Beginner’s/Returner’s Guide to SaGa Frontier Remastered (Switch)
One of the most beloved SaGa entries has finally arrived on modern consoles! While many veterans are sure to return to this unique adventure, others will experience it for the very first time — it may even be their first exposure to the quirky SaGa series! Although I’ve loved this series for decades, I’ll be the first to admit that it is notoriously difficult and obscure. Luckily, SaGa Frontier is one of the most approachable entries in the series, and the remaster includes additional features that only sweeten the pot.
Even so, SaGa Frontier Remastered can still be quite the undertaking for those unaware of its nuances. For that reason, I’ve compiled a list of spoiler-free tips that should help you get started, many of which also apply to other SaGa entries on the Switch.
What Is SaGa Frontier Remastered?
SaGa Frontier Remastered is a remastered version of the original 1997 game for the PS1. Despite the “remaster” moniker, it is a bit more than just a fresh coat of paint and some modern conveniences thrown in. This version includes a sizable amount of cut content from the original game, most of which surrounds the newly added eighth scenario.
The most striking feature of SaGa Frontier Remastered in comparison to the traditional JRPG is its Free Scenario system, which allows the player to experience the story of seven (now eight) different protagonists, each with their own goals and ambitions. While these stories are compartmentalized, there is quite a bit of crossover between the massive pool of playable characters, and the Fuse scenario aims to shed additional light on all main protagonists after the completion of their respective stories.
Outside of the newest content, narratively speaking, the game is still very much a product of its time and will probably not win you over through the stories alone. However, if you are a fan of nonlinear gameplay, love to grind, enjoy freedom in customization, and aren’t put off by some rough edges here and there, you will likely enjoy it!
SaGa Frontier Remastered features seven playable protagonists, with the newly added eighth unlocking after completing any of the original seven. While all scenarios have moments where the player can go virtually anywhere and do anything, a few are better starting points for newcomers due to their more structured narratives.
If you would prefer to ease yourself into the game’s nuances, consider starting with Red or Emelia, as their campaigns are relatively easy to follow (with T260G as a distant third). Nothing is stopping you from starting with any of the scenarios, but several of them can be quite obtuse at times. You have been warned.
Races and Progression: An Overview
Each of the protagonists in SaGa Frontier Remastered features their own stories, progression, and characters to befriend (many that are shared/recruitable across multiple stories). This entry maintains many staple SaGa progression systems and races. Humans, mystics, mechs, and monsters all have their own separate means of progression, and none are really comparable to the traditional RPG level-up system.
Humans have a chance at improving multiple stats after each fight based on their actions. Additionally, those wielding a sword may learn (or glimmer) new abilities in the midst of combat, while gun and magic users may discover something new upon being victorious. Basic spells can be purchased outright, but advanced magic can only be learned through combat and only after receiving that school of magic’s “gift” (ie. completing a specific questline). Humans are extremely versatile, but that versatility comes at the expense of slow progression in comparison to other races.
Mystics receive some stat increases after each fight, but they are far more limited in that regard compared to humans. Instead, they make use of mystic weaponry in order to absorb enemy skills and also bolster stats. Furthermore, mystics aren’t proficient in any weapon (and thus cannot learn abilities) but are excellent magic users. The exception to this rule is the half-mystic Asellus, who can take advantage of the best of both human and mystic progression. Thanks to these differences, mystics are generally much quicker to develop than humans, albeit at the expense of some freedom in customization.
Mechs are a hardy race(?) that also take advantage of absorbing enemies, but they are limited to those of the mechanical variety. They receive substantial bonuses to wearing equipment that are far beyond the base stats provided for the other races. Additionally, their robotic nature makes them naturally resistant to most negative status ailments. While they are a solid asset to any team, they are certainly the most gear dependent of the races in the long run.
Monsters absorb enemies like mystics and mechs and can change into completely different monsters as a result. Although they are the easiest race to build and maintain in theory, they are extremely limited in terms of equipment choices and can devolve into a lesser enemy if you aren’t careful. That said, monsters can pack some serious punch and can be built with some incredible support abilities if you know what you’re doing. In general, it’s best to stick with absorbing the strongest enemies possible, but even absorbing lesser enemies will provide opportunities for new skills, form changes, and a base 4HP upgrade with each absorption.
As daunting as all of this may seem, there’s no wrong way to build your party. For every scenario, SaGa Frontier Remastered provides space for 15+ party members (of which you may only use five at a time), so mix and match your recruits to your heart’s content. Or if you want to be a complete masochist, build out three separate parties of five for each scenario (good luck with that, though).
Those coming from Romancing SaGa 3 may be disappointed in the limited variety of weapons available in SaGa Frontier Remastered, but the tradeoff is that they’re all viable. Weapon types include swords (standard and katana), fists, and guns (standard and heavy). Swords have the most versatility in terms of offense and defense, but take a long while to develop. Standard swords and katanas have some overlap when it comes to abilities, but a few are only learned by using a katana. Fists, like swords, have a long development time but are focused more on single-target abilities (though they do have a few multi-target ones). The loss of versatility, however, paves way for one of the most devastating single-target abilities in the game: DSC.
Guns are very easy to master, but they take some time to come into their own. Once a character is able to dual-wield strong guns, skills like Trick Shot and Bounding Shot can pack a wallop for very little WP (points used to fuel weapon-based abilities). Heavy guns are a bit different in that they neither allow abilities to be learned, nor are they able to be dual-wielded in combat. Instead, they often have unique features (elemental damage, conal/line/all targeting) baked-in from the start, making them great options for the races that can’t learn weapon abilities (i.e. mystics and mechs).
Finally, there is magic. As alluded to earlier, basic spells can be purchased outright while advanced techniques are learned in combat after receiving any given spell school’s “gift.” There are five (technically six) sets of two diabolically-opposing disciplines of magic, which basically means you can only learn one of each discipline at a time (if you have light, for example, you can’t learn shadow). There are some incredibly strong spells in the game, making mage-type characters an essential tool in any party lineup.
There’s no wrong way to build your team, but consider sticking to whatever weapon type each character comes with as they are usually quicker to master moves that way.
SaGa Frontier Remastered isn’t the kind of RPG that can be rushed through with limited grinding. It’s a good idea to break off from the campaign every now and then in order to prepare for what is to come next, and not for just one or two fights. There are many points where you will want to do a lot of grinding to overcome certain obstacles. Since combat makes up the majority of your time, you’ll want to try and be efficient with it. In general, it pays to fight the hardest enemies possible without spinning your wheels. While enemies do scale to an extent (battle rank), certain areas are always tuned more towards the higher end of the spectrum (i.e. the Bio Lab in Shrike or the Swamp in Yorkland).
Regardless, character growth will come to a crawl should you stick to certain areas too long, and that can potentially be bad if you aren’t getting consistent stat gains. Reason being is that every victory will slowly increase that battle rank, which can scale up enemies before you’re ready for that next challenge. This should not be an issue at all as long as you’re not going out of your way to fight waves of trivial enemies, however.
Some of these areas will still provide some stat boosts and glimmering opportunities, but nowhere near the level that more challenging areas will. Conversely, it’s often better to stick with easier zones as long as they continue to provide a steady stream of stat boosts and you aren’t itching for optimal glimmering conditions — the stat increases alone will certainly help you better tackle the more challenging zones later. If you feel like progression has slowed down, though, it’s time to explore one of many other areas the game has to offer you.
Also, SaGa Frontier Remastered has added in a “flee” command (if “additional features” are chosen at the start of the game) that is immensely useful in getting out of sticky situations with lesser enemies, or when you’re just ready to stop fighting and advance the plot. Oh, and there’s a handy 2x and 3x speed option that will drastically cut down on the time spent grinding.
The ideal way of making short work of foes is through combos. SaGa Frontier Remastered allows any number of party members (up to all five) to coordinate their attacks for massive damage, accompanied by some visual ecstasy. Every subsequent attack increases bonus damage done, making five-person assaults some of the most powerful attacks in the game. The nitty gritty of chaining combos together is beyond the scope of this article (but feel free to get lost in deep analyses provided by other people, such as this one), but in general it’s best to mix and match abilities in order to create combos (very few abilities can self-combo, or be used back-to-back) while focusing all single-target actions on the same opponent.
Fortunately, the remastered version of the game keeps a short history of combos performed, allowing the player to permanently retain three for future reference and several more that will be replaced with newly performed combos over time. Embrace combos, and you will win the game.
Master Of One
While nothing is stopping you from building a character that can do a little bit of everything, it typically isn’t the best course of action, at least early on. Having a character focus on either weapon or magic arts specifically will eventually allow them to “master” that specialization, reducing the cost of abilities in that branch. This goes a long way in improving your efficiency in the early game, but it is generally less important once you’ve learned the abilities you want and have a healthy stock of WP (for weapons) and/or JP (for magic).
There are many scenarios where diversifying a character’s capabilities is useful (e.g. having magic users double as gun users), but in general, it’s better to focus on a base level of stat and specialization competency before broadening the palette. And when it comes to sword and fist users specifically, make sure to keep at least one (preferably two) ability slots open at all times to encourage glimmering opportunities (you will NOT get sword or fist glimmers if you don’t have open space).
Gun and magic users, however, don’t need to worry about an open ability slot since their new techniques come after the conclusion of fights. Honestly though, it’s best to keep at least one slot open on all human characters, regardless of specialization, since this will allow for the occasional dodge glimmer to be learned (e.g. dodge gaze, dodge spores, etc.) as well.
All The Saves
There’s a reason why SaGa Frontier Remastered utilizes an autosave, quicksave, and a large amount of manual save slots: it can be brutal and unforgiving. Moreover, it is quite easy to mistakenly enter one of many points of no return, which may block you from experiencing certain things in a character’s story, or forever place you in front of an overwhelmingly challenging foe. Both manual and quicksaves are a must, and the latter can be done at any time simply by pressing ZR+X.
While the extremely handy scenario log (basically a diary of what has happened and where to go) in this version helps prevent some potential screwups, it is by no means foolproof. With that, be sure to make use of the multiple manual save states so that you can keep the progression ball in your court. Additionally, pressing all shoulder buttons, Select, and Start simultaneously will allow you to quickly return to the title screen (which is WAY more useful than it sounds).
Waste Not, Want Not
Unlike most RPGs, SaGa Frontier Remastered doesn’t throw gobs of money at you. There are very few “natural” opportunities to make money outside of just grinding enemies. Even then, the payoff is minimal. On top of that, there are very few items that can be sold back to vendors and those that can generally sell for pennies. Because of that, be very careful how you go about spending money.
Dungeon and monster loot offset this quite a bit, though. It’s entirely possible to scrounge up enough gear through those means without ever purchasing much of anything, but it takes time and persistence. Instead, it is best to supplement the gear you find with vendor items rather than throwing the checkbook at every vendor you come across. At first, buy only what you NEED and not what you WANT, for the very next dungeon could hold treasures that will save you a lot of money. This becomes less of an issue later on when some late-game enemies stop being so stingy with their money drops.
Of course, there are ways around the game’s laughable economy (hence the aforementioned emphasis on “natural” opportunities). The original SaGa Frontier was notorious for exploits surrounding the junk shop and gold ingot trading system, and I can confirm that the former is still intact in this remastered version (I imagine the latter is, as well). Neither trick is mandatory for progression, nor would I recommend any player abusing them if you’re looking for the best experience possible. “Best” is subjective, however, so feel free to explore both the takonomics (gold ingot) or junk shop tricks if you want an easy solution to the “problem”!
Shields, Shields Everywhere
Make a point to equip each and every party member (that can) with a shield, as they are one of the most useful pieces of gear in the game. Not only can they provide various stat boosts and bonuses to resistances, they can also completely negate various forms of damage (depending on the shield). While they don’t work every time and are less useful with certain character specializations, they will undoubtedly save some lives along the way.
When In Doubt, Refer To A Guide
Without a doubt, SaGa Frontier Remastered is one of the most accessible entries in the series, and the inclusion of the scenario log here (among other additions) has only made that more of the case. However, there will still be many moments of confusion and frustration depending on your tolerance of, well, the game not telling you what to do next.
While I still encourage new players to try and experience the game naturally first (beyond these spoiler-free tips and those provided from the in-game manual, of course), don’t hesitate to follow an external guide to a T or simply have it on standby for the occasional reference. The truth is that some of the game’s layers can be quite obscure, like certain points of no return, missable characters, etc. If the idea of missing something or the potential of having to wander aimlessly a bit isn’t quite your cup of tea, then feel free to follow a REAL guide!
That said, the Free Scenario system (and their short runtimes) encourages multiple playthroughs anyway; some individual protagonists even have multiple endings you can experience. That freedom is exactly what makes SaGa Frontier such a beautiful thing, as a certain playthrough for one person may be a little bit different for someone else. There is a surprising amount of depth to SaGa Frontier Remastered, and it is your choice as to how to unravel its many layers. As a final word of advice: explore each protagonist’s scenario in the order of your choosing, but save Fuse’s for last! Other than that, good luck and happy trails!
I hope you’ve found these tips useful! If you have any questions or additional (spoiler-free) tips to share, please do so in the comments below! And if you plan on picking up the game, let me know what path you plan to take!