As someone that will play just about anything that is handed to me, it is not uncommon for me to stumble upon a game that is extremely unique but had never really caught on. They are often overlooked either because of its incredibly small fan base, or the fact that no-one wanted to gamble on a brand new IP that debuted on a system that was nearing the end of its lifespan. Sigma Star Saga is one of those games, and I feel that maybe it was unfairly overlooked because of the Nintendo DS nearing its release date. Was it being ignored justified? Well let's see...
Sigma Star Saga is a dual genre RPG/Shoot-em-up developed by WayForward Technologies and released for the Game Boy Advance in August of 2005. In it, you play as Ian Recker, a skilled fighter pilot for Earth's forces, who is tasked with infiltrating the ranks of an extraterrestrial species known as the Krill who attacked Earth by boiling away its oceans killing almost all life on the surface. While undercover, Recker meets Psyme, a female Krill that outfits him with a parasite suit that gives him enhanced strength and speed and allows him to interface with the Krill's living spaceships, which is where the game's main mechanics come into play.
The RPG part of the game works in a very unusual, but surprisingly logical way. In order to make sure the Krill (and Recker by extension) are safe during a mission on another planet's surface, the Krill scramble the battleships in low orbit above the planet to scout for intruders, but because the ships are unintelligent living beings much like cattle, they scare very easily. As such, they warp in a nearby pilot to help them rid of whatever is causing their distress a la Random Encounter. While piloting a ship, the game plays like a side-scrolling shmup much like Gradius or Sky Kid, but once all of the enemies in the battle are destroyed, you are rewarded with some experience points and the ship will quickly warp you back to the overworld shortly afterward.
The overworld map on the other hand plays VERY different than what I was expecting for an RPG endeavor. Unlike most RPG's, your character does not engage in battle while walking around the map. Any and all enemies shown in the overworld are nothing more than obstacles that block your progression forward and most can easily be taken out with Recker's gun. Another thing that makes this very different is the fact that Recker can find permanent power-ups on the map for both himself and whatever ship that may beam him aboard. While Recker's abilities stack in the fashion of Metroid, your ship's power-ups are customizable allowing you to better fit your play style.
All in all, I had fun with this game, but it isn't for everybody. It is a very nice change of pace for fans of the shmup genre, but RPG fans may have a hard time getting into the battle segments due to them being much more action oriented, and the fact that the story can be overly complicated at times. But if you're the kind of person that plays through a game multiple times, then you'd probably enjoy the multiple endings and New Game +. It even has an extra secret ending if you manage to complete it 100%. If you have the time, you should definitely check this game out, but until then, I'll be seeing you.