Well, it finally happened. After over a year of reviewing games for GiN, I found a game worthy of a perfect score – 5 GiN Gems. Playing like a medieval Metal Gear Solid, Vagrant Story delivers a perfect combination of adventure, RPG gameplay and one hell of an awesome story (get it, story — oh, never mind).
With graphics rivaling anything seen on a Playstation and a plot nearly equaling Xenogears, Vagrant Story sucks you in from moment numero uno and never lets go. Everything about this game is top-notch and Square couldn’t have picked a better leadoff hitter for their ‘Summer of Adventure.’
First off, let me be clear, this game is not a traditional RPG. While it certainly contains RPG elements (Hit Points, Magic Points, etc.) it plays more like Tomb Raider than Final Fantasy. There is no traditional over-world to speak of in the game as you spend the entire quest traveling through the dungeons and city of Le Monde as Super Kick-Ass Agent Ashley Riot beating the hell out of enemies and solving clever block puzzles.
Agent Riot, along with the many other characters gracing Vagrant Story are some of the best ever, both in terms of looks and characterization. No character is a carbon copy of another. They’re all easily distinguishable from each other, and while some of course play larger roles than others, they all lay some serious smackdown.
The plot takes more twists and turns than a game of nude Jello twister (did I just say that?!?) and builds to an incredible climax (did I just say that too?!?) that leaves you satisfied and wanting more (oh my Lord, what?!?).
In what is an amazing use of style and visuals, the game progresses like a movie, with individual scenes with different characters going on simultaneously. You feel like you’re watching a movie as the plot unfolds, revealing more and more surprises. By the time to face the end boss (big surprise) your head is spinning from the magnitude of what’s going on. Oh, and the final boss is one scary mamma-jamma.
The game also holds an enormous amount of replay value given that there are places to go and events to unfold that you cannot get to during your first run-through in the game. However at the end of your first game you get to keep all of your weapons and all of your buff stats for your replay game. And believe me you need them to clear those special sections. Your first run-through takes about 30 hours and is worth every single one.
This game is not for RPG beginners. It is hard, a lot harder than most RPGs to come down the pipe recently, and holds a step learning curve. The constant forging and re-combining of weapons, armor and shields and balancing of elements and enemy classes makes for incredible customization, but can be very confusing at first and repetitive towards the end.
Speaking of repetitive, the game itself can seem so as you travel through room after room in Le Monde kicking the crap out of enemies, but as far as I’m concerned, you barely notice. You’re so wrapped up in seeing what will happen next that it doesn’t matter what you have to do – you just do it.
The game warrants a perfect 5 GiN gems. After you finish there’s a big smile on your face as you prepare to dive right back into the game to see all the secrets you couldn’t do the first time. Not being able to wait to play the game again isn’t an easy thing to do, as most players are exhausted after finishing a great RPG. Any game that can make you do that is a must-have.
Word is that if Vagrant Story sold well then Square would release a sequel on the PS2. Well, the game is selling like hot-cakes, so I say to Square – we held up our part of the bargain now you hold up yours!