SaGa Frontier was originally released to western gamers in 1998. Its initial reception was more mixed outside of Japan but has achieved somewhat of a cult following. As SaGa games have been getting more western localizations and re-releases in recent years, it shouldn’t be too surprising that SaGa Frontier Remastered exists, giving a new generation of gamers access to the title and and letting those seeking a nostalgia fix play it on modern platforms. This remaster adds more to SaGa Frontier than just a nice coat of HD paint. It also includes additional content, but are the new additions enough to make SaGa Frontier Remastered appealing to a larger audience?
With most remasters, fans of the classic are likely curious about what the changes are so we’ll get into those first. Looking at some of the quality of life improvements, SaGa Frontier Remastered has a revamped UI to that’s a better fit with current-generation consoles. This also includes mouse support for the PC version, which seems like an unnecessary addition since this was originally a PlayStation game, but having options is nice for those playing on PC. There’s a New Game+ Mode, which as per usual allows new playthroughs with saved data items, techniques, attributes and so on, as well as a Story Chart to keep track of each character’s story. Lastly, the two things that make this feel the most modernized are the now essential autosave feature which was virtually unheard of at the time of the original release and a speed boost option to double or triple game speed.
In addition to the facelift and quality of life improvements, some additions to the in-game content were added. These were mainly things that were intended to be in the original Saga Frontier, making this remaster a bit of a director’s cut. Phantom cutscenes that were cut from Asellus’s scenario have been restored, adding more depth to the story. The biggest addition, however, is the eighth main character Fuse, who was cut from the original game. Fuse becomes available after certain conditions are met as Fuse is intended to be played after the other seven character scenarios have been completed, as Fuse’s playthrough will reveal a different side to each of the other characters’ story. Fuse’s scenario also features new tracks from Kenji Ito.
SaGa Frontier Remastered has a unique approach to the JRPG formula. Instead of being one main protagonist that follows a story, the player is free to select one of seven heroes (eight after Fuse is unlocked) at the start of the game. This Free Scenario system offers several unique ways for the story to progress, as each hero has their own objectives and motivations for adventuring. Each character’s world exists in a solar system known as the Regions and travel between world is convenient. Each character has a main story objective and missions, but there are many side quests available to everyone, and characters can occasionally come across other main characters during their travels. Even with main story objectives, players have a lot of freedom due to the nonlinear nature of SaGa Frontier. Players have freedom over which characters they wish they team up, and decisions made in dialogue options and partaking in certain optional quests can influence the ending, giving additional replay value by not just playing each character’s scenario, but also by replaying some favorite characters to attempt to see a different outcome.
Fuse, appropriately named the “Lost Scenario,” is best played after everyone else’s scenario. Fuse is a phenomenal detective with a quick temper, but has the ability to recruit a large number of party members. His scenario offers a glimpse into the other main characters’ stories, given a new perspective and insight. If there was a single reason to recommend SaGa Frontier Remaster to diehard fans of the original release, it would be the inclusion of this scenario.
When not actively pursuing main campaign quests, players are free to travel throughout the Regions, interacting with whoever they wish and taking on side missions. For those who are focused on completing the main story as quickly as possible the objective points aren’t always clearly laid out, but this does lend itself to more open exploration. Battles are fought in the traditional JRPG turn-based style with a few unique twists. The enemies are visible on the map so random encounters can theoretically be avoided though there are many times where combat can’t be avoided. Characters don’t gain levels in the traditional sense, but like in some other SaGa games, their stats will increase after battles and new techniques will be unlocked during combat during Glimmers. Occasionally using skills in battle will turn into devastating combos. In SaGa Frontier Remastered the characters become more powerful the more battles they fight, but the regular enemies in the area scale with the player, making it hard to gauge if you’re overpowered, underpowered or just right. Bosses don’t seem to scale, so the old approach of if you can’t win try again after grinding holds true here.
SaGa Frontier Remastered does everything you want a remaster of a classic game to do. The visuals are true to the original PlayStation style, but given the proper HD treatment so they look as good as our nostalgia-tinted lenses remember. The quality of life improvements such as autosave and increasing game speed do make progressing seem like less of a grind. The additional cutscenes being restored along with Fuse’s scenario are reason enough for longtime fans to revisit this title on modern hardware.
SaGa Frontier Remastered is the definitive version of the cult classic, but like all cult classics, there are aspects that prevent it from achieving greater success to a wider audience. Those who enjoyed the original SaGa Frontier and were looking forward to this remaster should go out and buy it because the new content makes it worthwhile. For everyone else, however, some of the ambitious ideas in the title sounded intriguing in the abstract, but didn’t quite come to fruition during the execution. The Free Scenario concept is interesting, but ultimately SaGa Frontier suffers from lack of cohesion. The relatively short scenario campaigns by RPG standards do make playing through each character’s scenario more accessible, but with the exception of diehard SaGa fans, most players will want to move on after completing a few characters.