|Title||:||SaGa Frontier 2|
|Publisher||:||Square Electronic Arts L.L.C.|
|Review by||:||Ken Gagne|
Some sagas just won't die… even when they should.
When Square, makers of Final Fantasy, released SaGa Frontier for the PlayStation, they left a blemish on their sterling RPG record. It was a strictly standard role-playing game, except for its non-linearity. While granting players the freedom to go wherever and do whatever they wanted, it lacked the direction necessary for a compelling story and game.
For whatever reason, Square has now released the sequel in America. SaGa Frontier 2 continues the tradition set by its predecessor of a tedious game from an otherwise excellent company.
SaGa Frontier 2 is set in 13th century England. Yet, the only similarity to that time period is the medieval village setting, which is typical of any fantasy role-playing game. This world's citizens can wield nature-based "Anima" magic – except for young Gustave, exiled heir to the throne. When Gustave finds other people like himself, they raise a nation built on machinery and technology, becoming a threat to his homeland. The storyline plays out from the perspective of several people, with players choosing to switch story lines at various points.
Each storyline is less chaotic than the original SaGa Frontier, but the story itself is not better. The characters are boring and their exploits unspectacular. Some story segments have players scrolling through lines of dialogue from beginning to end. More interaction would be a better incentive for a player to even bother choosing to play another segment.
The game's graphics and mildly-deformed characters are slightly reminiscent of the classic Super Nintendo game, Chrono Trigger. The world the characters explore is composed of 2D watercolor environments. Though beautiful, these painted backgrounds are dull and static, separating the player from the game. Instead of a world living and breathing with magic, there's a distinct "look, but don't touch" atmosphere.
In their journeys, players will encounter monsters. These foes are visible on the screen and can be avoided. When a meeting occurs, the turn-by-turn battle system is invoked in one of three ways. "Team" battles pit the heroes against the monsters in standard style, with players inputting attack commands then watching the parties duke it out. Or, players can elect for a representative of each side to battle one-on-one in "Duel" mode. Here, players have more control over their characters and more options from which to choose. Multiple moves can be selected per turn and strung together to form combos, similar to the system used in Legend of Legaia. Later in the game, when Gustave's nation goes to war, armies are matched against armies in "Strategic" mode. These various styles of fighting give players a good variety with which to wading through hordes of monsters and exploit their characters' strengths and weaknesses.
Players can save their progress most anytime, though the Quick Save feature is also handy. This option temporarily saves game data without using a memory card, and stores the data until the system is turned off. It's handy for those long gaming sessions, though something tells me there won't be many of those.
SaGa Frontier 2 is better than the original — but that's not saying much. Uninspired gameplay and plot is weighed down, not enhanced, by a clumsy storytelling device. It's possible SaGa Frontier 2 will appeal to the casual role-player who enjoys non-linearity. For others, you'd have to be more bored than bold to explore this frontier.
This article is copyright (c) 2000, 2007 by Ken Gagne. All rights reserved. Not to be distributed without permission.
Original publication: Sentinel & Enterprise, 21-Feb-00