Big idea, small budget.

User Rating: 7 | SaGa Frontier (PSOne Books) PS
This is a game you can't help but to be disappointed because it simply had too much potential. I want to just give it a 10 despite all the flaws it has because the idea was too strong in every aspect of the game. Unfortunately, none of those idea managed to stay strong due to obviously low budget and rushed effort. First the battle system of Saga Frontier is very unique. The random learning in the middle of the fight, the combos that comes from characters sort of randomly whenever they are using techniques or magic, random stat increase shows that this game wasn't afraid to try new things. Any technique or magic can become a combo if it is used in correct order with other techniques with other characters. This adds quite a bit of depth in turn based combat that even these days have difficult time finding good depth and strategy to be involved. However, Saga Frontier ultimately fails at this because the strength of enemy, the combo based system, the learning curve of the characters, and stats increase is just way too random. Finding out which techniques and magic results the combo and memorization of it to use it consistently while considering the order these characters attack by considering their stats is just too much to remember to add strategy to the game. It can be done, but not consistent enough to rely on it and ultimately, it is too random and complicated to form a strategy based on this system for pure entertainment purpose. It ends up being more of a grudge in the end that you WILL have certain combos unleashed in battles rather than just to have good time with the game. Also with enemies become stronger as you get stronger and it just adds insane amount of difficulty to the game especially considering that the stats increase of your character is very random, so your character might not be balanced enough to face such strong foes. In the end, the game requires you to show extreme amount of your dedication and commitment to the game. That kind of dedication and commitment that should be saved for marriage, your job, family, or other more serious aspects of your life than a game that fails to give you solid storyline. Well that is bit too extreme for me to say because you can play this game some what casually, but you will realize that 95% of the gameplay will be just grinding to increase your stats and learning new skills, very much like old school MMORPG.

Which moves me to my next point. The storyline. This is the biggest reason why this game is so very disappointing. Saga Frontier is unique game that has 7 different main characters. That's right 7. When you start new game, you will have the option of choosing one of these 7 characters and experience unique storyline specific towards to each characters. These characters doesn't really interact with other main characters and remain pretty much independent to each other, which makes me wonder why Square didn't just make 7 different games instead of trying to cram it in one game. If the game concentrated on single character, the end result would've been much much better. Anyway, as for stories goes, each character has very different quality of storyline and depth to the plot compared to others. The characters that does have quality storyline would be Red, Asellus, Emelia, and T260G. The ones with so so storyline would be Blue and Riku. And the one they should've just omit is Lute. I consider the story the most important part of this game, so let me cover each character plot without spoiling any (or at least try to not spoil the storyline)

First let me talk about Blue who is my 5th favorite character. The reason is because I consider Blue the main character among 7 main characters of the game. The reasoning behind it is not because Blue has most interesting storyline nor does he have anything to do with other characters. The reason why I consider Blue the main character is because A) he is on the cover
B) he is first character to be introduced in the instruction manual
C) his gameplay format. First 2 reasoning is rather weak, but I think it does hold some valid argument. After all they are introducing him first and in a way, Square is strongly suggesting you to play Blue first. Blue is kind of tutorial character. That doesn't mean he is easy character to use. You will still need to spend 15~20 leveling up your character (all the final boss in this game is ridiculously difficult) However, the format of his game seems like tutorial. In Saga Frontier, there are side quests you most likely will need to take because it is needed for you to access powerful magic. Blue however, has these side quest as his main quests. Once the quests you would normally take as other characters are done (aside from their own unique main quests), Blue just need to go fight the last boss and the game is over. In a way, Lute is similar but for Blue's quests, the story specifically tells you to go do these magical side quest. Experiencing Blue's story well prepares you for the rest of the character, which is why I think Blue is the main characters of the 7 main characters. Blue does have interesting storyline. Like rest of main characters in Saga Frontier, Blue has bare bone storyline that doesn't have much depth, but the idea of the plot is excellent, which is only reason why I was able to enjoy his quest and lack of plot. The script that was written for Blue probably isn't longer than 2 typed pages, so it is extremely disappointing how shallow his plot goes, but you can see if they added some meat here and there, he could've had very interesting and solid storyline. I consider Blue's storyline mediocre at best because it greatly lacks detail. Overall the Saga Frontier game does lack details in their plot, but Blue's plot is especially lacking compared to others in the game, however he does have one of the more interesting theme compared to others.

Now let's talk about my favorite character, Asellus. I wouldn't be exaggerating to say Asellus is sole reason why I enjoyed this game to the point where I still have fond memories about this game after 10 years later. To me, she was the character that saved this entire game for me. Take her out of this game and I would've considered Saga Frontier utter garbage. Asellus is one of the character that did receive more attention from developers compared to others. She does have her own unique world where other characters can't explore, and she is the only half mystic and half human character in the game, which adds quite a bit of strategy relating to multiple skills. She also has the darkest storyline out of all the characters (in terms of plot and mood, because just plot-wise Blue might be darker) Also she even has 3 different endings! Her story is extremely interesting from beginning to the end, although she does have very annoying moments of random boss fights which often leaves you very unprepared for the fight and have very uneven progression of the story. However, her story will eventually disappoint you because it lacks quite a bit of detail. Her plot and world is something that most players would probably want to explore more, learn more, and experience more. Although she does have more details in her storyline compared to other characters, it still lacks much details to be satisfying and feel like complete experience. Still, her dark, mysterious, magical, and entrancing storyline is worthy of experiencing because of great theme and idea the plot contains. Moving on to second favorite character Emelia. Emelia is interesting character because she gets to wear many outfit. Also her story progress differently from most of the characters in the game because her story is not as non-linear compared to others. Her story moves in more of mission based format. You are able to freely travel and explore, but to progress her story, you need to take missions and complete it to the end. Her story is more of spy work type of story which is intriguing in very different way compared to Asellus. There is mystery that needs to be solved, love, drama, betrayal, and comedy in Emelia's story. Like every other character, she also suffers from lack of detail in plot to be satisfying but her plot theme and ideas are good to keep your interest while you suffer from grinding 20+ hrs. My third favorite character would be Red. His story is rather corny. One of more humorous storyline in the game as he is actually.... a SUPER HERO. And what does all great super heroes do? HE CAN TRANSFORM! Asellus can also somewhat transform when she brings her mystic side of her, but Red transformation is in whole another level. Very power ranger-like transformation he does and it isn't just for the looks. It increases his stats and gives him few skills he can use only when he transform. His story is more about fun and humor compared to Asellus or Emelia. Asellus plot is more well done in terms of more artistic approach, however Red's plot is more well done in terms of entertainment approach. Emelia, I think would put her in the middle but closer to entertainment approach. Red is the storyline that will have most people entertained when they aren't stuck grinding. His quest does seem similar to Emelia, except you don't really get to choose when you do his missions. Most of the times you are stuck with him doing missions so his approach is unique too compared to others. He also probably has most stages that is exclusive for him alone. My fourth favorite character would be T260G. He is the robot character, and the only robot main character in the game. His story is interesting but not as interesting compared to my other top 3. It does have same kind of mystery like others, but doesn't have the same urgency, so his story is more free and requires more of random traveling compared to other characters I have mentioned so far. Compared to Asellus, I wouldn't say his theme and idea isn't very strong, however he does have good storyline that lacks details (like all characters) to be satisfying that manages to keep your interest to very end.

My 6th favorite character is Riku. I think biggest reason why I couldn't really enjoy Riku is because he is a monster. Which makes Riku, as biggest pain in the butt among main characters in terms of leveling and gameplay because monsters have least desirable method of leveling. As Riku you will need to absorb enemy monster you defeat to transform into something more powerful and learn new ability. The problem is that transformation is fairly random and too often I end up becoming weaker than I previously was. Very frustrating. His quest is more of collecting things. It does have reverse Lord of the Ring kind of storyline. Instead of taking rings to get rid of it, you are on a quests to collect rings. Again it is a story that would've been much better with details, but in the end, his story just like other characters have summary that can be one sentence long and not omit much of details. Now comes Lute, the worst of the bunch. If anyone played Lute as first main character, there is strong chance that person probably thought this was utter garbage of game and broke the disc in half in fury, forgetting you could've had your money back if you just asked for refund. He basically doesn't really have a story. You start off very open ended and when you are ready, you just talk to a character who will tell you story that seems completely unrelated to Lute and once that single event is over and go to boss and defeat him, the game is over. You still need to grind 15~20 hours to get ready to fight him, so you get 5 minutes worth of story and 20 hours of gameplay hours because you had to be stuck leveling your characters. Lute exists only because Square wanted 7 characters for luck instead of 6 and they had to rush the game because deadline was near, and they ran out of good theme and idea. Overall, Saga Frontier is worthy game to experience if you do enjoy long hours to leveling to buff up your characters. If you enjoy such progression and the progression itself, this game probably can be tolerable enough to play. If you like traditional JRPG, the non-linear gameplay and lack of storyline will probably turn you off immediately. If you are fan of RPGs and love RPGs with good story, I'd suggest this game. Even if the game doesn't have good details, the story itself is interesting enough to be worthy of at least a rental.