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SaGa Frontier takes place on multiple worlds and involved dozens of characters, all with goals and hopes of their own. The game focuses on seven characters whose goals become your own. Save a world from evil, carry out revenge against the one who killed you and brought you back, challenge your twin to a duel and learn the truth of your own nature. All these stories and more are waiting to unfold.
The story begins in Facinaturu, the land of the Mystics, with a narration by Gina, a housekeeper for a tailor. Gina tells of how the tailor has been making outfits for an unseen Mystic prince that have never been picked up. The story then switches to Asellus, who has just woken up from a bad dream. A man is waiting in the shadows for her. When she asks where she is, he answers that it isn't his job to answer her questions and disappears. This begins the quest to discover where she is, how she got there, and what will become of her.
The day before his graduation from Magic Academy, Blue is instructed to go out into the world and learn as much magic as he can. Once he has done that, he must kill his twin brother, whom is graduating from another academy the same day. The brothers are destined to face off in a great magic duel to see which is truly the greatest magician.
Emelia a supermodel by profession, driven to revenge when her fiancée is murdered by the mysterious Joker. She is thrown into Despair, a maximum-security prison, for a crime she did not commit. Liza and Annie, who take her back to Roufas, facilitate her escape. He helps hone her rage into deadly skill that she uses to track down the Joker.
Lute's mother booted him out one day and he decided to go on an adventure. Mondo helps him get out of town. When he arrives at Manhattan, he meets Fuse, who tells him that Mondo isn't the benevolent person he seems to be. Lute eventually signs up to take Mondo down.
Red's a normal guy. He's got a fast car, a hot babe, and everything going for him. That is, until monsters attack and destroy his car and his life. He's forced into a battle there is no way for him to win. All looks lost until Alkarl, a super hero complete with cape, shows up and saves. Unfortunately, Alkarl is already too late and unless Red is turned into a super hero himself, he's a goner. Thus, Alkaiser is born and the adventure begins.
Riki's home of Margmel is consumed by a disaster. The village elder sends Riki out to find eight rings with the power to save the village. The ninth ring is given to Riki before being sent out on his mission to save his homeland.
T260G is a robot that's forgotten its program. To regain its memory, it searches the world for parts and clues as to its origin and function. Does T260G have a greater purpose, or is it a rebuilt garbage disposal with a few screws loose?
These seven stories all take place in the same universe, but don't intertwine (well) like Kartia does. The result is having to play through the same dungeons with a different set of characters seven times. This is one of SaGa's greatest weaknesses, but I'll get into that in the Overall section.
There are more characters in this game than you can shake a stick at and not all of them have the same 'role' in each quest. Some times they join you, sometimes they won't, sometimes they'll be the very villains you're trying to stop. Many of the main character in other quests will join you during the story. There are also characters that are specific to a quest that you can't get any other time. Here are some of the more common non-main characters that will join your party in more than one quest.
Annie you can pick up usually when you're trying to break into Despair. She's good with the sword and hand-to-hand skills.
Cotton is a monster you can save from mad scientist experimentation on the top floor of the Shrike Bio Research Lab. While Cotton is cute, it's not much more useful than Slime is.
Dr. Nusakan is as Mystic that will occasionally join your party. His absorption skills are kind of fun to play with, though probably won't make much sense until you've played Asellus' quest and know how to make the most of them.
Engineer Car will join your party only if T260G is a member. It's equipped as a good fighter, but really shines when it comes to its healing and repairing abilities.
Fei-on you acquire from the belly of Tanzer. He's a great hand-to-hand fighter and should learn the DSC quicker than most anyone else.
Gen a martial artist from Wakatu that can often be found in the pub a Scrap. It's best to train Gen in either sword or hand-to-hand.
King Sei this undead monster will only join your party after you've robbed his tomb, and then defeated him in combat after he takes you to task for it. Sei is no slouch when you him battle, so keep on your toes.
Liza is a lot like Annie only she has a definite bend for the hand-to-hand. Get her training right off the bat and she'll have the DSC before too long.
Mei-ling is pretty good at learning the gun skills. In one quest, I had her with all the gun skills (including some not listed in the Brady Games book) and the DSC, the ultimate hand-to-hand combo. She's a good character to have around.
Mesarthim is a Mystic mermaid whom you save from being imprisoned against her will. She won't be in your party for long, but she's a great asset while she is.
Roufas can be found in the ruins that hold the vitality rune or in the Koorong restaurant. He's a good person to give a sword to. He starts out with some magic and katana skills.
Rouge the twin brother of Blue makes a strong addition to your team with his magic skills. Don't pass him up if he's willing to join you!
Silence is a Mystic that you can pick up if you go for the gift of Shadow magic.
Slime is a monster that tags along after attaining the Rune in Tanzer. And when I say tag along, I mean it. Unless you're watching for it, you probably won't even see it ooze into your party.
Suzaku can be found while looking for the Shield Card on Mosperiburg. It's a monster that can be a bit tricky to find. (And shouldn't be confused with the boss).
Thunder is the monster that is the best friend of Lute. If Lute is in your party, Thunder will ask to join you when you go to Yorkland.
There's a limit of 15 characters you can have in your party and you cannot get rid of a character once they have joined you. I've only filled up all 15 slots twice. Some of the one shot wonders include the Time Lord, Kylin, Fuse, Captain Hamilton (who is a female < glares at Brady Games >, Zozma, Ildon, and Princess Rei.
SaGa consists of seven character quests that can be completed in any order. Some let you do most anything you want (Lute). Others are much more structured in story and what you accomplish when (Asellus and Riki).
There are four species that roam the worlds of SaGa , they are Human, Mystic, Robot and Monster. Each species has its strengths and weaknesses.
When going into battle, it is your party of up to 5 members versus an enemy party of varying numbers - usually 2 to 5. The goal of the battle isn't always to beat the stuffing out of the enemy; sometimes you just have to touch something.
The manual is next to useless for explaining game mechanics. So, I'm going to explain some of the nuances of the game itself that should be in the manual, but aren't.
An important one that isn't really explained is the LP stat. When a character is knocked out, all you need to do to bring them back is to heal them. (No phoenix down or angel tears required!) The character will lose one LP (it's a red number on the screen) when they are KOed. When all their LP are used, they are truly dead. If your main character has her/his/it's LP reduced to zero, the game is over. Monster LPs change depending on what they have absorbed. I've had Monsters with LP as high as 14 and as low as 4, so it really varies for them.
The magic in the game is paired off so that any one character can only have one type of magic or the other. Here is a list of the pairs:
* Are rare magics that are restricted in who can possess and master them, or are very difficult to get.
** You can't get this magic through normal means, though a character who joins your party may have it. (And those are few and far between).
Of course, all this is merrily thrown out the window during Blue's quest, when collecting magic is what you do.
Human and Mystic Skills System
New skills can be learned by using that skill type. For example, using Punch a lot will teach you Suplex or Kick or some other skill like that. Using almost any skill costs WP. The other important thing to note when learning skills is that you must have an empty slot for the new skill to fill. I usually leave my characters with 2 slots free just in case they learn two in a battle (which does happen). If a character specializes in a skill (minimum of 6 slots filled with all physical or all magical skills) a crown will appear on their meter in the status screen. This means that the cost of using skills has been decreased by 1 WP. The more you use a physical skill, the more WP you'll get with experience.
If you learn Suplex, Sliding, Giant Swing, and Babel Crumble and set all of them at once, another command called DSC (Dream Super Combo) will appear during battle. This is the ultimate fighting technique. I've gotten it to score over 22,000 in a single round. Having one fighter use it gives you an advantage. Two fighters with the DSC and you're near unstoppable!
Not to be outdone, the sword techniques are also impressive. 2 Gale Slash can cut down a group of enemies to nothing. Deflect is an effective countering technique. Double Slash doubles your attacking power and costs nothing to use if you've specialized in physical techniques. Sword doesn't have any super powerful attacks like hand-to-hand does, but its average random battle attacking power is better.
The Gun techniques are less than impressive, even when equipped with the most powerful gun (Lethal Gun). I kept every party member I could equipped with a gun, but didn't go out of my way to learn them unless I was bored. The Brady Games book doesn't list all of the available Gun techniques, by the way.
Magic can be learned with us if the character has the gift for it. (If there is a star next to the magic's name). Usually four spells can be bought with additional spells (the powerful ones) having to be learned. The more you use magic, the higher your JP will become.
A skill exclusive to the Mystics is absorbing a monster to their Sword, Boots, or Glove. Once a monster is absorbed, the skill they have will available to the Mystic at the cost of WP. Because of the absorption skills, three slots are filled and can't be changed.
Monster and Robot Skills System
Neither Monsters nor Robots gain experience. Increasing their stats requires a bit more work.
Monsters can absorb other monsters like Mystics can. Monsters then take on the form of another Monster and its stats. On the skills screen, skills that are absorbed can be organized with one sitting on the 'bumper' slot. Anything sitting in that slot is lost if a new monster is absorbed.
Choosing what to absorb and when can be tricky since absorbing a powerful monster doesn't guarantee a stronger Monster. It's entirely possible to absorb one monsters, have it lower your stats, find the monster that you absorbed in the first place and re-absorb it, then not have your stats raise back up to where they were. Basically, I'd suggest finding something you're happy with and sticking with it.
Robots are the easiest to build up early. Their stats are directly a result of what's equipped on them. Ever repair kits change their stats. Equip a robot with the best stuff in the game and they're over 800 hit points, easy.
Robot skills are in the form of programs that are downloaded from defeated robots. These programs must be set like skills and the number of slots available is dependent upon what and how many memory boards the Robot is equipped with.
SaGa could have been a great game. The potential was there, but it didn't deliver. Having to rob Sei's Tomb seven times got boring by the third time. The seven stories don't pull together well (or at all, really). The stories themselves range from excellent (Asellus) to down right pointless (Lute). Asellus' quest has three different endings (part of what makes it so interesting). Emilia's quest has two different endings. The rest of the characters have one ending.
The biggest problem with SaGa (and it has plenty of them) is that the length of the game isn't due to it being challenging, it's due to the fact that you get squat for money when defeating enemies. The guy on the corner begging for change makes more than you after you've fought battles for an hour. The equipment is incredibly expensive and you have anywhere from 5 to 15 characters to equip (depending on how you use them). This gets old fast. I discuss ways to over come this little problem in the Tips section. By following the techniques I suggest, you'll shave at least 10 hours off each quest of mindless money gathering.
The music varies greatly, though suffers from being played to death. After finishing SaGa, I don't think I could listen to a soundtrack of the music without running from the room screaming.
The graphics are mediocre. The characters themselves are kind of cute. The places you travel vary in how detailed and 'alive' they feel. I'd place the graphics about LUNAR but just barely. And in a head-to-head battle LUNAR would still win out because of the animated cut-scenes. (SaGa has nothing of the sort and at best sports character stills).
All in all, SaGa has nothing you couldn't get better with another game. Kartia's multi-character, interwinding story laughs at SaGa's lame attempt. The Final Fantasy Playstation games dance circles around SaGa's graphics. And LUNAR has fun down to an art. If you paid more money for this game then you can count on your fingers, you were ripped off, in my opinion. The frustration and boredom involved with trying to beat it aren't worth having another notch in your controller.
To even have a fighting chance at finishing SaGa you need a memory card with at least 15 slots free, (each character's quest is 2 slots plus 1 player file), a strategy book, and a net connection to go look up FAQs. If you disagree with using 'cheats' then you're up the creek without a paddle simply because it will take you a very long time to finish the game playing 'fairly'.
Reviewed October 10th, 1999