Hello and welcome to The Starlight Megaphone’s playthrough of SaGa Frontier and SaGa Frontier Remastered, a JRPG originally released for the Sony Playstation in Japan on 11 July 1997, and then released in North America at the end of March 1998. The new remastered version, which expands the game content in addition to updating the visual and audio presentation, digitally released 15 April 2021 (for Switch, PS4, Windows, iOS, and Android), is both the first multiplatform and the first world-wide release of the game. A physical version, with English support, is forthcoming in Asia.
SaGa Frontier is the seventh game in the SaGa series, a franchise of games well known for their esoteric design choices. Released in North America before the localisation of any of the earlier Super Nintendo Romancing SaGa titles, it caused considerable consternation amongst American gamers whose earlier experience with the series had been limited to the three Game Boy SaGa games, all of which were more traditional in design. In fact, SaGa Frontier builds upon the development choices made in the Romancing games, and is best understood as an evolution of those games rather than as an entirely new direction for the series. Viewed in this light, SaGa Frontier adapts and evolves the gameplay of Romancing SaGa 3, and moves it from the pixel-art style of Super Nintendo JRPGs to the pre-rendered backgrounds and sprites of the PlayStation era.
One major change in SaGa Frontier as compared to the earlier games in the series is the scaling of enemies to party level. Consequently, early overlevelling can be a serious error which greatly increases later game difficulty, rendering the game almost impossible to complete. More akin to the Romancing SaGa games is the character recruitment system which limits the characters that one can encounter in any single playthrough based on the choices made by the player in the course of the various scenarios.
The scenario system is SaGa Frontier‘s most well-known attribute: the title screen gives way to a character selection which places the player in the role of the chosen character. Each character has their own self-contained storyline which will overlap and share party members with the other character stories. The scenarios vary extensively, with some being comparatively linear (T260) whilst others are extremely open-ended by the standards of the day (Blue). Some stories are longer than others, although the original events have been somewhat modified with additions for the remaster. In addition, the remaster also adds an entirely new scenario–that of the character Fuse, an agent of the Interpol-like agency, IRPO, which features prominently in the other scenarios.
Battles are turn-based, with each character acting once per turn. Weapons have a set number of uses, as in other SaGa games. Skills are performed with SP, and new weapon skills are learned by performing attacks with the desired weapon. There are even special chain attacks that can occur when multiple character utilise synergistic skills together. The system behind this is quite complicated, but there are several guides (and an official strategy guide) which address the system in more or less detail. When a character reaches 0hp, further damage taken decreases LP. Dead characters can be revived at a cost of 1LP, but if LP reaches 0 then the character is permanently deceased, with the exception of one particular character, a vampire, who comes with other limitations.
The battle system is not the only thing that has been left unchanged in the remastered version: the soundtrack has been faithfully presented and has not been modified in any way, unlike the updated ‘FF6-mobile-style’ visuals (the character sprites have been ‘smoothed’, as the images above show). The original soundtrack received a great deal of praise for its variety and excellence, and many of its tracks are fan favourites sufficient, in Japan at least, to support a series of concerts and CD albums.
Use the comment thread below to discuss your approach to the game, challenges you have faced, secrets and new content you have uncovered, and any aids you are using in your playthrough. Do you feel that SaGa Frontier is still engaging? Or do you believe that it is best left in the past? Do you find the nonlinear scenario system too daunting in making your way through the game, or do you enjoy the open-ended design? What sorts of changes would you make to the game? What features would you add, remove, or change? Do you enjoy the smoothed art style and original soundtrack, or would you have preferred something else? Tell us all about it and join in our discussion below! We will select some of the best comments, each week, for our podcast discussion.
The aim in this playthrough is to complete the entirety of the game in under two months, ending by 28 May. Instead of milestones, we encourage you to play at your own pace–but please keep us updated about your thoughts and progress as you play the game. This will help to sustain our discussion, and will let us know when it is time to close our site playthrough. Please also make use of our official Disord channel, where we have an #events channel dedicated to playthrough chat.
Please join in with us and comment about your experience! The playthrough time frame is intended to allow anyone and everyone to participate, regardless of speed of play or familiarity with the series. Comment and tell your friends!
Without further adieu, we invite you to join The Starlight Megaphone’s staff members and readers in A Spring SaGa, our SaGa Frontier playthrough!