopes to uncover the truth behind his brother's death. Laura is a 30-year-old widow who was once a pirate but left that life behind to settle down with her true love. Kurt Burgundy is a 32-year-old adventurer who is the first-born son of a high-ranking knight. Kurt rebelled against the expectations placed on him to become a knight and ran off, opting to join a movement devoted to spreading knowledge to everyone in the world, regardless of social standing. Mythe is a 28-year-old inventor who enjoys drinking and carousing. Armic is a chapa tribesman with low self-esteem, and he has been chosen by his drought-ravaged village to collect the materials needed to conduct a rain ceremony. Finally, Ruby is the 17-year-old sister of a famous fortune-teller, but she lacks clairvoyant powers. Each character's unique story line will require several hours of gameplay to complete. The longest will apparently be Armic's quest, which SquareSoft is saying will require more than 50 hours to complete. As in previous Saga titles, you'll encounter the other characters as you play through the game.

The gameplay will feature the core elements we've come to expect from the RPG franchise, but it will add some unique twists. You'll explore areas, interact with other characters, and engage in combat. However, this time, the way you'll go about these things differs quite a bit from the other entries in the franchise, in part due to the game's unique visual style. Whereas the earlier entries in the series have made use of the traditional third-person perspective common to 16-bit RPGs, Unlimited Saga relies heavily on lush, detailed 2D art supplied by Tomomi Kobayashi, who reprised his role as the series' illustrator, and Yusuke Naora, who is best known for his work on the Final Fantasy series and served as the graphics producer and character designer for the title. You'll engage in exploration on a 2D map that severely limits your view of your surroundings. Part of the game's challenge is to explore the gameworld and engage in combat with the enemies you encounter while surviving the traps that will often be obscured by the limited perspective.

The game's unique combat component makes use of a set of mechanics that SquareSoft refers to as the "reel battle system." It's a turn-based system that revolves around a roulette-type wheel that requires you to select attacks by stopping the wheel at key points. You'll have the option to build up energy that can be unleashed in a strong attack or a series of weaker attacks. As in previous Saga games, you'll learn new abilities in battle. The combat system is enhanced by the game's unique "sketch motion system," which makes use of hand-drawn artwork for animation.

Unlimited Saga is currently slated to ship this summer for the PlayStation 2. Look for much more on the game in the coming weeks.

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