Vagrant Story is an isometric Action RPG that bends the traditional rules of the genre. Featuring a widely-praised localization, an intricate plot and a combat system focused largely on weapons as opposed to party members or experience points, the game offers a unique and satisfying experience. The game is especially notable for its development pedigree: Produced by Yasumi Matsuno, led artistically by Akihiko Yoshida and musically scored by Hitoshi Sakimoto, these three have collaborated on projects ranging from Ogre Battle to Final Fantasy XII. Also noteworthy is the game's award of a perfect 40 review score from Japanese gaming magazine Famitsu, one of only a handful of titles to receive the honor.
Story and Setting
The game tells the story of Ashley Riot -- an elite agent called a Riskbreaker -- as he follows the trail of mysterious Mullenkamp cult leader Sydney Losstarot through the ruins of the fabled and magical city of Lea Monde. The game takes place in Matsuno's Ivalice universe which has been the setting for many of the designer's other works such as Final Fantasy Tactics and Final Fantasy XII. The game's mature and gracefully-told story is full of political intrigue, ethical ambiguity and deeply poignant and memorable characters.
Gameplay may be roughly described as combat-intensive dungeon crawling with extremely deep weapon customization as its primary focus (with the occasional box puzzle). The game features an intimidating number of elemental affinities and weapon types, a largely mysterious weapon synthesis mechanic, and combat that focuses on chaining attacks together with rudimentary timing. As such it has been criticized for its convoluted nature, but adored by many for such deeply rewarding gameplay systems.
RISK Combat System
The game introduces the concept of Risk, where the player is free to create a chained attack combo for as long as they desire at the expense of an increased chance that a subsequent attack will miss. Using combo attacks activated by pressing face buttons at the designated time, the player can focus on specific limbs or the enemy in general while attacking to maximize damage output. The Risk system encourages a play style in which the player is careful to stop attacking after a few hits, subsequently giving the enemy an opportunity to attack, thereby balancing the game. It also offers the player an emergency last-ditch effort by allowing them to continuously attack an enemy without interruption if no other strategies appear to be effective.
Another core aspect of the game's combat system is the concept of enemy and weapon affinities. As you use a specific weapon (ie., Short Sword) against a specific type of enemy (ie., Dragon), the weapon's effectiveness against that enemy type increases. Likewise, when using that same weapon against a different enemy type (ie., Undead), the weapon's effectiveness towards Dragons would be weakened. By the end of the game, most successful players will have specific weapons prepared for specific enemy types and will switch between them all as the situation requires.
Vagrant Story's locales were influenced heavily by French architecture, although the game makes use of a combination of interesting art direction and dramatic lighting to create Lea Monde. In addition, advanced animation technology allowed characters to be capable of conveying both subtle emotions and dramatic flair, giving the game a collection of memorable cutscenes. Vagrant Story's graphics are commonly praised as some of the best on the PlayStation One.
Equipment Synthesis System
Vagrant Story features an in-depth synthesis system that allows the dismantling and reassembling of weapons and other equipment that drops during the course of gameplay. Lea Monde features six different workshops for you to combine metals to make stronger gear. It should be noted that the weapon crafting in the game is more in-depth, allowing for a higher level of dismantling and reassembling, while the armor crafting of the game mostly just allow for the combining of gear to make higher quality versions or new gear entirely.
The order of material quality in the game goes as follows: wood/leather, bronze, iron, hagane, silver, and damascus. The quality of a weapon specifically is important, as it helps determine the amount of durability points (or DP) is available to a weapon before it will break. DP can be repaired as any of the workshops. Dismantling a weapon can produce various spare parts (blades, hilts, mace heads, etc.) to combine into new weapons. Each piece of the weapon will carry a specific material property of metal to it (including wood, although it is not a metal). Combining different materials, such as mixing bronze with iron, can increase the type of metal being used for the weapon.
Gems can also be attached to the various weapons and armor you create which will give different attributes, such as piercing damage, blunt damage, and even stat boosts in strength, intelligence, etc. The gems generally drop from either the monsters in the world or become available after dismantling a weapon.
Three rare weapons in the game are available after reaching 100% game completion and finishing the required tasks to gain possession of them. These weapons (The Hand of Light, Rhompaia, and Holy Win) contain some of the most powerful gems and metal combination possibilities in the game. The weapons are found in locked areas and require multiple playthroughs in order to unlock them.
Vagrant Story's Japanese-to-English localization is still hailed as one of the best examples in the industry. Headed by Alexander O. Smith, who would go on to localize Final Fantasy XII, Vagrant Story's text is flavored with Middle-English words and other terminology at a time before this type of effort was common in Japanese releases to other markets. This is in stark contrast to its Ivalice Alliance cousin Final Fantasy Tactics which, though released only three years prior to Vagrant Story, contains more of a direct translation with numerous grammatical errors along with many inconsistencies in its plot.
Vagrant Story's music was composed by team Matsuno mainstay Hitoshi Sakimoto. Sakimoto created a number of dark, brooding themes for the game which add to the personality and thematics of Lea Monde.
The game's soundtrack was released as a two-disc set on March 8, 2000 in Japan and contains 55 tracks used in the game along with two remixes. The soundtrack was reprinted on March 24, 2006 and featured some remastering that was previously unable to be completed with the initial release. Some fans, however, have complained that the remastering affected the quality of the audio.
Title: Vagrant Story Original Soundtrack
Total length: 2:27:53
- "Opening Movie" - (1:18)
- "VKP Headquarters ~ Inside Duke Bardorba's Manor"" - (4:27)
- "Graylands Incident Climax"" - (11:52)
- "Preface ~ Graylands Incident Investigation Report"" - (2:20)
- "Closed Leá Monde" - (3:20)
- "Minotaur" - (2:42)
- "Remembrance" - (1:26)
- "Catacombs" - (4:35)
- "Dullahan" - (1:58)
- "A False Memory" - (5:12)
- "Sanctum" - (2:17)
- "Golem" - (2:19)
- "Snares Laid by the Hart" - (1:22)
- "Abandoned Mines Level 1" - (2:43)
- "Knights of the Cross" - (1:59)
- "Wyvern" - (1:44)
- "Town Center of Leá Monde" - (3:19)
- "A Meeting" - (3:03)
- "Snowfly Forest" - (2:56)
- "Lizardman" - (1:25)
- "Another Riskbreaker" - (1:20)
- "Inside the City Walls" - (1:59)
- "Brainwashing" - (1:30)
- "Rosencrantz" - (1:57)
- "Undercity" - (3:46)
- "Game Over" - (0:29)
- "Factory" - (2:36)
- "Tieger & Neesa" - (3:12)
- "Kali" - (1:36)
- "Joshua 2" - (0:58)
- "Nightmare" - (1:40)
- "Awakening" - (1:32)
- "Joshua" - (2:06)
- "Abandoned Mines Level 2" - (4:20)
- "Iron Crab" - (1:46)
- "Blood-Sin" - (1:15)
- "Rood Inverse Tattoo" - (2:06)
- "Reminiscence" - (0:45)
- "Dark Element" - (2:13)
- "The End of Rosencrantz ~ Kali" - (2:11)
- "Ogre" - (2:09)
- "Temple of Kiltia" - (2:09)
- "Great Cathedral" - (1:15)
- "Ifrit" - (3:02)
- "Fanfare" - (0:34)
- "Last Strength" - ( 1:18)
- "Great Cathedral Attic" - (1:58)
- "Banquet of Transmigration" - (2:07)
- "Truth" - (3:50)
- "Grotesque Creature" - (2:09)
- "Escape" - (2:08)
- "Epilogue" - (1:06)
- "Leá Monde at Dawn ~ The Story of the Wanderer, the Vagrant" - (2:49)
- "Staff Roll" - (7:27)
- "Opening Movie (Fight Mix)" - (5:21)
- "Dungeon (Robot Mix)" - (3:39)