There were plenty of RPGs that I REALLY wanted to play in my younger years that I just didn’t get around to, with Final Fantasy VII kickstarting a new love for the genre back in 1997. Kids don’t always have a lot of cash, after all, whilst some titles were just elusive and never seemed to show up in my local video game store… I just had to ogle screenshots in magazines and websites instead. SaGa Frontier was one such RPG, but this brought with it an entirely different barrier: it didn’t even release in the UK.
Now, close to twenty-five years after its original launch, it has seen a revamped release in SaGa Frontier Remastered. Bringing with it a new character to play as, additional features, and improved visuals, this really is the definitive way to experience one of Square Enix’s more unusual RPG releases. Is it actually any good though? I’d say yes, but it will take a fair bit of patience from gamers to really appreciate.
SaGa Frontier Remastered lets players choose between one of seven different characters, with each having their own story to progress through. The length of each of these varies (and as you get better at the game subsequent playthroughs do feel shorter), though seeing everything will easily take players well over fifty-hours. Believe me, I would know…
One of my favourite things about the multiple-character approach is the way in which their stories can intertwine. Just because you picked one character’s story to embark on, it doesn’t mean you won’t encounter the others on your journey. Some of these encounters are more meaningful than others, but it’s something that I appreciated – ESPECIALLY when I got around to playing through the stories of those other characters and seeing how some of their interactions came to be.
“Just because you picked one character’s story to embark on, it doesn’t mean you won’t encounter the others on your journey.”
I won’t go into depth about the plotline of each character… it would take WAY too long. Just know that the narrative itself is certainly engaging, even if it can feel a little disjointed in places. There’s not always a whole lot of cohesion to the overarching narrative, with the stand-alone nature of each character’s tale often taking centre stage over anything else. This is fine, ESPECIALLY since some of those stories are unique and quirky, but you should probably keep your expectations in check if you’re expecting some grand RPG narrative.
Typically when discussing RPGs, this would be the point where I’d cover the basics of the game. You know; how exploration feels, how battles play out, any mini-games… that sort of thing. However, SaGa Frontier Remastered takes such a unique approach to just about all aspects of its gameplay that it’s hard to go into depth about it all. Sometimes, this can be a good thing that shows how unique of an experience it is; however, it could also act as a barrier and make it feel a little inaccessible for newbies like myself.
Battling is turn-based, so RPG fans should feel a sense of familiarity from the get-go. Things such as attacking and using abilities are straightforward, so anyone who has played a turn-based RPG before will feel right at home. In fact, once I finally got my head around the other aspects of battling (more on that in a moment), I found it to be a rewarding and addictive experience. There’s a heavy focus on tactical thinking and your party setup, so those who invest themselves fully into each individual party member and mould their capabilities to their own liking will reap the rewards. It’s hard as nails, sure, but it makes it all the more satisfying when you do succeed in combat.
“SaGa Frontier Remastered takes such a unique approach to just about all aspects of its gameplay that it’s hard to go into depth about it all.”
HOWEVER, that’s the only way in which SaGa Frontier Remastered plays by the conventional rules. Enemy levels will scale with yours for example, so powering yourself up and grinding isn’t necessarily the best approach to take. Instead, it’ll increase your Battle Rank, which will see enemies become stronger too. It is something that has been done in plenty of other RPGs in the past though, so it wasn’t too out of the ordinary.
Levelling up though? Wow, it can get confusing. Your party members are made up of different races, with each seeing their capabilities improve through different ways. Some of these are more conventional, be it the Mechs that improve based upon the items you equip on them or the Humans that improve based upon their actions in-combat. Everyone else though? It’ll take some work. Mystics and Monsters have to absorb enemies to earn new skills and stat boosts for example, and figuring out how to work this to your advantage can take some time – especially since you don’t want to battle TOO much in order to keep your Battle Rank from getting too high.
I might have made it sound a bit more intimidating than it is, but, as a newbie to the game, I found myself getting overwhelmed quite quickly. I hate to admit it, but I found myself resorting to online guides just so I could figure out the mechanics of the game. SaGa Frontier Remastered can be quite reserved as far as explaining how to play is concerned, so it felt like a necessity.
“Once I learnt more about the battling, how to improve my party’s capabilities, and how to approach certain encounters, I found myself wholly invested in the adventure.”
You know what? It made the game feel SO much better to play. Once I learnt more about the battling, how to improve my party’s capabilities, and how to approach certain encounters, I found myself wholly invested in the adventure. Best of all, it made subsequent playthroughs a lot easier; whilst I used a guide for my first two characters, I learnt enough about the game to go it alone from there on. Five out of seven isn’t bad, right?
That being said, SaGa Frontier Remastered can take a very open approach to its gameplay and it can be difficult to know where exactly you need to go at times. There’s a lot of freedom in exploring the world, which is great for those who enjoy a sense of discovery but difficult for those who just want to know what to do next. It can take patience (or one of those aforementioned walkthroughs) to progress through the game and it won’t be for everyone.
Stick with it though and you’ll find that it’s one of the more unique RPGs out there. My time with SaGa Frontier Remastered was full of highs and lows, but once I figured out WHAT exactly it was trying to do, I was hooked. There’s something so compelling about its gameplay and, whilst it might seem intimidating at first, it does something that feels so different to other RPGs. It’s genuinely fun, but it just takes some effort (and a bit of learning) before you can appreciate it.
“My time with SaGa Frontier Remastered was full of highs and lows, but once I figured out WHAT exactly it was trying to do, I was hooked.”
Given that this is the Remastered release of SaGa Frontier, players can expect some neat extras. This includes revamped visuals (which really do look great in that nostalgic kinda way), additional story sequences that were cut from the original game, and gameplay improvements such as speeding up gameplay to make battling play out faster. I didn’t play the game in its original form so there are extras that I probably wouldn’t notice as much as returning gamers, but I could still appreciate the effort made to make SaGa Frontier Remastered feel like a revamped and expanded experience.
One big addition comes with a whole new character campaign to play through, with Fuse bringing an eighth story to the game once you’ve completed the story as at least one character. Interestingly, Fuse’s campaign is based around each of the character’s individual stories, meaning you can experience his ‘unique’ take on the events that have already occurred. It might sound baffling (what else would you expect from SaGa Frontier Remastered at this point?) but it actually makes for one of the game’s most charming and quirky aspects.
SaGa Frontier Remastered has a steep learning curve and can be VERY intimidating, but stick with it and you’ll find a unique and engrossing RPG experience. The best thing I can recommend is for newbies to read a few guides before tackling the game; it’s not the most conventional approach to take, but it will certainly make your time easier and help you figure out the mechanics of this somewhat convoluted but entertaining nostalgic release.
It’ll take a fair bit of patience to appreciate, but there’s something special about SaGa Frontier Remastered. It has some accessibility issues but gets more and more enjoyable the longer you spend with it.
Developer: Square Enix
Publisher: Square Enix
Platform(s): Nintendo Switch (Reviewed), PlayStation 4, PC
Click here to visit the official website.