Original Release Date: May 15, 2000
Release on PSN: March 1, 2011
In Vagrant Story you play as Ashley Riot, a knight in a special order. You’re chasing down an assassin with special powers who has lead a plot against the royal family, and you need to follow him through dungeons and some really interesting (beautiful) locations. You will be spending a lot of your time underground, and the story is brought to life with comic style cut-scenes with no dialogue, but comic style dialogue bubbles. This works decent enough, but considering I couldn’t get past six hours into this game (you’ll see why in the gameplay section) I couldn’t really give a decent review of Vagrant Story’s plot. So excuse me for that, now onto gameplay!
If you played Parasite Eve you might find this title a bit familiar, the gameplay is a pausing-realtime mix, where when you attack you can choose your target in range of a big combat sphere. Unfortunately though this system works a lot better in PE, it was a fast and fun way to dispatch enemies in that game, but in this one it seems to take forever to finish off foes. A dragon for instance which is an boss most of the time becomes a huge chore to beat, because you can barely do any damage, and usually it ends up being a game of attrition instead of feeling like a badass knight. Usually these foes can take you out with one or two hits as well so you have to rely on your battle abilities to survive long enough to do much damage.
How the battle system is different is you can chain attacks together with perfect (and I mean perfect) timing, and when enemies attack you, it’s imperative that you counter their attacks with your own defense abilities so you can stop yourself from being flattened like a bug when a particularly large Dragon shows up. There are magic abilities you can also use to charm yourself or to affect enemies, or to heal yourself, and then you can construct your own weapons to damage certain types of enemies. There is also an armor equip system and you can charm or augment those with gems to make yourself harder to beat by certain enemies. There’s also an item system, a forging system that you can only do in certain places, etc, etc, etc.
The gameplay in Vagrant Story is way too complicated.
Not only is the gameplay way too complicated, but the only ways I found to defeat some bosses were to play the waiting game, and hope I can finish them off after 20 minutes of wailing on them. The magic spells that you receive all seem be ineffective as well, despite when enemies use the same ones (you gain these spells sometimes after defeating them) they can take out your whole life bar, while you’ll barely manage to do any damage at all, and half the time your attacks will miss because the “risk” meter gets full if you chain attacks together. Gameplay in Vagrant Story is sadly a huge mess, at least for someone who doesn’t like to micro manage the smallest things when they don’t make any significant change in the gameplay. I’m all for customization, but Vagrant Story is ridiculous in this fact, and it drowns you in a sea of inventory screens and options, while preventing you from playing the game. Once and a while you’ll find an enemy that you can actually hit, and it becomes fun, but having to change weapons for every other enemy is not fun and sucks the life out of this game.
The graphics in this game are really great, probably the only PSone game that is on par with Soul Reaver’s graphics. The animations are excellent, and the particle effects while using magic light up the screen and are quite impressive for the PSone. Some of the architecture and art style in the game really make an impression as well a lot of it reminds me medieval Europe, some places look like a ringer for Notre Dame. It feels right and it all works really well.
The cut-scenes are great too, all in engine, but well directed and exciting while getting you ready for the battle. It’s no wonder why this game was so loved in it’s day, it does have a flair for style that most games don’t come close to in it’s time. I’m usually really pumped for a battle after I see a cut-scene, but then sadly the
How does Vagrant Story hold up?
This game has some interesting ideas but the gameplay is way too complicated and it makes this title feel like work, if you’re interesting in the battle system skip Vagrant Story and download Parasite Eve instead.
Journalistic review by PSoneClassics.com of Vagrant Story.