Sigma Star Saga Review

Developer: Namco Publisher: Namco
Release Date: August 16, 2005 Also On: None

The RPG genre of games has visited almost every type of battle system imaginable, whether it be turn-based battles, hack ‘n’ slash, or even card battling. Namco has now added another type of battle system to the list: space shooter. I kid you not. Sigma Star Saga is an RPG with a space shooter battle engine. Now, for those of you who think that such a thing could never work, let me assure you that the premise that allows for a space shooter battle engine is perfectly reasonable given the storyline.

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Sigma Star Saga outlines the story of a fighter pilot, Ian Recker, from Earth, starting with the repulsion of an invasion by an alien race known as the Krill. After the invasion is successfully repelled, the fighter pilot goes undercover into the Krill in an effort to defeat them from within. As you progress in the game, the story gets interesting, with Ian getting caught up in moral quandaries about which side he is really loyal to, but beyond that, I won’t spoil any details but to say that the game boasts multiple possible endings.

Anyway, the graphics in this game look like they were based on anime, and they are done very well. The planet designs are laid out nicely, and the characters look as realistic as can be expected from an anime-like game on the GBA. There is no slowdown to speak of in the space-shooting levels even when a lot of enemies are on the screen, and the space shooter levels are also laid out very well graphically. Overall, the graphics look very good, as if a lot of time was put into making sure they were of high quality for the system.

So far as sound goes, the sound effects are pretty much standard for the situations that the game presents you with. There is no voice acting, but rather you have to read text-based conversations. However, I know of very few, if any, GBA games that have much voice acting, so that isn’t really a significant complaint. The music is pretty good though, and each song seems appropriate for what you are doing while it plays. Overall, the sound does everything that can logically be expected of it, and a little more on the music side of things.

The gameplay in this game is, at its core, an RPG with a space shooter battle engine. As such, the game is basically split into two parts: an exploration mode where you walk around and accomplish objectives, and a space shooter battle mode where you fight enemy ships and gain experience and levels. Both modes seem pretty good for what they are, but each has drawbacks to it.

The exploration mode is where most of the progress in the game is made. It is in the exploration mode that you will advance the story by finding items or viewing cut-scenes at predetermined places, or enhance your battle capabilities by finding gun data. There are enemies in the exploration mode, but they give you no experience for defeating them, although occasionally they will drop a health pack or a smart bomb. It’s just as easy to avoid them as to fight them in many cases.

The main problem is that the battle in the exploration mode is overly simplistic, being just line yourself up with the enemy and hit the fire button. You can only fire straight in the direction you’re facing. Other than the simplistic nature of the combat though, there is little to complain about. I should also mention that you can use the B button to run if you want to move faster in this mode.

Where this game really shines though is in the space shooter mode. There are two ways to enter space shooter mode. First, there is the obvious method of the random battle. This is an RPG after all, and what would an RPG be without random battles? The premise for random battles is that whenever the Krill Starbase lands on a planet, it sends out a fleet of unmanned ships to patrol the area. When one of these ships is in danger, it automatically transports a Krill pilot into its cockpit to deal with the threat. This explanation certainly makes sense, and it seems appropriate for a science-fiction based RPG.

When you enter a random battle, there are many variables. First of all, there are multiple different random battle shooter segments that can be entered. Some of them require you to kill a certain number of enemy ships to get out of them, while some of them require you to kill a mini-boss. Either way, when you kill a ship, at least one little circular thing will be left behind. You gain experience by collecting these. When you have fulfilled the victory conditions for the random battle, you will be transported back to where you were when you entered it.

There are only a few possible random scenarios in any given situation, making them easy to memorize your way through, but matters are complicated by the fact that you never know what kind of ship you’ll have when you enter the random battle. Some are bigger and move slower, making an otherwise easy segment more difficult. However, each ship has its own weapon that you can switch to from your selected weapon type, which is sometimes a useful thing to have.

The other way to enter the space shooter mode is by reaching a scripted battle point. By stepping on one of these, you call a ship to you and can go into something more like a level from an actual space shooter game. Unlike the random battles, the type of ship that is called to you is predetermined for this type of space shooting stage, and your objective isn’t to beat a mini-boss or a certain number of enemies, but to get to the end and defeat a boss. These levels aren’t as easy as the random battles, however, with many of them, even from the very beginning of the game, being very difficult and requiring precise flying in some sections.

In the space shooter mode, regardless of whether you are in a random battle or a predetermined one, you can gain experience by collecting the experience spheres that I mentioned earlier. At certain intervals, you will level up, which will increase the damage done to enemies by your shots and also decrease the amount of damage done to you when you get hit. You can also customize what type of weapon you wish to take with you into battle with various gun data that you collect in the exploration mode. You can customize the shot type, the bullet type, and the impact type, and as you progress into the game you will find better, more effective versions of all three of these.

As an RPG, you’ll find that this game will take you a while to beat. It’s not one of those games that you’ll be able to finish in a day or two. Beyond that, there are two possible endings your first time through, and you unlock two more possible endings after you’ve beaten it once, so there is some incentive to play more than once to try to get the different endings. These two factors lead to a high replay value for the game. The game is also highly creative since this is the first RPG I’ve known of that had this type of a battle engine. If you are a fan of RPG’s and horizontal space shooters, I’d recommend getting this game. Even if RPG’s aren’t your thing, if you like space shooters, you should enjoy this game anyway.

Graphics: 8
Sound: 7
Gameplay: 7
Creativity: 9
Replay Value/Game Length: 8
Final: 7.9
Written by Martin Review Guide

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