SaGa Frontier Remastered - Review

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Martí Micolau

Review for SaGa Frontier Remastered. Game for PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch and PC, the video game was released on 15/04/2021

Parallel to its triple A titles based mostly on innovation, Square Enix also continues to offer several decidedly classic titles, whether they are new generation such as Octopath Traveler and Tokyo RPG Factory titles, or re-editions of its classic IPs of the past. In recent times, the company has shown that it does not want to stop at its most famous titles, such as the remasters of the various Final Fantasy, but that it wants to try to rediscover also several little-known titles such as the first Star Ocean or the very first chapters of the SaGa series.

Especially on the latter series it seems that Square Enix wants to focus again, as we have already noticed from the re-editions of Romancing SaGa 3 and SaGa: Scarlet Grace. SaGa Frontier Remastered is a new opportunity for players to approach this not too lucky series e very particular compared to the canons of the genre.

Most classic JRPGs immerse players in a rather linear adventure, in order to maintain a firmer focus on the story. However, not all Japanese developers are aligned with this philosophy, like Akitoshi Kawazu: one of the most experienced and particular personalities within Square Enix. He was the battle designer of the first two Final Fantasy and in less remote times the producer of various titles such as Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles, as well as having dealt with the subject of The Last Remnant.

But in his career Kawazu has dedicated himself in particular to the direction and script of almost all the chapters of the SaGa series, tending to his ideal of role-playing, that is titles in which the player is not accompanied by the hand, with non-linear stories and exploration possibilities. In this perspective, SaGa Frontier exhibits an absolutely uncommon freedom for a JRPG, perhaps even too much.

The first thing you will be asked in SaGa Frontier Remastered is to choose one of the eight protagonists available. Each of them has their own storyline set in the same world, indirectly connected with the others. The adventures are surprisingly heterogeneous in terms of duration and difficulty, but above all due to the different races and particularities of the protagonists themselves.

Although the variety of the main stories is undoubted, unfortunately the same cannot be said about their depth. The quality of the writing and even the amount of dialogue are rather bland and very few characters are worthily investigated. These are not really bad experiences, the stories themselves are also interesting, just that they struggle to get particularly involved.

Moreover, SaGa Frontier is an ante litteram model of the typical problem that would later plague open world games, namely the dispersion of narrative rhythm. After a first introductory part, the protagonist on duty is left free to explore the various locations of the world, and it can also take a long time before he returns to the tracks of the main story, both because sometimes the following objective is not always clear, and both why it is easy to get lost in the various subquests that maybe involve other secondary characters to add to the party.

On the one hand then the game has the merit of offering an innovative approach to the genre, establishing a non-linear progression and leaving the player free to go where he wants, recruit whoever he wants and choose when to end the adventure; on the other, this loose rope it softens the narrative involvement and can lead to a feeling of bewilderment. Finally, it must be considered that, unlike the different personal storylines, the subquests and related collateral dungeons present in the world are the same for all the protagonists, so completing all their stories starting all over again inevitably tends to repetitiveness.

At the time of its original release, the developers had to close and pack SaGa Frontier somewhat hastily due to delivery time limits. For this reason, some cutscenes from the Asellus story and the entire story of the eighth character, Fuse (which also involved the other protagonists), were left out of the final game. The good news is that with the occasion of this Remastered version were finally included.

Even on the gameplay side, players who have never played other SaGa and are used to classic JRPGs will initially be confused and will have to learn a lot of mechanics. Primarily in SaGa Frontier Remastered the "races" of the characters work differently between them: humans can use techniques and magic, access almost all types of equipment and the growth of their stat happens directly after each fight depending on its actions (no, no points and experience levels); robots, on the other hand, change the stat only based on the equipment assigned and can learn new skills by defeating other robotic enemies; finally there are the monsters that do not use weapons, but are able to change their appearance and assimilate the abilities of other defeated monsters. It is certainly an interesting and non-trivial development system, if only its functioning were a little more explanatory. In fact, to understand certain dynamics well there are two alternatives: looking for an online guide or experimenting it yourself by undertaking a long path of trial and error.

The real strength of SaGa Frontier Remastered, however, resides in the battle system. Already in 1997 the title had chosen to set aside random encounters and make enemies visible (and avoidable) in the game environments. During battles, human characters can learn new skills and the game will make them use them immediately. By experimenting with the various techniques of all the characters, it is also possible to discover Combos of attacks, and we assure you that seeing up to five chained special techniques in action is as spectacular for us as it is painful for the opponents.

Apart from the aforementioned opacity of the mechanics, the only other problem related to the gameplay is the poorly balanced difficulty curve. Even without neglecting casual encounters, sometimes you can come across opponents perfectly capable of razing our party without being able to do much about it. Avoiding this danger by indulging in a few grinding sessions isn't even the ideal option, as monsters will change and get stronger as characters' stats increase.

Also for this reason the possibility of save anywhere and especially the game's quick save function introduced an auto-save to avoid losing precious hours of progress.

The graphics are certainly one of the aspects that has benefited most from the SaGa Frontier remaster. In the original game, the gap between the sprites and the pre-rendered backgrounds was not very harmonious to the eye. For this new version some high resolution sprites have been used, with which we can say goodbye to the pixelated edges; now it is even more satisfying to see the animations of the special attacks in battle. Even the wallpapers now have a definitely better visual quality, even if in general it has not been possible to work miracles with regard to the resolution of the details.

The renewed graphics, including the interface, are however only one of them appreciable improvements. In SaGa Frontier Remastered we have also added the always useful option to speed up the game, an item in the menu that keeps track of the events of the story and gives a clue to the next goal (useful if you interrupt the game for a long time) and the New Game + in which it is possible to keep the achievements obtained at the player's discretion.

A gallery of the impressive artwork by. Has also been made available from the main menu Kōji Tsuda e Tomomi Kobayashi, as well as a music gallery of the songs from Kenji Ito's soundtrack.

Considering the quality and contents of this remaster, superior to many similar productions much more lazy seen in the past, its price of € 24,99 seems fair to us. However, this is a basic game that is certainly not suitable for everyone. If you are looking for a JRPG in its own way innovative (for the time) that makes you try something different from the canons of the genre, and you are prepared to learn its uncommunicative mechanics, you might find in SaGa Frontier Remastered an imperfect title but with a great personality. If, on the other hand, you are not in the mood to embark on a challenging and narratively unexciting game, we recommend that you look elsewhere.

► SaGa Frontier Remastered is a JRPG-type game developed and published by Square Enix for PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch and PC, the video game was released on 15/04/2021

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