S.U. - RPG Retro: Final Thoughts on Vagrant Story

After last week's relatively quiet Update, I've come to some preliminary ideas and conclusions about the RPG Retrospective moving forward. From now on out, each game will be covered in two different parts. I won't be covering the story elements beyond what I feel is necessary for a basic introduction of each game. That said, I'd still like to complete each game, and will throw in some posthumous story notes if needed.

This week, I'm going to wrap up my thoughts on Vagrant Story, as I've finished it. Not gonna lie - I was pretty damn underprepared at spots, but I finished the tale of Ashley Riot late Monday evening. Also this week, I'll briefly be talking about Amalur, again.

RPG Retrospective - Vagrant Story: Part 3

RPG Cheese

This section is devoted briefly to the amount of cheesy RPG cliches you'll find in each game I feature here. Practically a fault of nearly every RPG throughout the years has been certain cliches that pop up time and time again. Other genres have their own, but in a genre wherein you'll likely spend dozens of hours with each game, it's good to know this in advance.

Surprisingly, there's little of note in Vagrant Story. The enemy types are fairly cliched, but the novel approach of the weapons and weaknesses systems makes fighting each of them less of a grind. Speaking of grinds, there are some spots where grinding is almost necessary, though with the proper preperation, the grind should be minimal for experienced RPG players. Some of the Japanese-ness of the characters peeks through the blinders, such as with the character designs and the taunting nature of Sydney. However, there's nothing really aggravating about any of this, and as a whole, the game does a great job of reining in the cheese.

Replayabilty

One of the biggest attractions of a great RPG is in its replayabilty. Are there lots of hidden items, fights, or additional goodies to find that could significantly alter a playthrough? Is there a New Game+? Is the story great enough to revisit, or is it hell to trudge through?

Vagrant Story has a New Game+ that essentially carries over all your items and stats. According to Wikipedia, it doesn't alter any story elements, but offers up the potential for some further exploration. Readers of the blog have also pointed out that there are weapons accessible only through the New Game+, so there's that as well.

The story is great enough to warrant another playthrough. Honestly, I probably will play this through at least one more time at some point, slowly and with an eye towards exploration. I feel like I rushed certain sections of the game, and I'd like to get in and explore more of Lea Monde. The gameplay should lend itself to multiple playthroughs without any real frustration further on down the line, as there's nothing quite like it, and therefore, nobody's refined it.

Overall Quality, Then and Now

Since I didn't play Vagrant Story back in the day, I can't give you a comparison of my experiences of the game. But in comparison to some of its peers, including its cousin Final Fantasy Tactics, I can say that it holds up incredibly well. The action-focused gameplay, narrow dungeons, and elimination of random encounters should get a cheer from many a new player. The story is superb, with a lengthy ending, deep characters, and a dark tone. Ashley Riot, though by nature a haunted man, is no emo punk parading as a leading man, and is an intellectually satisfying main character. I'm honestly shocked we haven't seen more of him in games - although with the assless chaps, perhaps that's a good thing.

Again, of particular note is that gorgeous score. Even if you don't play the game, do yourself a favor and check out the music.

Total Value Versus Accessibility

This is a bit of an awkward title for the section. Basically, it's where I'll put down my thoughts on whether or not the game is worth playing based on how easy it is to find and the price it's commonly available at. This is also a catch-all for who should pick up the game and any thoughts that might relate to your enjoyment of it.

In regards to Vagrant Story, the value is staggering. The game is easily accessible through PSN, and at a mere $7, I cannot recommend it more to just about anyone save graphics-whores (and if you're one of those, you're reading the wrong blog). This game is begging for some sort of revisiting somewhere down the line, be it a real or spiritual sequel.

Play this game. It's not perfect, but I couldn't have asked for a better game to kickstart this RPG Retrospective.

The Rest!

- I love Kingdoms of Amalur. This is one insanely big game, held back only by a lack of imagination. It borrows story and plot elements from tons of fantasy novels, especially Tolkien, Robert Jordan, and especially Salvatore's own previous work. At parts, that lack of originality really hampers the game, but overall, I feel like this is one of the best new IP's of this generation.

-Really bummed to hear Bulletstorm 2 got canned. I hope the "kill with skill" stuff makes it into other games.

-The next game to be featured in the RPG Retrospective, you ask (or not)? I don't know when the first entry will be, but that game is none other than.... Tales of the Abyss! Well, technically, Tales of the Abyss 3DS. Stay tuned, intrepid reader. This one should be colorful.

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Posted by Sparky_Buzzsaw

After last week's relatively quiet Update, I've come to some preliminary ideas and conclusions about the RPG Retrospective moving forward. From now on out, each game will be covered in two different parts. I won't be covering the story elements beyond what I feel is necessary for a basic introduction of each game. That said, I'd still like to complete each game, and will throw in some posthumous story notes if needed.

This week, I'm going to wrap up my thoughts on Vagrant Story, as I've finished it. Not gonna lie - I was pretty damn underprepared at spots, but I finished the tale of Ashley Riot late Monday evening. Also this week, I'll briefly be talking about Amalur, again.

RPG Retrospective - Vagrant Story: Part 3

RPG Cheese

This section is devoted briefly to the amount of cheesy RPG cliches you'll find in each game I feature here. Practically a fault of nearly every RPG throughout the years has been certain cliches that pop up time and time again. Other genres have their own, but in a genre wherein you'll likely spend dozens of hours with each game, it's good to know this in advance.

Surprisingly, there's little of note in Vagrant Story. The enemy types are fairly cliched, but the novel approach of the weapons and weaknesses systems makes fighting each of them less of a grind. Speaking of grinds, there are some spots where grinding is almost necessary, though with the proper preperation, the grind should be minimal for experienced RPG players. Some of the Japanese-ness of the characters peeks through the blinders, such as with the character designs and the taunting nature of Sydney. However, there's nothing really aggravating about any of this, and as a whole, the game does a great job of reining in the cheese.

Replayabilty

One of the biggest attractions of a great RPG is in its replayabilty. Are there lots of hidden items, fights, or additional goodies to find that could significantly alter a playthrough? Is there a New Game+? Is the story great enough to revisit, or is it hell to trudge through?

Vagrant Story has a New Game+ that essentially carries over all your items and stats. According to Wikipedia, it doesn't alter any story elements, but offers up the potential for some further exploration. Readers of the blog have also pointed out that there are weapons accessible only through the New Game+, so there's that as well.

The story is great enough to warrant another playthrough. Honestly, I probably will play this through at least one more time at some point, slowly and with an eye towards exploration. I feel like I rushed certain sections of the game, and I'd like to get in and explore more of Lea Monde. The gameplay should lend itself to multiple playthroughs without any real frustration further on down the line, as there's nothing quite like it, and therefore, nobody's refined it.

Overall Quality, Then and Now

Since I didn't play Vagrant Story back in the day, I can't give you a comparison of my experiences of the game. But in comparison to some of its peers, including its cousin Final Fantasy Tactics, I can say that it holds up incredibly well. The action-focused gameplay, narrow dungeons, and elimination of random encounters should get a cheer from many a new player. The story is superb, with a lengthy ending, deep characters, and a dark tone. Ashley Riot, though by nature a haunted man, is no emo punk parading as a leading man, and is an intellectually satisfying main character. I'm honestly shocked we haven't seen more of him in games - although with the assless chaps, perhaps that's a good thing.

Again, of particular note is that gorgeous score. Even if you don't play the game, do yourself a favor and check out the music.

Total Value Versus Accessibility

This is a bit of an awkward title for the section. Basically, it's where I'll put down my thoughts on whether or not the game is worth playing based on how easy it is to find and the price it's commonly available at. This is also a catch-all for who should pick up the game and any thoughts that might relate to your enjoyment of it.

In regards to Vagrant Story, the value is staggering. The game is easily accessible through PSN, and at a mere $7, I cannot recommend it more to just about anyone save graphics-whores (and if you're one of those, you're reading the wrong blog). This game is begging for some sort of revisiting somewhere down the line, be it a real or spiritual sequel.

Play this game. It's not perfect, but I couldn't have asked for a better game to kickstart this RPG Retrospective.

The Rest!

- I love Kingdoms of Amalur. This is one insanely big game, held back only by a lack of imagination. It borrows story and plot elements from tons of fantasy novels, especially Tolkien, Robert Jordan, and especially Salvatore's own previous work. At parts, that lack of originality really hampers the game, but overall, I feel like this is one of the best new IP's of this generation.

-Really bummed to hear Bulletstorm 2 got canned. I hope the "kill with skill" stuff makes it into other games.

-The next game to be featured in the RPG Retrospective, you ask (or not)? I don't know when the first entry will be, but that game is none other than.... Tales of the Abyss! Well, technically, Tales of the Abyss 3DS. Stay tuned, intrepid reader. This one should be colorful.

Moderator
Posted by dankempster

Damn you, Sparky! You keep making me want to play all the games you write about! A couple of years ago things were the other way round - how the roles have reversed!

Reading this has confirmed to me beyond all doubt that I need to finish Vagrant Story. It really is a fantastic game, and the fact I still haven't seen it through to completion after all this time makes me feel almost ashamed. I think when I'm done with Soul Reaver, I'll begin my effort in earnest. I can't comment on anything else (I haven't played Amalur or Bulletstorm), so I guess I'll just leave it at that. Yet another enjoyable read, and I'm already looking forward to next week's.

Posted by Sparky_Buzzsaw

@dankempster: If it's any consolation, I really want to play through Legacy of Kain and Soul Reaver now because of you. I might revisit Legacy of Kain for the retrospective, but Reaver would probably never get the time it truly deserved. Still, it's tempting.

I highly encourage you (and everyone, really) to see Vagrant Story through to its end. It's really freakin' difficult in spots, and I'm afraid I cheesed a few bosses with some questionable tactics. I also had to use a guide in spots to help figure out certain spots I could grind out weapon affinities. The last two bosses are also hella freakin' tough, to the point where I thought I'd have to admit defeat and hunt down Youtube videos to see the thing through. But on the fourth or fifth try, I nailed my defensive combos. I think it has one of the finest endings I've seen in an RPG. It is satisfying on just about every level.

Moderator
Posted by csl316

I've actually been looking forward to these posts, so good job. Quality write up.

Posted by Sparky_Buzzsaw

@dankempster:

@csl316:

Is there anything about the format you want to read more about? Anything less? I'm making some notes today and I'm looking for any ideas on stuff I should add or focus more on. Heh. I said "moron."

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Posted by csl316
@Sparky_Buzzsaw Hmm... off the top of my had, maybe video links? Your writing is solid, but an example of the soundtrack or a bit of gameplay off Youtube would definitely help someone with no frame of reference.
Posted by csl316

Head* damn phone!

Posted by Sparky_Buzzsaw

@csl316: Oh hell, that's a fantastic idea. I included a little bit of the score last week, but I definitely should have put more up here. Man, that score is unbelievably good - and not just for a video game, either. Gameplay videos are also a really great idea. Thanks!

Moderator
Posted by csl316

Undercity, ftw.

Posted by dankempster

@Sparky_Buzzsaw: csl316's suggestion is a great one. As someone who hasn't played Tales of the Abyss, some gameplay videos in the next Retrospective would be a great point of reference for me (assuming they're sourceable on YouTube, of course). Other than that, I can't think of anything else I'd add or alter. I really like the format you've established with this initial Retrospective, and your writing style ensures it's easy to follow and a pleasure to read. All I can really ask is that you keep up the great work!

Also, I'm definitely going to boot up Vagrant Story when I'm done with Soul Reaver. I know I have FFXIII-2 on the go and don't normally play through multiple RPGs simultaneously, but what the heck? If anybody asks, my justification is that VS is almost an action game anyway. Slightly off-topic as well, but I'm really enjoying Soul Reaver and can't wait to blog about it. I won't say too much here, but in many respects it feels like the "Dark Zelda" that people keep asking for, before it was even asked for (if that makes sense).

Posted by Sparky_Buzzsaw

@dankempster: I haven't played FFXIII-2, mind you, but they seem like such different games that I can't see the harm in playing them simultaneously. Though oddly enough, I did get a weird FFXIII vibe from some of the more narrowly focused areas of Vagrant Story. Brief twinges, really. There's almost nothing relating the two besides the Square name.

I don't remember enough of Soul Reaver to say much, but that certainly does make sense. In certain ways, Blood Omen played a bit like a darker Link to the Past, so it makes sense that the series would continue its parallels.

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