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SaGa Frontier Remastered
April 15, 2021
One of my first experiences with Akitoshi Kawazu’s unique RPG design was that of SaGa Frontier on the original PlayStation. Despite offering seven unique viewpoints, I only continued playing as the masked superhero Red / Alkaiser and even then I never managed to get all the way to the end. Since then, I’ve given the title several tries and even completed a number of screenplays over time. You can imagine my surprise when Square-Enix suddenly announced that not only was a remaster of the original title in the works, but that they would also add content once left on the cutting room floor, including an entire screenplay. It’s safe to say that a project like this couldn’t have happened without the support of SaGa fans around the world who backed the series with the recent releases of Romancing SaGa on PlayStation 4 and Vita, as well as the mobile gacha title Romancing SaGa Re; univerSe, a title I’ve sunk for a few dozen hours since its worldwide release last year. In a few days, longtime fans will have the chance to experience SaGa Frontier Remastered for themselves.
SaGa Frontier Remastered puts an end to a linear style of storytelling and instead gives players the choice to choose one of seven distinctly different characters spanning the gamut of humans, mystics, monsters and mechs. Each character has their own motivations and reason for going out into the world. Although if you have to play them all to get a complete story, everyone feels satisfying enough to play through to the end on their own (minus Lute, his story is still pretty awful). The two most recommended characters to start with are Red and Emilia, people with a good amount of combat potential to survive the challenge without too much trouble. Some of the more vulnerable spellcasters like Blue and, to a lesser extent, Asellus need a little more finesse and planning to find ideal growth without hitting a barrier.
I won’t go into detail on the mechanics of SaGa’s combat ranking, if only because I still don’t quite wrap my head around it, in all fairness. The premise is that if the player participates in combat regularly, the system will build an invisible combat rank that should ‘accurately’ reflect the player’s combat potential. This is because instead of reaching traditional levels like you would in any other RPG, characters instead increase their raw stats after each fight and are usually tuned to their combat actions (strength for melee attacks, speed for guns, willpower for magic, and so on). weather). If you’re fighting an even (or harder) enemy, you have a good chance of increasing these stats after a fight. It’s when you tackle weaker enemies that aren’t intuitive to the mechanics; Not only will you rarely raise a stat, but those combat counts will also tap up to increase that combat rank. As enemies become more powerful, the player may not catch up, leading to a stalemate in later chapters.
The other important form of character growth lies in the genius technique. By using basic attacks there is a chance to participate in what is called a ‘light bulb’ moment and learn something completely new. As with stat raises, there’s a higher chance of learning these new techs (as long as you don’t forget to free up some spots in the eight-slot roster). Most of the weapon skills are quite powerful compared to a basic attack, but it’s not until you unlock the 8-10 SP costing skills that they really shine. Or, if you genuinely want to break the combat system, invest in those punches and kicks until you unlock a slew of throwing technicians. Slide, Suplex, Tumble, Collapse and Giant Swing are all combined in DSC, an insanely useful technology that can deal anywhere from 5,000 to 25,000 damage depending on luck. The only downside to DSC, minus the high cost of casting, is the lack of combo with other skills. The other useful way to deal damage outside of DSC is to link technology and spells together in freeform combos. Nothing is more satisfying than having all five teammates weave suplexes, gunshots, and magic into a flashy combo (you’ll have to master these combos for a very specific combat challenge later, as well as a few PlayStation trophies, just as a precaution).
Six of SaGa Frontier’s seven playable heroes and heroines offer largely a similar experience to what players have enjoyed over the past two decades. This includes the same highs and lows of the scenarios, quirks and confusing paths. For Asellus, a character who deserved to be more fleshed out in her unique half-human, half-mystical lineage, there were some story moments that couldn’t make it to final release. Those story scenes, complete with reliable narration from a non-player character, help fill the gaps of what wasn’t told when Kawazu first led the SaGa Frontier project. There are slight differences in Asellus’ story from the very beginning that only the most savvy SaGa fans would recognize. I replayed her story twice and was pleasantly surprised to find that some interaction with Kurenai had been restored, creating an alternate method of leaving Fascinaturu and going to Mosperiburg.
The addition of an eighth playable character shouldn’t come as a complete surprise to fans who have scoured decades of forum posts and developer interviews with the original SaGa Frontier team. With an RPG as ambitious as SaGa Frontier, many story moments didn’t survive the final cut. Among them was the option to play as Fuse, an IRPO agent who subtly makes his way into any scenario, provided the player is looking for the Shield Card for a specific magical side quest. This time, Fuse gets top billing and gets his own screenplay in SaGa Frontier Remastered.
I should correct myself; it’s not just one playable scenario for Fuse in SaGa Frontier Remastered. He has given a separate chapter for each of the other seven heroes. Each of his scenarios revolves around how he heard about the different cases facing the other protagonists and makes his way into those tense moments as easily as he can report them to the police. If you enjoyed the challenge of meeting the final boss in a particular character’s scenario, you will have the chance to do it again, but with the help of Crazy Fuse himself. Every time you play as Fuse, you’ll see those brief moments when the IRPO crosses paths with each protagonist in bite-sized chapters that each lead to defeating the boss of each scenario. By doing a little extra legwork, you can increase the strength of these bosses (which almost, as I could see, only increases their battle position, just like you would regularly in the campaign), with the final challenge leading to fighting against the ultimate versions of each boss in a long series of battles.
Some of the other additions to SaGa Frontier Remastered feature in everyone’s campaign. The remastered graphics certainly help breathe new life into a two-decade-old title on PlayStation 4 and showcase Tomomi Kobayashi’s designs better than ever. The world environments still capture those thick and chunky early 3D renderings of the PS1 era, and aside from a fair bit of anti-aliasing, they don’t look like they’ve aged a day otherwise. To get around the pre-rendered levels a little easier, handy exit icons have been scattered across the screens, making it so much easier to navigate your way out of Shrike’s two tombs.
Another key feature of SaGa Frontier Remastered is in a scenario map that tracks the story moments you’ve already seen and gives a little advice on where to go next, something that a SaGa newcomer will certainly use more than once in the 1950s. -hours trip. Finally, if you’re not really too eager to fight (and increase your combat rank more than necessary), you can run from almost any non-essential fight in the game. Unfortunately, you can work your way through some areas, such as the Grail Card quest in Yorkland and a drunken bender through the Kraken-riddled swamp. Believe me, that makes more sense when you get there.
If the thought of closing a campaign and starting all over with the next character doesn’t sound too appealing, SaGa Frontier Remastered finally offers a very reasonable New Game Plus mode. Selecting New Game Plus allows you to advance as little or as much as you want from gear, tech learned, money, stats, and even combat rank. If you want to make your way through the final scenarios, nothing will stop you from handing over everything except the combat rank and only Suplex / DSC will make your way through every encounter on your way.
As iconic as the original PlayStation release of SaGa Frontier was, I found the Remastered version to top it in every way. From modern conveniences to re-excavating lost content, there’s something for players of all levels of the SaGa series. If non-traditional JRPGs are as much of a guilty pleasure to you as mine, you’ll find plenty to love in SaGa Frontier Remastered.
Rated on PlayStation 4 (code provided by the publisher).
SaGa Frontier Remastered shows the twenty-year-old JRPG such great reverence by restoring lost content along with modern conveniences. With a high learning curve and the explorer mindset needed to really enjoy, SaGa Frontier requires more experimentation and a desire for less traditional storytelling to get the most out of it.
- Secret rooms for both the original 2nd Div and the new Remastered team
- Speedrun tech and glitches still exist in Remastered, including the infamous Junk Shop glitch
- Missing cutscenes for Asellus restored to modern day glory
- Transferring gold and stats (and resetting battle rank) to New Game Plus will make subsequent playthroughs that much faster
- Monster technology is much easier to manage, resulting in more control over the monster you want to transform into
- 2x-3x speed is a godsend for replaying scenarios or just rushing through safe battles
- “Pointless” dungeons have never really been given new content or reasons to investigate
- Most of the new content focuses exclusively on Asellus and Fuse, leaving weaker campaigns like Lute’s in the dust
- Battle difficulty increases rapidly if you treat SaGa like a traditional JRPG and just try to grind for higher stats
- The firing of some of the rarer techniques like Life Sprinkler (Spray of Life) or Giant Swing is very rare
- Not all enemy models and backgrounds were updated cleanly, resulting in some really blurry mess
- Occasional entry delay in combat menus
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