If you’re a publisher and you’ve got a game ready to go with just a little souping-up needed, why not soup away and get paid again? We’ve seen plenty of that recently, but there’s definitely different levels of quality when it comes to what we like to call “remasters”. There are high points and low points for sure, but one of the more recent high points is clear – it’s SaGa Frontier Remastered, a game that takes its original inspiration to a new level.
As in the original 1997 release on the original PlayStation, you’ll choose from one of seven heroes, each with their own storyline – well, sort of, we’ll get to Lute and Blue in a second – and progress through a bizarre world consisting of different Regions of time and space. In standard SaGa fashion, you’re largely given free rein to do as you please. Search for magic powers, battle the strongest enemies and become a master of the martial arts! You can do it all. Go nuts.
This remaster cleans up pretty much every aspect of the game, from the dialogue to the graphics to the gameplay, even adding some additional content here and there that didn’t make it into the original release. Shockingly, with a couple decades to spend working on that stuff, it’s actually pretty well done. You’ve got a couple of additional dungeons and some clarity added to Asellus the half-mystic’ quest, for instance. The big winner, though, is the addition of a whole new quest for Fuse the police officer. Rumors swirled back in the day about Fuse having a quest of his own, and here it is!
Yes, this kind of thing is a relatively small addition, but it really serves to reinforce how great these remasters could be with a little love. It’s not every day that a game comes out on modern platforms with souped-up graphics and new gameplay that fits in line with the old classic stuff, after all. I’m reminded of the incredible remaster of Saints Row: The Third from last year. We really ought to expect this level of quality from remasters going forward, but it’s probably best not to get one’s hopes up.
As for the gameplay itself, well, it’s SaGa. You’ve really got to make your own fun with this kind of game, though the degree to which you get some guidance will vary based on the quest you choose to play. Players looking for a more traditional style might want to check out Red the superhero or the aforementioned half-mystic Asellus, where they’ll get a little more hand-holding to help ease them into the experience. More confident players, though, might appreciate Blue, whose entire plot revolves around completing the various side quests for obtaining the Gifts of Magic, or Lute, who…uh, doesn’t really have a plot for more than the first and last half-hour of his quest.
Along with following your given plot, you’ve got plenty of side quests to check out and a whole world to explore. SaGa Frontier will happily let you wander into situations you’re not able to handle, of course, but if you keep plenty of save files it’s not so bad. Combat features heavily in pretty much everything you do and it’s largely standard turn-based fare, with the biggest departures from the norm being the ability to randomly Spark new attack techniques and Combo characters’ turns together into more powerful attacks.
There’s also something to be said for the multiple types of character you can have in your party, including form-changing Monster, magical Mystics and gear-mongering Mechs, allowing you to form a team that suits your needs. What’s more, this remaster does a far superior job of explaining what different skills and items do compared to the original, taking a lot of the obfuscation out of the combat experience.
It’s probably not much of a surprise that SaGa Frontier Remastered looks and sounds great along with running like a charm on pretty much any platform you play on. Pretty much everything has been given the prettifying treatment, which results in some interesting situations like Asellus’ companion White Rose appearing to actually have hair rather than just a goofy flower hat. Would that more remasters would provide solutions to hair-related mysteries. A man can dream, can’t he?
Fans of classic JRPG adventuring need to pick SaGa Frontier Remastered up and give it a shot. That’s pretty much all there is to say – it’s a prime example of taking an old-school game and making it feel new again. If you played and loved the original classic, there’s enough here to merit a second look, but the real win is for newcomers who get to check this game out for the first time in its truest, most definitive form.