Review by: Jonathan Hynes
Published: July 16, 2003
Akitoshi Kawazu may very well be the most misunderstood genius in all of gaming today. His uncompromising vision and devotion to originality helps pull the often-stale role-playing genre into new, unexplored territory. Case in point, the first two SaGa Frontier games, which received less than favorable reviews. Instead of streamlining the series to make it more accessible, Kawazu went in the opposite direction, delving deeper into the depths of the unknown for his next project, Unlimited SaGa. Touted as the ultimate experience for hardcore fans, Kawazu’s brainchild is certainly unique, but is it the definitive RPG or a colossal disaster?
At the start of the game, you must choose from seven playable characters, each with their own unique storyline and supporting party. Since the entire tale takes place in one world, many towns will be visited more than once, and you might even run into other main characters from time to time. Still, the individual plots remain separate for most of the game, eventually coming together as the group attempts to discover the secrets of the Seven Wonders and overcome the evil that awaits them.
Unlimited SaGa avoids the role-playing tradition of real-time movement between villages and dungeons, instead opting for an entirely menu-based system. Towns are created in a vein similar to those found in Final Fantasy Tactics, though the background images created for SaGa are much more detailed and extravagant. Various structures on the painting are used to represent the inns, blacksmiths and other shops, and selecting one will bring up a submenu. Almost all of your business is taken care of while in town, from purchasing new equipment to accepting new adventures.
Movement through the various environments is handled similar to a board game. Your character acts as the game piece, while each potential destination is like a square on the board. The left or right analog stick is used to highlight a possible destination, and holding it in the desired direction for a second or two will cause you to move to the new spot. Given that the path is initially hidden in a fog of sorts, branching passageways can lead you into dead ends, consuming your valuable health if you’re unfortunate enough to run into a group of monsters. Also, since it’s difficult to discern the type of terrain from the walkways alone, special illustrations are displayed in the upper left corner to give you an idea of the landscape, and thus, the type of enemies you’ll encounter.