I’ve actually owned Vagrant Story 3 times now. I bought it when it first came out back in 2000. I was living in Cornwall at the time and I remember seeing it in the only video game shop in Newquay (which to my horror I learned last November is now a vape shop, because everything is becoming a vape shop nowadays) and wanting it.
“Squaresoft!” I thought. “They made Final Fantasies 7 and 8 and I loved those!”
So I bought it, and I just couldn’t get to grips with it. For so long I was used to turn-based combat with the ATB meters, and here we had this ACTION RPG, gasp shock and horror. I got to the Snowfly Forest and finally gave up. Traded that shit in for Final Fantasy 9 later that year.
Something about it stuck with me though, and so in 2001 I gave it another shot. I saw it in Game in Salisbury for dirt cheap (at this point, my father was entering his final year of service in the RAF and he was given the option of remaining in Cornwall for it, or returning to Amesbury in Wiltshire; he ended up choosing the latter) and thought “why not give it another go?”
Man oh man, am I glad I did. Having read up the mechanics of the game on GameFAQs, I was armed with a greater understanding of what to do and where to go, and could go about my merry way through the catacombs and streets of Lea Monde. Fuck the Snowfly Forest still though.
The third time I owned it? I bought it on the PS Vita so I can play it wherever I go.
The Setting of Vagrant Story
Set in Lea Monde, a city that, 25 years prior to the start of the game, suffered a terrible earthquake that destroyed much of the city and left the ground generally unstable. Lea Monde is part of the kingdom of Valendia, which was recently embroiled in a civil war between the Regency of Gurunas, and the noble houses under House Nalzarc. The rising of a cult known as Mullenkamp culminated in the son of Duke Bardorba, a key figure in the civil war and who now controls parliament behind the scenes, being kidnapped by cult leader Sydney and his right-hand man Hardin. They flee to Lea Monde, and in pursuit is you, Ashley Riot, Riskbreaker of the Valendia Knights of the Peace!
Then, shenanigans happen, shit goes down, the dead rise up and so on and so forth.
- Ashley Riot, he of the assless chaps apparently.
- Sidney Losstarot, who has metal arms like Jax from Mortal Kombat, minus the missiles.
- Romeo Guildenstern, massive asshole.
- Callo Merlose, damsel in distress.
- Jan Rosencrantz, also a massive asshole.
- John Hardin, who’s too old for this shit.
- Duke Bardorba, who spends the whole time in bed or something.
- Samantha, is useless.
- Joshua, a child, ugh.
- Tieger and Neesa, who have to share this bullet point, such is their joined-at-the-hip nature.
- Grissom, oops zombie.
- Duane of the Awful Hair
Why I Does Love It
It took a long-ass time to grow on me, it really did, but it eventually cemented its way into my heart as one of my favourite games of all time. Partly due to the amazing story, the stunning (at the time) graphics that, frankly, still hold up today, the wonderfully deep crafting and combat system that saw you creating different weapons for different situations (skeleton enemies? Smash them to bits with Blunt weapons! Armored? Find their weak points with Piercing weapons! Fleshy foes? Chop them up with Edged weapons! Throw magic around! PROSTASIA HERAKLES DEGENERATE TARNISH oh now I have no MP).
The game has a really strong visual design that almost emulates a comic book, with the speech bubbles and whatnot, the language used is flowery and almost ye olde Englishe but without tipping into triteness as it so often does in other games that try to use it. There’s also a sense in-game that nothing is wasted; loot a crossbow but don’t need it? Break it down into parts and use them to forge a new one! Add in gems to increase or decrease various affinities, making them more useful against this enemy type or that enemy element. Upgrade armour, upgrade shields, upgrade weaponry. Not prepared for a fight? That’s on you; the game gave you what you needed, you just haven’t assembled it yet.
There is no voice acting, yet every character is acted perfectly. Again, the comic book look really lends itself to this feeling.
According to Yasumi Matsuno, the game’s writer and designer, in order to hit release date they had to cut out quite a lot of stuff; almost half the story and features. Half the story! The game could have been so much MORE and it was already amazingly detailed, with twists and turns galore. If only they did a remake of it; one that saw these cut story threads and lost features brought back in.
Now that I’d be so down for. With next year being the 20th year since its release, maybe Square Enix would do something to commemorate one of the greatest games ever made, one of the original Playstation’s swansongs as we headed into the PS2 era.
One can only hope.