An End To My Wandering

Posted by dankempster (2253 posts) -
Vagrant Story is one of gaming's true classics

I've long held up Vagrant Story as one of my favourite games ever. Throughout my long and colourful history with video games, I've never hesitated to mention it in the same breath as titles like Final Fantasy VII, Metal Gear Solid 3 and Shadow of the Colossus. A little over three years ago, when such things were all the rage on the Giant Bomb forums, I even positioned the title fifth on a list of my Top 30 Games. And yet, in spite of holding Vagrant Story in such high regard for all this time, a terrible weight rested upon my gamer's shoulders - I'd never seen the whole thing through. That's right - the conclusion to Ashley Riot's mission in Lea Monde had persistently eluded me, my opinion standing for only two-thirds of a game. That changed last weekend when, after almost a decade's worth of attempts, I finally broke through the invisible walls that impeded my progress and witnessed the final few hours of agent Riot's tale. Beyond the expected relief of getting one of the longest-residing gaming monkeys off my back, Vagrant Story's conclusion also brought with it a sense of affirmation - the feeling that my love of the game was justified, and if anything has only grown with the passage of time and the completion of the adventure.

My first encounter with Vagrant Story must have been about ten years ago at this point. It started as so many of these gaming origins stories do - in my local GAME store's pre-owned bargain bin. I was twelve at the time, and completely unaware of what I was getting myself into when I picked it up for what was most likely a sub-£10 price point. I was young, impressionable, and a huge fan of Final Fantasy, having probably sunk a collective one-hundred-and-fifty hours into the seventh, eighth and ninth instalments of the franchise. The sight of the Squaresoft logo in the corner of the game's box art, coupled with a synopsis that read like a Final Fantasy game on the back of the box, were enough to persuade me to drop what little money I had on this title. Getting it home, out of the box and into the PlayStation, I evidently found my faith to be well-placed.

Personally, I think it's the best-looking game on the PS1

My memories of my earliest experiences with Vagrant Story aren't quite as clear as the previous paragraph might have you believe, but I'll do my best to recapture them. The first thing that struck me was the game's art style. Walking a fine line between realism and fairy-tale ethereality, everything about Vagrant Story looked incredible. The characters, the enemies, the various locations that made up the lost city of Lea Monde... it was a world I was glad to get lost in. The story was unique and captivating, balancing upon an axis of political and religious intrigue and played out by a cast of interesting, morally complex characters - a welcome change from the fairly clear-cut good-versus-evil struggles of the three PlayStation Final Fantasies. I loved the stat-driven complexities of the combat system, the need to weigh up the options, choose the right weapon for the job, and balance lengthy chain combos with ever-rising RISK. The only thing I can remember disliking was the game's steep difficulty, which was much more punishing than that of the Final Fantasy games I'd grown used to. It was this difficulty (coupled with lack of preparation and a shallow understanding of weapon stats) that at first left me unable to progress past some difficult bosses, and later encouraged me to abandon it completely. Vagrant Story was an awesome game, one of the best I'd ever played. I simply accepted that I wasn't a good enough gamer to finish it, and confined it to the dusty shelf that housed my Pile of Shame...

Which, I suppose, brings me back to the spring of 2012 and my decision to return to Lea Monde. That decision was inspired directly by fellow Giant Bomb user Sparky_Buzzsaw, whose influence on my choice of games this year has been pretty heavy indeed. While reading his series of three RPG Retrospective blogs about Vagrant Story back in April, I found myself falling in love with the idea of playing the game all over again. Not only that - I believed that with my more capable mind, my more dexterous fingers, and a wider education in the works of producer Yasumi Matsuno through Final Fantasy Tactics and Final Fantasy XII, I might finally be able to overcome the obstacles that slowed me all those years ago and see the game through to its conclusion. I was playing Soul Reaver at the time, but when my time with it was cut short by persistent disc read errors, I wasted no time in swapping Raziel's adventure for Ashley's.

With the right loadout and preparation, most bosses go down easily

Returning to Vagrant Story all these years later elevated the experience above a simple return to an old favourite. I found myself admiring things that the twelve-year-old me had all but ignored in the past - things like the brilliant translation work, and the heavy French influence present in almost everything in the game from the architecture right down to the names of the spell-teaching grimoires. I also managed to overcome my battle with the game's hardened difficulty, a revelation which came about when I finally worked out how the gem attachment system works. Over the last month or so, it's become one of my favourite customisation systems in any JRPG. Several years ago, I found myself constantly at a loss for effective weaponry, in spite of all the tinkering I'd done in workshops throughout Lea Monde. With this playthrough, though, I worked out that one weapon can effectively serve multiple needs simply by attaching the right gems to it. Need a weapon to take down a humanoid with a Fire affinity? Just whack the Haeralis and Salamander Ruby into your sword and you're away! This free customisation meant I could stay focused on the three basic weapon types, keeping two Edged, two Blunt, and two Piercing weapons with me at all times and simply switching gems to suit my needs. Having this knowledge under my belt made Vagrant Story a little easier, a lot less frustrating and a lot more rewarding.

The other thing that probably played a huge part in my success this time around was my willingness to use buffs and debuffs. I'd never really cared for these indirect, status-altering spells in RPGs up until a couple of years ago, when Final Fantasy XIII's Paradigm system made me aware of just how much a timely Protect, Haste or Dispel can turn the tide of battle in your favour. It's a lesson that was reinforced by Persona 3 at the beginning of this year, where skills like Tarukaja and Rakunda went a long way towards helping me overcome the more difficult boss fights. I brought that knowledge back into Vagrant Story and relied heavily on the status-altering spells I'd learned from grimoires. Every boss fight began with extensive preparation - Herakles to raise my strength, Prostasia (or one of the Fusion spells) to increase the effectiveness of my weapon, and Degenerate or Psychodrain to make my foes less of a threat. This preparation, coupled with the constant gem-switching, made my build of Ashley Riot a force to be reckoned with.

In the world of Vagrant Story, nobody's motives are clear-cut

Vagrant Story isn't completely without flaws, though. Because the game's Analysis spell is so unreliable, figuring out the right strategy is often a case of trial-and-error until something starts to give. While the constant re-speccing is what brings about the game's biggest sense of reward, having to re-jig your inventory every time you enter a new room can get a little tedious, especially when playing for long periods of time. And finally, there's that final boss battle. Even by Vagrant Story's standards, that mean mother is incredibly difficult. I died a lot, and ultimately had to turn to YouTube to seek out an effective strategy because my hitherto tried-and-tested methods failed to make a dent in its armour. But while these things can grate, they're a small price to pay for the game's awesome story, interesting characters, and highly rewarding combat system.

If you want some bona fide reasons to pick up Vagrant Story as a new experience in 2012, then please go and check out Sparky_Buzzsaw's RPG Retrospective on the game. It's a fantastic break-down on why the game holds up so well, and makes a solid case for why it's still worth playing now. I guess this blog is aimed at a different audience - people in my own position, who played parts of the game years ago but didn't see Ashley's adventure through to its conclusion. If any such people are reading this, I implore you to pick the game back up and give it another chance. It's every bit as fantastic as you remember it being, perhaps even more so. It's available for a pittance on the PlayStation Store, so if you own a PS3 or PSP, there's really no excuse not to. I waited ten years to see the credits roll, and for me personally, it's one of the most satisfying video game endings I've ever witnessed. In retrospect, Vagrant Story is definitely deserving of its spot on that Top 30 Games list. In fact, it might even deserve to rest a little bit higher...

From one long-unfinished PS1 Squaresoft RPG to another...

With Vagrant Story finally stripped from my daunting Pile of Shame, I've decided it's time to put paid to another Square RPG - one which has been on there for even longer. Final Fantasy VIII is yet another game that I've probably spent a cumulative total of several dozen hours playing, but in spite of all that time investment, I've never made it past the earliest stages of the game's third disc. It's been a slow, deliberate start to the game, and at the three-hour mark I've just embarked on Squall's SeeD practical exam in Dollet. It's yet another game that seems to have held up remarkably well over time, and I'm excited to dig deeper into it and rediscover the nuances of the Junction system. Also on-the-go is Batman: Arkham Asylum. I'm not a Batman fan, but what I've played so far has been a brilliant action game, irrespective of the branding. The combat in particular is really satisfying, probably due to the incredible animation, the weighted feel of each punch and kick, and its easy-to-pick-up, difficult-to-master nature. Expect more detailed thoughts on both games as and when I finish them. In the meantme, thanks for reading guys, and I'll see you around.

Dan

---

Currently playing - Batman: Arkham Asylum (X360)

#1 Posted by dankempster (2253 posts) -
Vagrant Story is one of gaming's true classics

I've long held up Vagrant Story as one of my favourite games ever. Throughout my long and colourful history with video games, I've never hesitated to mention it in the same breath as titles like Final Fantasy VII, Metal Gear Solid 3 and Shadow of the Colossus. A little over three years ago, when such things were all the rage on the Giant Bomb forums, I even positioned the title fifth on a list of my Top 30 Games. And yet, in spite of holding Vagrant Story in such high regard for all this time, a terrible weight rested upon my gamer's shoulders - I'd never seen the whole thing through. That's right - the conclusion to Ashley Riot's mission in Lea Monde had persistently eluded me, my opinion standing for only two-thirds of a game. That changed last weekend when, after almost a decade's worth of attempts, I finally broke through the invisible walls that impeded my progress and witnessed the final few hours of agent Riot's tale. Beyond the expected relief of getting one of the longest-residing gaming monkeys off my back, Vagrant Story's conclusion also brought with it a sense of affirmation - the feeling that my love of the game was justified, and if anything has only grown with the passage of time and the completion of the adventure.

My first encounter with Vagrant Story must have been about ten years ago at this point. It started as so many of these gaming origins stories do - in my local GAME store's pre-owned bargain bin. I was twelve at the time, and completely unaware of what I was getting myself into when I picked it up for what was most likely a sub-£10 price point. I was young, impressionable, and a huge fan of Final Fantasy, having probably sunk a collective one-hundred-and-fifty hours into the seventh, eighth and ninth instalments of the franchise. The sight of the Squaresoft logo in the corner of the game's box art, coupled with a synopsis that read like a Final Fantasy game on the back of the box, were enough to persuade me to drop what little money I had on this title. Getting it home, out of the box and into the PlayStation, I evidently found my faith to be well-placed.

Personally, I think it's the best-looking game on the PS1

My memories of my earliest experiences with Vagrant Story aren't quite as clear as the previous paragraph might have you believe, but I'll do my best to recapture them. The first thing that struck me was the game's art style. Walking a fine line between realism and fairy-tale ethereality, everything about Vagrant Story looked incredible. The characters, the enemies, the various locations that made up the lost city of Lea Monde... it was a world I was glad to get lost in. The story was unique and captivating, balancing upon an axis of political and religious intrigue and played out by a cast of interesting, morally complex characters - a welcome change from the fairly clear-cut good-versus-evil struggles of the three PlayStation Final Fantasies. I loved the stat-driven complexities of the combat system, the need to weigh up the options, choose the right weapon for the job, and balance lengthy chain combos with ever-rising RISK. The only thing I can remember disliking was the game's steep difficulty, which was much more punishing than that of the Final Fantasy games I'd grown used to. It was this difficulty (coupled with lack of preparation and a shallow understanding of weapon stats) that at first left me unable to progress past some difficult bosses, and later encouraged me to abandon it completely. Vagrant Story was an awesome game, one of the best I'd ever played. I simply accepted that I wasn't a good enough gamer to finish it, and confined it to the dusty shelf that housed my Pile of Shame...

Which, I suppose, brings me back to the spring of 2012 and my decision to return to Lea Monde. That decision was inspired directly by fellow Giant Bomb user Sparky_Buzzsaw, whose influence on my choice of games this year has been pretty heavy indeed. While reading his series of three RPG Retrospective blogs about Vagrant Story back in April, I found myself falling in love with the idea of playing the game all over again. Not only that - I believed that with my more capable mind, my more dexterous fingers, and a wider education in the works of producer Yasumi Matsuno through Final Fantasy Tactics and Final Fantasy XII, I might finally be able to overcome the obstacles that slowed me all those years ago and see the game through to its conclusion. I was playing Soul Reaver at the time, but when my time with it was cut short by persistent disc read errors, I wasted no time in swapping Raziel's adventure for Ashley's.

With the right loadout and preparation, most bosses go down easily

Returning to Vagrant Story all these years later elevated the experience above a simple return to an old favourite. I found myself admiring things that the twelve-year-old me had all but ignored in the past - things like the brilliant translation work, and the heavy French influence present in almost everything in the game from the architecture right down to the names of the spell-teaching grimoires. I also managed to overcome my battle with the game's hardened difficulty, a revelation which came about when I finally worked out how the gem attachment system works. Over the last month or so, it's become one of my favourite customisation systems in any JRPG. Several years ago, I found myself constantly at a loss for effective weaponry, in spite of all the tinkering I'd done in workshops throughout Lea Monde. With this playthrough, though, I worked out that one weapon can effectively serve multiple needs simply by attaching the right gems to it. Need a weapon to take down a humanoid with a Fire affinity? Just whack the Haeralis and Salamander Ruby into your sword and you're away! This free customisation meant I could stay focused on the three basic weapon types, keeping two Edged, two Blunt, and two Piercing weapons with me at all times and simply switching gems to suit my needs. Having this knowledge under my belt made Vagrant Story a little easier, a lot less frustrating and a lot more rewarding.

The other thing that probably played a huge part in my success this time around was my willingness to use buffs and debuffs. I'd never really cared for these indirect, status-altering spells in RPGs up until a couple of years ago, when Final Fantasy XIII's Paradigm system made me aware of just how much a timely Protect, Haste or Dispel can turn the tide of battle in your favour. It's a lesson that was reinforced by Persona 3 at the beginning of this year, where skills like Tarukaja and Rakunda went a long way towards helping me overcome the more difficult boss fights. I brought that knowledge back into Vagrant Story and relied heavily on the status-altering spells I'd learned from grimoires. Every boss fight began with extensive preparation - Herakles to raise my strength, Prostasia (or one of the Fusion spells) to increase the effectiveness of my weapon, and Degenerate or Psychodrain to make my foes less of a threat. This preparation, coupled with the constant gem-switching, made my build of Ashley Riot a force to be reckoned with.

In the world of Vagrant Story, nobody's motives are clear-cut

Vagrant Story isn't completely without flaws, though. Because the game's Analysis spell is so unreliable, figuring out the right strategy is often a case of trial-and-error until something starts to give. While the constant re-speccing is what brings about the game's biggest sense of reward, having to re-jig your inventory every time you enter a new room can get a little tedious, especially when playing for long periods of time. And finally, there's that final boss battle. Even by Vagrant Story's standards, that mean mother is incredibly difficult. I died a lot, and ultimately had to turn to YouTube to seek out an effective strategy because my hitherto tried-and-tested methods failed to make a dent in its armour. But while these things can grate, they're a small price to pay for the game's awesome story, interesting characters, and highly rewarding combat system.

If you want some bona fide reasons to pick up Vagrant Story as a new experience in 2012, then please go and check out Sparky_Buzzsaw's RPG Retrospective on the game. It's a fantastic break-down on why the game holds up so well, and makes a solid case for why it's still worth playing now. I guess this blog is aimed at a different audience - people in my own position, who played parts of the game years ago but didn't see Ashley's adventure through to its conclusion. If any such people are reading this, I implore you to pick the game back up and give it another chance. It's every bit as fantastic as you remember it being, perhaps even more so. It's available for a pittance on the PlayStation Store, so if you own a PS3 or PSP, there's really no excuse not to. I waited ten years to see the credits roll, and for me personally, it's one of the most satisfying video game endings I've ever witnessed. In retrospect, Vagrant Story is definitely deserving of its spot on that Top 30 Games list. In fact, it might even deserve to rest a little bit higher...

From one long-unfinished PS1 Squaresoft RPG to another...

With Vagrant Story finally stripped from my daunting Pile of Shame, I've decided it's time to put paid to another Square RPG - one which has been on there for even longer. Final Fantasy VIII is yet another game that I've probably spent a cumulative total of several dozen hours playing, but in spite of all that time investment, I've never made it past the earliest stages of the game's third disc. It's been a slow, deliberate start to the game, and at the three-hour mark I've just embarked on Squall's SeeD practical exam in Dollet. It's yet another game that seems to have held up remarkably well over time, and I'm excited to dig deeper into it and rediscover the nuances of the Junction system. Also on-the-go is Batman: Arkham Asylum. I'm not a Batman fan, but what I've played so far has been a brilliant action game, irrespective of the branding. The combat in particular is really satisfying, probably due to the incredible animation, the weighted feel of each punch and kick, and its easy-to-pick-up, difficult-to-master nature. Expect more detailed thoughts on both games as and when I finish them. In the meantme, thanks for reading guys, and I'll see you around.

Dan

---

Currently playing - Batman: Arkham Asylum (X360)

#2 Posted by PixelPrinny (1030 posts) -

That was a good read and grats on finally finishing Vagrant Story. That game is pretty great and I remember buying it on PSN when it came out there even though I had already owned and finished it on PSX. I should go and actually play the PSN version I bought one of these days...

Good luck with FFVIII next :)

#3 Posted by Mento (2682 posts) -

Kudos with beating Vagrant Story. I think I got to the very last optional boss and died which was a bugger, since there was no opportunity to save during that gauntlet of tough mothers. I'm in two minds about going back to it and making sure I have 100%, but I'm fairly sure I won't have retained enough know-how about the game's byzantine systems to challenge them again without restarting.

I have a weird relationship with FF8. I recognize it as utter tripe, specifically the story, yet I took the time to beat it twice. I guess mechanically there's nothing wrong with it, as unintuitive as the Junction system can be at times. Have fun, just don't think about the plot too hard.

Moderator
#4 Posted by Marz (5658 posts) -

Yeah Vagrant Story is a fantastic game, it's on my wishlist for games that need to be made again whether by sequel or HD remake.

#5 Posted by frankfartmouth (1018 posts) -

Hm. I never finished this game either. Being a huge JRPG fan, the halcyon days of Square on the PS1 were about as good as it gets. This one sneaked under my nose when it came out, but I tried it a few years back and thought it dated pretty badly. I liked the art direction, the story, and the atmosphere, but the combat wasn't biting for me. After reading this, I'm thinking maybe I was too hasty in dismissing it.

#6 Edited by Spoonman671 (4694 posts) -

Vagrant Story is far-and-away my favorite game.  I don't think I play it annually, but I do revisit it fairly often.  While the game was very challenging, I don't think it was nearly as difficult as you make it sound.  I never found the need to constantly swap gems in and out, as you describe.  Perhaps I just spent more time tinkering with the robust weapon crafting system?

#7 Posted by maskedarcstrike (701 posts) -

Always been a huge VS fan, I still think it has one of the best endings ever for a videogame. The soundtrack was simply amazing as well.

#8 Posted by Sparky_Buzzsaw (6304 posts) -

That's a great write-up. Our tactics sound somewhat similar, too - I found myself circulating between around six or seven specific weapons in those categories, but I was always tinkering with their gems. I still don't think I quite get the entirety of what's possible with the crafting and customization, but instead took a metaphorical hammer to it and more or less made it work for me.

As for Final Fantasy VIII, I'm about there myself. I've been playing Final Fantasy IX, which I've come very, very close to beating without having actually seen the credits roll. It's my intention to see that one through, and then I'll work on Final Fantasy VIII or Wild ARMs 2. I've never beat FFVIII. I've been really far into the game, but just never closed the deal. As for Wild ARMs 2, I honestly can't remember if I've beat it or not. Something tells me I have, but I want to thoroughly explore it this time and find as much optional stuff as I can.

That being said, though, having my laptop back means I can finally download Quest for Glory from GOG.com, which will take immediate gaming precedence over everything else when I do it.

Moderator Online
#9 Posted by Mento (2682 posts) -

@Sparky_Buzzsaw: Dan's not kidding about you being a bad influence on people with already immense backlogs. Thanks to your recent bargain-spotting, I've ended up with a whole heap of Quest for Glory and Broken Sword games I'm eager to jump back into.

Ah well, it's looking to be a slow Summer. Couldn't hurt to have a few more games around.

Moderator
#10 Posted by Brodehouse (10072 posts) -

I remember that game being really cool and weird. I also remember it being too hard for me and I quit at some point.

#11 Posted by SlightConfuse (3963 posts) -

Agreed vs is one of my favorite RPGs . Challenging and great soundtrack would love an hd remake

#12 Posted by Sparky_Buzzsaw (6304 posts) -

@Mento: It's sort of funny how in every aspect of my life, I'm somewhat of a bad influence. I can't tell you the number of friends' girlfriends and wives who not-so-secretly despise me because I get their significant others to game and drink more often than they should. Hah! I can't wait to sink my teeth back into Quest for Glory. While I'm still trying to figure out the mystery of where the hell my disk versions went, it's really nice to have a digital copy to rely on - especially at that cheap of a price. I'm going to finally play through as a paladin, too. That should be fun.

Moderator Online
#13 Edited by BulletproofMonk (2725 posts) -

Great read! I enjoyed the hours that I spent with Vagrant Story, but never got even close to finishing it. I don't know what it was about that combat system but I just could not wrap my head around it. Story and characters were really interesting, though. 
 
I'd love to read your thoughts on Metal Gear Solid 3. Just finished that game yesterday for the second time and goddamn it is something really special. One of the all-time greats, definitely.

#14 Posted by Mento (2682 posts) -

@Sparky_Buzzsaw: It's a major strength of GOG that they're able to convince me to purchase games I already own, simply for the convenience of what is essentially a .bat file for DOSBox. I've memorized the commands for mounting a CD Drive in DOSBox for playing my copy of Master of Magic (one of the few games I'll never tire of), but paying GOG $6 to skip all the hassle and not worrying about where the disc might've got to is still a temptation.

Can't help but feel I'm getting a little lazy though.

Since I should keep on topic here, I would actually recommend the PC version of FF8 if you can find it. You can leave the little Chocobo side-game (which was once on the Pocketstation peripheral) running when the game's off for all sorts of goodies. No point if you already have the PS1 version sitting around though.

Moderator
#15 Posted by Sparky_Buzzsaw (6304 posts) -

@Mento: I do have the PS1 version (on PSN, anyways), but I'll keep an eye out and if I find the PC version, I'll look into it. I don't think I've played Masters of Magic. I'll have to look into that one too. Too many damn games on my pile of shame.

Moderator Online
#16 Posted by Slag (4610 posts) -

Nice blog

totally agree Vagrant Story was simply awesome. We need more more games like that that try new things and tell deeper stories.

#17 Posted by dankempster (2253 posts) -

@Mento: I'm planning to tackle the 'New Game +' portion of Vagrant Story some time next year. Come then, I guess I'll find out for myself just how easy it is to re-immerse oneself in the mechanics of the game after a long hiatus. Regarding Final Fantasy VIII, I don't remember the story being too bad, but the last time I played anything of it was about ten years ago, so there's every chance my formative young mind mistook 'batshit crazy' for 'surprisingly complex'. I've never liked the game's characters much, particularly the supporting cast of Quistis, Zell, Selphie and Irvine. None of those characters seemed to develop over the course of the game, whereas there are quite clear changes in the relationship between Rinoa and Squall. I've always loved the Junction system though, in spite of its limitations and the ease with which it can be exploited. I read a blog here on GB a couple of weeks back on FFVIII, which explored the way the game is designed, explaining how everything is a resource - anything useless can be converted into something more useful to you via the GF abilities, which makes items in FFVIII a lot more valuable than in other JRPGs. It's well worth a read - you can find it here.

@Marz: The fact that the ending leaves things so open for a potential sequel makes it even more infuriating that one has never been commissioned. At this point, though, I'm not sure I'd want another Vagrant Story. Yasumi Matsuno left Square-Enix during the development of FFXII, and I'm guessing they still hold the rights to the IP. That means that if a VS2 were to materialise, Matsuno probably wouldn't have anything to do with it, and I wouldn't have much confidence in a sequel that didn't have his stamp on it. What I'd really like is for Matsuno to bring us something similar in terms of the story themes and gameplay mechanics, but with a whole new setting and cast of characters. It wouldn't be called 'Vagrant Story', but I'd much rather see a spiritual successor with him at the helm than a direct sequel without.

@Spoonman671: My time with Vagrant Story's weapon crafting system was spent exclusively forging new weapons with the blades and grips I'd accumulated over the course of the game. I'd frequently swap out old components for new, allowing me to attach more gems to my weapons and increase their attack power. I never touched the combining aspect of it, though - that seemed far too deep (and to an extent, arbitrary) for me to fathom. Presumably tinkering with different combinations can yield some powerful results that render the switching of gems unnecessary? If so, perhaps I'll experiment with it when I take on the 'New Game +' next year.

@maskedarcstrike: Yeah, I didn't mention the soundtrack anywhere in this blog (Sparky_Buzzsaw covered it pretty comprehensively in his RPG Retrospective), but Vagrant Story does have an awesome soundtrack. I particularly enjoyed the rare moments when themes from Final Fantasy Tactics were reprised, but the whole score is phenomenal.

@Sparky_Buzzsaw: I think the appeal of gems for me was that I could switch them on-the-fly, any time, any place. Crafting and combining weapons is limited to workshops, whereas I could switch my gem loadout in any room and at any time I wanted. It also has an incredible impact on how battles play out. For example, the first time I faced the final boss and it used its Bloody Sin move, I took around 700 damage, killing me outright. Some experimentation with gems and defence abilities revealed that the attack was Dark-affinity. I equipped a shield, threw my Dark-affinity gems onto it and hey presto - this seemingly unsurvivable attack was only doing around 40 damage. Best of luck with your continuing journey through FFIX - that is one incredible RPG, and in many ways it's the quintessential Final Fantasy.

@BulletproofMonk: I'm hoping to revisit the entire Metal Gear franchise at some point next year, and put together some kind of blog series about the games as I play through them. MGS3 has long been my favourite instalment in the series, partly because of its location (both geographical and temporal), but mainly because it's so well constructed. The series' stealth gameplay was at its best in MGS3, I'd argue, and its boss battles are without a doubt some of the best in the industry. Just thinking about it is making me want to pick it back up!

#18 Posted by Cyrus_Saren (536 posts) -

Great read. Like you, I've played Vagrant Story but haven't beaten it yet. All the talk of the "complex" battle system ends up putting me off and I end up shelving it again. Reading your impressions on it though, I think I'll pick it up again and try and get through it this time.

#19 Posted by Fredchuckdave (5711 posts) -

Hurray for VS; extremely advanced mechanics which have yet to be matched in any JRPG (or western RPG for that matter), deep and engrossing storyline, and a "Souls" game level of difficulty. VS and Valkyrie Profile 2 are the reasons for my continued faith in Square's ability to make an excellent game. I will say that FFVII isn't really close to as good as VS on any level, but aside from that a decent enough post.

#20 Edited by GaspoweR (3167 posts) -

I need to go back to playing this since in hindsight the game in some ways was ahead of its time but at the same time it never really caught on in the next 2 generations of games. I've always thought Vagrant Story as a great game that never really got it props in the larger gaming community. Hell, even the whole story in hindsight was helluva lot better than what we get in most games these days.

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