Vagrant Story - Review

The Vagrant: The Wanderer or Man With a Purpose?

By: Jade Falcon

Review Breakdown
   Battle System 10
   Interface 8
   Music/Sound 10
   Originality 10
   Plot 9
   Localization 10
   Replay Value 10
   Visuals 8
   Difficulty Quite Hard
   Time to Complete

20-30 hrs.


Vagrant Story

   Square has made many different masterpieces in the line of different genres of RPGs. One of these genres, the action-RPG, is where Vagrant Story fits in. Many games have been made for this sub-genre, but VS is one of the few games which has truly defined what an action-RPG should be made of. I just hope that you can throw away your religion for the period of time while you're playing this game because there are large religious pretenses in it.

   For those of you who are fans of the Parasite Eve series, the battle system will feel quite familiar. When you press the action button (on my game the circle), you go into battle mode. Press it again, and a sphere appears around your character, the size based on the range of your equipped weapon. You can target anything in the range, and attack specific body parts to hinder their stats. For instance, if you disable their legs, their evade is decreased. In almost all RPGs there is magic, and VS does not disappoint. From a shortcut menu, you can cast many different spells from warlock (attack) spells to enchantment spells (affinity). Also, these have a certain range. There are also chain attacks, which if you press a button at the right time, an additional attack will be added. However, this factor called Risk will go up. The higher your risk, the less of a chance you have of hitting an enemy and the more damage you take when hit. It's an awesome system.

   The battle is only, well, half of the battle. Most battles can be easily won with the right equipment. You can disassemble weapons and stick the better parts of two weapons together in a workshop, allowing your weapon to become even more of a lethal killing machine. This is how the vast majority of boss battles are won. Take the blade of your best weapon, which has a sucky grip, attach it to a new grip with three gem slots, put on three gems, and you could have a weapon which can kill any type of enemy quite efficiently. This is my favorite battle system of almost every game I have played.

You talkin' to me?
Up Close and Personal  

   Throughout the entire game, you control one person. The game would have been better if you could play as more than one person. The story is just too deep to be able to get the full experience from just one person's point of view. The menus are quite numerous, and you could press X as many as ten times to get out of all the submenus. However, all of these menus are necessary so the player is not searching through gigantic lists of equipment. The interface can be quite intimidating at first, but as you play through, it gets to be like second nature.

   The music in VS is not the best around. Granted, you are in dungeons and the undercity most of the game, but the pieces presented do fit the mood of the game. For the most part, when you're walking around, there is just ambient sound or sound effects, but when a battle or important scene comes up, some excellent music is heard. The sound effects are also quite lifelike. Each weapon hit really sounds like it is hitting flesh, and the enemy groans when hit. Also, the closer an enemy gets to you, the louder the sound produced by the monster, allowing you to prepare for the attack. The little things in sound effects really count in here.

   The one thing which stuck out at me like a sore thumb about this game was its abundance of block puzzles. Many rooms in every dungeon area have these stacks of blocks, some magnetic, some indestructible, some frictionless, etc. which you must stack up to get to the next area. Some puzzles can get to be quite frustrating, adding to the difficulty of the game. Otherwise, the game is just a conglomeration of ideas from other games.

Me Macho Man!
He... hey... where did you say I needed to put this?  

   The plot contains some of the most well-written dialogue (or at least well-translated) that will probably ever be seen in a video game. It alone could be made into a well-written novel. The character interaction is excellent. Though the "sides" the characters belong on seems clear in the beginning, through the game you see many vantage points of the spectacle happening, the lines between friend and foe become very blurred, at least until the very end. There are people becoming possessed constantly, who you confront and kill. As mentioned before, keep your religious beliefs at home while playing, since there are many events which go against many different religions. Despite the quality of writing, there are many large and complicated words included, which may have some people guessing at what the characters are trying to say. However, it is an excellent plot.

   When you finish VS the first time, you may notice that you have only about 80% or so of the map completed. A whole new game opens up when you play through many times. The main character gains a tattoo on his back which allows him to open more doors, gaining access to more areas. The game is just fun in general when you can whip up on some of the enemies you had trouble with previously.

These graphics are some of the best-made non-FMV graphics on the system. The only part which stands out as not good are closeups on the characters, especially during the cutscenes. They are blocky, grainy, and their mouths hardly move. Their faces are flat for the most part, and the graphics are pixellized. The regular game, when you are running through the dungeons is a work of art. Just by looking at the quality of the graphics in the pictures, you can see this.

Goodness Gracious Great Balls of Fire!
Some of the eyecandy magic effects.  

Without some type of guide, the first play through VS is utterly impossible, unless you get the hang of the affinity system quickly. VS as quite a learner's curve after the first dungeon or two. After the first play-through, the game is quite easy until you access the new areas, which then get ridiculously hard. Even when you've played through twice, the final boss is still tricky to defeat. If you are an impatient person, VS is not the game for you.

If you have an extra $40 and about 20-30 hours to blow, definitely pick this game up. It is made by the masters of the RPG, and is an excellent game. Even playing through it three or four times is still fun. I cannot stress enough that you should use a guide for your first time through to prevent the loss of hair. Otherwise, VS is a virtually perfect game.

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