Sparky's Update - RPG Retrospective test run: Vagrant Story

Hey folks! Welcome to the latest Sparky's Update, wherein I try to stuff your mind full of nonsense and hullabaloo. And possibly sweet, delicious Starburst jelly beans. Ohhhhhhhhhhhhhh baby, that's the shit.

This week's going to see the implementation of a new feature here on Sparky's Update, called the RPG Retrospective. I'm essentially going to be taking a good, long look at various RPGs of all sorts, with no set pattern or focus in mind save to see how they stand the test of time. I'll also be reminiscing about the impact some of these games had in their day, so while the Retrospective aims to be informative, it won't always be as scientific as a real journalist or a blogger worth his salt might write. I'll devote however much time I feel is necessary to explain the basics of each game, but if I feel like the game warrants it, I'll play each to completion. I can't really predict how many blogs I'll devote to each game, but I'll try to at least explain the fundamentals and get in a good glimpse of the story and characters.

While I don't expect this to be a regular, timely feature on the Update, I do expect it to be semi-regular with possibly some spin-off blogs to follow, depending on my creativity. Some RPGs, frankly, are insanely long, and as such, some weeks might just see story updates. Some weeks I might not update at all. What I'm saying is that, like normal, don't expect any degree of certainty on when or if these will be published. Nor will this stop me from updating you on other games, though those updates will likely be relegated to a smaller section of the Update when a Retrospective is published.

Whew. On with the show!

Vagrant Story - RPG Retrospective

The Basics

I came into Vagrant Story completely fresh. I knew nothing about the game, its characters, or its story. When the game was released in May of 2000, I was graduating high school and preparing for college, a time when I couldn't afford the time or money to new games. Fast forward eleven years and change, and I finally pick up the game on the PSN.

The game is a straight-up dungeon crawler. There are no towns, no overworld, no NPC's to converse with (yet, at least). Instead of focusing in on experience points, the game rewards you with stat boosts when you finish certain sections of the game or defeat certain bosses. There is also a heavy focus on weapons and crafting, an aspect I'm still getting used to.

The game is set in an ancient city called Lea Monde, though you aren't actually exploring the city proper. Instead, as Ashley Riot, you traverse through the bowels of the city, going room to room, fighting monsters, and solving basic block puzzles. The combat is a great blend of action and turn-based. Enemies will attack you in real-time, but when the player attacks an enemy, the game pauses for your strikes. By hitting buttons at the precise time, Ashley can chain together rudimentary combinations. These are affected by a factor called Risk, which increases with every swing of your sword. Risk builds up over time, and starts to affect the chance you have of striking an opponent. Therefore, the player is left with two options - go for a long combo with the risk of eventually missing the opponent, or let the chain break to allow an enemy to attack and decrease the Risk amount?

Boss fights are a treat. Using only brute force won't generally work. Take, for example, a fight against a golem. At first, I tried just straight up attacking it from various angles. I quickly ran out of health and MP related items and died. But when I tried that same boss fight and relied instead upon a defensive maneuver that reflects a portion of the damage dealt by the boss, I quickly defeated him with minimal fuss. And I'm sure there were other options there too, such as using Risk-reducing items to help string together some longer combos. These boss fights are where the combat system really shines.

The Story

Judging from the map percentage stat given at the end of each section of the game, I appear to be about a third of the way through the game. With that in mind, here's the story thus far:

The game follows Ashley Riot, an agent of a group called the VKP, as he chases down the villainous Sydney. In the game's introduction, Ashley confronts Sydney, and fires a crossbow into his chest. Sydney gets on his feet and plucks out the crossbow bolt. Using a wyvern as a distraction, he makes good his escape, followed doggedly by Ashley and his companion Merlose all the way to an ancient city called Lea Monde. Ashley, full of cold confidence, enters the ruins of the city alone. Merlose is kidnapped immediately, and used as bait throughout the game to keep Ashley going.

And all that's just within the first ten minutes or so. Whew.

Most of what I've played since then has involved primarily around murky motivations for Sydney and his deep fascination with Ashley's potential and soullessness. Ashley himself is plagued by visions of his wife and child, who were killed by errant knights while on a picnic. Sydney seems to be aware of these visions and bedevils Ashley with veiled hints that Ashley can become something more. Indeed, he does, as Ashley begins to accumulate special abilities and magic.

So far, the story has been compelling. The narrow focus on only a few characters really helps propel the story forward fast. What's particularly great is how grim Ashley Riot seems to be without going over into emo territory. He's not the brooding archetype, nor is he wisecracking or happy-go-lucky. He's seemingly calm, almost emotionally distant in his pursuit of Sydney. He's really a neat character. Sydney himself seems sort of blandly evil, though his fascination with Ashley shows some promise for character development later on in the game.

The localization is fantastic. I cannot praise it enough. There's none of the usual "Japanese-ness" about the dialogue. Someone very lovingly crafted this story and saw it transferred very well into English. The effort really shows.

The Graphical Style

I'm not a graphics whore, but I can appreciate great graphical design. Be it a colorful world, great character designs, or some special kind of graphical quality that holds up well over the years, I can find a lot to love about the way a game was designed, even if it was released "in the good old days." This section will take a critical look at the RPGs I play, noting how well things have held up and what kind of an impression (if any) they had on me back in the day.

And since I didn't play Vagrant Story upon its release, that leaves me with how the game's style holds up today. First and foremost, Square's usual CGI greatness is on display here, though they seem remarkably reserved for that period of time. That's not a bad thing - the game seems to be focused on such things as speed runs as well as relying upon a lot of in-engine cutscenes. It renders the tasty CGI as something of a sparse treat - something to look forward to and to savor when you eventually get it.

The character designs are, frankly, as Japanese as they get. They're hilariously ridiculous. Sydney runs around looking like a bare-chested teenage boy. The first time I saw him, I thought, "Oh, this is what David Spade must have looked like as a young 'un." But even worse is Ashley. He's got what looks like insect antannae for hair, and even more hilariously, he's wearing assless chaps. Hoooooly shit, it's so awful it's kind of appealing. Ridiculous outfits aside, the characters look pretty good for that period of gaming. Emotions play out on their faces nicely, they animate relatively fluidly, and they don't seem at all wooden or marionette-like.

Unfortunately, the dungeons of Lea Monde don't hold up to such scrutiny. Even during their day, they must have seemed drab and repetitive. Imagine the inevitable sewer level of your favorite RPG. Now imagine that the entire game is focused arount that level. Yep, that's Lea Monde. Maybe this changes later in the game. I sure as shit hope so. I was relieved when I found running water in the game. When something as basic as a river makes you glad to see a change, you know the game's world needed a little bit more.

I should note that some of the combat-related stuff looks great. There are only a few basic enemy types so far, but again, they animate nicely. The bosses look particularly good. The in-engine cutscenes look nice, with the highlight being the speech bubbles, of all things. The text looks remarkably good.

Sound

Again, musical quality is a trademark of Square's RPGs, and this is no different. Music is surprisingly understated throughout the game, used mostly for full effect in cutscenes. With the aid of Wikipedia, I found out that the game is composed by Hitoshi Sakimoto, who also composed the music for one of my all-time favorites, Final Fantasy Tactics. It's no surprise then that I am really loving the music here and might even go out of my way to track down the score if it's widely available. One of my hopes with this series is to enlighten not just the reader but myself as to who does the music for RPGs. It's not something I can claim to be overly familiar with (except when it comes to Bear McCreary, my favorite composer).

There's no speech, which is to be expected of an RPG in the PS1 era. The sound effeccts are serviceable but not particularly noteworthy. All in all, the sound holds up fantastically well today. Here's a bit of that tremendous score:

The Rest

This will be a catch-all section of sorts, describing anything else I feel noteworthy that doesn't really have a home anywhere else in the Retrospective.

Vagrant Story is one of those rare old games I'm glad to be playing right now. It holds up supremely well, even to a first-time player. I shouldn't like its laser-focused dungeon crawling aspects, and yet, I do. The combat is tremendously fun and inventive, and exploring Lea Monde is quite a joy despite its drab appearance. I can't confirm this yet, but it looks like there will be some form of a New Game+ as well, which I'm looking forward to. It's the sort of game that encourages speed runs with its stat tracking, and yet, my first time through, I want to get in every nook and cranny that I can.

So yes, it's a remarkable game that holds up very well if you can get past some of the graphical design problems.

Other Games and Randomness

-I finished off Star Ocean: First Departure this week. It's a solid, mildly bland action RPG that never quite lives up to its space-agey premise. But the combat is good, the leveling system incredible, and there is an absolute ton of meat to the game. It's sort of a rainy-day RPG - not one I'd go out of my way to play again, but it's the sort of grind-rewarding goodness that I'll pick up occasionally to while away the hours.

-Also finished is Broken Sword III. The plot and the characters are a lot of fun, but it makes several boneheaded errors that made it extraordinarily unfriendly. Most notably, many sections of the game are graphically dark with no light/dark slider option. Even a fully sighted individual might have trouble with some of the puzzles. The primitive 3D camera work is also infuriating at times, hindering certain timed events. It's a pretty good game, but man, I felt like the developers were intent on making one stupid mistake after another with it.

-I started Modern Family this week, which ended up sucking up more of my free time than I'd like to admit. I should've been getting some reading done, and instead, I found myself sucked into this show. It's a fairly clever, upbeat family tale with some surprisingly good emotional moments (such as a brother admitting to his sister he just wanted to feel like they were on a team together again - sucker punched me right in the gut).

-Had a lead on a job, found out the job was way over my head. Bleh. Still, it opened up a new venue to me, so maybe something will come of that.

And that's it for this week. Long blog today. I hope you all don't mind. And I really hope you like the new RPG retrospective. Whaddya think? Am I missing any bases you'd like covered?

16 Comments
17 Comments
Posted by Sparky_Buzzsaw

Hey folks! Welcome to the latest Sparky's Update, wherein I try to stuff your mind full of nonsense and hullabaloo. And possibly sweet, delicious Starburst jelly beans. Ohhhhhhhhhhhhhh baby, that's the shit.

This week's going to see the implementation of a new feature here on Sparky's Update, called the RPG Retrospective. I'm essentially going to be taking a good, long look at various RPGs of all sorts, with no set pattern or focus in mind save to see how they stand the test of time. I'll also be reminiscing about the impact some of these games had in their day, so while the Retrospective aims to be informative, it won't always be as scientific as a real journalist or a blogger worth his salt might write. I'll devote however much time I feel is necessary to explain the basics of each game, but if I feel like the game warrants it, I'll play each to completion. I can't really predict how many blogs I'll devote to each game, but I'll try to at least explain the fundamentals and get in a good glimpse of the story and characters.

While I don't expect this to be a regular, timely feature on the Update, I do expect it to be semi-regular with possibly some spin-off blogs to follow, depending on my creativity. Some RPGs, frankly, are insanely long, and as such, some weeks might just see story updates. Some weeks I might not update at all. What I'm saying is that, like normal, don't expect any degree of certainty on when or if these will be published. Nor will this stop me from updating you on other games, though those updates will likely be relegated to a smaller section of the Update when a Retrospective is published.

Whew. On with the show!

Vagrant Story - RPG Retrospective

The Basics

I came into Vagrant Story completely fresh. I knew nothing about the game, its characters, or its story. When the game was released in May of 2000, I was graduating high school and preparing for college, a time when I couldn't afford the time or money to new games. Fast forward eleven years and change, and I finally pick up the game on the PSN.

The game is a straight-up dungeon crawler. There are no towns, no overworld, no NPC's to converse with (yet, at least). Instead of focusing in on experience points, the game rewards you with stat boosts when you finish certain sections of the game or defeat certain bosses. There is also a heavy focus on weapons and crafting, an aspect I'm still getting used to.

The game is set in an ancient city called Lea Monde, though you aren't actually exploring the city proper. Instead, as Ashley Riot, you traverse through the bowels of the city, going room to room, fighting monsters, and solving basic block puzzles. The combat is a great blend of action and turn-based. Enemies will attack you in real-time, but when the player attacks an enemy, the game pauses for your strikes. By hitting buttons at the precise time, Ashley can chain together rudimentary combinations. These are affected by a factor called Risk, which increases with every swing of your sword. Risk builds up over time, and starts to affect the chance you have of striking an opponent. Therefore, the player is left with two options - go for a long combo with the risk of eventually missing the opponent, or let the chain break to allow an enemy to attack and decrease the Risk amount?

Boss fights are a treat. Using only brute force won't generally work. Take, for example, a fight against a golem. At first, I tried just straight up attacking it from various angles. I quickly ran out of health and MP related items and died. But when I tried that same boss fight and relied instead upon a defensive maneuver that reflects a portion of the damage dealt by the boss, I quickly defeated him with minimal fuss. And I'm sure there were other options there too, such as using Risk-reducing items to help string together some longer combos. These boss fights are where the combat system really shines.

The Story

Judging from the map percentage stat given at the end of each section of the game, I appear to be about a third of the way through the game. With that in mind, here's the story thus far:

The game follows Ashley Riot, an agent of a group called the VKP, as he chases down the villainous Sydney. In the game's introduction, Ashley confronts Sydney, and fires a crossbow into his chest. Sydney gets on his feet and plucks out the crossbow bolt. Using a wyvern as a distraction, he makes good his escape, followed doggedly by Ashley and his companion Merlose all the way to an ancient city called Lea Monde. Ashley, full of cold confidence, enters the ruins of the city alone. Merlose is kidnapped immediately, and used as bait throughout the game to keep Ashley going.

And all that's just within the first ten minutes or so. Whew.

Most of what I've played since then has involved primarily around murky motivations for Sydney and his deep fascination with Ashley's potential and soullessness. Ashley himself is plagued by visions of his wife and child, who were killed by errant knights while on a picnic. Sydney seems to be aware of these visions and bedevils Ashley with veiled hints that Ashley can become something more. Indeed, he does, as Ashley begins to accumulate special abilities and magic.

So far, the story has been compelling. The narrow focus on only a few characters really helps propel the story forward fast. What's particularly great is how grim Ashley Riot seems to be without going over into emo territory. He's not the brooding archetype, nor is he wisecracking or happy-go-lucky. He's seemingly calm, almost emotionally distant in his pursuit of Sydney. He's really a neat character. Sydney himself seems sort of blandly evil, though his fascination with Ashley shows some promise for character development later on in the game.

The localization is fantastic. I cannot praise it enough. There's none of the usual "Japanese-ness" about the dialogue. Someone very lovingly crafted this story and saw it transferred very well into English. The effort really shows.

The Graphical Style

I'm not a graphics whore, but I can appreciate great graphical design. Be it a colorful world, great character designs, or some special kind of graphical quality that holds up well over the years, I can find a lot to love about the way a game was designed, even if it was released "in the good old days." This section will take a critical look at the RPGs I play, noting how well things have held up and what kind of an impression (if any) they had on me back in the day.

And since I didn't play Vagrant Story upon its release, that leaves me with how the game's style holds up today. First and foremost, Square's usual CGI greatness is on display here, though they seem remarkably reserved for that period of time. That's not a bad thing - the game seems to be focused on such things as speed runs as well as relying upon a lot of in-engine cutscenes. It renders the tasty CGI as something of a sparse treat - something to look forward to and to savor when you eventually get it.

The character designs are, frankly, as Japanese as they get. They're hilariously ridiculous. Sydney runs around looking like a bare-chested teenage boy. The first time I saw him, I thought, "Oh, this is what David Spade must have looked like as a young 'un." But even worse is Ashley. He's got what looks like insect antannae for hair, and even more hilariously, he's wearing assless chaps. Hoooooly shit, it's so awful it's kind of appealing. Ridiculous outfits aside, the characters look pretty good for that period of gaming. Emotions play out on their faces nicely, they animate relatively fluidly, and they don't seem at all wooden or marionette-like.

Unfortunately, the dungeons of Lea Monde don't hold up to such scrutiny. Even during their day, they must have seemed drab and repetitive. Imagine the inevitable sewer level of your favorite RPG. Now imagine that the entire game is focused arount that level. Yep, that's Lea Monde. Maybe this changes later in the game. I sure as shit hope so. I was relieved when I found running water in the game. When something as basic as a river makes you glad to see a change, you know the game's world needed a little bit more.

I should note that some of the combat-related stuff looks great. There are only a few basic enemy types so far, but again, they animate nicely. The bosses look particularly good. The in-engine cutscenes look nice, with the highlight being the speech bubbles, of all things. The text looks remarkably good.

Sound

Again, musical quality is a trademark of Square's RPGs, and this is no different. Music is surprisingly understated throughout the game, used mostly for full effect in cutscenes. With the aid of Wikipedia, I found out that the game is composed by Hitoshi Sakimoto, who also composed the music for one of my all-time favorites, Final Fantasy Tactics. It's no surprise then that I am really loving the music here and might even go out of my way to track down the score if it's widely available. One of my hopes with this series is to enlighten not just the reader but myself as to who does the music for RPGs. It's not something I can claim to be overly familiar with (except when it comes to Bear McCreary, my favorite composer).

There's no speech, which is to be expected of an RPG in the PS1 era. The sound effeccts are serviceable but not particularly noteworthy. All in all, the sound holds up fantastically well today. Here's a bit of that tremendous score:

The Rest

This will be a catch-all section of sorts, describing anything else I feel noteworthy that doesn't really have a home anywhere else in the Retrospective.

Vagrant Story is one of those rare old games I'm glad to be playing right now. It holds up supremely well, even to a first-time player. I shouldn't like its laser-focused dungeon crawling aspects, and yet, I do. The combat is tremendously fun and inventive, and exploring Lea Monde is quite a joy despite its drab appearance. I can't confirm this yet, but it looks like there will be some form of a New Game+ as well, which I'm looking forward to. It's the sort of game that encourages speed runs with its stat tracking, and yet, my first time through, I want to get in every nook and cranny that I can.

So yes, it's a remarkable game that holds up very well if you can get past some of the graphical design problems.

Other Games and Randomness

-I finished off Star Ocean: First Departure this week. It's a solid, mildly bland action RPG that never quite lives up to its space-agey premise. But the combat is good, the leveling system incredible, and there is an absolute ton of meat to the game. It's sort of a rainy-day RPG - not one I'd go out of my way to play again, but it's the sort of grind-rewarding goodness that I'll pick up occasionally to while away the hours.

-Also finished is Broken Sword III. The plot and the characters are a lot of fun, but it makes several boneheaded errors that made it extraordinarily unfriendly. Most notably, many sections of the game are graphically dark with no light/dark slider option. Even a fully sighted individual might have trouble with some of the puzzles. The primitive 3D camera work is also infuriating at times, hindering certain timed events. It's a pretty good game, but man, I felt like the developers were intent on making one stupid mistake after another with it.

-I started Modern Family this week, which ended up sucking up more of my free time than I'd like to admit. I should've been getting some reading done, and instead, I found myself sucked into this show. It's a fairly clever, upbeat family tale with some surprisingly good emotional moments (such as a brother admitting to his sister he just wanted to feel like they were on a team together again - sucker punched me right in the gut).

-Had a lead on a job, found out the job was way over my head. Bleh. Still, it opened up a new venue to me, so maybe something will come of that.

And that's it for this week. Long blog today. I hope you all don't mind. And I really hope you like the new RPG retrospective. Whaddya think? Am I missing any bases you'd like covered?

Moderator
Edited by Ravenlight

I love jellybeans!

[reads blog]

Oh, the jellybeans were just a metaphor for the sweet literary content. #milddisappointment

On a positive note, I'm going to see if I can track down a copy of Vagrant Story now.

Posted by ArbitraryWater

Vagrant Story seems like my kind of game. As you know, I have little tolerance for a lot of the silliness that most JRPGs feature in their stories (unless of course it involves copious amounts of J Pop and Girl Power) and the more action-y combat system intrigues me. I may have to track this down in the distant future... right after I finish all those other games in my backlog.

Posted by Sparky_Buzzsaw

@Ravenlight: Oh, don't get me wrong. I love me some jelly beans too! The Starburst and Jolly Rancher ones are my favorites. Oh, sweet, sweet jelly beans...

And yeah, it's definitely worth tracking down. I think it's about $7 on PSN, if I'm not mistaken. I should have mentioned that in the blog.

@ArbitraryWater: I think, just given our conversations, that this might be the sort of game that would intrigue you. At times, it can start to feel a little repetitive in its environments, but it's a fairly fast-paced RPG with pretty great combat. And as awful as the characters look, the story and characters are really intriguing. It's a lean, mean sort of RPG, and I really dig it.

Moderator
Posted by Gaff
@Sparky_Buzzsaw Heads up, Vagrant Story doesn't open up the last twenty or so percent of the map until you're playing the New Game Plus.
You also glossed over the somewhat obtuse / deep combat system with regards to enemy types and weapon types. Stuff can get complicated and somewhat offputting when you realise you've been doing things wrong (HELLO FINAL BOSS FIGHT!).
Posted by Sparky_Buzzsaw

@Gaff: I certainly didn't mean to gloss over anything. Besides a few upgrades to my weapons and such, I haven't gotten too far into the crafting. Good to know that it's important, though. I'll have to tinker with it some more.

Moderator
Edited by Mento

Yeah, the enemy types are what you really need to be aware of right now. The early fights with golems and ghosts will utterly blindside you if you haven't picked up on weapon types and immunities yet. So much of that game is spent tinkering in the smithies dotted around, getting a suite of arms for every occasion.

Gameplay-wise, I found it was very reminiscent of how a Metroidvania handles NPCs: You'll just come across them intermittently on the critical path, share a few words then don't see them again for another few hours of game time. There's the occasional non-POV cutscene that fills in necessary blanks, but like the best Metroidvanias it's at its best when it's emphasizing the solitariness of your struggle.

I also dig how you're choosing to frame these retrospectives. I don't always lend as much credence to a game's audio-visual quality over its gameplay, but it can definitely be a dealbreaker with some of these old games. Fortunately for Vagrant Story it took the stylistic route and is more or less unscathed by the passage of time. I'd say that endless box puzzles are a little more dated, though I'm sure Atlus would like to argue.

Moderator
Posted by Sparky_Buzzsaw

@Mento: OK, cool. I'll track down a FAQ and get the basics of crafting and the like. I've made a shortsword that's served me pretty well throughout the game so far, but seeing what you and Gaff wrote makes me realize I should really familiarize myself with crafting.

And yeah, the graphical style holds up nicely. I know it's weird to single out something as minor as the text bubbles, but little touches like that add up in a lot of ways in this game.

Moderator
Posted by csl316

Nice write up. Vagrant Story is my favorite (action) RPG of all time. I've beaten it a dozen times, but it's been over 5 years since the last run through.

From the gameplay, to the story, to the music, to the thick atmosphere, it's aces all around. Glad to hear that it still stands up to newcomers. When I think back, I just remember how completely stunning the spell effects got at the higher levels. And the last couple hours... incredible stuff.

Posted by Sparky_Buzzsaw

@csl316: Thanks for the input! I'm enjoying what I've seen so far of the spells, though admittedly I haven't reached the higher end spells yet. However, the effects look pretty great. The game is full of nice little touches like that.

Moderator
Edited by csl316

The twist is... I barely even play RPG's!!

Seriously, though, I found this to be extremely well written. Hoping it continues.

Posted by gla55jAw

@Sparky_Buzzsaw said:

@Mento: OK, cool. I'll track down a FAQ and get the basics of crafting and the like. I've made a shortsword that's served me pretty well throughout the game so far, but seeing what you and Gaff wrote makes me realize I should really familiarize myself with crafting.

And yeah, the graphical style holds up nicely. I know it's weird to single out something as minor as the text bubbles, but little touches like that add up in a lot of ways in this game.

You will need to start doing some crafting and leveling up weapons, if I remember correctly, certain weapons will be better for certain enemy types and you'll wind up carry everything from daggers to spears so you're ready for everything you encounter.

First off, nice write up, I enjoyed it, especially since I loved this game when I played it back on my PS1. I remember wanting to make it through to the next room to see if there was a new cut-scene, since you knew that every 3-5 rooms or so, you would get one.

As for a change in scenery, it is mostly dungeons, but you do get to go through the outside of Lea Monde, and be prepared to use some sort of guide for going through the forest! I actually quit playing for months because I got stuck (there is a specific way to get through and if you don't go through in the specific pattern, you get lost).

Not only is the soundtrack by the composer of Final Fantasy Tactics, the GAME itself is by the guys who made Final Fantasy Tactics. Lea Monde is actually in Ivalice!

Posted by Hailinel

Great write-up, Sparky. I actually bought Vagrant Story last year and played it for a couple of hours before setting it aside. Like you, I had little to no idea of what I was getting into when I started the game, but I liked what I played of it. I really need to go back and really dig in to see what the rest of the game is like.

Online
Posted by Sparky_Buzzsaw

@gla55jAw: Holy crap! I didn't realize it had an actual in-game connection to Final Fantasy Tactics. That's pretty awesome. I'm glad the scenery changes a bit too. I suspect I'm right on the border now of one of those changes.

@Hailinel: Thanks! I think it's an RPG worth getting into. I've got a whole freakin' pile of games I've started and need to finish. Ugh. That's one of my goals for this year - buy less games, get through and thoroughly enjoy more of the ones I own, and hopefully stay away from as many new purchases as I made last year.

Moderator
Posted by dankempster

Others have said it, but I'll re-iterate - this is yet another fantastic update, Sparky.

Vagrant Story is one of my all-time favourites, and reading your Retrospective has reminded me why. I agree with pretty much everything you say on every count - I love the world, I love the characters, I love the story (and its incredible translation), I love the aesthetics, and (with the possible exception of the box puzzles) I love every single facet of the gameplay as well. In particular, spending time learning the different reaction abilities and configuring them to suit my situation was both challenging and rewarding, and something I wish more modern games did. I love re-speccing my characters in RPGs to overcome different situations - stuff like FFVII's Materia system was great for this, and the Paradigm system in FFXIII and FFXIII-2 is a neat extension of the same kind of idea. Vagrant Story really nailed that side of things without ever making it too complex, I felt.

Like a few other people have said, crafting becomes a pretty important aspect of the game, so I'll join them in recommending that you take some time to get to grips with it. There's also a deep but subtly implemented weapon improvement system at work in Vagrant Story, if I remember correctly - damaging enemies with a weapon will increase that weapon's affinity to the enemy's type, while reducing its affinity with other types, so it's worth keeping an eye on that stuff and carrying a few weapons that keep you prepared for any eventuality. I think the different weapons also have different speeds and ranges as well, which adds a Monster Hunter-like element to combat where you can choose to trade off speed for keeping a safer distance, or vice versa.

You've really got me wanting to play this, now. Damn you Sparky, first Tomb Raider and now this?! In all seriousness though, it's great to hear you're enjoying the game and I look forward to learning more of your thoughts on it in future weeks. Sorry to hear the job thing didn't pan out the way you'd hoped, I'll keep my fingers crossed for you that something else comes along and soon. Take care and happy gaming buddy.

Posted by AdzPearson

Vagrant Story is definitely on my list of RPGs to check out (it's been on my radar for years, in fact). What you've talked about has only cemented it. It sounds like a pretty unique game. I'm always willing to check out JRPGs that do things differently.

Posted by csl316

I'm now convinced to pull up my 100% max save and run through this again with the final sword.... for old time's sake.