Old School RPG Corner: Unlimited Saga.
(AfroGamers.com) These Japanese RPGs aren’t going to play themselves. The Playstation 2 was like the Super Nintendo of its period: a console that had all the quality RPGs. However, there are a few stinkers that would’ve been better off not being made. It might surprise you that Square Enix created one of them.
Now if you played Final Fantasy XV, you know Square Enix. This is a studio known for over 30 years of perfect and near-perfect Japanese RPGs. It took what was right with Dungeons & Dragons, put it in video game form, and made RPGs hot for consoles. Mind you, this was when both companies were separate entities. Square did it with several different franchises while Enix pretty much knocked it out of the park with its main franchise Dragon Quest.
Then 2002 came along. While Square Enix was still making quality JRPGs, the SaGa franchise hadn’t gotten much love. Business was all about Final Fantasy, Dragon Quest, and for a period Kingdom Hearts. However, the company did release another entry in the SaGa franchise: Unlimited Saga.
Visually, this is everything that was JRPG goodness. It wasn’t full on 3D with cinematics like Final Fantasy, it was closer to Wild Arms 3 or Dragon Quest VIII. Thinking about it graphically, it was pretty much that missing link of JRPGs between the Playstation and the Playstation 2. In audio department, it hit it out of the park. Square Enix doesn’t drop the ball when it comes to music in its games. It just delivers. That said, Square Enix giveth and taketh. The voice acting wasn’t good for the most part.
Where Unlimited Saga fails is in the gameplay department. The game is frustrating because it comes off as anti-progress. This comes down to attempting something new for JRPGs, that “something new” being appealing on paper, and the execution being horrible to the point the game seems tedious overall.
Going into the gameplay of Unlimited Saga is going to be like reliving a horrible visit to the dentist. The game can be very random. It has a roulette wheel system that randomizes different elements of the battle once an encounter starts. This would’ve been great if the battles themselves didn’t make seem like you weren’t make much progress in defeating the enemy.
Then once the enemy is defeated you’re left with no actual indication of how you did it. Sometimes, it can be a long grind-y battle against a non-boss enemy and that’s an RPG no-no. The board game movement mechanic is something I felt was cool since it includes traps and treasures. Now, the roulette wheel can come in handy during these times its just in battle where Square Enix should’ve left well enough alone.
While the wheel can issue out buffs, it also gives debuffs—something that can weaken your character. There’s nothing wrong with that and it would actually be a welcome element if battle wasn’t such a pain overall in this game. Combat is an essential part to console and computer RPGs. When that part becomes hyper tedious, everything about that game sours. That’s what happened to Unlimited Saga.
The game went from “solid with potential if you stick with it” to “unacceptable” even if you stuck with it. I couldn’t even tell you what the story was about because I stopped caring with the frustrating combat. Its one thing for combat to be difficult but if you beat one monster and fight the same kind of monster and its a chore, something’s wrong there.
RATING: 4 out of 10 (Unacceptable)
Staff Writer; M. Swift
This talented writer is also a podcast host, and comic book fan who loves all things old school. One may also find him on Twitter at; metalswift.