Square Enix has started to focus on bringing back some of their cult IPs with games like Romancing SaGa and Trials of Mana launching recently. SaGa Frontier Remastered is another one of these games taken from the vault of Square Enix’s evergreen RPG library and brought to the modern platforms with a host of improvements from quality-of-life to the visuals. If we judge the game based on the efforts made to release this remaster then it is a worthy release.
To get into SaGa Frontier Remastered, you need to take into account the narrative dissonance of the game. It is a non-linear story with multiple characters. It is possible to start the game and die just to restart with a different character. There are branching story paths and dialogue choices but none of them lead to an overarching story thus making it stand out among other games in the JRPG genre.
What makes SaGa Frontier Remastered unique is how Square Enix has not only taken the time to remaster the game, making sure the classic aesthetics of the game are well-preserved, but also added content planned for the original game but didn’t make the cut. To bring this remaster to life, the original creator, Akitoshi Kawazu, himself has worked on it. New additions include an 8th playable character, Fuse, as well as some new story content and modifications to improve the flow of the story. For fans of the game, this is like a dream come true where they can experience the original vision while for others, this is essentially the director’s cut equivalent of SaGa Frontier Remastered.
If you have played Octopath Traveler, the multiple playable characters with their own story arcs approach will feel familiar here. The difference is that this is not a traditional JRPG with a level up and experience system. It relies on a confusing battle system that encourages grinding but at the cost of increased difficulty. Every character has their own unique story arc but it doesn’t mean that they will get to meet and interact together. They have their own motivation and goals in the story. While not every story is good, there is quite a lot of depth to the characters and even emotional moments that help give the game a unique touch.
There are seven playable characters in the game with their own stories. Each of them can take under 10 hours, or quicker depending on how well you can get used to the battle system. The new addition in the remaster comes in the shape of Fuse, the 8th playable character. However, he is quite different from others in the sense that there is no proper story for Fuse. What happens instead is that we can see what happens when Fuse joins the other playable characters in their story. Fuse is an interesting character to experience and his addition clears some of the plot holes that were in the original game.
SaGa Frontier Remastered offers a strong narrative but the progression system feels flawed. The combat system is hard to grasp at first because it works on a hidden variable also called the Battle Rank. The more battles you will attempt, the higher your battle rank will end up becoming, and thus also increasing the level of enemies making them difficult. This problem amplifies by the fact that you can recruit characters in the game, multiple of them at a time, and these usually start at level 1 thus requiring them to grind in order to prove useful in combat. This could lead to the difficulty increasing as a result because of the battle rank, so you will have to strategize and determine if grinding is worth the risk or not.
The combat itself is turn-based with skills that you can learn by equipping specific weapons. If you keep using Gun then you will end up learning new gun-based skills. The same thing applies to essentially any form of offense in combat. If you want to improve your magic, you will need to use it more in combat to learn some of the powerful spells. This is a lifesaver for some of the late-game fights because the skills that you learn with experience end up being powerful enough to take down some of the tougher bosses.
The dated design can become obvious the more you play it. This is most evident in how the game allows exploration. Sometimes, it is hard to figure out where to go next due to the open-ended nature of the level. You have to figure out the next objective with trial and error. Thankfully, there is the ability to perform quick save so you can quit the game at any moment and jump back. Another great quality-of-life change is the ability to fast forward the game, not just in battles but even during exploration.
SaGa Frontier Remastered is an exceptional effort from Square Enix. It keeps the origins of the game preserved while adding quality-of-life tweaks and visual improvements. The best part is the new content that makes it the definitive edition to experience especially for the fans. However, this is not a traditional JRPG by any means so if you are looking for one, this is not going to satisfy you. It is still a great game with some flaws that date back to its original release.