Adieu, Game Boy Advance: SIGMA STAR SAGA

Sigma Star Saga
Developer: WayForward
Publisher: Namco
Genre: 2D Side-Scrolling Shooter/ RPG hybrid
Release Date: 08/17/05

It’s a 2-D Shooter! It’s an RPG! It’s Sigma Star Saga. My original review of the game may look harsh, giving the game “only a 6.5, but long time readers know getting more than a 6 out of me is pulling teeth. I really enjoyed the game when I first reviewed it, but balance and appeal issues (due to most Americans lacking the skill and patience for shooters thanks to today’s casual gamer being spoon fed games that are so easy a chimp could beat them). It seems a lot of people did too, as Sigma Star Saga would go on to win two Inside Pulse Gaming awards in 2005: Best GBA game and best 2-D shooter. That’s mighty impressive!

From my original review:

The main character of Sigma Star Saga is Ian Wrecker. Ian is the last survivor of the Sigma Squadron, which is a group of fighter pilots. 60 years ago, an alien race named the Krill invaded Earth, boiled the oceans, and nearly destroyed the planet. Now they have returned. Ian managed to destroy a giant alien battleship, but at the cost of his partner’s lives.

Ian was then chosen by his commander office to spy on the Krill. With a fake history set up for him as a traitor to the Earth and jettisoned into space, Ian is forcibly enlisted by the Krill and begins working as a double agent, letting the United Earth Defense Force know what the Krill are up to.

During this time, Ian is linked with the Krill parasite, which allows him to speak Krillian and also fly their organic spaceships through a neural interface. Ian is also teamed up with a Krill female named Psyme, who makes Ice Queens look positively warm and cuddly.

As well, the more Ian becomes accepted and trusted by the aliens he has infiltrated, the more he learns that things aren’t as black and white as he thought. And that maybe…just maybe, he was working for the bad guys.

SSS rivals Xyanide for the best plot to ever be attached to a shooter. There’s constantly levels of intrigue and swerving so that even until the very end, you’re never sure who is the side you should be supporting…if any. Thankfully SSS give you multiple endings based on the choices you make.

One of the neatest things about SSS is also the one factor that might drive your average gamer screaming for their GBA. Each battle is random ala a normal turn-based RPG, but it also includes Ian being beamed into a completely random ship. Some are obviously better than others, and a good rule of thumb is, “the smaller the ship, the better it is.” So if you draw a big ship and you haven’t been to a save area in a while, it’s profanity time. Still, shooters are all about the challenge, and it’s a skilled gamer who can do a boss fight with the whale sized ship instead of the sugar cube sized one.

There’s also a great deal of weapon customization too. Outside of Gradius V or R-Type Final, I’ve never seen a shooter with so many options for your ship. Even those games just give you a lot of ships with varying weapon packages. SSS lets you mix and match so many different things, it’s intense. With ten thousand possible combinations, even I only tried out oh, 1% or so.

Sigma Star Saga is the newest of the ten games we’ll be taking quick looks at over this retrospectus. Sept 2005- Sept 2006 was kind of a bad year for the GBA, but the best game of 2005 still shines as brightly in my heart as it did when I first picked it up.