MS Saga: A New Dawn
PlayStation 2
Reviewed: 03/27/2006

In normal conversation, “MS” refers to a degenerative disease. Verily, one’s body starts out functioning fine as it ever has, but steadily loses the strength and other qualities it once had. How ironic that a process so similar would be the biggest disappointment in a game called MS Saga.

The game starts out as well as would be expected, with a decent opening anime, quality introduction to the story and two of its characters, and easy opening play. Players are immediately told of a “Great Fall” that happened 60 years before the game’s beginning that killed most of the world’s population. This seemed like the perfect excuse for the ones who survived to start building giant robots, because hey, this is an anime-based game and that’s what must be done. The gamers will then be introduced to Tristan, who lived in an orphanage until it was blown up by a mobile suit because hey, this is an anime-based game and that’s what must be done.

Screen Shot
Get used to seeing this.

Tristan then sets out for revenge. While this is normally a fantastic motivation, it turns out that Tristan really sucks at getting revenge. His vengeance is boring and takes entirely too long to achieve. MS Saga stretches anywhere from 60 to 75 hours. This is not an instant alarm, because great gameplay can make that all worthwhile, as demonstrated by other long titles like Dragon Quest VIII and Xenogears. But MS Saga doesn’t deliver there. Almost everything about the game is decidedly average….

At that many hours, and being a Gundam game, an entertaining story sure would be nice. While the story told isn’t really awful, the way it’s stretched so long is ridiculous. Shorter would have been better here, as after a while, caring about Tristan’s lame vengeance quest becomes clearly less fun than cheering for the Black Mobile Suit. Something has gone wrong with a game when the player hopes the bad guys crush the main character like a bug.

Battles in the game are standard turn-based RPG fare. They start with a simple enough premise: ride in robots and smash those who get in the way. From there, it adds two kinds of physical attacks in the forms of a standard melee move, or a ranged attack. Melee grants greater strength and ease of use, but can get the user into some dangerous situations. Ranged attacks are used for the more defensive types, and deciding when to use which is clearly intended to be a key strategy in major battles. There is no “magic” per se, but the “techniques” come close. These can have a wide range of effects that either use a pilot’s energy or the Gundam’s depending on the move in question. This system is actually respectable and is probably the highlight of MS Saga. Many boss battles can provide some good fun and even excitement.

Screen Shot
Getting some shopping done.

A combat-related downfall, however, would be that far too many of the fights are cakewalks. The vast majority of world map-based fights will force the player to go through all the motions of a battle simply to fend off an enemy that stood absolutely no chance of causing any real harm. Exceptions would be when entering a new area, but even then, it isn’t long until the characters catch up and surpass their strongest foes. Some side areas are a different story, though, which is nice. It’s just too bad there couldn’t have been, say, selectable difficulty levels to separate the men from the boys.

New Dawn‘s graphics are plenty good–nothing jaw-dropping, but nothing to shrug off, either. Sound effects are noteworthy, as the effects sounds much like those of the various Gundam anime series. The game’s music is also quite fitting, with a few praiseworthy tracks.

Perhaps what BanDai was hoping for when making MS Saga so bloody long was that the player would become enthralled with the Mobile Suit building. The ability to build one’s own combat machine is pretty unique and can be pretty darn fun. Gundam enthusiasts especially will dig this aspect; it gives the player creative control of the construction and battle development of Mobile Suits, and seeing personal creations in action against the baddies can seriously get cool. For the majority of gamers, this coolness will not provide enough motivation to power themselves through 70 hours of bland dungeons, easy battles, and boring story.

For a Gundam fan who can’t get embrace his/her fanhood enough, MS Saga: A New Dawn can actually provide a decent gaming experience. For others, there isn’t much within the game that can lift it above other choices in the RPG genre, as its gameplay aspects are average-grade through and through.

-Heath Hindman

Score Breakdown
Below Average
Out of 10
See our Review Criteria
Gameplay Average
Story Horrible
Graphics Very Good
Sound/Music Average
Replay Value Horrible
The Verdict: 4