Vagrant Story

Publisher: Square Developer: Square
Reviewer: Odin Released: 05/17/00
Gameplay: 92% Control: 93%
Graphics: 97% Sound/Music: 87%
Story: 99% Overall: 98%

Any RPG fan knows Square; it's a given that they are probably the best RPG company in the world today. They are known for their RPGs. So when I saw the first news of Vagrant Story, an adventure, I was intrigued and put off at the same time. I knew they'd tried adventure before with Brave Fencer Musashi (which I liked), but this looked like it was in a more serious vein. I put it aside in my mind, ignoring the pictures and info coming in, figuring it'd just pass me by in the long run. Until, that is, I saw its perfect score from Famitsu. I realized it couldn't be that bad, and after my local Blockbuster didn't have it in for rental, I had to take matters into my own hands. I went out and bought it on blind faith in Square (a much bigger deal when you're broke and don't have a steady income). I must say, it's my best "faith" purchase since Lunar, and that's saying a lot.

Vagrant Story (from here on out VS because I'm lazy) is a pseudo-real time dungeon crawler the likes of which I have never seen. I've never played Parasite Eve, though, which it's been compared to many times. As Ashley Riot, you roam the catacombs/town centers/dungeons/whatever of the ancient city Lea Monde, whacking numerous soldiers/undead creatures/evil spirits/what have you with one of nine weapon classes (ten if you count bare-handed).

As you use individual weapons over time, they will become more effective against certain enemy classes and less effective against others. A weapon used against dragons primarily will increase in effectiveness against dragons over time. Also, there is an elemental affinity to everything in the game (Physical, fire, water, earth, air, light, and dark) and tuning your weapon to this element can also make a difference in battles. And then there's the edged, piercing, and blunt (slash, poke and whack) attributes to weapons and armor…if this all sounds complicated, it is. This game's mechanics can be very complicated.

There's also Grimoires, which, when used, teach you a magic spell depending on the Grimoire you read. And THEN there's the entire workshop scene where you can combine blades, weapons, and armors to create new ones, and then when assembling new weapons, different grips can affect weapons in about three different ways at least, and there's the one-handed or 2-handed weapons… I could go on and on.

Anyway, battles take place in semi-real-time, as I said. You run around in real time, and when you choose to attack/use magic/etc., game time stops and a wire-frame comes out around you, representing your target area. You choose your target and execute whatever action you're using. When you're attacking, you can add chain attacks to your assault by timing button presses corresponding to the chain attack you want to use while you are attacking. You can technically chain these attacks together infinitely long, but every attack you make, a small amount of Risk is added to your risk bar. The higher risk you have, the lower hit chance you have, the less damage you do, the chance you have of getting hit increases, and you take more damage. There are also break arts, which are powerful attacks that take a portion of your hit points directly away. You learn these by getting certain amounts of kills for different weapons. The more powerful they are, the more hit points they take away from you. There are whole strategies and tricks based on these different techniques, depending on your preferences.

There are, as you can see, many, many different options and ways to go, and it's all very complex. The menus are laid out in a fairly well organized fashion, but there are so many of them they can get bogged down in themselves. I've made this game out to be horribly complex, but once you get the hang of it, it really is fun and engrossing. Once you get over the long learning curve, Vagrant Story will suck you in and won't let you go. Game play gets a: 92%

Being an adventure RPG, how the game controls makes a lot of difference. Well, Vagrant Story doesn't really have anything to dislike in the long run. The analog control is tight and responsive, making it less than hard to control Ashley. However, in some places, you are required to make jumps that at times can be very hard, especially some of the cloudstone jumps near the end of the game. Also, it may just be my controller, but sometimes during battles and other random spots, my analog would just turn off, and I'm sure I didn't press the button. It's not so bad when it happens in a workshop, but the final battle! Of course, maybe it's punishment for throwing my controller and swearing at it while playing Tony Hawk's Pro Skater…hmm…anyways, other than that, the game controls well. It gets a: 93%

I've heard people say that videogames as a whole aren't a form of art; well, these people have not seen Vagrant Story. The graphics in VS are amazing, to say the least. From the cruel smile slowly curling Sydney's lips, to the explosions of a flame sphere, to the blurring effects at dramatic events in the game, the visuals are breathtaking. The weapon designs are original, as are the shields. Some of the character designs leave a bit to be desired (Sydney - pull up your pants, for God's sake!) but they fit their roles perfectly nonetheless. Also, as is the Square trend, the effects for the break arts and more powerful spells are amazing. In a nutshell - WOW. Graphics: 97%

I've made it pretty clear that I like this game, but if you think you know why already, think again. I enjoyed playing this game, but by itself it wasn't anything super-special. Its story is what really makes it stand out. You control Ashley Riot, a member of the Valendia Knights of Peace (VKP), aka Riskbreakers. You are sent to deal with an attack on the manor of Duke Bardorba by the religious cult Mullenkamp, led by Sydney Losstarot. You encounter Sydney at the mansion, and he takes a crossbow bolt to the heart, but he summons a wyvern to fight you and leaves. You follow him to the ancient city of evil, Lea Monde, and that's where the game really begins.

The story is very gripping, and even if you don't like the game itself, the story can keep you moving along in it. Plot twists galore, too; about halfway through, you can predict what'll happen by the end, but you will be about as wrong as possible, I guarantee that. The only real complaint I have is that plot points can be few and far between, especially if you go after Iron Maiden and the other side quests. Other than that, though, Story is no less than perfect. It gets a: 99%

The sound and music in a game serve to set the mood, and Vagrant Story's does this well. The music can range from lethargic to exciting to non-existent; in most dungeons, there is no music, but instead you are treated to far-off sounds of beasts growling, or water running, or leaves rustling, etc. These are especially effective in the city walls areas; I was really creeped out by the growling I could hear in the distance. The Music that is there, however, is good. The final boss battle got my heart pumping before it started, thanks in no small part to the energetic music.

The Sound Effects are good, and they play a key role in timing attacks, but there are really not too many different ones to hear. So, overall, sound/music are good, but the substitute of one for the other can sometimes be putting off to the player. I give it: 87%

I didn't know what to expect when I bought Vagrant Story, but as I got further into it, it caught my attention and held tighter and tighter. Rumors of shortness be dispelled; I spent 32 hours on my program. 6-7 hours? I spent that on weapon and armor modifying alone, at least. The ending is done great, tying up many threads, and leaving plenty of room for speculation (and a sequel - oh please, Square, please!!) Also, references to Final Fantasy Tactics (Agrias' Balm accessory, Orlandu gem) add a nice hint of nostalgia. All in all, a good, no, necessary addition to any RPG fan's library. Vagrant story is very worthy of its: 98%


Vagrant story takes place in a medievil world...

...which is good since they like getting medievil on people.

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