Retro Video Game Journal # 2
I do not remember what RVGJ # 1 was. Whatever it was, that VGJ must have been a massive failure of some sort.
Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment
Released: March 25th, 1998
Purchased: October 1999?
Journal Started: November 3rd, 2008
What Was SaGa Frontier? A sequel to Square’s 16-bit RPG series Romancing SaGa. It promised seven unique heroes’ storylines to play through.
Well… more or less. There are a lot of redundant quests that each character can attempt, which will probably make your head explode if you try to create a timeline for the game.
I liked this game. But it was always so tough to beat any of the sagas. I came close with Blue, but close don’t cut it in this game.
And by “close”, I mean, “the final boss”.
In the past, I sampled all of the sagas, but only really buckled down to try and beat it later. This is a high-maintenance game; it requires a whole memory card to itself (one block for system data, and two blocks each for each characters’ saga).
If you were a bad enough dude/dudette to save every characters’ completed saga to one memory card, you unlocked some extra stuff. I aspired to this task, but have yet to complete it.
In 2004, I actually completed Lute’s story. But from that day on, I didn’t want to tackle any other sagas unless I had some way of documenting them.
Now, that day has arrived. It’s time to prove myself to this most underrated, yet flawed RPG gem.
This game is full of weird stuff that has never been in any other game ever. For example, when you create your system file, it asked for your Zodiac sign!
I don’t actually know how, if at all, that affects anything in the game.
Let’s introduce these lead characters:
T260G, an abandoned mech that wants to discover its past.
Asellus, a willowy girl who must decide which world she belongs to when she is dragged into the world of Mystics after receiving a life-saving blood transfusion from one of their nobles.
Emellia, a former supermodel incarcerated for the homicide of her beloved fiancee, only to be sprung out and given the opportunity for revenge.
Lute, a carefree musician who leaves his hometown for the first time, only to become embroiled in a quest to avenge his slain father.
Lute’s saga is the most open-ended one.
Red, a handsome young man who dies only to become a crimefighting superhero.
Riki, a cute little Lummox who must find mystical rings to save his village.
Riki’s saga is basically The Lord of the Rings, but much simpler and in SF‘s genre mashup of a world. I’m not sure because I never got far into Riki’s saga, but I think that his may be the opposite of Lute’s in terms of freedom.
And Blue, an elegant, handsome young magician who has to kill his twin brother to bring out his full potential
As best as I can, I will encapsulate Lute’s story.
Lute had finally decided to leave his mother’s house in Yorkland. Some persnickety guards had other ideas, until Mondo persuaded them.
Lute’s saga was one of the most free-wheeling of all of the sagas. It was very open and non-linear.
Upon touching down in Manhattan, Lute met Fuse, who claimed that Mondo was no do-gooder. In Owmi, Lute met Captain Hamilton, who also implied that Mondo was not really a decent sort.
When he visited Capt. Hamilton’s ship in Nelson, Lute learned that Mondo was responsible for slaying his father.
From this point on, Lute can go straight to Mondo Base to enact his revenge. But that would be foolish because Mondo is the end boss for Lute’s story.
Instead, Lute should gain abilities and allies.
Having a balanced party is VERY important in SF.
This exposes one of SaGa‘s flaws: monotonous side quests and recruitment. There are, oh, about a half-dozen magic-based sidequests to take for almost any character at any time, and several side characters to be recruited.
The magic-based side quests are required for Blue’s saga.
I had this fun thing I did with several of the characters where I divided them up into A, B, and C teams. This was the composition of each team for Lute’s saga:
A: Lute, Capt. Hamilton, Roufas, T260G, Rouge
Was Roufas’ name a mistranslation of “Rufus”? With this game’s translation, I’d buy it.
B: Riki, Mei-ling, Engineer Car, Cotton, Silence
C: Fei-on, Slime, Annie, Gen, Thunder
In the endgame sequence, the group wound up fighting Mondo, who was using a giant mech suit.
That’s not fair!
“Only brute force can rule the regions!” he declared. “Fools like you will only understand if it’s beaten into you!”
This is a multiple-art boss fight. First, you defeat a Spriggan. Once it’s wrecked, a big claw picks it up and repairs it, equipping it with superior tech. This happens four more times, each with a different chassis. Once you’ve gotten rid of all of Mondo’s Spriggans, the scene switches back to Yorkland.
“Hello?” asked a girl. “Did Sir Lute come home?”
“Sir?” asked Lute’s mother. “If you mean my stupid son, no, he hasn’t.”
“Hmm… if he’s not here, where might I find him?”
“If you don’t mind, would you get out of my house?”
Wow, I really didn’t remember Lute’s ma being such a cow.
The girl left.
“Anyone who’d want to see that idiot, must be nuts too,” mused Lute’s mother.
Tidus is feeling really awkward right about now.
Lute literally dropped in on home through a hole in the roof.
“Lute! How long have you been hiding in there? What’re you a spy now?”
“Sorry Ma, but everyone’s depending on me. I’m beat.”
“So you’ve finally become useful to society.”
“Are you going out, Ma?”
“I am going to the cemetery to tell your dad a friend of his just died. Although I’m pretty sure they’re already talking to each other right now.”
“He was dad’s best friend?”
“Yes. So much so that even I got jealous of them sometimes.”
The girl returned. “There you are! Sir, please return to our emergency meeting immediately. Trinity’s future depends on you.”
“Yipes, they’ve found me!” said Lute.
“Wha?” said Lute’s mother in disbelief. “Lute! If they’re depending on you, this must be the end of the world.”
“You said it, ma! Thanks for the advice.”
Lute retreated to his hiding space.
The girl gave chase. “Please sir, wait!”
And that ends Lute’s story. I wasn’t confident I could conquer it again.
Now, I have to choose who to play as next.
How about… Emelia?
Emelia’s saga started with her in prison.
“It’s not too bad,” she said, critiquing her cell. “Although it’s not my taste…
I guess it’s better than nothing.”
Then, a flashback. Emelia walked up to a house in the evening.
“How should I make up with him…?”
Tap, tap tap
“‘I forgive you for yesterday’. No, that’s too mean.”
Tap, tap tap
“I guess I could pretend as if nothing happened and show him my wedding dress.”
Back in the present, Emelia critiqued prison food by comparing it to cafeteria food.
A strawberry blond in a green prison jumpsuit walked over to her table. “Anyone sitting here?” She sat down next to Emelia.
“You’re new, aren’t you?” asked the prisoner. “I’m Annie. I’ve been here let’s see… 3, 4, 5, 6 times. This last time I beat the crap out of 3 guys who turned out to be pretty tough customers. I thought I’d be safer in jail, so I smacked a couple of guards to get in.
Hey, you’re pretty good-lookin’.”
Uh-oh. It begins. Yuri time! Wait, no, that’s in Asellus’ saga. Aww.
“What’re you in for?” asked Annie.
Another flashback. At Ren’s house, the TV was on, spewing static.
“Ren, it’s me, Emelia. It’s pretty dangerous nowadays not to even lock the door.
Maybe he’s been robbed…? Ren! Are you here?”
She ran into the bedroom. Ren was face down on the floor. A man in green jumped out of the window.
Later, Emelia delivered a description of the man in green to authorities.
“He had some type of mask on. He looked like the joker in a deck of cards… He must have killed my…
Why do you keep asking me the same questions?! Why don’t you do something?”
“Lady, a neighbor said she saw you and the victim quarreling yesterday.”
“What are you saying? You think I killed him?”
“Your boyfriend was an outstanding officer. It seems odd that he was killed without any signs of struggle… Unless he was caught off guard.”
“That’s outrageous! Yes, we had a fight. But why would I kill Ren? I was going to marry him. I loved him.”
“Why did you kill him? That’s what I want to know! Ren and I go back over 10 years, back to the academy. Unlike me, he was a nice guy, a good cop. I couldn’t believe it when I heard he was dating a tramp like you.
Now tell me why you shot him. Was it rage? Jealousy? Or did someone else hire you?”
Yeah, it’s entirely probable that a famous supermodel is also a would-be assassin that would kill her fiancee for money. There’s a Quentin Tarantino script in here somewhere…
“Crazy…” said Emelia. “You’re crazy. You’re trying to pin this one me without one shred of evidence. I want a lawyer.”
Bzzz! Back in the present, a bell sounded out in the cafeteria.
“What’s happening?” asked Emelia.
“This is the warden’s favorite past time,” informed Annie.
“Is he some weirdo or something?”
“No, no, just listen to his announcement.”
“Ladies, today’s your lucky day! This is your chance to earn the freedom you’ve yearned for. To get away from this stinking hell hole forever.”
I’d make a Silent Hill: Downpour joke, but that’s several VGJs away from now. Sorry, Murphy. 😦
“It’s simple enough. In the center of Despair is a giant stone on which the Freedom Rune is inscribed. I’ll grant a pardon to the one who manages to touch this stone, guaranteed!
You have exactly 5 minutes and you’re not allowed to attack any of my guards. We’ll start exactly in 3 hours. Good luck to you all.”
He left the cafeteria.
“What a strange prison,” commented Emelia. “The warden is encouraging us to escape?”
“He knows it’s impossible,” said Annie. “Only one prisoner’s ever made it and God knows what really happened to them after that.”
“Are you going to try?”
“Yeah, why not?”
Three hours later. Bzzz!
“It’s time…” said Emelia.
Annie stepped into Emelia’s cell with a purple-haired girl in red prison duds.
“This is Liza,” explained Annie. “We’re gonna escape together.”
“I heard about your situation,” said Liza. “Hang in there.”
“All right,” said Emelia.
“Let’s go,” said Annie.
“There’s a hole under the bed.” Annie lifted the bed up, revealing the hole. “Hurry up.”
“You wanna get old in this hell hole?”
The girls ditched the prison clothes and leaped into the hole under the bed.
I put over 25 hours into Lute’s game.
When Emelia is facing the front, she does a cute little hand-on-hip pose. Fierce!
SF had lots of fun – and not-so-fun – stuff that no RPG has tried, except for recent SaGa games. The game had hit points, but it also had…
Life Points: When a character’s HP is depleted, they fall unconscious and also lose one of these points. Any curative item or spell will bring them back. When all LP is depleted, the character can be resuscitated no longer.
Weapon Points: Techniques use these points as currency.
Jutsu Points: Spell points. Spells use these as currency.
And no XP. Stats are boosted at random times, perhaps influenced by a character’s performance in battle.
Or so I thought. There is a guide on GameFAQs that explains the game’s inner workings.
For human, Mec, and Mystic characters, that is. Mecs can also boost their stats by changing chassis and equipping software. Monsters absorb the powers of other monsters, sometimes changing form completely. Pretty sweet.
Unfortunately, you could absorb a weaker monster and weaken your monster. How embarrassing.
The most fun thing about the game were the combos. Certain spells and techs can be combo’d together, yielding far more damage when used individually.
Emelia’s prison scenario reminds me of the jail segment of Chrono Trigger! Warm-fuzzy nostalgia.
Now, the sheer wrongness of Emelia’s scenario strikes me. She got framed, but by who, and why?
A link to the SaGa Frontier mechanics guide that a friend shared with me: