The Seven Year Itch

I’ve owned Unlimited Saga for about seven years. I remember getting it in a swanky cardboard sleeve that folded out like a posh DVD boxset. It comprised of one disc and an instruction book thicker than the norm, which detailed the ins-and-outs of the game in English and gave you instructions on how to turn your PS2 on in several others. The disc also has a trailer for Final Fantasy X-2 on it, which is not so much a trailer as the opening FMV from the game – and I’m sure there was a second disc with something else Final Fantasy X-2 related on it, but I have no clue where that is. I’m sure there was probably some art cards or some nonsense with it. I may still have them in my drawer of things that came out of game cases.

I played it. I didn’t like it. I didn’t “get” it. It’s one of those, like The Last Remnant, that’s kind of an experimental concept for how an adventure game should play out. It does make more sense than The Last Remnant, though. Just.

You play the game by moving along a path which uncovers itself as you move. Using the left thumbstick to highlight an exit from a room you’ll hop into the next – sometimes there’ll be monsters, other times treasure chests or, if you’re really unlucky, some kind of death-filled trap.

It’s a lot like playing a Dungeons & Dragons table-top game or, I realised as I replayed it, the Munchkin Quest series of games, where you randomly build a dungeon as you go, while fighting weird monsters like skeletons in top hats along the way. Every thing that happens – whether it’s unlocking a door, disarming a trap or fighting a monster uses a slot machine interface – green for good, red for bad and dynamite for, well, you blew it. Fighting is different, as your slot machine reels carry the attacks you can pull off – initally all low level rubbish but you unlock greater moves as you progress, if you can hit the slots.

As I said, I didn’t get it at first. There are seven characters (including, just so you know, the obligatory young witch with big eyes) to play the game with. Each tells you whether it’s suited to beginners or experienced players. I have never made it through the first character – a pirate called Laura. I’ve never made it past the second town, if I’m honest. I always died. Or my weapons stopped working – they have durability, but at no point are you told how to sustain the durability of your weapons which leaves you in a situation where all you can do is punch monsters. Which leads, at this early stage, to a slow and painful death.

But then, not many days before you’re reading this, I gave the game another try. Just one last chance to make sense to me before I entered the details onto Ebay and hoped for something slightly above my starting price. Just one last chance to show me that actually it was a decent game.

Bloody hell, it only went and did it. I made it past the second town. I started to understand how things worked, and how I needed to progress. Everything started to click. I’ve died a couple of times, sure, and I’ve lost a few weapons along the way – but I can cope with that. It’s nothing in the greater scheme of things, because now the game’s telling me things like “Francis has unlocked the Leather Suit’s ability ‘Life Protector’”. That can only be a good thing, right?

I’m just happy that things have started to make sense at last. But now, of course, it means it can’t go on Ebay. I have seven characters to finish the game with and I’ve barely scratched the surface with one, I fear. The game is about the search for the Seven Wonders, so far my character hasn’t even mentioned the Seven Wonders so I suspect I’m a while off finishing this bugger yet – and then I have to do it six more times. Currently, I’m trying to get my hands on four more mismatched items which unleash the power of  Prince Henry’s special handed-down-from-generation-to-generation sword, which does make me wonder what I’ll have to do when I play Prince Henry’s storyline through…

I may be some time.







5 responses to “The Seven Year Itch”

  1. Andy T avatar
    Andy T

    I have Unlimited Saga too, and had the very same early experience that you did. I purchased the game during the golden years when I worked at GAME and as a result ended up with more games than it’s humanly possible to ever play, Like you I tried the first character, didn’t really like it and kind of gave up.

    Good luck on the revival I’d be really interested to know how it all pans out, though as you say it could be a while before we find out, as I recall when I got the game it was heralded as being the longest RPG known to man.

  2. Lauren avatar

    That game does haunt me. I was so excited when I first bought it back in college, but for the life of me I couldnt get through 2 hours of it. I had the cardboard box also and it was all shiny, pretty, etc. But the actual game … *shudder*

  3. Jake avatar

    Andy, I’ll see how I get on (I’m being mercilessly slaughtered at the moment if the truth be told and I’m already considering a restart to try a slightly different way of tackling the missions) and possibly do a follow up. It’s not actually a bad game once you get past the initial WTF is going on phase.

    Don’t tell me it’s the longest RPG known to man though…

  4. Celeste avatar

    As far as I’m concerned, games that know no end are the shizz! I haven’t discovered one yet though (MMORPGs don’t count). Oblivion is the closets I’ve come.

  5. Ninja avatar

    I owned Unlimited Saga (or SaGa) for a while many years ago. It made no sense to me at all so I went and flung it at someone in Game.

    Celeste, I think Disgaea is endless. Well, the story can end really (in several ways) but oh dear God the levelling system! I’m talking characters AND items! That is a game I still have 🙂

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