SaGa Frontier Remastered is an interesting release among the many remasters we’ve gotten over the past few years. How does Square Enix’s re-release of a PS1 classic fare in 2021? It’s out now for modern consoles, with a PS4 version that’s also compatible with the PS5.
From the look and feel to the gameplay, SaGa Frontier doesn’t waste time letting you know it’s a JRPG. The original release was also especially successful back in Japan and didn’t make as big of a splash here in the West, which makes this a title that’s far more likely to be the first time people are playing it – unlike with the Final Fantasy VII remake.
You get a choice between seven different characters at the start of the game, and while each character has an interesting narrative that’s unique to the character it’s surprising that the characters themselves, right down to their names – can feel underdeveloped. Yes, character choices extend to names like “Blue” and “Red” in SaGa Frontier. As rich as storytelling has become today, some narrative aspects here can be underwhelming.
Part of that is the fact that, despite diverging storylines, you’ll still see many of the spots, run into the same people (including the protagonists you didn’t choose) and fight the same enemies. While I would love to explore each story fully, that ultimately hurt the replay factor for me, as I couldn’t bear the thought of doing the same things four, five, six or even seven times. Luckily, the game doesn’t feature that many optional quests, and its more linear nature helps keep the playtime down a bit – allowing more time for a second playthrough.
In terms of the remaster, there are a few quality of life changes that include speeding up combat and travel, as well as adding a “new game plus”. Visually, it’s certainly not the most impressive remaster out there – keeping with the original look and feel of the game, which feels like it was inspired by the JRPGs of the SNES era with its top-down 2D visuals. If you were expecting a Final Fantasy VII treatment here, you’ll be disappointed. If you have a fondness for the original’s style, you’ll be glad that is was preserved despite enhanced resolutions and textures.
Combat is certainly interesting in SaGa Frontier remastered, with its classic take on the turn-based formula. Much of it ultimately comes down to grinding out your progression and stats before you’re able to defeat the enemies that guard certain locations, but the way you level up is different for each party member if you’re recruiting ones from different races. Robot characters will need upgraded parts, while monsters consume your enemies to get stronger. Mixing everyone’s strengths and weaknesses and finding the right upgrades to make sure your party’s weakest link doesn’t break is an addictive loop, and one that made the initial playthrough a fun one. SaGa Frontier Remastered ultimately lacks some of the refined visual and narrative touches of more modern RPGs, but it’s a nice look back at an often forgotten classic.