Sigma Star Sage
Game Boy Advance

Reviewed: 05/26/2006

Sigma Star Saga has many interesting ideas, but unfortunately fails to put these ideas together into a compelling game.

The story casts players as Ian Recker, a man who gives up his life as an ace pilot to go spy on mankind’s greatest enemy- the krill. Throughout the course of the game the player begins to learn more and more about both sides of the conflict between the krill and humans. The storyline is surprisingly good, and it keeps the player engaged in the game despite the drawn out and frequent battles.

The battles in Sigma Star Saga are different from other RPGs; they are played out as side scrolling shoot-’em-up, arcade-style battles. At first this seems ingenius–the melding of the great storyline of an RPG with the fast paced, hectic battles in the vein of Gradius. Unfortunately, in practice, this idea is a training exercise for patience. The concept is concept is amazing, but the followthrough is absolutely terrible. The player walks around on a map, trying to get from one point to the next during the mission. All this time, the player is constantly whipped into space to fight in a random ship for several minutes (most of these random battles rely on kill counts to continue), mash the attack button, and then is zapped back down planetside for another few steps.

Screen Shot
Get used to seeing this.

The player is allowed to customize what weapons the ship has, and how the weapons fire, yet the ship itself is always completely random. One battle will give players a slick fighter, while the next will feature a gigantic box-shaped scrapheap. Both ship types appear completely randomly, regardless of the level the player is involved in. This can lead to some huge frustrations, as the unforgiving difficulty (if so much as one pixel of the ship touches a wall, it’s done) continues to grate on nerves. The random setup of the battles is entirely annoying as well. Some battles the player will complete in seconds, while others will take nearly 10 minutes to complete, and considering that this is all for a random battle, that amount of time is ridiculous. If the player was allowed a single ship to customize and refine for individual missions, it would help a lot, but that is not the case.

Sadly, the battles are not the only flaws of the game. It is for the Game Boy Advance, which implies the need for a certain amount of portability for the game; unfortunately, Sigma Star Saga often has stretches of over a half hour between save points. This can be frustrating as players sit down for a short car ride hoping to finish a mission, only to get out of the car 15 minutes later never having seen a save point, and have to restart and finish the same mission again later. The walking speed of the main character is also absolutely terrible. While the animation on Ian’s outfit is great, and the slow walking speed allows for admiration of the great graphics, the speed of walking is unnecessarily drawn out, especially considering there is no option to make Ian walk faster, or, God forbid, run. Ground missions take enormous amounts of time, simply because of the huge amount of random battles and terrible walking speed. On the ground, players also get into fights, where all that is required is to draw Ian’s gun and blast critters. This sometimes unlocks bombs or upgrades, but simply comes as another annoyance for players trying to actually get anywhere in the game.

Screen Shot
Please… Go… Faster…..

Fortunately, Namco did make full use of the Game Boy Advance’s capabilities graphically. The game looks fantastic. Environments are highly varied, and animations for each character are quite good. The battles look great, despite their gameplay flaws. The chaos displayed on screen can sometimes be breathtaking.

The music in Sigma Star Saga is great as well. The score matches the subject material almost perfectly, and has some very catchy tunes. The sound effects are pretty good, though often repetetive. The only complaint here is the absolutely terrible voices that randomly pop up to say “Hey!” There is absolutely no reason for it, and it sounds terrible.

All in all, Sigma Star Saga is a great concept gone horribly wrong. The horrible battles, awful gameplay in between, and huge amount of minor annoyances all make the game nearly unbearable. Portable gamers looking for an RPG fix should look elsewhere, while longing for a sequel that patches up this botched mess.

-Joseph Wartick

Score Breakdown
Out of 10
See our Review Criteria
Gameplay Horrible
Story Very Good
Graphics Very Good
Sound/Music Very Good
Replay Value Offensive
The Verdict: 3