Sigma Star Saga
When is different innovative?
Usually, when you play through a role-playing game, you expect one of two gameplay mechanics to be included. The first involves a spell/enact system that has you choosing to run, fight, or block, and then waiting on your opponent's move before starting again. The second could be a real-time battle scenario, where some kind of epic showdown takes place between those with weapons and the will to win.
But shooting? A shooting game mixed with RPG elements? Is this possible? Whenever a shooting game is released on the Game Boy Advance it's been built using a standard design. There really isn't much of a back story aside from you must destroy this boss and all of these lesser enemies. However, the newest offering from Namco and WayForward, Sigma Star Saga, manages to do the unthinkable; it mixes role-playing elements with shooting stages, with surprising results.
That's not to say the results are entirely satisfying. There were times where I was stuck sitting through boring sequences, or just trying to get a stupid battle over with so I could proceed. Furthermore, the RPG and shooting sequences aren't particularly thrilling, coming up just a bit short in terms of execution.
Thankfully, when these two styles are mixed together the elements create a great sense of adventure overall. The story is structured pretty well, with enough twists and turns and good memorable characters, and the shooting stages, although they start off slow and lack polish, eventually get better with more challenging enemies. Plus, the power-ups you can score in either type of stage will help improve your performance.
The game also has some terrific graphics and sound, as the music is very good and the sound effects are better than I thought they'd be. The graphics are impressive as well, aside from the occasional uninspired enemy design. WayForward has done some pretty good work in maintaining an inventive look to the game, and it shows most of the time.
Sigma Star Saga won't be a winner with everyone because of its flaws and the lackluster RPG/shooting elements. However, if you stick with it you'll find a moving adventure with more spark than you might expect. It's a novel idea and it could be further developed with a sequel on the DS, complete with cooperative play. Here's to hoping.
What's Hot: The graphics and sound create a good atmosphere.
What's Not: The genre mixing didn't turn out too well..