Sigma Star Saga
Reviewed by Didi Cardoso
Review Date Platform Genre Rating Production
2005-12-19 GBA Shooter E10 (Everyone 10+) Namco / Wayforward Studios

What do you get when you cross an RPG with a side-scrolling space shooter battle system? Sigma Star Saga.

With a pioneering concept, Namco manages to keep Sigma Star Saga an interesting game from start to finish. You don't spend too much time doing the same thing, unless you're powering up, and even then the shooter stages and ships will be randomly different.

It took me forever to get past the first stage of the game: you start in the middle of a high-speed shooter battle which slows down after a while, with a boss encounter at the end. I was really happy to finally get past it and see how the story begins.

Humans and Krill are at war, Earth struggling to survive constant attacks. When the Allied Earth Federation intercepts a Krill transmission mentioning six planets they are "interested" in, they send in a pilot to work as a double agent for the Krill in order to discover what is so important about these planets, locate the Krill war machine and destroy it.

You play the role of this revenge-seeking pilot, Ian Recker, the only survivor of the elite Sigma Team, slaughtered by the Krill during a battle.

While serving the Krill, Recker is fitted with a parasite suit which allows him to grow powerful (by leveling up) and be summoned to a ship when it's in danger. That's right, suits and ships are living things. When a ship feels threatened, it summons the nearest pilot to help with defensive maneuvers and get rid of the threat. Once summoned, you'll start a shooter stage. There will be a number representing the threat level on the top right corner of the screen. Basically, that's the number of things you have to shoot to end the stage. Each thing you shoot drops a little experience bubble, so pick them up, that's how you level up. When the threat level reaches zero, you are transported back to the planet surface.

Gameplay on the planet surfaces can be summed up in walking around shooting creatures and statues. Sometimes you get a health recovery item, other times a bomb to use in shooter levels. Exploring the different worlds will also reveal gun data, which is extremely important.

There are at least 50 gun data items, subdivided into three categories: direction, shot type, and impact result. Direction is how the shot is projected (up and down, back and forward, in an X shape, following the ship's movement). Shot type alters the shot itself (long range, double, triple, chargeable). Impact result is what happens when your shot hits something (explodes, places enemy in a bubble and so on). With over 20,000 possibilities, the gun data system lets you can mix and match the three categories into something that fits your style best.

The random shooter events can get in the way of the questing and the RPG mode, and sometimes you have to do some backtracking since the save points and few and far between, and if you die in a shooter level, it's game over.

Word of advice: spend a lot of time leveling up in the first planet. I had to restart my game because I couldn't finish the first shooter battle in the second planet.

With a good 20 hours of gameplay, in-depth storyline with multiple endings, good graphics, great artwork and awesome music, Sigma Star Saga is a unique title and certainly a great action-packed addition to any GBA gamer's library.

Special thanks to Kit Ellis and Namco for providing a copy of this title.