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SaGa Frontier Remastered: A Classic 90s RPG On The Go

Saga Frontier
Courtesy of Square Enix

SaGa Frontier Remastered

Developer: Square Enix
Publisher: Square Enix
Release Date: April 15, 2021
Available as: Digital and Physical (Asia Only)

SaGa Frontier Remastered Is A Callback To The 90s

The year 1998 was an important one to me as it was the first time I’ve ever fully gotten into video games on my own rather than playing it at a friend’s house or recommendations that a babysitter would bring with them. My first console was the PlayStation 1 that Christmas, a day before I would turn 6, and it would be a console that would set the tone for the rest of my life. Unfortunately, I was unaware of other “titles” or even “genres” at the time like SaGa Frontier. I simply played what looked interesting to my childlike mind and ignored the others.

SaGa Frontier was released in the same year that I got formally introduced into gaming and for years I’ve always considered the SaGa franchise as just another cog in the Square Enix library of RPGs. I didn’t know what an “RPG” was although I’ve seen images and reviews of it in magazines. At the time the game didn’t interest me at all, but I would grow up to see the franchise become a cult classic in its regard. Now, almost 23 years later I’ve finally had the chance to play the one game that has eluded me throughout my childhood, into adulthood, and my first impressions were all over the place, to say the least.

saga frontier gameplay
SaGa Frontier Remastered - Nintendo Switch Direct Capture

The 2020s Are Shaping Up To Be Square’s RPG Decade

The remastered edition of SaGa Frontier was released in March 2021 for all consoles although it feels right at home on the Switch for several reasons. The main reason, admittingly subjective, is the allure of playing a “retro” RPG on a Nintendo console. The company was and in many ways still is the number one console for RPG titles. For the longest time, Final Fantasy titles were exclusive to Nintendo’s systems up until Final Fantasy 7 yet several exclusive titles including The 4 Heroes of Light and its spinoff Braverly series remain on Nintendo platforms. While their relationship wasn’t perfect, the history and ongoing relationship between Square and Nintendo make SaGa Frontier feel like a 23-year-old homecoming in the making.

One of the major draws to Frontier is its non-linear story told through several characters, all with their purpose and mini-story within the universe itself. There are a total of eight characters, one of whom was added to the Remaster by the name of Fuse, each with their unique gameplay and story that all happens to transpire within the same timeframe. The player is also given liberty to explore the area surrounding the character, as noted when I began my journey selecting Emelia.

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SaGa Frontier Remastered - Nintendo Switch Direct Capture

SaGa Frontier Is More Realistic Than First Glance

Formerly a highly successful fashion model, she becomes a convict after she’s charged with the murder of her late fiancee, a crime she didn’t commit as his actual killer roams free. Despite pleas and lack of evidence, she’s sentenced to prison yet with the help of two inmates, she breaks out of prison and joins up with a group of vigilantes. As one of the vigilantes, she works with them to find out the whereabouts of her fiancee’s murderer and enact her revenge.

Initially, I was expecting some high-end fantasy on the level of Final Fantasy, but Emelia’s premise alone shows off a modern world that I wasn’t expecting to find in SaGa Frontier. The inclusion of a prison system with advanced mech, firearms, and an urban setting contrasts the opening cinematic and scenery of lush gardens and exotic locations. 

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SaGa Frontier Remastered - Nintendo Switch Direct Capture

You Can Perform Wrestling Moves On Cacti

It was then I realized that the world of SaGa Frontier was a sprawling landscape of many existing locations, including industrialized metropolises, lush jungles, scenic mountains, and many more. The world was vast, and with Emelia, I was just exploring a small section of it through a microscope.

The gameplay is turn-based as most 2D RPG games were at the time, yet it’s also fast-paced as players can combine their skills to create combo attacks. The fun is in mixing certain skills at the same time to determine which will deal the most damage to an opponent, a mechanic that other modern games have taken inspiration from. Each skill is determined by the weapon used, with skills learned the more a character uses a weapon over time. There are no levels, but an increase in stats is determined based on what a character did during combat.

suplexing a cactus
SaGa Frontier Remastered - Nintendo Switch Direct Capture

SaGa Frontier’s Non-Linear Gameplay Gives Different Perspectives

The realistic approach to strengthening characters meant that my time in SaGa Frontier wasn’t bogged down to a linear “reach this level to learn this move and become powerful,” instead of leaving a more organic experience. First impressions left me to discover that Frontier was an immersive game that would take a bit of my time to get the most mileage of, as there are eight stories to unravel in total. 

Overall, this would be a title I’d look forward to in the future, once I find it within myself to spend a month, or two weeks at the very least, dissecting another RPG under my belt. Besides, any game where I can grab a bird in mid-air and proceed to do a Rolling Death Cradle tackle like I was King from Tekken is worth more than a “first look” in my eyes.

SaGa Frontier Remastered is available on the Switch, PC, PS4, and Mobile.

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