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 is a Sony PlayStation role-playing game by Square, released in Japanmarker on July 11, 1997. The game was later published by Sony Computer Entertainment (SCEA) in North America on March 25, 1998. It is the seventh game in the SaGa series and the first to be released on the PlayStation. The game was directed and produced by Akitoshi Kawazu with aid from chief planner Kōichi Ishii and musical composer Kenji Itō.


The plot of SaGa Frontier take place a science fiction/fantasy setting called the Regions, a group of worlds with varying degrees of culture, unique races, technology, and magic. The game allows the player to follow the exploits of one of seven protagonists, each with his or her own storyline and goal. The game's Free Scenario System offers a large amount of non-linear gameplay, allowing the player to freely travel between many of the Regions, interact with other characters, and take part in turn-based combat.

SaGa Frontier enjoyed commercial success, having sold over one million copies worldwide. The game was generally well-received in Japan and has been re-released under a few best-seller labels, as well as the PlayStation Store. However, it received largely mixed and average reviews in North America, mostly due to its ambitious Free Scenario System.

Gameplay

The basic concept of SaGa Frontier is based on its Free Scenario System, in which one can play as any of seven different protagonists, all of whom exist in the same setting: a solar system known as The Regions, a group of planets, each with its own culture, game-level of technology, and form of magic. The game is considered non-linear, in that from the beginning many of the characters are free to go almost anywhere and interact with almost anyone. Travel through most of the Regions is easy due to inter-regional ships traveling regularly between them. The player controls the protagonist on the field screen, a set of interconnecting pre-rendered backgrounds, and is able to speak with a slew of other characters in order to gather information, recruit party members, and initiate quests. Each character has his or her own storyline and a main quest to fulfill, but there are also several optional quests that any of the characters can participate in. Some of the main characters even encounter each other during their quests. The storyline of each character also changes depending on who is chosen, what is said in conversation, what events have already occurred, and who the protagonist has in his or her party, a concept first introduced in Romancing SaGa 2.

Combat in SaGa Frontier pits players against groups of enemies encountered on the field screen. The battle screen depicts 2D-animated sprites amidst a 3D-rotating background. Battles are turn-based, in which the player chooses his or her actions and allow them, along those of the enemies, to play out. A variety of weapons, special skills, and magic spells are at the player's disposal. Most skills are learned mid-battle, while many spells are purchased in the game's shops. If certain conditions are met within the battle, party members on either side can create combination attacks for added damage. Winning battles will increase player character statistics such as hit points (HP), life points (LP), strength, and quickness. Outside of combat, players can equip and unequip (or "seal") weapons, armor, skills, spells, and items. First introduced in the Game Boy incarnations of the SaGa series, the game contains different races that exist within the Regions: the Humans, the Mystics (similar to vampires), the Half-Mystics (half Human and half Mystic), the Monsters (shapeshifters) and the Mecs (robots). Some of the game's races are limited in this system. For example, Monsters cannot equip weapons, armor, or spells, while Mecs are capable of equipping parts from other Mecs to add more abilities.

The player is encouraged to complete each of the seven scenarios one after the other. For added incentive, beating a character's game and saving its completion to the system data adds some bonuses. After beating one character's game, essentially every character in the following game starts off stronger and with better gear than before, and may depend on how many battles players fought in their previous quest that they saved on the system data. Fulfilling all seven main quests allows the player access to the "2nd Division" room, in which the player can fight all final bosses and talk to the game's programmers.

Main characters

  • Red: A teenage boy whose family is destroyed by the evil organization called Black X. Granted the identity of the superhero Alkaiser, he struggles to destroy Black X.
  • Blue: A magician from the Region called the Magic Kingdom, he has been ordered to learn as many different types of magic as he can and to meet his own twin brother in a duel to the death.
  • Asellus: Formally a human girl, she was run over by a carriage and given a blood transfusion by a Mystic Lord. Chosen as Charm Lord's heir, she is despised by human and mystic alike.
  • Emelia: A beautiful woman accused of killing her own boyfriend, she becomes a secret agent in order to track down the real killer.
  • Lute: A wandering bard with no apparent worries until he finds himself facing off against his father's apparent murderer.
  • T260G: An ancient Mec awakened in modern times, it must try to remember its original mission and fulfill it.
  • Riki: A young Monster who must find the ten Rings of Power to save his home Region from dying.
  • Fuse: IRPO Agent and close friend of Ren. His quest as a main character was cut due to time restraints.


Development

SaGa Frontier was developed by the then-Square Production Team 2 (referred to as 2nd Division in the game) with Akitoshi Kawazu as director and producer, Kōichi Ishii as planning chief, Kenji Itō as composer, and Tomomi Kobayashi as illustrator. Square Production Team 2 included Kyoji Koizumi, Miwa Shoda, Kazuko Shibuya, and Minoru Akao among others.
Originally, the title of this game was "Romancing SaGa 4" during early development. In that stage of development, two more heroes' quests were also being planned, in addition to the existing seven lead characters. One of them was Fuse, the IRPO agent who may be enlisted as a playable character in the actual release. In his quest, Fuse was supposed to be able to take part in other characters' scenarios, and the ultimate goal of his quest might be determined by what the player did in the course of gameplay. The "ninth" protagonist was to be the daughter of a channellers family who is engaging in a controversy as to who of them shall inherit the property of their former patriarch. This scenario seems to be dropped during the early development because of being too comedic.

Due to time constraints, some plot points of Asellus' story were removed. During those events, Asellus was supposed to visit Dr. Nusakan's clinic, Bio Research Lab, Lambda Base, and Furdo's Workshop so that she would find her true identity so that she would decide to live as a human being or as a mystic. These quests were also intended to affect her scenario's ending.

Audio

The musical score for SaGa Frontier was composed and arranged by Kenji Itō, who provided music for many previous entries in the SaGa franchise. SaGa Frontier Original Sound Track is comprised of 75 tracks spanning three compact discs. It was released in Japan on April 21, 1999 by DigiCube and was later reprinted by Square Enix on February 1, 2006. On disc 3 of the soundtrack, there is a hidden track, in the pregap, which can only be heard when rewinding the CD from the beginning; this was originally supposed to be Riki's theme. There also are alternate titles for those pieces of music which can be seen in the songlist in the in-game "2nd Division". Itō states that he wanted to create an arranged album for the game as well, although one has yet to be released.

Merchandise

Two guidebooks for SaGa Frontier have been published in Japan by ASCII: The Essence of SaGa Frontier and The Complete of SaGa Frontier. Another companion book titled SaGa Frontier How To Walk In Regions was published by Kodansha. BradyGames released its own Saga Frontier: Official Strategy Guide in North America in 1998. When the game was re-issued in Japan in 2000 as part of the Square Millennium Collection, it included a collectible teacup set and a tee-shirt depicting the character Blue.

Reception

As of 2008, SaGa Frontier has sold over one million copies in Japan. It was 5th top-selling game in Japan in 1997 and is currently the 15th top-selling PlayStation game for the region. In 2000, SaGa Frontier was voted the 18th best PlayStation game of all time by the editors of Famitsu magazine. Due to its popularity in Japan, the game has been re-released a number of times at a budget price: in 2000 as part of the Square Millennium Collection, in 2002 as part of the PSOne Books best-seller range, and again in 2004 as a part of Square Enix's Ultimate Hits line. Most recently in 2008, the game was released on the PlayStation Store in Japan.

SaGa Frontier received mostly mixed or average reviews in North America. The game currently holds a 71% on Game Rankings. Although many publications disagree on positive aspects of the game, criticism almost universally arises from its Free Scenario System. GameSpot calls the game a "solid, if not exactly stellar, RPG that'll certainly keep you busy for a while - or at least until you tire of its occasional lack of focus." The website found the combat refreshing and many of its pre-rendeded visuals to be well-done, but had many negative comments, specifically concerning the game's nonlinear nature and unfocused scenarios. IGN calls SaGa Frontier "the only bruised apple in Square's current collection of role-playing games," similarly noting that the game's Free Scenario System can become confusing and easily cause the player to become lost. However, it calls the story and sprite-based graphics its strong points. Staff reviewers at RPGFan and RPGamer agreeably found the game's battle system to be its highlight; both websites note that discovering combinations attacks to be "fun" and "exciting".

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