SaGa Frontier 2 Review

For PlayStation

By Contributing Writer Rob Pecknold

Rating: Good
   Damn.  You wait and you wait for a game to come out, and it fails to 
live up to your expectations.  This is true in the case of many games these 
days, including SaGa Frontier 2.  I was one of the few people who loved the 
first SaGa Frontier (me and my comrades at Bellevue Mental Institution got 
a real kick out it).  I have a lot of good memories of the game.  It proved 
to me that it's possible to have fun in a completely non-linear RPG.  Even 
with the incredible strides made in graphics, story-telling, and non-
linearity, SaGa Frontier 2 somehow manages to be worse than its predecessor.
  SaGa Frontier 2 (yes, I am the only person in America who still 
capitalizes both the S and the G, as it was in the Romancing SaGa days) 
starts out slowly with a half-hour, non-interactive sequence detailing the 
birth and adolescence of your character (Gustave XIII).  The opening 
doesn't really do much to draw you into the game.  The dialogue is bad and 
the music is annoying, but I was willing to temporarily sacrifice fun for 
the incredible graphics.  I'd go so far as to say that this game has the 
best 2D graphics on the PlayStation.  Every screen in the game is a hand-
drawn and hand-painted watercolor masterpiece.  Square is always at the 
forefront of 3D graphics and CG movies, so it's refreshing to see them take 
such a wonderful "step back."  Unfortunately, this graphical brilliance 
doesn't carry over to the characters.  Each one is horribly super-deformed 
in the old-school RPG style, to the point that I had a hard time telling 
some of the minor characters apart.
   SaGa 2 is different enough from its predecessor that you can tell it's a 
different game, but it seems as though the non-linearity of SaGa 1 is 
mostly intact.  The game's story unfolds in the form of Chapters, and the 
player has total control over the sequence in which you view these.  Well, 
almost total control.  You see, the game has two story lines- the main one 
dealing with Gustave XIII, and the other one dealing with a guy named 
William Knights.  Gustave XIII was an heir to the throne of the Kingdom of 
Finney, but he was exiled when it was discovered that he couldn't use Anima 
(or, for those of you not familiar with crappy secondary names for 
established subjects, "magic").  William Knights lives with his aunt and 
uncle, and he hunts Quells (items that re-shape the Earth using the power 
of anima).
   As you can probably tell, the foundation for a really good story line is 
here, which makes it an even bigger shame that the writing is so average.  
This game could have been amazing if a company like Working Designs had 
been behind its translation.  As it is, the dialogue seems so forced and 
rushed that it bogs down the rest of the game.
   Other than the graphics, the best aspect of the game is the amazing 
battle system.  The group battle mode is okay (and very much like the 
battle system from the first game), but the game really shows its stuff in 
the Duel Battle mode.  Much like the Duel Battle system in Suikoden 2, this 
mode consists of a single character going face-to-face with a "baddie" 
(Lunar fans can cue Ramus-style laughing now).  You choose your moves out 
of a set of actions, which you chain together to make combos.  
   This is where the intensity of the battles shoots through the roof.  
Many times, your opponent will choose a move to coincide with yours, and 
you will both attack at the same time.  At this point, the game slows down 
and then speeds back up during the integral hit, creating a very 
electrifying moment.  It is the battle system that endeared me to this game 
so much.  Way too many RPGs have crappy, boring battle systems.  I actually 
wanted to get in lots of battles in SaGa Frontier 2 because they're so damn 
fun.  They also provide a good escape from the rest of game, which consists 
largely of trying decipher cryptic text that makes little sense. 
   One of the first things I look for in an RPG is quality music.  Sadly, 
this is where SaGa 2 falls short the most.  All too often the music has 
little bearing on what is taking place in the game.  For example, at one 
point a character is on her death bed while very upbeat music is playing.  
The game uses very authentic-sounding piano for the majority of the themes, 
which is a welcome and refreshing change from the ever-present synthesizer 
found in most RPGs.  
    I appreciate the fact that Square tried to utilize a different type of 
instrument for the majority of the game's themes, but I would have rather 
seen a different composer write the music.  Legendary composers like Nobuo 
Uematsu, Yosunori Matsuda, or hell, even "TAPPY" of Metal Gear Solid fame 
could have probably done a better job of piano work than this game's 
composer (Masashi Hamauzu).  The piano can be a wonderful instrument for 
musical expression, but Hamauzu didn't utilize it to its full potential.  
As flawed as it is, the soundtrack still features enough good themes to be 
worth listening to.
   Despite the fact that it's not quite good enough to get an Awesome 
rating, I don't think you'll disappointed if you buy this game.  I would 
have paid 50 bucks for the Duel Battle system alone.  The addition of great 
graphics, refreshingly different music, and one of the best medieval-style 
stories Square has produced since the Super Nintendo days make SaGa 
Frontier 2 a product I could recommend to just about anyone.  Of course, 
this is coming from a guy who thought that the original SaGa Frontier was 
a great game.  At the very least, you should rent SaGa Frontier 2 and see 
if you like it.

Director: CUT!  That's a wrap, Lavar.  Great show.  Great show, my man.

Lavar Burton: Was it really that good?  I can't believe we've gone from 
reviewing children's books on PBS to reviewing video games.

Director: Hey, the times are changing, man.  The kids who used to watch 
Reading Rainbow are now watching the WWF and playing video games.  We gotta 
keep up.

Lavar Burton: But what are we gonna do when they get in their twenties?

Director: Two words- Breeding Rainbow.

Lavar: That's frigging ridiculous!  Breeding Rainbow?  What kind of sick...

Assistant: Uh, the camera is still on, sir!

Director: Turn it off and cut to the theme song!  I said turn it o..


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