March 28, 2008, Square Haven has ceased updates indefinitely. What you see below is an archived version.

Vagrant Story

  • May 17, 2000
  • February 10, 2000
  • June 21, 2000
A 62 total ratings
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Vagrant Story

A Vagrant Story review Author: Mike Published: June 11, 2000
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You are calm. You are tranquil. A goblin leader stands on a pile of crates, dancing spastically about. His small but powerful minions take turns lunging at you, and you defend, channeling the energy they expend into your trusty Fandango. Monitoring your adrenaline?s flow through your blood, you quickly take down both goblins with a few expert swipes. You look the goblin leader straight in the eye, grinning. What can he do now? Well, he could cast stun cloud and paralyze you, that?s what. Oops. And here come seven more goblins! Don?t worry... you?ve made it out of bigger jams before.
You are Ashley Riot, and the game is Vagrant Story. Ashley is an effeminate VKP Risk Breaker, dubbed a butcher by the holy men, and volunteering for all the most dangerous missions, with a 30% survival rate already haunting his profession. He wants to die. Why? His wife and son were slaughtered right before his eyes, and he blames himself. When Sydney Losstarot, charismatic and equally effeminate cult leader, needs to be killed, Ashley is the man they call on. He ends up following Sydney all the way to the evil city of Le? Monde, where something not quite right is taking place. And now, the church and its army are involved! Woe is Ashley. This story is told with flawless translation, beautifully integrating period speech with material the layman can understand. Characters actually have clear relationships and motivations, and speak with a voice all their own. In a nod to the fact that Vagrant Story, like most games, is a work of art, the localizer has filled it to the brim with references to great literature.
But he isn?t just a badass with a death wish. He?s a badass with a death wish and a really cool battle system. Combining the targeting sphere of Parasite Eve familiarity, a deep weapon customization system, and plenty of spells and chain abilities to boot, Ashley?s a pleasure to play. As mentioned, the weapon customization system. Each weapon is made of two basic parts, the hilt and the blade, and a few can have gems which add special effects attached to them. In workshops, you can combine weapons, create weapons, repair weapons, and generally manage your inventory. You have to watch each weapon?s type, affinity, and class carefully to be the most effective against each monster. This will mean casting the analyze spell constantly, and switching your equipment just as often. With all the work you put into them, and the ability to name them, your weapons become like party members. They are your only friends, and you?ll find yourself affectionately calling them by name and referring to them lovingly while speaking to your family and friends. ?Soul Kiss is the sweetest li?l thang, with an undead affinity like you ain?t never heard tell before and some sweet abilities!? The learning curve is extremely steep, and there is a little tedium, but most gamers will revel in both.
The most innovative feature found in Vagrant Story is the Risk Breaker system. Every time you attack, your risk points go up. Every time your risk points go up, your chances of missing increase too. However, your chances of landing a critical attack if you do hit also increase. They lower, over time, but they?ll lower much more slowly if you?re in attack mode. You?ll have to walk a fine line to fight effectively. The Risk Breaker system also adds a slight bit of turn based element to a game which could have easily become an exercise in pushing the circle button. Also interesting was the inclusion of multiple body parts with their own stats. Want to beat a magic user? Try going for the head first. A powerful fighter? Destroy his weapon arm, and you?ll have a much better chance.
All this could degrade to simple hack and slash, though, despite its statistical complexity, if not for the chain and defense system. Every time you attack, by pressing certain buttons corresponding to certain chain abilities at just the right time, you invoke a chain ability. You can then do another, and another, and another, until your timing runs out. You may also assign defense abilities to certain buttons, which work basically the same way as the chain abilities, minus the ability to chain them together. Learning to time these effectively presents its own learning curve in itself.
Ashley looks pretty good too. It?s unlikely most gamers with graphics on the mind will be able to resist Vagrant Story: it simply has no graphical parallel on the Playstation, or even the Nintendo 64. And it?s got more style than just about any competing game out there. Le? Monde is a dark city, full of complacent angst and evil, which seems to have crawled right out from an H.P. Lovecraft story. The character designs are delightfully dark, too. Occasionally, bright and vivid colors will trickle their way into the level design, and characters, and always to great effect. Vagrant Story?s attention to detail is shown with the way the characters? mouths move when they speak. Not really lip syncing, but it looks cool. Their eyes move, their expressions change, they bleed. All expertly utilizing the possibilities of texture map animation which always seemed obvious.
When gamers think of Square, they often think of quality music. Composed by Hitoshi Sakimoto, most of the music just ambience, but still very good ambience. Perfect for the mood. A little more evil would have been nice, though. The sound is good, although nothing too special. A common complaint is the lack of voice acting. Assuming it was good, voice acting could quite possibly be the perfect finishing touch. As it is, perhaps we can hope for a remake sometime in the future including voice acting.
One thing most games in the vein of Vagrant Story lack is replay value. However, Vagrant Story has plenty. More than just about any other game I?ve played, in fact. When you first play the game, roughly 80% of the map is available. You will have the option to start a new game while keeping your character and equipment once you have beaten the game. The rest of the map will then free up, and you may continue to gain ranks, go for goals, and improve your stats. You?ll be playing for a long time.
In short, with a localization that could possibly be the greatest achievement of mankind, wonderful plot and characters, and more replay value than an entire vat of salt covered snails, Vagrant Story was a classic as soon as it hit the shelves. Anyone who enjoys action RPGs would be well advised to buy this game as soon as possible, and the rest should definitely check it out.
Editor's Grade
dotted line "Sporting a fine localization, wonderful plot and characters, and replay value to boot, Vagrant Story was a classic as soon as it hit the shelves."
A dotted line Average Reader Score (Based on 62 ratings) | Rate it Now
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Vapid Buttmunch
Member since May 29, 2002
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