SaGa Frontier Remastered Review (PS4)
Updated: May 30, 2021
*Cult classic reborn*
Genre: Role Playing
Release Date: April 15,2021
Price: $25 PSN(at time of review)
*Game provided to me by Square-Enix
SaGa Frontier Remastered is an unorthodox role playing game that is developed and published by Square-Enix. Originally released in 1998 on Playstation 1, it was received with very mixed reviews due to how different it was from other games on the market. But as the years past, reception no longer was a mixed bag, but instead turned the game into the status of a cult classic. Now with us being in 2021, Square-Enix attempts to bring this classic back for modern audiences to see if the magic still holds up now, as It did back then. Is that brilliance still as radiant as ever or is this one title that should've been left alone while it still had a good reputation. Only one way to find out, so, onward my friends!
Story: *from the character Emilia's story*
As a former super model, Emilia wanted nothing more than to just leave it all behind and marry her Fiance, Ren. But fate had different plans in mind for her. One day after returning home, she finds Ren murdered in their household, with the culprit of this crime being a masked man. With Emilia being the only available suspect, she is immediately charged for her fiances murder. Being innocent of her crimes and knowing who the real culprit is, a man named Joker, she now sets out on a mission to find that masked man and bring him to justice once and for all for his crimes. However, many things lie in store for her on her journey and it won't all go as according to plan as she would hope.
As stated earlier in the opening of this review, SaGa Frontier Remastered is a rather unorthodox role playing game when you compare it to all other RPG's you may have been used to back in the 1990's or even today in the modern gaming climate. Sure it has your basic turned based system where you choose one attack at a time and take turns hitting your enemy, that much is still there, but SaGa Frontier does away with all the familiarity that you've come to know and expect from traditional RPG's, like a level up system with experience points. Instead it opts for a totally new battle and level up system that over the years has been hit or miss for a lot of folks who aren't open enough to the changes it brings. But were not here to talk about those people, were here to get into the main aspects of what this game has to offer people in todays modern gaming market and see what holds up and what doesn't. So to start us off, let's talk about what you will be doing in the game upon actually starting it.
When you start the game, you will have the option to pick from a variety of characters, seven to be exact. Well, no, that's not exactly true because there's a potential eighth character they've added to the mix for this remaster that goes by the name of Fuse, but we'll save that for the extra stuff section of the review, for now let's focus on the characters who are actually available from the start. On the selection screen you can select one of the seven available characters to play as and each character having their own separate character arc and story for you to experience and playthrough. These stories range from the characters questioning an identity, a story of revenge, a story of belonging and even the tried and true destiny story for your hero. Each story is worth experiencing for at least one playthrough because they all offer a different experience through the eyes of that hero, but don't get too interested overall in thinking you will get some big over arching story. Sadly, no, they do not all connect 100% together and are often woven loosely to each other for just a tiny bit of tying into each other, but overall, nothing with a 1:1 connection. For time constraint sake, I'll be focusing on one main character only for the time being, and my journey with her, and that character is Emilia.
When you start the game as Emilia, you're thrust into the story of loss, murder and revenge. Emilia finds her fiance dead at the hands of the masked man named Joker and is not only wrongly accused of his death, but also, even convicted too!, good lord. Sorry Emilia, but if it's any solace, you aren't the only to be framed for a crime you didn't commit, isn't that right, Mario?. Once convicted, you're thrown into jail to rot your life away, but soon you meet up with characters Liza and Annie who take you under their wing in order to make your grand escape. It's kind of strange though, how the heck do they know the layout so well? They must've went to the same tattoo parlor as Michael Schoffield did in order to plan this Prison Break. When you finally make your escape, you realize the true motive of Liza and Annie, they're part of a secret society of Gradius, a group of criminals who try to do for justice what the normal police and guards cannot or will not attempt to do. Lead by the group leader here named Roufas, you're tasked with many missions heading forward that range from your standard infiltration missions, to overall what the hell kind of moments that in todays world would get you cancelled if you attempted to do it in a game. Seriously, one of these missions literally asks you to use your skills as a woman to infiltrate the trinity base and when you refuse, you're drugged and sold to a slave trade that takes you to the base anyways. Like woah buddy, that's a little extreme. We were definitely way thicker skinned back in the 90s.
As a full fledged member of the team, you will now set off on your journey through the land and see what the world has in store for you. This is where the actual game opens up tremendously and the unconventional nature of the title for its time really starts to show. The story does not move you in a linear fashion but instead you have a freedom of choice of wherever you wish to go at any given point in time, whether you just want to do the story missions, go town to town to recruit one of the many dozen characters you find that will help you out, find secret areas with rare enemies to grind our your characters stats or even take part in the multiple of side quests this game has to offer you. Freedom of choice is king here, but just be careful of how far you roam at the beginning because some areas shouldn't be accessed yet until you raise your stats a little bit more or acquire better gear. A lot of my time spent in the game was just exploring and finding stuff out that I may have missed in the original or just didn't remember at all. For instance, going through a cave looking for Joker, as we've been told he's been seen around this area recently, you run into a room with a bunch of Gnomes who are guarding all their gold. It was confusing. No, not because of anything the game itself did, but because I didn't know whether I was going to find David The Gnome here or have a little leprechaun come by telling me ''Get me gold, laddy!''. Thankfully they were nice Gnomes and they didn't steal my potions and items like they used to do back in the Golden Axe days. Thank you my friends.
So yes, I hear you in the back, you can stop heckling me. What about the actual battle system, the core game play, when are we getting to those. Well, pull up your britches because that's exactly what were getting into right now. As stated before, SaGa Frontier is not like your traditional RPG's where you can grind out a level and over power your foes as you level up, no way. In SaGa Frontier, you do not gain levels like RPG games that you are used to, but instead, you gain stat upgrades along with ability and skill upgrades the more you grind out your battles... however with one slight catch. You see this game runs of a totally different system than you're used to, each character has specific ways to level up depending on the actions they take in battles. For example if one character attacks more than another, they will gain the most HP up and other boosts than another character that didn't contribute as much to the fight itself. Whereas if you want to level your weapon skills, you're going to have to attack with the same weapon in a tedious fashion until you get it to the ''level'' that you wish it to be as. Another feature that's replacing the numbered level system and experience system is the implementation of the WP, LP, JP. Confused yet? well you will be... you will be. Well not really, I'll explain. In SaGa instead of leveling up attributes normally through 1-99 level system, you have Weapon Points which increases based off the actions you take in battle. Each attack you use for your character that uses WP will drain the amount of times you can use that skill in general, which means it basically acts like a traditional mana system whereas if you use all your mana you can't use a magic attack, but in this game, its your weapon skills. JP, aka Jutsu points, also acts in the same exact manner. It's a very different system and may take a little getting used to for newcomers of this series or those who aren't ready for a slight change to their RPG formula.
SaGa frontier is surprisingly deep in the combat department, selecting a party of 5 members and utilizing them to their full potential will be key to your success if you wish to survive long in this game. Between the multiple races that consist of humans, mechs, mystic, monsters, etc, each one gains a specific skill or stat different than others. Each gain depending on their action taken during a battle. Some gain JP faster than the rest, while others might not gain it at all. But it doesn't stop there because while you're trying to cope with how to utilize your team to its full potential and level, you're going to have to come to the realization that this game uses an enemy scale system. Say you fight an enemy that has a HP base of 20k, the lower your battle rank, the lower their health. But lets say your grind our your stats and abilities for hours and achieve a higher battle rank of around 7 or 8? Welp, you just screwed yourself over because now that HP base for that boss fight just became something like 120K. So crap, what do you do now that you basically just screwed the pooch? Strategize. This is where you will take advantage of the combos used for attack linking. In your menu you're able to see what attacks each party member has and pick which combos you would like to pull off. For instance, my go to combo was Heaven And Earth + Tornado Slash + Locomotion G. With these three attacks linked together, you produce a combo that can do damage up to 7k HP worth of damage per use if pulled off correctly. Mix and mash whatever you wish to use, depending on your party build and experiment as much as possible to find out what works best for you. But.. do not get too comfortable thinking you're good with just strategizing attacks alone, nope, now you have to worry about maintaining a characters Life Points. What is that you say? well I'm glad you asked.
LP or Life Points is basically the amount of times your character can get knocked out before being down for the count or given a perma-death till you're able to rest at an inn. Say your LP is around 9/9, well if you die 9 times with a character, that number will drop to zero and they will no longer be usable. The only way to revive a downed member is to use one your cure spells or use power cure and max cure, otherwise they cannot be revived in a normal traditional sense. However beware, even if you die and are out for the count, if the enemy still attacks someone that is knocked down, they can still lose one of their life points. This can get very frustrating, especially if you are at the point in the game where you can not backtrack to rest at an inn. I learned this the hard way in one of the story missions towards the end of Emilia's playthrough. I thought ''this will be easy, I don't have to worry'', but oh boy was I wrong. As you walk into the church a cutscene plays between Emilia, Liz and Annie and Emilia is thinking about how her and Ren were supposed to get married and then Liz, like the ditz she is, has the brain power to say, ''Are you thinking about Ren?'' um, I literally said it out loud! Hello! Mcfly!?. Ok sorry got sidetracked there. Back on track to what was I talking about. If you do not come prepared, like I didn't at first, the main boss of the Emilia playthrough will be absolutely horrid to you, Diva is no joke. I can't count how many times I got my butt handed to me by her before finally taking the slow and steady approach using many max cures and defending. Once again, strategy is key, brute force and overpowering will NOT work in your favor, do not even attempt it.
If you find yourself having trouble properly gearing yourself due to your lack of funds then you should be relieved to know that the gold trick from the original game on PS1 is still usable. This trick involves you buying and selling gold at a 480 value from Koorong to Nelson until you are making a profit of like 64k credits per transaction. Its the most simple and easiest way to money, should you need it quick and fast. So everything I mentioned is great and all but its not all fun and games, even though there are good additions for quality of life such as implemented speed up of game play, sorta like the FF7 console/steam port and a two button press for a quick save, its not just sunshine and rainbows. One of my gripes, which isn't too big of one, considering it was in the original, is the abrupt ending of major scenes. You'll finish a really dramatic or big scene and then it just ends, it literally just cuts away to a ''please stand by'' type of transition screen with a character portrait and when it comes back, you're in a completely new area with no idea what happened in between the time of your mission and how you get back to your base. It's just so abrupt and random that it kind of throws you off a bit, but nothing in a major way. The game can also leave you in a bit of a bind if you do not level someone with a heal spell to raise a party member. This can cause you to wipe your whole party and get a game over due to not being abler to backtrack to revive a fallen member of our party at specific sections of the game. If you are unlucky, you will have to start your playthrough all over again. Big oof
When you finally complete a playthrough any one of your characters, you will unlock New Game Plus mode. In this mode its exactly like it sounds, its a continuation of your game but you carry over all your stats from your previous playthrough, even the stats that you acquired for all other characters you recruited during your initial run. Unlocking this mode also gives you access to the 8th playable character, an IRPO patrolman named Fuse. Great thing about him is he has own unique story as well that gives you more hours of game play. So I suggest definitely giving him a go to see just where his story leads and how he interacts with the other 7 main characters.
At the end of the day SaGa Frontier Remastered lives up to what the original gave us, but in my opinion, it delivers on any even greater level. Sure it might not be for everyone do its difficultly level and permadeath, but to me it excels on many more aspects than it fails at. From its strategic game play, freedom of exploration that lets you do what you want, when you want without any really confinements, its creative use of WP/LP/JP over a traditional level system, its great battle system that makes you strategize by combining individual character attacks to make one big super move and down it its smooth graphical upgrade and catchy OST, SaGa Frontier Remastered manages to prove that this title is still as relevant in 2021 that it was in 1998. So with all this having been said, my verdict here is clear, GameNChick says BUY NOW