Saga Frontier 2
Those of you who were disappointed by the original SaGa Frontier, with its confusing story lines, drab graphics and boring gameplay will be happy to know that Square has gone back to the drawing board for its sequel. The result is an entirely new game that bares almost no similarities to its predecessor other than its battle system and the fact that it shares the SaGa Frontier name.
SaGa Frontier 2 is definitely one of the more original RPGs we've seen. For starters, the entire game is hand-drawn, providing a distinct look and feel unlike any other game before it. The graphics are absolutely beautiful. The way the game progresses is unique as well; you advance through the story via dozens of "Events," or chapters in one huge history book. These Events vary in size and scope (some are merely story-based and last two minutes, while others involve lots of gameplay and last over a half hour), and as you progress through the game, the paths that you choose will determine which characters you meet up with and ultimately, how the story ends.
SaGa Frontier 2 offers three different types of battles--Team (your typical RPG party vs. party battle), Duel (a one-on-one fight with more specific attack commands and combos) and Strategic (a very cool army vs. army battle that plays out like a cross between Final Fantasy Tactics and Ogre Battle). Before most battles you can choose between Team and Duel; the Strategic battles come at set points in the game. Building your characters through battle is a bit different than in most RPGs. Rather than gaining experience, stats go up individually after each battle. Special attacks are learned through repeated weapon use, and weapons will expire over time. By combining Weapon Arts (weapon-based skills) with Spell Arts (magic-based skills), up to four party members can participate in combo attacks that do devastating damage. Needless to say, the battle system is pretty in-depth. More importantly, it's a lot of fun.
RPG fans will no doubt want to keep a close eye on SaGa Frontier 2. While it may not leave you awestruck the way Final Fantasy VIII did, its vivid graphics, interesting story and solid gameplay should provide enough satisfaction for even the most jaded RPGer. Look for it in stores this February, and check back next issue for our reviews.
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To actually sit down and play a translated version of SF2 was only second to my dream of playing Front Mission 3 in English. Square EA has done a brilliant job in capturing SF2's delicate dialogue and interweaving story line. While conversations with Citizen X of Town Y are still random and repetitive, the important bits of dialogue never suffer from awkwardness. The SaGa series has always been experimental and SF2 is no exception. The game is divided into "chapters" or events in history. You're given free reign to skip around in time and complete the scenarios in the sequence you see fit. However, you can't just stick with one story, as SF2 will force you into alternate scenarios. An interesting concept, but in the end it just gets in the way of good storytelling. SF2's battle system is ultra-sophisticated, but it suffers from over-complexity. You need to constantly micromanage a bunch of conditions in order to hold your own in combat. Definitely go online and grab yourself a handy FAQ. or else you'll blow through the first six hours completely in the dark. Much of the combat is "combo"-based and, if you're like me, you'll get hooked to discovering new combo attacks. Beware though, in certain scenarios, the game reaches masochistic levels of difficulty. If you're looking for an RPG with depth, this is it.
The look of this game absolutely blows me a way. This is the best-looking 2D game I've seen yet. And to think it's on PlayStation-well, that just proves that just because a system can push some serious 3D, we haven't heard the last of 2D. It looks like you're playing a finely detailed storybook. Aside from the visuals, I found the story lines, which converge and diverge, nothing less than captivating. Squaresoft does it again.
SaGa Frontier 2 is one of the best-looking 2D RPGs I've ever played. Each of the vibrant hand drawn backgrounds give the overall scenery a lot of warmth and detail. It's too bad I'm put off by the non-linearity of the story line. Also, the way SF2 just drops you in the middle of some very hard areas can be a bit daunting. But once I got a handle on assigning roles, party attack order, and mixing for combos, I found SF2 to be deep and rewarding.
If you're more of a Final Fantasy-style RPGer, you may wanna stay away from SaGa Frontier 2. It's not the straightforward, linear RPG you're used to. The weapons and art systems are deep and rewarding once you get used to them. Combat takes time to figure out and demands experimentation (you'll even face army-versus-army battles). This is just a different kind of RPG. it's beautiful. It's often confusing. But SF2 is certainly worth your time.
SaGa Frontier II is radically different from its predecessor in several key aspects. It ditches the multiple story lines, focusing instead on two characters and their respective adventures. Taking place on a world called Sandhail in the 13th century, the two main scenarios follow the exploits of a treasure hunter searching for his father and an exiled prince who returns to his homeland. Another key change involves the visuals: Plush 2D hand-painted watercolor environments are replacing the sharp, prerendered backgrounds of the first game. It'll be interesting to see how fans of the multipath original take to the sequel's streamlined style.