Name: Vagrant Story (E) (73.75% in 8 votes)
Release date: 2000
Reviewed by: Vinny
It never quite came, though, and instead, we drudged through bad title after bad title, year after year, one after another... Perhaps I'm a bit too optimistic, but I was looking forward to PS games of MGS' quality (yeahÃ my bad). Still, I'd endure swamps filled with games like Jet Moto 3 and Monkey Hero, suffer the awfulness of every WWF Attitude and ECW: Hardcore Revolution and climb past the substandard Jedi Power Battles and Warpath Jurassic Park if I only knew that, at the end of this horrendous journey, I'd be rewarded with a glorious PS title, one even better than the legendary MGS. Square's Vagrant Story is that PlayStation title, the one all gamers have been waiting for, and one that's caused me to lose sleep, eat poorly (back to Chicken In A Bisket for me!) and shower on an irregular basisÃ all in the pursuit of gaming enlightenment.
You've probably heard of Vagrant Story before; it earned a 40/40 Famitsu rating, and in so doing, set itself up for comparisons to the best. The game comes from those wonderful RPG makers at Square (more specifically, the Final Fantasy Tactics team), but that doesn't make it one of those "Japanese RPGs..." VS certainly has many RPG elements (leveling up, power-ups and inventory screens galore), but when you're scraping with lizardmen, hellhounds and the undead, it's all action. Furthermore, its engrossing story is far from the typical "save the princess and kingdom from impending evil" or "unlikely hero stops armageddon" plots we see all too often...
The story follows the elite Riskbreaker Ashley Riot and the evil religious Mullenkamp cult, led by Sydney Losstarot... The cult seizes the Duke Bardorba's manor and takes the hostages to the deserted city of Lea Monde; Ashley's mission, then, is to rescue the hostages and kill all cult members. Unfortunately, Ashley quickly becomes entangled in both the political dangers and mysticism of the mission, and as he descends deeper into the ruins of Lea Monde, his destiny becomes intertwined with the dark power that looms in its walls...
Yes, like Cloud Strife and Squall Lionheart (and many other Square leading men), Ashley has a number of "repressed memories." Fortunately, his attitude is more akin to Solid Snake's "I'm a bad mutha" disposition than "woe is me;" there's something immediately likeable about him as he walks into Duke Bardorba's manor and says, "Reinforcements? I am the reinforcements." The story is told through series of "text bubbles" like those of old-school comic books; suffice to say that, while perhaps a bit over-the-top at times, the depth of its characters and its excellent presentation are just two of many strong points that'll keep players coming back for more.
Another strength of this title is its staggering amount of depth and complexity in gameplay. Its battle sequences take place in that pseudo real-time melee system similar to Parasite Eve; players can freely maneuver Ashley around the area and switch to a 'target sphere' that displays the range of his weapon. Enemies within this target sphere are fair game, and depending upon the creature, Ashley can strike specific limbs or body parts. Hitting the legs of an enemy soldier can cut his movement by 50%; hitting his weapon arm will reduce the damage you receive if you get hit.
Oh, and its combat is not your typical "I slash, then you slash, then I slash" affair... Rather, it takes a hint from fighting games, and sports its own combo system. By programming different attacks for the Circle, Square and Triangle buttons, gamers can wail away on opponents nearly endlessly, as long as they hit the buttons at just the right time, and timing varies depending on the different types of attacks you select. With this Chain Craft system, players can string together an awesome array of attacks that not only can damage opponents, but can slow, poison, numb, paralyze and even steal life, as well. You'll gain even more special chain and defensive abilities as you defeat more and more enemies.
Of course, Square isn't going to let you get off a 25-hit combo that easily; in this game, as the number of combo hits grows, so does Ashley's level of risk. Inflicting more hits in a combo will raise his risk meter; the higher the meter, the higher percentage he has of inflicting critical hits--but those hits will do less damage and, more importantly, Ashley will sustain greater damage per hit taken. You can decrease the risk meter by resting or by taking certain items; however, opponents aren't always so obliging, and many will smartly attack you with strikes that will poison, numb and even paralyze Ashley.
Luckily, Ashley also has special defensive abilities; press the Circle, Square or Triangle buttons when attacked, and you can decrease damage, reflect damage, and even avoid the effects of poison. Using these defensive abilities also increases risk, but not as dramatically as smacking down a lackey with a huge chain combo... Yes, it's a great combat system, but consider its powerful weapon-specific Break Arts and magical spells, and it quickly becomes the most addictive feature in the game.
Graphics - 5
Gameplay - 5
Music - 4
Sound - 5
Overall - 4.5 / 5
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