Vagrant Story Review

By: Ace Sky

Have you ever wondered if there is a better game out there? A game that inspires and amazes to the fullest extent? That game has arrived and under the name of Vagrant Story, it takes the term "gameplay" to a cinematic level. All the style of Metal Gear Solid, a couple of cups of the FF series' scriptwriting, and just a pinch of traditional RPG create the most engrossing experience the Playstation has ever seen.


I've been on hiatus for the past few weeks due to this game. Okay, more than that, I've been hibernating, sucking on a 5 two-liter bottles of Diet Coke (gotta watch my health) and a couple thousand bags of Doritos. I know in the past, I may have stated Final Fantasy VIII is the best RPG ever. Well, I am wrong and I can admit it. Vagrant Story surpasses that minuscule effort with the greatest of ease. Don't get me wrong, FF VIII is a good game but in the end, Vagrant Story beats it to death and pays for its funeral.

VS takes the Hollywood mentality of a deep story and over budget special FX to a new level. The story focuses on a Riskbreaker or secret agent by the name of Ashley Riot in the Renaissance period whose assignment is to track down a cult leader by the name of Sydney Losstarot. The pursuit leads Ashley to Lea Monde, a dead city with a dark history. All the while, Ashley has to deal with his tragic past while hunting down Sydney and dodging the cultist's various traps. A third party, the Knights of the Cross, add more mystery and intrigue to an already complex plot. With such a setup, Vagrant Story would simply be worth playing for the story but Square didn't stop there. Read on.

The graphics of VS are the best on the PSX, hands down. The character's mouth actually moves when they talk. Not even the great Metal Gear Solid pulled that off. With only one CG at the start of the game, the magnificent show is pulled off with the in game graphics, a major plus. Every spell, every move, every graphical element is created with amazing beauty. I didn't know the Playstation was this versatile of a system. With VS, the PSX's limit has been discovered and subsequently bent with the most pleasing of results. Give me the PS2 now because this is as good as it gets.

Now to the dirty section, the gameplay. How does VS fair? Quite well, but what else would you expect from a multi-billion dollar corporation such as Square? Mixing the right amount of innovation and old-school tactics, the game presents a unique battle system that has never been done before. When in battle mode, you press circle button as sphere appears and whatever is in range of sphere, you can attack with weapons, spells, break arts, and other special moves. While you do this, all the other enemies in the room stop moving and wait for you to decide what to do. In essence it is a modified real time RPG engine. The fun of it, though, is the ability to target specific body parts such as the arms or the head (no, not that one, pervert!). Each body part represents a specific percentage of the baddie's overall HP. The head and body represent more than an arm does. This depth adds to the already deep hole of Vagrant Story.

The other aspect of VS's gameplay is the ability to create your own weapons. During your quest, one will find workshops scattered through out Lea Monde. Each workshop can only handle certain materials; such as bronze, wood, etc. Parts you found during your exploration are then forged into weapons or armor. Each weapon or piece of armor you create can be named and has a set of stats, such as what group of monsters you have the advantage on. You also can dismantle any of your current weapons or armor to create new ones. With all the different parts, ranges of weapons, and different types of enemies, you literally have to go to every workshop along your way to prepare for the battles ahead.

The sound of VS excels in a huge way. The ambient sounds that take the place of music through out the game setup a mood that even Resident Evil can touch. The city of Lea Monde not only looks creepy but also sounds just as frightening. The drip, drip of the catacombs, the constant squeaking of bats in the mines, the birds fluttering by the cathedral; all the sounds of a supposedly dead city but of course this is not so. Music only kicks in during boss sequences and some of the cut scenes and is decent in its own right. The only complaint of Vagrant Story involves the sound department. Where are the voice-overs? Surely, Square, with all its money, could afford some damn good voices for VS's wonderful characters. It is only a minor gripe. The game fairs well without voices but such a commodity would have been a wonderful thing to hear in action.

The replay value of VS scales tall mountains. Taking a hint from their own Chrono Trigger, Square added a New Game + feature. After you finish the game once, you can use this feature to go back and explore the areas hidden to you your first time through. You retain all your stats and such so starting back from scratch with your weapons is not a problem. Scattered through out Lea Monde are puzzles that after solved once, can be revisited so see if you can beat the times. To top it all off, the game has certain special criteria that can be met for a title. There are 70 some titles. Vagrant Story is not a game that will let up, even after you finished it once.

When it comes down to it, Vagrant Story ranks with Metal Gear Solid in terms of sheer cinematic presentation. It is like a good Hollywood thriller that never, ever gives up. This game is fun until the end and then some. If you buy an RPG before FF IX is released, this should be it. The other two blockbuster RPGs this year (Chrono Cross and FF IX for those who don't know) will have to put on their absolute best caliber performance to beat Vagrant Story. This game is the best.






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