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Just a review/guide I'm writing for Saga Frontier. I just wanted to get it from my work pc to my home one and am too lazy to do it via email.



*****
Saga Frontier
Squaresoft
1998?

General Comments:

SF appears to have been generally panned by reviewers. People complained that they didn't like having to play parts of the game over and over again for each character (the magic quests). The magic quests are how you gain access to higher (more powerful) magic spells in each magic discipline.

I enjoyed SF immensely. I didn't mind replaying the quests for those characters who needed magic in their parties. I found that for some quests (Riki's comes to mind) there was enough power in the characters themselves that you could avoid all the magic quests and rely on basic magic.

You have four (five) character types. Humans, Mechs, Monsters, and Mystics (Half-Mystic). Humans advance by surviving fights and learn new techniques by using old techniques and having inspirations (more about this below). Mechs advance by equipping better armor, weapons and items and can learn a few Mech techniques by absorbing 'programs' from defeated enemy Mechs. Monsters advance by absorbing Monster techniques from defeated enemy Monsters. Mystics can absorb attacks from certain Monsters with their special Mystic weapons (sword, glove and boots). Asellus (the only Half-Mystic) gains techniques as Humans do, by using lesser techniques over and over (but she's the slowest character to learn new ones!) and, if she choses to develop them, also has the Mystic sword, glove and boots.

The combat system is easy to use. Each character has a group of actions he or she can perform. You program your turn, selecting each action for each member of the party and targeting enemies for each as well. The system then displays the results with pretty (and sometimes devastating!) graphics. One goal in many fights is to get a combo hit. A combo is when two or more of your party members attack the same enemy at the same time with roughly equal attacks. Five hit combos are the quickest way to eliminate most enemies, even bosses.

Sometimes, after a character is set to attack, when his or her turn comes up, a lightbulb literally goes off over his or her head (he or she's just had an inspiration). The character then performs, for free, a new attack in the discipline the original attack is drawn from. So a character who was set to Kick an enemy has an inspiration and uses the Slide attack for the first time. Character development is quite amusing.

There are creative bosses in this game as well. The gamer who likes to run up and smash enemies with the strongest attacks is going to have a rough time with some of the bosses. Most have unique attacks and defenses and observation and creativity are the keys to defeating them.

Controlling the characters is easy, even for someone like me, who is rotten with such controller-intensive games like Mario.

The story quests are beyond reproach. That may be where some of the gamer dissatisfaction came from. I prefer RPGs with rich storylines. SF has seven. Experiencing each storyline unfold makes the repetitive magic quests acceptable to me, I suppose. That and the fact that I tend to develop characters differently on each quest.

The visuals are acceptable. You can scan in a limited three dimensional arc when setting your attack commands. Many of the monsters have a bit of a 'plastic' look to them, making me think they were models, probably computer generated ones. Some of the monsters are rather beautiful. Sword, Fighting and Magic attacks have nifty visuals. The Gun Techniques, alas, weren't quite as interesting to watch.

After you complete pivotal sections in quests, you get a Saga Frontier music flourish and are rewarded with a beautiful image of the appropriate character. I'd love to see a Saga Frontier art book, since you can't pause the game to really look at the exquisite work!

The music is one of the reasons I like this game so much. Each character has not only their own theme, but their significant bosses do too. The soundtrack to the game goes to three cds if that gives you an indication of the variety of music!

Main Character Quests

Lute -

Lute wants to avenge his father. Simple enough, except Lute is a high school dropout slacker type. Even his mother kicks him out of the house for freeloading. His quest is the most unfocused of the seven, even though his ultimate enemy is Trinity, the big baddies for 2 other quests. There was more potential story here, so I'm not thrilled with Lute's quest. That, plus the fact that he has the least interesting unique supporting characters makes me eager to get Lute's quest over in a hurry.

Lute as sub-character -

I almost never select Lute to join as a secondary character on a quest unless I have to. Despite what the manual says about Lute being musical and magical, he has no special attacks and seems dead average in learning the four attack disciplines, fighting, sword, gun and magic. Mediocre all the way. Sorry, Lute!

Riki -

Riki is questing to gain the seven rings and save Margmel, his home Region, from destruction. His might well be the most important quest in terms of scope.

Riki is a monster, so you can't really equip him with armor or weapons. He morphs into different monsters when he absorbs monster powers. Unless you develop a knack for it, this can be one of the most frustrating aspects of the game. There is nothing worse than taking Trisaur Jr. Riki (a pretty powerful monster form for him) and absorbing the Horn monster ability and turning him into a weak Armorpilla.

However, Riki does have the unique artifacts of the Rings to help him. The Rings contain one use per battle powerful spells that either harm your enemies (I like the Merchant Ring for the Charm all enemies effect) or help you (the mighty Healer Ring that heals everyone, even dead characters!) come to mind. With these Rings, Sei the Death Lord (who utterly rocks!) Gen and the mandatory Mei-ling, Riki's quest is actually quite fun.

Riki as a sub-character-

I almost never used Riki as a sub-character. Monsters as sub-characters are chancy at best, since the only way to develop them is to play the monster roulette of absorbing different monsters and hoping to gain a useful ability/transformation. Riki is inheritely one of the weaker monsters. Also, he only joins another character's quest as part of a team with Mei-ling. Mei-ling is a Light Magic user, and that's about it. Not worth taking up two (of 14) character slots to gain either her or Riki, in my opinion.

Emelia -

Emelia's is the first of the two girl quests in SF. (I like that about SF too...they actually paid attention to girls who like to play RPGs.) Emelia is a super-model (calm down! It doesn't go where you think it does! >_<) whose fiance is killed before her eyes by the mysterious and elusive Joker. She's been framed for his murder and sent to prison. Annie and Liza help her to break out and introduce her to Roufas. Emelia joins their secret group of vigilantes (Gradius) and aided by various costumes (the martial arts costume "Pink Tiger" raises her abilities with fighting attacks for example) tracks down Joker and either makes him pay for what he did to Ren...or discovers Joker's shocking secret.

Emelia's quest gets off to a bit of a slow start, but it's interesting enough that it doesn't feel too constricting. I like the use/abuse byplay with Emelia and Roufas, who always seems to be trying to knock her down a peg or two.

There are no unique subcharacters to Emelia's quest, but I do believe she is the only one who can have all three, Liza, Annie and Roufas in her party. Her costume bonuses are fun, but I like developing her in a balance way, so they didn't affect my game too much.

Oh...and I always choose Joker's secret ending!

Emelia as a sub-character-

She's actually not too bad. You are more or less forced to take Emelia if you attempt the Tarot Quest. Interestingly, her ability to learn sword attacks is second only to Gen's.

Asellus -

Here's the other girl quest. Asellus' quest is one of the most interesting, with a dark fairy-tale/gothic feel to it. Asellus had been run over by a carriage ten years ago and mourned as dead by her friends and family. She wakes up, in a coffin, in a castle, wondering where she is. A cowardly back-stab attack shows that her blood is purple instead of red. Lord Orlouge, the Charm Lord of Fascinataru, transfused her human blood with his blue Mystic blood ten years ago when his carriage ran her down. He now makes Asellus a Prince of Fascinataru, marking her to become one of his many consorts.

You know that Asellus is more strong-minded than that, right? She recruits help from the Chateau Aiguille, specifically White Rose, Orlouge's favorite consort. With an assist from the people of Rootville (including Gina, an important consideration later), the village that supports the Rose Castle, Asellus and White Rose escape into the Regions. Orlouge sends his henchmen to kill Asellus and bring White Rose back.

Asellus, as a half-Mystic, can choose to use her mystical abilities or disdain them. When she uses them, she undergoes a Mystical Change, becoming rather exotic and wild in appearance. Otherwise, Asellus is able to develop abilities as any human does, by using stepping stone attacks in battle and having lightbulb inspirations.

The boss enemies on Asellus' quest are some of the most powerful and interesting ones. There are several unique subcharacters willing to join Asellus as her story unfolds, most of them elusive Mystics with all kinds of fun, unique magic and abilities.

Depending upon how you use/develop your mystic abilities, and what you decide to do about Gina when you return to Fascinataru for your final showdown with Orlouge, you can get three different endings.

I usually opt for the half-Mystic ending.

Asellus as a sub-character-

Asellus only joins as a sub-character in a few quests, such as Red's during the pirate take-over of the Cygnus, for a brief period of time. She's strong, and relatively solid with basic attacks with a sword, and depending on the quest may have a spell or two to help. Ocassionally you can get lucky with her Mystic absorb skills and then she becomes a real asset. CAUTION: Do not equip Asellus or White Rose when they join you on Red's or Emelia's quest with anything you need or want to keep, like the backpack, they leave abruptly and you lose the item forever! Additionally, Asellus is usually equiped with the quite useful Shade Robe (low protection armor, but has a free healing ability). I usually de-equip that from her and give her some other armor, so I can keep the Robe after she leaves! (Mean, I know!)

Blue -

Blue's the poster boy of SF. He's a magician from the Magic Kingdom, who on his graduation day, is given the task of killing his twin brother Rouge. Rouge, of course, is given the task of killing him. They are forbidden to return to the Magic Kingdom until one or the other of them is dead.

Rather grim? You bet! And Blue's quest is the most magic intensive of all. He must gain mastery in either Light or Shadow, Rune or Tarot and Space or Time. Once he does, the showdown with Rouge begins! Whichever twin survives the battle returns to the Magic Kingdom to save it from Hell. Literally. Fortunately, by that point Blue or Rouge has the powerful, unique Life Magic to assist.

Lots of hard questing in this one since you are forced to gain mastery in at least three types of magic. If you are smart, especially to help with the Space or Time Quest, you learn all six, making this the most magic intense group of all.

One hint, very helpful in the Rouge battle: train Blue as a fighter or swordsman too. I know it's not too much fun, but if you give Blue the Kusanagi and use only the magic you have to, this fight is much easier than how they plan it in the strategy guide. Besides, there's a twisted pleasure in having Blue perform a DSC in the midst of one of the most magic fights of all! (Heh, heh!)

Blue as a sub-character-

Doesn't happen. He almost joins Red's Quest during the Cygnus crisis, but decides not to because he doesn't like Red's name! >_< (Stuck-up Magician!)

T260G -

T260G is a mech who's been buried in the muck of the planet of Junk for centuries. He's lost his memory, so he doesn't know what his purpose is. His quest is one of finding that lost purpose and fulfilling it.

There is a tolerably cute little boy/mech relationship on the planet of Junk. Once you complete the few things you need to do here (such as having Gen join!), you promise you will return and leave Junk for good. You cannot get back until the end of the game.

You do what any amnesic mech does...you go to a bar and recruit help. T260G is able to recruit the most mechs (makes sense) but he finds humans and monsters willing to help too. As has become usual, if you've used mechs in other character quests, mechs improve only with equipment upgrades. Fortunately, T260G's quest is full of them. In fact, Nakajima Robotics has the coolest mech upgrades of all, the ability to choose any one of seven body types. Too bad the healer mech is so pathetic! >_<

Once T260G recalls his ultimate program and mission, he becomes an irresistable force to be reckoned with. (And the coolest looking mech of all!)

After he completes his mission (saving all the Realms, I believe) he downgrades back into his pieced together, ricketty, beat up old body and returns to Junk to honor his promise. It's over-the-top cute...but I like it!

T260G as a sub-character-

He looks junky, but T260G is one of the most balanced and solid mechs there is. Load him up with the right items and he's a one-bot army! *sob!* Why, oh why can't you get him to join Red's Quest?!

Red -

There's a reason I saved Red for last! He is hands-down, my favorite character quest in SF! I actually groaned aloud when I read his section. It seems like such a hoaky story...his father was killed by BlackX, Red was almost killed himself and to save his life, Alkarl, a masked and cloaked superhero, bestows superheroic powers and the name "Alkaiser" on Red.

*Gag!*

I had completed Blue's, Asellus' and Emelia's quest by the time I decided to play Red for the first time. I thought it would be a fairly straightforward, slightly draggy quest that I would solve once and never look at again. I was dead wrong.

I think it might have been the music. The themes in this one are very cool, commanding attention. And I hadn't suspected you would witness Dr. Okonogi's death. That made a difference.

Red's quest is probably the most focused. In fact, he's solo for a good chunk of time (making it kinda hard if you don't follow the suggestion in the strategy guide to level up in Shrike) and pretty well developed before you recruit your first character.

So, what's Red up to? Vengeance, pure and simple. BlackX killed his father, mother, sister and burned his house to the ground. Despite Alkarl's warning about using his super powers only for good, Red vows to get even.

Red has a unique command, Alkaiser Change. He can change into his hit point-, attack- and defense- boosted superhero form any time he wants...as long as no one except mechs sees the change. (For this reason, my humans had no helmets to prevent blindness and I sealed away their Dodge Flash ability as soon as they gained it!) However, Red can gain no experience while in Alkaiser form. He does have several unique abilities though, Ray Sword is the basic one and Re-Al-Phoenix (^_^!) his most powerful.

With the help of Hawk, his father's old friend, Red becomes his engineering apprentice on the Region ship, Cygnus and discovers BlackX cells, each one headed by a BlackX Emperor (boss) in several of the Regions when the Cygnus comes to port. Red gains his vengeance, but remains true to the code of heroes by ridding the realms of BlackX's evil. He discovers and saves his mother and sister. Alas, his father is truly dead, though one of the BlackX bosses claims that Dr. Okinagi's brain is alive somewhere...horrifying.

Red's quest ends as he's standing before his father's grave, mourning. Hawk, his father's old friend approaches and after a cryptic, revealing conversation, Alkaiser's power is taken away, freeing Red from the onus of being a superhero, so he can return to his normal life and be there for his sister and mother.

Red as a sub-character-

Red's my favorite character and his Quest is my favorite too. Unfortunately, except for the presence of the Cygnus through the observation window of the Manhattan port, he's not in any other quest in the game. *sniffle!*

Sub-characters of note -

Gen - (Human) *huggles the samurai* Gen's adorable! He's a samurai (the best swordsman in the game, bar none!) who wears a t-shirt and headband and can be found in any quest kicking 'em back at the bar. He's from Wakatu, the Realm so dangerously haunted that the only way to book a realm-ship to go there is to have Gen in your party. Evidently the entire Realm (save Gen) was slaughtered by Trinity. The Saber Chamber, where you gain the Saber Card for the Tarot Quest, has blood smeared on the walls and floor. Each character has a little celebration after you win a fight, Gen's is to drink heartily from a bottle!

Dr. Nusakan - (Mystic) This Mystic can be found in any quest in Koorong's backstreet in his clinic. Unfortunately, he only joins Blue or Riki. Talk to him anyway, it's good for a laugh.

Silence - (Mystic) Silence only joins if you enter Omble (the Shadow Realm to learn Shadow Magic) with your main character (T260G and Riki cannot get Silence, since neither of them can enter Omble). He possesses the same skill-set as the other Mystics in the game. Unfortunately, since he is mute, Mesarthim does not join your party if he is with you.

Mesarthim - (Mystic) Mesarthim will only join your party if you have a Mystic (who can talk) with you. She will join Blue's, Riki's or Asellus' quest if you find her in the mansion on the hill in Owmi.

Sei the Death Lord - (Monster) Sei will join anyone provided they surrender the sword, shield and amulet you find in his tomb to reveal the way to his crypt. Once you win a rather tough fight against him and his hench-specters, he will join you or offer you the Kusanagi (one of the best swords in the game!) though Riki is forced to have Sei join him. Don't worry, though he is a 'Monster' Sei is quite powerful, even when mistakenly morphed into something weak!

Suzaku - (Monster) Suzaku is one of the more desireable Monsters (IMHO) but he's a true pain to get. When you first get to the Shield Card Quest area of Mosperiberg, there is a fairy monster floating around on the first screen. Kill her and fight your way (or run, avoiding monsters) to the screen that has a huge, flat ice field. If there is a snowman on the bottom (South) edge, Quicksave your game, equip every ice/water protection thing you have, and get ready for a knock-down, drag-out fight. Touch the snowman to start the fight with Jontar or the Ice Folk and clobber him/them until you win. Go back into the cave, kill the skeleton that comes after you, and go up (North) through the arch to find that you've freed Suzaku from his icy prison. Yay! You have Suzaku! Now get ready to go forward and fight the final boss of this part of the quest...Suzaku?! Yeah, I guess it's a different one though.

Roufas - (Human) Roufas joins Emelia for parts of her quest and then permanently if Emelia goes for the Victory Rune on the Rune Quest (Emelia teases him about it, "You could have just come with me, you weirdo!") He also joins Red briefly for the Cygnus Crisis if you find him in his stateroom. Roufas will join any other character who wishes to complete the Rune Quest who finds him at the Victory Shrine. He's one of my favorite characters, solid with swords, guns, fighting and magic and just nifty all around. Interestingly, he seems to learn Katana techniques faster than even Gen!

Fuse - (Human) Fuse will join Red during the Cygnus Crisis and then again permanently if you find him on his break at the restaurant in Manhattan. I'd strongly advise against speaking to him in the restaurant if you are going to solve the Tarot Quest and wish to either fight the Dragons or gain Suzaku during the Shield Card Quest. If he joins you at the restaurant, he just gives you the card without forcing you to 'go on patrol' in Mosperiberg to earn it!

Annie - (Human) Annie is a permanent member of Emelia's party from the beginning of Emelia's Quest. Otherwise, Annie will join any character who wishes to find the Freedom Rune in Despair. Not one of my favorites, as she's dead average in everything and slightly weaker (as she's a girl) in her statistics.

Liza - (Human) Liza joins Emelia permanently during their breakout from the prison of Despair. Otherwise, she will join most every party if you select her over Annie or Roufas (you can only have two of the three, Roufas, Annie or Liza in most quests). Liza, despite her delicate appearance, is the brute physical fighter of Saga Frontier. She learns Fighting techniques like nobody's business and can learn the brutal Dream Super Combo faster than any other character!

Thunder - (Monster) Thunder is an Ogre hanging around in Lute's home Realm of Yorkland. He will join if you are Lute or have Lute in your party.

Cotton - (Monster) Cotton's being experimented upon in the scary bio research facility in Shrike. He will join any character who rescues him.

Slime - (Monster) Slime is hanging around the slime pits inside Tanzer. Your party is forced to accept him when you are expelled.

Fei-on - (Human) Fei-on joins anyone who comes into Tanzer, except for Blue.

Mei-ling - (Human) Mei-ling will join anyone (except Asellus) who talks to her or Riki in the Pub on Scrap. She is automatically part of the party during Riki's Quest.

Engineer Car - (Mech) Engineer Car will join anyone who has a Mech in their party who talks to him (Asellus and Emelia will have nothing to do with Mechs, btw)

Sub-characters particular to certain quests

BJ&K - (Mech) BJ&K is the doc-bot for the Cygnus. He joins Red when Red threatens to disassemble him if he ever reveals Red's 'condition'. He will only join Red's quest (unfortunately).

Captain Hamilton - (Human) Captain Hamilton takes the mostly clueless Lute under her wing to help the hapless idiot survive his quest.

Doll - (Human) Doll joins Red if Red talks to her in the port at Shingrow. You find out later that she's an IRPO agent sent to take one of Red's boss monsters out. She's not up to the task on her own, but Red is!

Ildon - (Mystic) Ildon is the most compassionate of the Mystics (aside from the overly-compassionate White Rose!). He is charged by Orlouge with Asellus' training. Though what he sometimes says is harsh, he does seem to understand some of Asellus' predicament. Once Asellus and White Rose leave Fascinaturu, he will join when it is safe for him to do so. Ildon will not join any other character.

Kylin - (Monster) Kylin is the Space Lord, having mastered the rare Space Magic. Blue must kill him in order to master Space Magic, but any other character who beats his maze challenge can opt to either learn the basic Space Magic spells, or have Kylin join his or her party.

Leonard - (Human, Mech) Leonard is the foremost authority on all things Mech in the Saga Frontier world. Unfortunately, once he meets T260G that means he knows too much, and he is eliminated. However, Leonard had planned for such an eventuality and is restored...as a Mech! Leonard will join T260G once that event takes place. He will not join any other character.

PzkmW - (Mech) PzkmW will join T260G once T260G has Leonard in his party. PzkmW will not join any other character.

Rabbit - (Mech) Rabbit will join Red if Red talks to him in the Garden in Kyo. This Mech will not join any other character.

Rei - (Mystic) It's a bit convoluted, but if you visit her tomb/bedroom in Fascinaturu and then talk to her after beating Kylin (as long as you DON'T have Kylin in your party) Rei will join Asellus. She can be found in the temple on the top of Devin. Rei will not join any other character.

Rouge - (Human) Rouge's personal quest is exactly the same as Blue's, grow in magic, defeat his brother and return to the Magic Kingdom. As such, he will join anyone who tells him they are looking for 'the gift' (ie - magic) who speaks with him in the ports of Luminous or Devin.

Timelord - (Mystic) Once a character has either Light or Shadow AND Tarot or Rune Magic mastered, and talks with Virgil (in Mosperiberg) his or her party will be transported to the Timelord's Realm. Time is stopped throughout the Realm because the Time Sand has run from a crack in the hourglass in the center of the Realm. Return to Mosperiberg and Virgil obligingly teleports your party to Fascinaturu. Sacrifice one Life Point permanently (ouch!) to get the Sand Vessel. The by now highly amused Virgil will send you to the Timelord's Realm again. Use the sand vessel to restart the sand in the hourglass, and time itself. Only then can you lower the drawbridge to meet with the Timelord. He will either teach you how to use Time Magic or join you for most characters. Blue must defeat him in battle to absorb his gift for Time Magic.

Turnip - (Monster) Turnip is kicking around in the Dark Labyrinth. If Asellus speaks with him, he will join her once she's found the way out. Turnip will not join any other character.

White Rose - (Mystic) White Rose is charged by Orlouge with training Asellus in her duties as a 'prince' of Fascinaturu. White Rose develops a strong fondness for Asellus, as Asellus does for her. She will join Asellus once Asellus admits that she is leaving Fascinaturu. White Rose will join Red's and Emelia's quests briefly along with Asellus. Otherwise, she will not join any other characters.

ZEKE - (Mech) ZEKE is present in the Nakajima Robotics building in all quests, however, he will only join T260G's Quest, if T260G retrieves a robotic mouse from Sei's Tomb.

Zozma - (Mystic) Zozma will join Asellus once Asellus loses White Rose in the Dark Labyrinth. He will also join Emelia's Quest briefly along with Asellus and White Rose. He will not join any other character.

I do have two complaints about Saga Frontier. First, the only way to get some of the more powerful items in the game (like the Katana, Silver Moon) is to win them in monster battles. The nifty items are usually the secondary item a monster can 'drop' after a fight. The frequency of monsters dropping any item at all is fairly low, so the chance of getting the really cool items is slim to none. I have fought certain battles over and over again, for hours sometimes, to get certain items. THAT is quite tedious.

My final complaint? Too many of the secondary characters need their own stories! >_< Gen, the lone samurai survivor of the realm Wakatu, Roufus, the mysterious (and cynical!) leader of Gradius and Dr. Nusakan (who will only join Blue's and Riki's quests, alas!) the twisted mad scientist Mystic of the backstreets of Koorong come easily to mind!

****

Didn't believe me, huh? I told you it wasn't that interesting! ^_~

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December 2004

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