Vagrant Story Review
A review of Vagrant Story, the old game for the original PlayStation. Vagrant Story is a good game overall and certainly made some very experimental game-play choices. It even scored a perfect 40/40 in the extremely judgemental Famitsu which has to date only given 19 games perfect scores and at the time Vagrant Story was the third game ever to have received it. However, while the game is good it is not deserving of a perfect score for a number of reasons which will be herein revealed.
The first major positive of the game is the atmosphere and mythology it develops. It never jumps the shark with the lore of the city of Lea Monde, with its all-corrupting malignancy seeming to have a life of its own. The city also has this great French ruined feel about it, with vines overgrowing the collapsed walls. It really has some wonderful atmosphere.
The creatures are almost universally interesting and the game has some of the best AI with different enemies seeming to truly have different ‘personalities’. They can be tricked, confused, made to attack each other by accident and are basically vulnerable to everything the player is. It is fun to fight enemies that seem to be real rather than robots.
The plot is also one of the more interesting stories in a game, with very little in the way of silliness. All the characters are amusing and it has some very memorable villains. The quasi-Shakespeare writing style employed by the English versions of the game really adds to the story and fits very well with the setting.
The musical score, by Hitoshi Sakimoto, is also one of the best examples of video game music. It is hard to really pin down his style as it has such variance. Sometimes it is techno-music as played by an orchestra, other times power chords played on brass instruments. Hitoshi Sakimoto is clearly a talented composer willing to experiment.
The first problem with the game is that the combat is basically just a series of quick-time events. The chain system basically allows you to hammer away on an enemy but in order to continue the chain you need to press a different button each time an exclamation mark pops up on screen. While it has a sense of pace that other quick-time events in games often lack, it is still not what one would expect from a perfect game.
The second problem is that sometimes the game really slows down due to the way battles play out. Magic can be very tedious and always involves scrolling through menus just to cast a spell. Furthermore, when an enemy casts a spell the camera zooms to them and waits for the spell to be cast before game-play resumes. This is a big issue when a foe is using spells on themselves a long way across the map as the game randomly freezes to zoom in on them.
The third issue is the lack of voice acting. This was also an issue for Final Fantasy games on the original Playstation, but those games were very long and quite frankly would have benefited from voice acting as well. However, Vagrant Story was released so late in the life of the original PlayStation and had a relatively small story so should have had voice acting akin to Metal Gear Solid.
Vagrant Story is a really good game, but far from perfect. A good story and interesting ideas it has, but some of the game-play elements are tedious and annoying such as slowed down battles and quick-time events.