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SaGa Frontier – 1996 Demo Reconstruction

UPDATE 1/6/21: The packages are now travelling to the US. Since they’re shipping through Seamail, I most likely won’t have any further updates on their status until I get them in my hands sometime in March.

This page is dedicated to documenting everything I can find about the SaGa Frontier demo that was present at the Tokyo Game Show in 1996 and the state of the game from 1996 to early 1997. The purpose of this is to further document the development process of the game and attempt to make a reconstruction of what the TGS ’96 demo could have entailed. Obviously, it will be flawed to a certain degree because it’s basically impossible for anyone to ever get their hands on these demo discs beyond Square employees and volunteers who worked with 2nd Division on getting the demo ready and onto the show floor.

If you want to contribute what you know or just get updates as soon as they happen, you can join the Discord server: https://discord.gg/AjGdSJyTSu

At some point in March, I will be making new formatting for the information I find out about the game. That is, I will be sorting information by each month, from August 1996 to July 1997 (even though development finished in May 1997).

Here is a list of things that are currently being shipped to me with Seamail (which means the next update on these will be when I get them in March):

  • Tokyo Game Show 1996 pamphlet
  • THE PlayStation Volume 34 + a smaller TGS ’96 pamphlet
  • All Weekly Famitsu issues from 1997

If you want updates on these packages as soon as they happen, please join the Discord server. I will post updates as I get them in #shipping-updates

Here is a Google Doc of a list of magazines, catalogues, videos, etc. that I still need to purchase and/or photograph: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1l5wSDw0tLiM7Yp5szxP2JRXBdA0dUFYTJSB3wc1LnUI/edit?usp=sharing

Here is a list of things I have found so far:

  • The game was delayed from Spring 1997 to Summer 1997
  • The only Tomomi Kobayashi art present for any of the protagonists during the initial reveal was Riki and Blue
    • This has yet to be 100% confirmed
  • Blue was intended to have a cloning mechanic
    • This has yet to be 100% confirmed
  • There was going to be additional content in Shingrow, including a unique battle arena
  • Yorkland was going to have a lot of additional content beyond the swamp and Forsaken Chapel, including a different render for what became Lute’s house and a unique battle arena
    • Emelia was recruitable at what became Lute’s house
  • Rouge was rushed initially, so he was just Blue in a red costume
    • He was also able to be in the same party as Blue
  • There was a generic-looking cave section, which presumable transformed into the Koorong Caverns
  • Riki’s human form had eyes similar to the FF Tactics art style and had two large, white horns
  • You could talk to Fuse, Blue, and T260G in the bar at the Combat Arena
  • Text boxes had rounded edges, a dark blue background, and yellow text
  • Fuse had a wildly different design; long blue hair, red jacket, jeans, and white sneakers, all closer to Ren’s final design. This render also had a complete sprite sheet
    • This design changed some time between Fall and early Winter 1996
  • Rose and Thyme had a more prominent role in T260G’s story, going so far as Thyme being a recruitable character
    • I suspect T260G’s story was one of the first to be in a more finalized state given how similar it looks to the final product from the games initial unveiling
  • The final renders for Blue, Emelia, Gen, Riki Lummox, Rose, Thyme, and Silence haven’t changed since 1996
    • The generic battle and movement animations were changed around throughout development
    • Emelia’s shirt changed from Red to Blue within the first couple of months of the game being announced
    • Gen’s changed slightly, but only with different poses and the addition of wood sandals
    • T260G’s design wasn’t finalized yet, but it didn’t change much and was basically the same between then and release
      • She didn’t have a sprite set until at least August 1996
  • Junk may have been able to be travelled to in any scenario
    • If not, more main characters were present in Junk
  • Fuse initially came with TurbidCurrent
  • Emelia initially came with RangeFire(?) and was going to be a more prominent gun user
    • Obviously, guns were way scaled back as a tech in the final release due to time constraints
  • Blue was prominently featured to have PsychoShot
    • Obviously, magic was way scaled back as a tech in the final release due to time constraints
  • Red initially came with GiantSwing
  • The Cygnus initially had a beautiful sunset render
  • Riki’s introduction sequence at Margmel was decided presumably with his old human form
  • Leonard was present in Factory in T260G’s story
  • T260G was intended to go to Shuzer’s base
  • The Junk ship has a render in Baccarat or CTC Building, presumably meaning T260G had a major quest in Baccarat or CTC Building
  • Riki was able to visit the Overt Academy
  • Nelson had a more prominent role, specifically in Riki’s Story
  • Scrap’s pub had a unique entrance cutscene for every character
    • The pub also had a darker design with fewer characters on the sign
  • Devin’s screen with the port entrance had more rendered above the signs
    • There was a cutscene panning down from the sky to Blue’s spawn point originally
      • Presumably, there would be one for Luminous as well
  • Devin didn’t have loose NPC’s placed in it for a long time
  • Emelia was originally able to recruit mecs
  • Asellus may have been available to every scenario
    • It could also be that she was available for longer stretches of time in Red’s story
    • She may have had a significant plot point in Riki’s Story
  • Princess Rei may have had a significant plot point in Red’s story
    • Due to her ties with Itako’s initial design, it could be that she had something to do with seeing Red’s dead family
  • Leonard may have had a significant plot point in Riki’s Story
  • Lute may have had additional plot with Doll, Dr. Nusakan, and Zozma
  • You could originally visit Trinity Base in Emelia’s base costume
  • There may have been unique battle arenas in Facinaturu
  • Yorkland’s largest screen initially had faster movement speed than any other screen
  • Fuse might have been scrapped as a main character as late as February* 1997, which is very last-minute considering the game was fully compiled at the end of May 1997 and it went gold in June 1997
    • This has yet to be confirmed, but I’m fairly confident in this
  • Lute’s original story may have been scrapped as late as April, just one month before the game went gold
    • This has yet to be confirmed
  • There was a cut region exclusive to red called Santario. This was cut around the same time Fuse was demoted
    • Red would have had to visit here to do some Alkaiser stuff

Here is a YouTube playlist of all the videos I have found that feature SaGa Frontier pre-release footage. The older the footage, the more valuable it is. And yes, I have backed all of these trailers up locally:

Here are images of things from magazines that I have found floating around the internet so far. They are ordered in chronological order; that is, the oldest publications are shown first:

  • Weekly Famitsu, volume 398. Upscaled with waifu2xcaffe

Here are various screenshots I have found floating around the internet so far. These were all taken while the game was in active development. Some of these came from the now defunct PSX Power and an archive of the official SaGa Frontier website from 2001. Images are in no particular order.

Some of the images shown were scanned directly from Essence of SaGa Frontier by Sevon. You can read his translation efforts of the guidebook here: https://essenceofsaga.wordpress.com/

  • One of the first title screens ever created for the game. Originally, this game was pitched as Romancing SaGa 4, but was changed to a different title since the theme of this new entry didn't fit with the themes of the previous three Romancing SaGa games. Scanned by Sevon. Original image from Essence of SaGa Frontier.

Here are various gameplay videos that I have downloaded and re-uploaded to YouTube. They are in no particular order. Do note that none of these videos are unique and have been used in other trailers that have been preserved in a much higher quality: