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Vagrant Story
Earlier installments:
· Vagrant Story
Last seen in: 2000
Publisher: Square Enix








Vagrant Story

So sayeth Tom Goldman... Square’s Vagrant Story was released in 2000 for the PlayStation, and in its time garnered a huge amount of positive attention for beautiful graphics, deep gameplay, and dynamic storytelling. Out of Square’s amazing PlayStation library, it’s truly a unique gem, which makes it seem strange to the majority of fans that the current-day Square Enix hasn’t developed a sequel, spin-off, or even just a title that rips off the name. Though I’m a fan of Vagrant Story, I understand why it might remain untouched, but there’s just as much reason to bring it back as there is to ignore it.

Vagrant Story is not exactly an easy game to play. Good luck getting through much of it without reading the manual, because this game is complicated. It’s an action-RPG, but it’s also somewhat turn and timing-based, and a puzzle game, and a platformer, and a strategy title. The game plays out through a series of successive rooms, which might have a crate-pushing puzzle to solve and/or enemies to defeat in each. Every enemy is one of six classes, has one of seven affinities, and is one of three types, with your own armor and weapons being either weak or strong to a different number of these. Players use an attack range targeting bubble with a circumference specific to their equipped weapon (of which there are also ten different types), and can target one of five body parts on an enemy to do a different amount of damage with a different chance to hit depending on the part chosen (very similar to Fallout 3). So basically, you’ll have to carry a good selection of weapons, which you can disassemble and reassemble in workshops yourself, to deal with the various weaknesses and strengths of enemies, or face a long fight and low-damage attacks when a really strong undead boss shows up and you're only prepared to fight dragons, phantoms, and beasts.

The deep gameplay is harmed by a gunky interface that makes it annoying to swap weapons, equip armor, and use items. However, the annoying UI and sometimes overly complicated systems actually fuel my primary for reason why Vagrant Story needs to come back: it is in dire need of a modern-day upgrade. As an innovative action-strategy-puzzle-platformer-RPG that may have only missed the mark in some areas due to an overambitious design for its era, it doesn’t deserve to die with its concepts not fully realized.

Despite Vagrant Story’s negative aspects, every other part of it shines. All one needs to do is to watch its 10-year-old opening cutscene to understand that its storytelling is still on par with the best of the best. Using dynamic camera angles, a graphic novel-like cel-shaded visual style, and quick pacing thanks to cutscenes featuring in-game models (which look great for the PlayStation), Vagrant Story’s narrative is engaging and never becomes as sleepy as some modern-day RPGs with their overly-long CGI portions. Battles are fun, timing-based affairs that can see players taking down bosses before they have a chance to blink while completing attack chains that are dozens of moves long, but only if they're good enough. Equipment gains experience as it is used, making every strike or defense strategic, and weapon synthesis is incredibly deep.

The game even takes place in Ivalice, hence the style of the characters being very similar to Final Fantasy XII. It wouldn’t be crazy by any means for Square Enix to revisit Vagrant Story in some way, though hardcore titles of its complexity don’t seem to be in the cards anymore. It’s a shame, because a Vagrant Story title updated with the power of current hardware and infused with another decade of game-design knowledge under Square Enix's belt would likely result in a great title for any RPGamer.

Can a new game happen?

Series Highlights

A true sequel is unlikely

Ashley Riot rides alone

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