Release: May 2000
2000 is shaping up to be a banner year for the boys at Squaresoft. With such games as Chrono Cross and Final Fantasy IX coming down the pipe, Square doesn’t lack anything in the big names department. In addition to these big names, there is also another title that gamers should keep an eye out for. What Vagrant Story lacks in name recognition, it more than makes up for in its style and ambitious ideas. You know those certain games that you just get a “feeling” about? Where just one look at the game and a feeling of promise suddenly overcomes you? Vagrant Story is shaping up to be one of those games.
You are in the role of Ashley Riot, a Riskbreaker working for the Valendia Knights of the Peace. After the tragic deaths of his wife and child, Ashley becomes a mercenary for the Dangerous Criminal Task Force (aka Riskbreaker, as mentioned above). Riskbreakers always work alone, their duties consisting of infiltrating and investigating foreign crime syndicates over long periods of time. These are dangerous operations with an extremely high chance of death. However, Ashley has never faultered as of yet, being the skilled warrior that he is.
The plot thickens even more when Sydney Lostarrot (you have to love these names), the leader of a religious cult named Mullenkamp, escapes Ashley’s grasp after being cornered in Duke Bardorba’s manor. Making his way to the cursed city of Lea Monde, Ashley is hot on the trail. What surprises await him, and why is he so hell bent on catching Sydney? The story can only get more interesting from this point and is sounding very promising.
One of the most intriguing parts of Vagrant Story has to be its battle system. All taking place in real time, each enemy promises a whole new train of thought when going into battle. The list is comprised of the undead, evil, humans, phantoms, beasts and dragons. As if that wasn’t bad enough, these enemies can wield all sorts of weapons, so depending on which weapon a certain enemy is carrying, your tactics change depending on the strenth and range of said enemies weapon. Other enemies have the power of teleporation, which requires quick reflexes and an alert player. Ashley just can’t buy a break can he?
Fear not though, for your weapons and armor are just as potent and lethal as those of your enemies. In addition to his trusty sword Fandago, Ashley can pick up the weapons of his fallen enemies. These range from your standard sword, to more creative weapons such as a crossbow, axe, spear, mace, dagger, and many more. How and when you decide to use these against your enemies is up to you, as certain weapons are more suited to certain situations. Would you go into battle wielding a dagger against an enemy wielding a great sword? In addition to weapon choices, you will also have to find your enemies weak points if you are to be successful.
Already complete with an intriguing storyline and gameplay system, Vagrant Story is full of visual punch as well. Not since Metal Gear Solid have I been so impressed with such creative environments. The colour pallette is mainly comprised of earthy browns, with character models and game textures all looking top notch for the Playstation. Lighting effects are also looking impressive, and we should expect many of them based on the fact that the game takes place in such a moody and dark place. At this stage in the PSX’s life span, eye candy has never been so sweet.
Are you excited yet? Well you should be. If not, then maybe the knowledge that the producer of Final Fantasy Tactics is once again partnered with the series and character designer of Ogre Battle will entice you. With such an impressive pedigree, all things are definitely headed in the right direction for Vagrant Story. The only potential downfall of the game so far may be its length. People involved in the project have said that gamers should clock in anywhere between 6-10 hours. A minor gripe when you consider all that’s being offered here. Look for Vagrant Story in May.