Relying on who (and the place) you ask, SaGa Frontier is both a little-known cult basic JRPG or a best-selling constructing block of a well-known franchise. It is participating, it is complicated, it is repetitive. Now it is remastered, 24 years after the unique launch.
“We wish extra avid gamers, particularly these from the West, to play video games from the SaGa collection, which has an extended historical past in Japan,” says Hiroyuki Miura, the producer of SaGa Frontier Remastered.
I performed SaGa Frontier as an ungainly, angsty teen within the late ’90s. I spent hours leveling up my characters, then getting mad at myself for failing to save lots of earlier than wiping once more. I might pause to change over to the household pc, trying up recreation suggestions and painstakingly detailed walkthroughs on old-school boards. My devotion to the sport was amplified by the truth that none of my pals had heard about it. It was my recreation.
Because the years handed, I periodically returned to the world of SaGa Frontier. I took my empty PlayStation to varsity and acquired a 3rd copy of the sport off eBay (my authentic copy lengthy since scratched to hell, the second unintentionally shattered). The sport introduced me pleasure, however the precariousness of the getting older tech apprehensive me. If this disc grew to become unusable, too, what number of have been left on the earth?
Considerations about restricted availability resonated with the SaGa crew. “We’ve obtained a variety of requests from gamers asking to have the ability to play these video games once more. We really feel that you will need to fulfill these requests,” says Miura. “These plans can solely be carried out if there may be demand from the gamers, so we’re very grateful to have the ability to launch this recreation worldwide this time round.”
Earlier than the remaster, followers made peace with the truth that some components of the sport would all the time be unfinished. The collection creator didn’t share the identical complacency. “This was a chance that we created ourselves,” says Akitoshi Kawazu, the SaGa collection’ basic director. “For rather less than 10 years now, Producer Ichikawa and I’ve labored on numerous initiatives to reboot the SaGa collection. I’m very glad we have been capable of get to this stage on account of this work.”
SaGa Frontier Remastered features a main graphical overhaul in addition to beforehand lower content material and QoL changes—all wonderful updates for SaGa followers. However SFR remains to be punishing in the way in which solely a basic JRPG could be. You did not carry the fitting characters to the fitting room to spark the fitting dialogue throughout the first fifteen minutes of the sport? Properly, you may by no means obtain a secret character three hours later, then.
The arcane recreation structure is a trademark of Kawazu, who pushes the boundaries of storytelling and gameplay to authentic, generally incomprehensible ranges. And it is within the identify: SaGa Frontier was actually uncharted territory of gaming, with free-roam areas, level-scaling monsters, and assault combo techniques. However once more, each a part of play is touched by inscrutability, that sense you’re lacking one thing.
You possibly can create hard-hitting combos by enjoying round together with your characters, however the guidelines governing these combos will not be defined within the recreation. That is how SFR could be flashy and enjoyable whereas concurrently being a completely bewildering expertise.
Although the mechanics is likely to be baffling, the visible and aural dimensions are dazzling. Working round city entails a tiny sprite sprinting over a painted background. Settings vary from the neon grime of Koorong to whimsical, Wonderland-esque Devin and the Gothic rose-glow of Facinaturu. Every Area has its personal distinctive musical theme from famend composer Kenji Ito, lo-fi beats looping endlessly like a pixelated Escher portray. (One other plus of the remaster: You possibly can take heed to the soundtrack from a media library on the principle menu.)
The fight system is equally putting. When you throw an enemy into the air for a Rising Nova assault, your perspective shifts with the sprite’s movement. The view feels natural, such as you’re an lively participant in a real battle. This system helped the sport age gracefully and added visible complexity that’s merely enjoyable to have a look at.