Much like the Nintendo DS, the original PlayStation played home to a swarm of strange and untraditional RPGS, such as The Legend of Dragoon and Brave Fencer Musashi. As well as SaGa Frontier, today’s topic for Grinding Down‘s games I regret parting with thing that I do from time to time. It was an era of chance and experimentation, and that’s something that I miss, because it’s notably missing from the industry today, seeing that Bravely Default: Flying Fairy has not yet been confirmed for U.S. shores (though, thankfully, Fantasy Life has).
One of the earliest posts on Grinding Down was about a PlayStation 2 game called Unlimited SaGa, which I’m positive I purchased more because it might have a connection, however slight, to SaGa Frontier than it being relatively inexpensive and a pretty looking JRPG. I tried several times to get into it, but it’s a beast of a game, snarling and growling and constantly chasing me away. I mean really–that combat wheel, the way you “navigate” through towns. Pffft. I’m sure I’ll pop it back in yet again some day, just as I will with Breath of Fire: Dragon Quarter, because there will always be a part of me that needs to understand why.
Thankfully, SaGa Frontier was a lot better than Unlimited SaGa, though it definitely had its own unique pitfalls. The aspect I remember the most about it is that you had seven different characters to pick to play, some with interweaving storylines, some all on their own. And you could pick and play them as you choose. Granted, I went with Red first each and every time, as he appeared to have the most action-driven plot of the bunch, given that he basically becomes a secret superhero within minutes of the opening cutscene. The other peeps–Emelia, Blue, Asellus, T260G, Riki, and Lute–could wait.
Coming out in the states a year or so after Final Fantasy VII, the sprites on pre-rendered backgrounds in SaGa Frontier did not look as sharp as polygonal Cloud did (at the time), but they made for interesting visuals. Especially when on the region ship “Cygnus” or in the magically dark and purple Facinaturu with Asellus. There are some really pretty vistas here, and that made exploring each character’s story a joy, as even though saw some overlapping spots, many were self-contained elsewhere. Many boss fights were your tiny sprite characters versus large suckers, which often had an insane number of Health Points.
Combat is probably the oddest part of SaGa Frontier, as a lot of it is based around randomness. Before I get to that, let’s begin with a staple of fantasy-based RPGs: Health Points (MP) and Magic Points (MP). These are bound found here, but instead of just straight MP, you now have three sub-classes of it: Waza Points (WP), which is magic points but only for weapon skills; Life Points (LP), used when a character is knocked unconscious; and Jutsu Points (JP), which is used for actual magic spells not tied to weapon skills. Whew. Got all that? Right, well, battles are turn-based, and many character skills are learned mid-battle, something I remember as being both exhilarating and confusing.
According to this lengthy GameFAQ, the SaGa series uses a rather unique leveling up system, similar to that of Final Fantasy II (Japan) in that you’ll gain what you use during combat instead of a certain amount of experience points. In SaGa Frontier, experience points are in the form of stat boosts and can either gain you a direct stat boost, such as an increase in strength, or a proficiency level. You might gain stats after every fight, but you might gain hardly anything at all. Basically, you just had to try different skills from different characters, and hope that something clicked.
To me, this was genre-shattering, and certainly nothing I had experienced so far in a roleplaying game. It’s certainly not a game for everyone, but it was more than unique, unafraid to try new ideas. Plus, with the freedom to see the game through in a number of ways, with who you wanted and at your own pace, it really felt like your own version of the plot, especially if you started with Riki or T260G. And for all that, SaGa Frontier is a game I deeply regret trading in as a young, dumb teenager.
GAMES I REGRET PARTING WITH is a regular feature here at Grinding Down where I reminisce about videogames I either sold or traded in when I was young and dumb. To read up on other games I parted with, follow the tag.
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