Players: 1 Player Game | Release Date: 06/17/03 | Genre: RPG
When normally seeing a new Square Enix game released, I would like to think I could trust that no matter what they release, it will offer some sort of magical Role Playing experience. For the most part, this theory is true. However, there have been a few exceptions to this rule. After playing Unlimited Saga, I am afraid to admit that not only is this another exception to the rule, it could be the worst Square Enix game ever released. Since the company hasn't been "officially" together for very long--allow me to rephrase this statement. This could be the worst game that either company has ever released. Yes, it is that bad.
In Unlimited Saga, you can choose from seven different characters, each with their own unique storyline. The stories will all be told and at the end, they will cross paths with each other. The cast of characters includes Judy, a ten year old witch, Armic, a furry, squirrel-like creature, Ruby, a fortune-teller, Kurt, a knight, Ventus, a mail carrier, Mythe, an inventor, and Laura, a former pirate. As you can see, each character is different and they all have their own goals to reach as their storyline unfolds. You may even run into some of the other characters while on your quest.
Before I talk about the really bad parts of Unlimited Saga, it is important that I point out the game has a very interesting element to it. The graphics are all 2D hand-drawn that look a lot like some sort of oil painting. The problem here is that everything is very static. A portrait of a character appears over a static background and the story is told. If the character moves into another room or to another area, the background will change. However, that is about as animated as the graphics during the non-combat gets.
I should also mention that the music is very good in Unlimited Saga. It is done by Masashi Hamauzu, the composer of Final Fantasy X. Besides the interesting look of the visuals, this is the only other area where Unlimited Saga shines.
So what is wrong with Unlimted Saga? The easiest thing would be for me to tell you that the gameplay sucks and just end the review. However, as painful as it is for me to relive what I have played, I will try to do so. In the game, you do not actually move your character around the screen. You do not journey into towns and talk to towns-folk. You don't even explore a 2D dungeon in search of bad guys. In the towns, you have a static background up and you move the cursor to the desired building. It is here where you can buy new equipment, talk to townsfolk, and learn where you should go next. Unfortunately, this same type of control is how you navigate through a dungeon. When entering a dungeon, you are almost playing a board game. To move through the map, you have to select which direction to go. You can run into dead-ends, monsters, treasure chests, or traps along the way. And if you thought getting stuck in a normal 2D or 3D dungeon was frustrating, just wait until you can't figure out how to advance through an "Unlimited Saga Board Game Dungeon."
Surely the combat is better though... right? Guess again. Just when you thought the combat system might make everything better, you are given a strange twist on the already established combat system. Each character has Life Points and Hit Points. If you have a hundred hit points and you get hit for a hundred or more points, you will lose one life point. The only way to get these stats back is to make it out of battle and rest. Combat becomes a series of frustrating encounters where enemies are much stronger than you could ever hope to be. To make matters worse, most of your attacks make sure of a slot machine called "the reel." Depending on what you land on will reveal the strength of your attack. This makes the game rely on a lot of luck instead of building up your characters to take on foes.
In the end, the static backgrounds for the story and navigating the world, along with a clumsy combat system, make this one of the worst games I have played in a long time. I am a huge fan of the RPG genre and haven't been this disappointed about an RPG in a very long time. On top of that, this is probably the worst game I have played all year. No matter if you enjoy Square or the RPG genre, do yourself a favor and avoid this game. Warn your friends and stop others from buying it at the store. That said, if you are looking forward to Final Fantasy X-2 as much as I am, you may want to rent Unlimited Saga just to see the extended preview trailer of the upcoming game.