SaGa Frontier is a game I started playing through, recently. Despite some very confusing design choices and obviously rushed/unfinished questlines, I'm in love with this quirky little game. Unfortunately, as great is it is, it doesn't make any effort to teach you how to play it, and in a game with mechanics as unusual as Frontier's, that's a death sentence when it comes to accessibility.
Fear not, however! Having (mostly) pieced together what everything does via a combination of experimentation and reading various materials online (including the game's manual!), I can sum up the parts that most people get confused. Take note that this is NOT an in-depth FAQ. This is just what most people would appreciate knowing before going in.
What the heck do these stats do?
If you've played literally any other RPG ever, you know exactly what these do. Unlike most RPGs, these are refilled after every battle by default. If they go down to zero, then we've gotta talk about our next stat...
Obviously stands for "Life Points". When a character is down, they're not strictly "out" yet; as long as they have some of these, they can be healed back up, and will automatically revive outside battle. An enemy can still attack a character while they're down, and when they do, this is what goes down. When a character's LP goes to 0, they go down for the count, and have to be brought to an Inn (or use a Sanctuary Stone) to refill this stat. Despite what people will tell you, this is NOT permanent.
The manual calls them "Weapon Points", but they're actually called 'Waza Points', which translates to the more fitting "Technique Points". Physical techniques (as well as every technique used by monsters) use these up. Pretty self-explanatory. What isn't self-explanatory is the fact that these refill over time when a character is not in the active party.
JP are "Jutsu Points", basically this game's MP. Like WP, these refill over time when a character is outside your active party.
Where is the EXP?
You don't level up in the usual sense in this game; character advancement works differently for each of the four character races.
What do all these races do?
These characters' stats go up at the end of each battle. The stats that grow depend on what you did in battle; effectively, you level up what you use. Note that mixing tech types has the effect of diluting your stat gains.
On the surface, mystics work a lot like humans, but the way they advance is a little funky: on their own, the only stats that increase after battle are CHA, HP, WP, and JP. To increase their other stats, they have to absorb monsters using their MysticSword, MysticGlove, and MysticBoots. When you do this, one of three things will happen:
- The enemy takes a little damage, and if it kills them, they get absorbed.
- The enemy is instantly absorbed, but takes no damage.
- The enemy instantly dies, but isn't absorbed.
Once they absorb a monster, their stats get a boost, and they learn a new skill under the one you used to absorb the monster. As you can imagine, mystics take a bit of careful strategy to build up, but that just makes it more fun to use them, in my opinion. And don't worry if they don't have all their mystic items, they'll get those after battles.
And they all come with the gift for Mystic magic.
While they can equip anything a human can, they can't learn weapon techs like humans do. All that said, I think mystics are worth trying out at least once. You'll need to get a grip on them for Asellus's route, at any rate.
Mecs are a lot of fun; essentially, rather than stats increasing through battle, you just slap whatever equipment you've got on them, and watch how it changes their stats. If you've got the equipment to spare, you can make these guys into nukes very quickly. They also can absorb abilities from enemy mecs, though half the time absorbing a mec will just refill your WP.
So, you know that whole "absorbing" thing I've been talking about with the last three races? These guys have that as their sole means of advancement, and it's all up to random chance. They can absorb enemy monsters and mystics, gaining new skills by doing so, and occasionally even turning into a different monster!
Advancement for monsters is more of a maze and a gamble than an upward slope. If you're willing to experiment and take risks (read: abuse Quick Save a lot), then you can potentially make a real powerhouse of a character. If you like how fusion works in the Shin Megami Tensei games, you might find monsters a fun class.
How do I manage skills?
Pretty simple. For humans and mystics, you can't learn new skills while all your skill slots are full, so you'll want to store the ones you aren't using in your inventory. To do this, select a skill, and move it over to "Seal".
Who do I pick first?
For first-time players, picking the right scenario is a key part of making a good first impression in this game. Now, if you have the time and patience to try each scenario for a few minutes and go forward with the ones you like best, that's perfectly fine, but those of you who want to do it one at a time, here's a list of characters in descending order of reccomendation and level of finishedness.
Of all the routes, Red's is the most straightforward. While some might find the initial strict linearity stifling, it still does a good job of telegraphing the main quest once the game opens up. Also, the plot is just a lot of good cheesy fun.
While starting as a mec might sound odd, this is another route that does a good job telegraphing what you need to do. Also, mecs are just cool in general.
This one is pretty barebones, all things considered, but if you're looking for a non-linear one that still retains some semblance of structure (unlike Lute's), then this one's for you. Just don't expect much from the plot.
This route's main character is a monster, meaning the gameplay is going to be the most obtuse of the bunch, but as far as quest direction goes, this one's very upfront about what you need to do.
This one has a solid story, but there's a massive gap in the 2nd act where they didn't have time to implement much actual plot, and you're forced to wander aimlessly until the plot finds you. Still nowhere near as bad as...
This one's so violently unfinished that it hurts. New plot points show up without any explanation, and there's a massive gap between the main quest and the endgame that forces you to grind before taking on the final boss. On the plus side, we get to see a bit of Asellus's story that didn't make it into her route.
Oh, poor, poor Lute. At least Fuse later got a novel adaptation of what his route would've been like, but Lute got nothing. Oddly enough, despite featuring in both T260G's and Riki's quests, he has no real plot of his own. An introductory scene, and an endgame that can be accessed anytime, but nothing else.
My best guess is that Lute's route was supposed to be the one that would tie all the others together, since he's recruitable in every route, and his route is said to take place after all the others. I like the idea that, after he's helped everyone else in their quests, they all help him avenge his father in return.
Save early, and save often! Press Triangle and R2 to do a Quick Save before you try anything.
While Light and Shadow are the kinds of magic you can get the earliest, I recommend planning ahead for who you want to know which magic.
Remember that you can recruit Silence in the Shadow Trial, so do that one first if you want him!