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Developer:
Squaresoft
Publisher: Square Electronic Arts
Platform: Playstation
Release Date: May 16, 2000

by Jason Ferguson

Vagrant Story -  Playstion box front



Whenever I review a game I try to avoid my own personal bias as much as possible so that I can present a good and truly informative review. It's pretty tough for me to do that with Vagrant Story since it's among my favorite games, but I'll try my best. Vagrant Story is one of Squaresoft's deepest and most innovative games to date, but unfortunately it was released around the same time as Parasite Eve 2, Final Fantasy IX and Chrono Cross. Facing off against three huge sequels proved to be hard to handle, and as a result Vagrant Story was largely overshadowed. Nonetheless, Vagrant Story is one of the best RPG experiences available on the Playstation.

click to enlarge -  screenshot

Vagrant Story is set in medieval times and follows the adventures of Ashley Riot, a Riskbreaker and member of the Valendia Knights of Peace. Don't let his girly name fool you, Ashley is one tough guy, and he's an excellent main character. The opening of the game is simply brilliant and will quickly pull the player into the game. The manor of Duke Bardorba has been seized by a religious cult and their leader Sydney Losstarot. Ashley Riot is sent by the VKP to investigate the matter and to try to break the cult's hold on the castle. Ashley and Sydney have a small brawl and Sydney wraps it all up by summoning a Wyvern. While Ashley is distracted fighting the Wyvern, Sydney grabs the Duke's son, Joshua, and heads to the city of Lea Monde. After easily disposing of the Wyvern, Ashley follows Sydney to Lea Monde in an attempt to unravel Sydney's plan. Throughout the game you find out a lot about Ashley's mysterious past and learn a lot about some of the secondary characters. Character development is Vagrant Story is done very well. Sydney Losstarot is a magnificent character and his scheme will keep you on the edge of your seat. Romeo Guildenstern, leader of the Cardinal's "Crimson Blades," is nearly as good of a character and he will keep you puzzled throughout most of the game. Other memorable characters include Callo Merlose and John Hardin. The plot is full of twists and turns and proves to be one of the deepest Squaresoft has come up with. The story is only improved upon by the fact that it is entirely written in "medieval speak," which really enhances the feel of the game.


click to enlarge -  screenshot

click to enlarge -  screenshot

The gameplay in Vagrant Story is even deeper than the storyline as Ashley faces many different factors in combat. Vagrant Story's combat is most similar to the original Parasite Eve, but it's far beyond that. When you engage in a battle a sphere opens around Ashley. This represents his attack range and as the enemy freezes Ashley can begin his attack. The battle system in Vagrant Story allows the player to target specific parts of the enemies body, which adds a lot of strategy to the game. Certain areas of the body may be easier to damage than others, and heavily damaging a part may render it useless. Ashley is aided in battle by chain abilities, which allow Ashley to continue attacking the enemy without giving them a chance to react. Chaining can also be used to restore Ashley's HP, poison your enemy or do other various things. Ashley is also equipped with various defensive abilities that can be used when you are attacked. These abilities may lessen the damage that you take, or even reverse a percentage of it back to your enemy. Ashley can also learn many different magic spells, such as unlock, which opens locked chests, or magic ward, which nullifies the next spell cast on you. There are various weapon classes in Vagrant Story and each class has multiple different abilities called Break Arts. These Break Arts all have different effects and just make Ashley an extraordinarily versatile fighter.


Weapons, armor and creatures all have various affinities in Vagrant Story. A certain monster may be of creature type dragon, affinity type air and vulnerable to blunt attacks. A weapon that is strong against dragons, has an earth based attack and is blunt can be used to do some serious damage to this opponent. In the mean time you will want to be wearing armor that is strong against dragons and air. The weapons in Vagrant Story are very customizable and you can take a handle from one sword, attach it to the blade of another, throw a gem onto it and have a super powerful weapon. You can cross weapon pieces to make weapons that are all around more powerful and they'll still retain their original affinities. Once you fully understand the customizable weapons and multiple affinities, Ashley should be able to defeat the toughest bosses with ease. Without mastering this system though, combat can be long and boring as you do 5 damage to your opponent each hit and miss half of the time. One of my few gripes with the game is the fact that once you finally beat a boss you are likely to have to back-track to find a save point because they are poorly spread out. This makes it even more irritating for people who struggle with the battle system. The game is pretty challenging, and does suffer from some poor balancing. Many of the basic enemies can actually slay Ashley in a single hit!


One of combat's most important elements is Risk. Whenever Ashley engages in combat his Risk will begin the climb. Certain actions, such as chain attacks, will cause Risk to climb even faster. The higher Ashley's Risk the lower his chances of successfully hitting the enemy and dodging attacks. This makes managing your attacks very important and adds a whole new level of strategy to the game. Leveling up in Vagrant Story is rather simple...the more you kill, the stronger your weapons get and the more skills you learn. If you use a weapon against a lot of phantoms, it will grow stronger against phantoms. If you use swords a lot Ashley will learn the sword Break Arts quickly. The whole battle system is innovative and complex, but it's not nearly as confusing as it sounds. It's easy to learn and once you've gotten the hang of it you'll likely fall in love.

click to enlarge -  screenshot

Visually Vagrant Story appears to be a dull blend of browns, but that's not the case at all. Sure the game is dark, but that'sVagrant Story's style. The characters are beautifully drawn, the textures are amazing and the backgrounds are some of the best I've seen. Ashley has multiple different animations that he engages in during attacks, and character movements are very realistic. Some of the monsters you fight throughout the game are astounding and the detail and beauty of these massive beasts will amaze anyone. The lighting is excellent and the camera is fully rotatable, which makes exploration easy. The comic book style speech bubbles that appear when characters talk has to be my favorite speaking in any game. No more boring letters crossing the screen next to a small picture of some guys face. I would have loved to see some voice acting in Vagrant Story, and the lack of sound was a disappointment, but the bubbles are the next best thing. The music can really pull the player into the game, and background noises combine with beautiful visuals to make some of the best environments ever.

The game is likely to take over 30 hours to beat, so gamers will get the most out of the Vagrant Story experience. There are also new bosses and dungeons thrown in for replay mode for those of you who just can't stop playing.

Vagrant Story is so complex a game that it can easily be extraordinarily hard and/or boring. Vagrant Story ranks high among every RPG I've ever played in nearly every category, and it's a shame it didn't catch much of a fan base. I honestly don't have a lot of complaints with Vagrant Story, and although I'll admit it's not for everyone, I do encourage everyone to give it a shot.

Final Grade: 95%

System Requirements

  • Playstation



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