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Unlimited Saga PlayStation 2

Published by Atari
Developed by Square Enix
Released: Out Now
Price: £39.99

I have come to expect a certain standard with all SquareSoft games over the years. The Final Fantasy games are all, in one way or another, excellent games that have provided many hours of enjoyment for millions of gamers. I have to be honest though and say that I'd never played any of the games developed by Enix before, but I would imagine they must have a decent pedigree for Square to have teamed up with them. Unlimited Saga is the first game to arrive for the PlayStation 2 from the newly formed Square Enix and it is, well how shall I put it?, different.

Initial impressions of Unlimited Saga are quite good when you realise you can choose to play as one of seven characters. There's Laura the ex-pirate, Armic a Chapa (a rodent like creature), Judy, Ruby, Mythe, Ventus and Kurt. Each have their own tale and in terms of replay value at least it certainly has promise. After you've picked your character, you'll witness some rather tedious mini story that attempts to flesh out the characters history and then it's off for a series of random encounters (that only sometimes appear to fit in with the supposed story), tedious quests and awful combat. Make no mistake even if you love the Final Fantasy series you'll do well to stomach what's on offer here for more than a few hours.

After you decide to leave town your character will become a poor looking graphic that is moved around a featureless map. The overall effect of this is that you're playing some kind of ugly board game. As you enter a territory you'll be given a choice of directions and you simply push the left analogue in that direction to head to the next location. Initially the map is concealed but as you explore, it's revealed. There is no point in it being concealed though as it doesn't show anything of importance, even when you have already been to a location. Occasionally you'll come to a location where an enemy has to be defeated or you'll stumble across an enemy whilst travelling and a battle will commence.

If the other elements of the game were hard to swallow the battles definitely leave a golf ball sized lump in the throat. Instead of just having hit points or HP as they are commonly know, you now have HP and LP (Life Points). The HP act as a shield for the LP and only when they're really low or expired can the LP be depleted. Once the LP are depleted though, your character will die. The combat is turn based and you'll have to choose five actions at once before attacking. Each character has their own recovery rate, which is activated when you choose 'stand by' as one of your actions. You can also use 'stand by' outside of battles too. When performing an attack you'll be shown a battle reel, which requires a button press to stop. What icon the reel lands on will determine the strength of your attack. You can also perform combo attacks with the reel, which leads to attacks of increased strength. It may not seem like a bad system but it's just unnecessarily complex and draws the battles out, which in turn leads to a boring experience.

The graphics, like the gameplay are really odd. There are no real cutscenes and instead we have 2D characters placed on the screen with speech bubbles containing their words. It's quite a shock considering Square are famous for their lavish productions to find that the game looks like it's been thrown together for the cheapest possible price. The battle graphics are simply hideous and are only just above PSone standard. The game is filled with static backgrounds and feels like an old fashioned point 'n' click rather than a 21st century RPG. Towns have a few locations which are represented by icons and clicking on them will simply cause the owner of the shop or other such building to appear as a flat 2D character for another speech bubble conversation. It's as if the 3D gaming revolution never occurred.

Over the last few days we've looked at games which have been excellent but have lacked subtitles. Unlimited Saga is the exact opposite in that the game is of little consequence but the subtitling and text provision is generally excellent. As we could not get any screenshots for this review we took the liberty of taking them ourselves and we've included as many screens as possible that show off this excellent text provision. All dialogue is subtitled except for the odd comment during battles and comments from the characters during character selection at the beginning of the game. All information is shown in text too. The manual that comes with the game is adequate and covers the basics of the gameplay.

It is difficult to come to terms with how poor Unlimited Saga really is. Going from the lofty heights of the Final Fantasy series to this is one hell of a come down and I for one hope the series never sees the light of day again unless, it is seriously revamped. The game feels odd and smacks of cheapness. It's almost like someone has tried to poorly imitate Square rather than the game actually coming from these legendary developers. It's difficult to see even the most dedicated console RPG fan persevering with such a disappointing effort. Definitely one to be missed or at least rented first.

Overall Game Rating: 4.0/10
No we've not made a mistake and that is the score it deserves. Poor from start to finish which unusually for Square (not Square Enix of course) feels cheap and nasty and very unsatisfying.

Deaf Gamers comment:
Excellent text provision but who cares when the game's this bad?