Returning as a remaster of a 90’s classic, SaGa Frontier Remastered is an opportunity to discover a J-RPG offering an experience as original as it is painful, on PC, PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch or mobile (iOS and Android).
For the record, SaGa is an RPG series by Square Co. that originated in 1989. It is the Game Boy handheld console that hosts a first trilogy entitled The Final Fantasy Legend, the publisher wishing to take advantage of the aura of its flagship licence.
After a stint on Super Nintendo with the second Romancing SaGa trilogy, it was finally on PlayStation that the series reached Europe with SaGa Frontier 2. The last episode is SaGa Scarlet Grace: Ambitions, this time on PlayStation Vita. The creator of this series is Japanese Akitoshi Kawazu, who was most recently — finally in 2009 — working on The Last Remnant as executive producer.
The episode we’re interested in today is SaGa Frontier Remastered, marking the return in remastered form of an RPG that was quite successful in Japan in 1997. And if you’ve been paying attention, this is the first time it has been distributed in Europe.
Among the specificities of SaGa Frontier, from a series reputed to be difficult and austere © Zekkangel: no gain of experience and therefore of level, eight scenarios for as many characters and above all a multiplicity of possible branches in an artistic blur in terms of explanations. If you want to get lost in an RPG, literally and figuratively, to the point of losing your mind, you’re in the right place.
SaGa Frontier, an original J-RPG
The adventure in SaGa Frontier Remastered begins on the character selection screen, where you can choose from seven different characters. Each character has its own storyline, inviting you to explore a world of science fiction and fantasy. However, if Octopath Traveler — in a similar vein — spreads its stories around, in this case it’s a case of going through the same maps each time.
To avoid indigestion, it is recommended to consume SaGa Frontier Remastered in small doses, at least story by story to avoid redundancy. Each scenario is unique and independent, with a diagram to follow the progress of each protagonist.
However, it must be said that the writing of the script is not really the main quality of SaGa Frontier, with dialogues that are sometimes a bit rough or difficult to follow.
Similarly, you have to make do with a few indications to find out in which direction to go next, even if it means getting lost, even though there are many possible turns.
SaGa Frontier is anything but linear, requiring you to play with the saves to avoid tearing your hair out over a bad choice. A simple discussion with an NPC can rob you of a whole storyline. The Remastered version adds an additional protagonist once the other scenarios have been completed, while the New Game + system allows you to leave with equipment and attributes.
The graphics have been reworked, switching to high definition for the occasion. Characters with features inspired by 90’s manga navigate in sprites in fixed environments, with a camera moving during combat. Now smooth, the backgrounds can make the characters look a little different.
However, the camera movements during the fights illustrate the limits of these improvements, when the pixel mush resurfaces like a failed facelift. I personally regret this visual choice, with a preference for pixels that are more in tune with the times and more coherent overall.
Another characteristic of SaGa Frontier is the absence of experience, which is quite different from the usual RPG. You don’t gain levels, but statistics after battles. New skills can be unlocked randomly during battles, which can be particularly disorienting.
The game’s strong point is the combat system, which is as classic as it is effective for turn-based games, with a combo system when several spells from the team come together. Battles as well as moves can be accelerated, a significant time-saver considering how numerous they are. The bosses can be tricky, allowing you to get real satisfaction once they’re down. It’s hit or miss, but with the merit of being rewarding.
A true remastering?
If we can welcome the fact that a classic is finally coming out of our countries, the absence of French localisation illustrates a return without any real ambition to reach the greatest number of people. The new features don’t make SaGa Frontier Remastered more accessible, except for the saves which wouldn’t be as necessary with a little more readability and explanations. Without its original flaws, I wouldn’t have had this expectation.