Author’s Note: This review was originally published on June 22nd, 2003. This was such a disappointing game. I remember receiving it for my birthday, only to be let down. Even fans of SaGa find this entry a stain on the series.
Unlimited SaGa is the next installment in Square’s long running SaGa series. This happens to be one of my favorite series’, and of course I was excited when I learned that there was finally going to be a PS2 version. But was it worth the long wait? It saddens me to say this, but it no it was not. There were probably many like me who were trying to like this game; telling themselves, “This game rocks! I love it!” Deep down we all knew that this was just a mess of an RPG. Some of you may remember a review I wrote last summer about this. Well…here’s the real deal.
The story of USaGa focuses around the Golden Age. Legend has it that when the Seven Wonders of the world are brought forth, the Golden Age will begin. At the traditional Festival of Regina Leone, seven adventurers happen to cross paths with eachother. They begin their search for the Seven Wonders. You choose to play as one adventurer (just like in SaGa Frontier) until you complete his or her quest. Each quest is different: For example Judy needs to free her grandpa from a magic mirror, Mythe has become bedazzled by a mysterious photograph, and Ventus is taking over his brother’s place as a Carrier in order to find a murderer. Eventually, they meet up with each other. Each person is unique and interesting. However, the way the story is told is what I don’t like. The dialogue plays out like a comic book, and there is absolutely no character movement at all…just portraits of the person speaking with a word balloon. This really gets boring when you’re dealing with a long conversation. Motion is a must for a good story.
The World Map is nothing more than a giant piece of land. The towns are represented as squares. The menus are very complex and hard to learn at first. Considering that the instruction manual sucks makes things that much harder to grasp. I don’t know if Square was testing us or what , but it was a pain to adapt to the menus. Eventually, it will become second nature to you, but it may take some time. Next, you do not move around in town…at all. All you do is pick your location. Usually, you’ll have the Inn, the Blacksmith, the Carrier’s Guild, and maybe something else noteworthy. It depends on where you are. I really don’t like this. What I love about RPGs is moving around and talking to all the NPCs, interacting with the environment, and looking for treasure in houses. That is all gone in USaGa. The only NPCs you will talk to (outside of story) are the ones that provide you with little bits of information at the Inns. You can make your own weapons (although they rarely get stronger) or choose to go on A TON of side quests. I guess this is where they get the term “open-ended.” Whatever, this game is more linear than a yard stick. If they decided to keep the traditional way of exploring towns, then I would’ve enjoyed the game much more. The lack of emotion and animation REALLY takes away from the characters. In SaGa Frontier II, the characters developed really well. However in the next installment, it is not the case. While the seven main characters show some development over time, many of the NPCs are just…there. They all had the potential to be interesting too, and this is really disappointing like the game.
You enter a dungeon by selecting a scenario to complete. At the end of the scenario, you will get the option to learn new abilities, and all characters will get an increase in HP.
The dungeons are like board games. Your main character is represented as a small game piece, and you move from space to space per turn. On each space, you may find treasure, hit a trap, or encounter a monster. Battles in this game are done by choosing five options. You can have one character attack five times, or spread out the turns evenly. Each attack takes away a fixed amount of HP. Lovely. Yes, after each turn some HP is recovered but it’s not nearly enough to compensate. Then again, HP isn’t important at all because it acts as a buffer to your LP. When your HP hits zero, you’re totally fine. If you’re LP hits zero, it’s good-bye. Oh, and they cannot be recovered, sorry. When your HP runs out you are more likely to lose LP. Then again, some monster attacks can take away both HP and LP. Yeah…that’s fair. If you want to kill your foes, you got to get rid of the LP with your most powerful attacks which take away the most HP. As a result, you’ll be losing HP at a quick rate.
Once you have given the commands, the battle starts. When one of your turns pops up, the Reel System begins. Depending on your attack, the Reel will spin around accordingly and you can choose to execute that command or wait. If you hold, you can link your attacks with the other party members for devastating combo attacks. However, enemies can (and always will) interrupt your combos and cause you some big damage. What I don’t like about the Reel System is that it spins VERY fast…so it will take some skill if you want to use that powerful attack. It’s unique, but being unique can sometimes be a bad thing. The Reel also appears when dealing traps and unlocking doors. This can cause some serious damage if you hit the button at the wrong time.
Magic is learned by studying magic tablets. If the person studying the magic tablet uses a spell during the battle, then he can select one of three new Arts to learn. There is a bar underneath each Art, and once that bar fills up, you get the new Art. Just like other SaGa games, new Weapon Arts are learned when a light bulb appears above the head of the person. Overall, everything added together makes a big old mess of monotony. If you’re hoping to rush through this game, then take some chamomile tea in order to not become crazy during the battles.
The hand painted backdrops of towns, dungeons, and of the characters are simply gorgeous. Tomomi Koyabashi, the lead artist, did a smashing job in creating the characters. The characters in the battles, however are both good and bad. The graphic engine is called Sketch Motion. I think it is because they move at a really ”sketchy” pace. There really is no fluid motion among the characters. It can be an eye sore to behold…but at times it can be nice. The battle field is a 3D backdrop. While not as detailed as the towns, it still gets the job done. Overall, the graphics are very nice. If the sketch motion in battle wasn’t so ”sketchy” then I’d like them even more. Oh, and I should mention that the cinematics are simply amazing. They bring art to a whole new level.
Music and Sound: 10/10
Oh man…this is just the best part of the game. The grand orchestrated music fits each setting perfectly. The instrumentals are wonderfully composed, and never fail to amaze the ear drums. If you don’t like this game, at least look for the OST. It is just superb. There are some quality voice-overs in the game. They fit very nicely. Judy sounds cute, Armic sounds like a little squirrel critter, and Kurt sounds like a man ready for action. The sound effects are equally nice. They are accurate and appropriate.
Replay Value: Depends
After getting my ass kicked five times while playing as Judy, I decided that I couldn’t take this game anymore and got rid of it. Some may love it and will move on to the next hero. It all depends on whether or not you can handle the game.
Difficulty: Very Hard
While each quest differ on difficulty, the game itself is very hard. You cannot rest at inns, money can sometimes be a problem, and your equipment can break. Don’t play this game expecting a cake walk. Hell, even the experienced RPGers will chuck the controller a few times because of something so annoying it’s hard.
Buy or Rent: Rent
You HAVE to rent this game before deciding to buy it. There are going to be more people who hate it then like it. If you’re new to RPGs, then you may hate it because it is so unique.
Overall, this is one huge disappointment. The Final Fantasy Legends were fun, the Romancing SaGa in English provided some entertainment, and the two SaGa Frontiers for the Playstation were a blast. It’s so unfortunate that Square created this mess and sullied the SaGa name. If you end up buying it and get discouraged or something, I say stick with it. Once you get into the swing of how this game plays, I’m sure you’ll be having a great time. Unlimited SaGa should be classified in an RPG genre all of it’s own. For me, it’s bad.