Diehard GameFAN Hall of Shame Nomination: Unlimited SaGa

Every week, we will present a new game to be nominated for the Diehard GameFAN Hall of Fame and Hall of Shame. These nominations will occur every Monday and Friday, respectively. Our standards are just like the Baseball Hall of Fame: every game will be voted on by members of the staff, and any game that gets 75% of the vote – with a minimum of four votes – will be accepted – or thrown – into their respective Hall.

Game: Unlimited SaGa
Developer: Square Enix
Publisher: Square Enix
Release Date: 06/17/2003
System Released On: Playstation 2
Genre: RPG

Who Nominated The Game: Sean Madson

Why Was It Nominated: The decision to choose this title was more symbolic to me than anything. You see, once upon a time, Squaresoft and Enix were two separate and competing entities. In the NES, SNES, and PS1 eras I was quite fond of anything that these two giants put out and it wasn’t just Final Fantasy and Dragon Quest. Square had Chrono Trigger, Secret of Mana, & Parasite Eve and Enix had Star Ocean, Grandia, & Valkyrie Profile. It was pure gaming bliss at the time, and I didn’t think anything would change in the following generation.

It did.

Playstation 2 had its share of titles that I enjoyed. I was hooked on Final Fantasy X, Kingdom Hearts remains a franchise I stick with today, and even The Bouncer was mildly entertaining. However, in 2003, it was announced that Squaresoft and Enix were planning to merge. It didn’t seem like a big deal at the time. After all, it was just two RPG giants pooling their resources together to craft their games. But the franchises I held most sacred began falling apart.

It started innocently at first. Final Fantasy XI turned into an MMO and despite the rocky start grew immensely in popularity. Drakengard, despite its flaws, was also a decent time. But eventually games began to emerge such as Dawn of Mana and Dirge of Cerberus: Final Fantasy VII which crap all over their respective franchises. And then there was Unlimited SaGa.

While technically developed when Squaresoft was its own company, it released at a time where I had experienced a wave of mediocre releases from them, some of which I mentioned above. This one in particular was the straw that broke the camel’s back as they say, and stands out in my mind as an awful gaming experience as a result. But is it enough to shame it forever?

All in Favour:

Sean Madson – Perhaps it’s not fair to single out Unlimited SaGa. After all, I’ve never really enjoyed any of the titles in the franchise. Final Fantasy Legend I, II, & III were all SaGa titles that I played to completion and I consider them mediocre at best, absolutely aggravating at worst. So perhaps going into Unlimited SaGa I was destined for disappointment. It still doesn’t undo the horror that I experienced.

I was mesmorized by the game’s watercolor visuals and alluring soundtrack. So imagine my surprise when the actual game started and I reacted with “What the hell is this?!?” I didn’t have a problem with the static images and using a map to navigate and do business in town. And I thought having seven playable characters with different stories was a neat idea. But once it was time to venture outside of town, I felt like someone pulled a really cruel bait and switch on me.

I wasn’t even controlling a character anymore. I was a set piece on what appeared to be a board game. You thought the linear path in Final Fantasy XIII was awful? Try moving a chess piece around a monopoly board for 20 hours straight and see how much fun that is. There were also traps and things littered around that you couldn’t see, but almost always inevitably sprung.

Combat wasn’t much better. At least you could visually see your characters this time, but everything just seemed too random. Your attacks were controlled by reels that continuously spun around, kinda like Tifa’s limit break in Final Fantasy VII. Except this was the whole game. Like an enraged child, I turned the game off, promptly returned it, and vowed to avoid Square Enix titles like they were poison.

Of course, as everyone knows, I still play Square Enix games and contrary to my above rant, I still enjoy many of them. However, it does seem like for every The World Ends With You and Kingdom Hearts: Birth by Sleep, we end up with a Final Fantasy XIV: Online and Front Mission Evolved. You can’t win ’em all I guess.

Ashe Collins – “Unlimited Saga on the PS2? Tell me you didn’t pay money for this!” Yeah it’s bad. I have no idea what they were trying to accomplish with this one but it went so far out of left field and into the realm of I don’t know where that I can’t even return this sucker for fear of inflicting it on someone else. It was so bad that my son quit playing it and went outside to rinse his brain of the effects even after I warned him, and this is the kid we can’t pry from his PC except for work and to play table-top D&D. While I might give an A for effort, effort doesn’t make something that everyone can actually play and enjoy and this is far from enjoyable.

All Opposed:

Christopher BowenUnlimited Saga isn’t really a good game. It’s inaccessible to even dedicated JRPG fans, pretentious, and crammed so much bullshit into the game that it was a chore to play for longer than a couple of hours. In short, it’s virtually everything that’s annoyed me about JRPGs this decade.

But it’s not really a BAD game, either. Once you get into it, there’s some value to be had. Not enough value to justify a new purchase, but definitely worth the $4 or so you could get it for at Gamestop. For me to vote a game as one of the worst of all time, it has to suck beyond just being a very bad video game, and I don’t even consider Unlimited Saga to be *that* bad of a game. It didn’t even really kill the Saga name; we still clamour for the Saga 3 remake that we will never, ever get in America, despite virtually every Saga game of this decade being mediocre or worse.

To put it succinctly, Unlimited Saga‘s not a 10 as birds go; she’s got flaws, and is maybe a little crazy. But with that said, I’d still hit it.

Mark B. – I… what? Wait, what? Really? No. Forget the fact for the moment that I actually kind of like the Saga series for a moment. Forget the fact that Unlimited Saga did gangbusters numbers in Japan because it’s a weird Japanese game with no real marketability outside of its home country, making it more “niche” than “bad”. Forget, even, for a moment the fact that the game does have some awkward gameplay mechanics to it that aren’t friendly to new players and probably aren’t going to be terribly friendly to anyone not willing to suffer a bit for their enjoyment.

I’m not even going to say “Unlimited Saga isn’t one of the worst games I’ve ever played”, I’m going to say “Unlimited Saga isn’t one of the worst SQUARE ENIX games I’ve ever played”.

I’m sorry, but we’re talking about a company that produced The Bouncer, Dirge of Cerberus and Driving Emotion Type S and expected these games to be things people actually paid money for. This? Not even close. Sean, I know that you probably hated this game a lot, and I can completely empathize with you, but dude? I gotta loan you some games. Lemme mail you Dark Angel (either one of them, they’re both a shitpile), and assuming you don’t hate me enough to drive across the country and murder me in my sleep, you’ll see what I’m talking about.

J. Rose – The SaGa games are easily the least popular of Square Enix’s catalog, and for good reason. Mechanically they are different, and offer an RPG experience that is quite removed from your standard Final Fantasy fare. Thats not to say the games are for everyone, and Unlimited SaGa is by far the hardest addition in the series to get into, that said, I don’t find it fair to condemn the game for being overly ambitious albeit inaccessible in a lot of respects.

Result: 2 In Favour, 3 Opposed, 40% Approval = SPARED

Conclusion: Despite shaking my once unwavering faith in Square Enix products, Unlimited SaGa saves itself from an eternity of shame. While everyone can agree that the game is outrageously inaccessible and downright masochistic in its design, it is still a functional product that can be enjoyed if you’re willing to give it the time of day.

That said, I’m sure those of you reading this may have tried it yourself (or will try it based on morbid curiosity) and go “Hm, it isn’t THAT bad.” Maybe not, but it certainly came as a shock the first time I tried it, not having read any reviews prior to diving in. I normally try to stay away from games I think I won’t like, which explains why when asked to come up with what I think are the worst games I’ve ever played, these are the kinds of things that come to mind. Some may look at that as a good thing though, having been sheltered from the worst that our wonderful hobby has to offer. Though I’m sure someday I will stumble into something truly horrible without realizing it and when that happens, you all will see it here.

Next week, we delve into the world of wrestling games. But which one will it be? Stay tuned and find out!



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6 responses to “Diehard GameFAN Hall of Shame Nomination: Unlimited SaGa”

  1. Nigel Chaos Avatar
    Nigel Chaos

    Can we suggest games for the hall of fame/shame? I’d really like to see a vote on Chrono Trigger!

    1. Christopher Bowen Avatar

      Nigel – All I can say is that we have other games scheduled in our pipeline. ;)

      Justin – Consider the damage that Unlimited Saga did. It further damaged Square-Enix’s name after the merger, effectively killed the Saga series in America (there’s a couple of games out in Japan soon that we’ll likely not get, and Unlimited Saga is a large reason of blame), and really frustrated a lot of people who bought the game for $50 new specifically because it was a Square-Enix title. As Sean mentioned, they’d been getting burned for awhile, and this just tore the skin off.

      I didn’t agree it was a Hall of Shame game, but that doesn’t make the nomination a bad one. Sean was perfectly justified in nominating this.

  2. Nigel Chaos Avatar
    Nigel Chaos

    for the hall of fame, I mean.

  3. Justin Holmes Avatar
    Justin Holmes

    Seriously? Seriously? This game is garbage and pretty pointless but it’s hard to argue as the worst anything of all time. Seriously? I’m with Mark B., dude. Have you just not played a lot of games, or something?

  4. Sean Madson Avatar
    Sean Madson

    I’m pretty sure that I indicated in my writeup that I tend to stay away from bad games.

  5. Mark B. Avatar
    Mark B.

    To my mind, any game is eligible for nomination to the HoS or HoF at any time. If someone wanted to nominate Batman: Dark Tomorrow for the HoF or Shadow of the Colossus for the HoS, hey, more power to you.

    On the other hand, I play bad games as a hobby, so, y’know. I’m going to laugh a bit if a game isn’t all that bad. That’s just me.

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