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Vagrant Story

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Vagrant Story

Squaresoft

For Sony PlayStation

reviewed by William Schiffmann

Is Squaresoft trying to corner the role-playing game market? Already on the shelves this year are the excellent Legend of Mana and the delightfully child-oriented Threads of Fate. Now comes Vagrant Story, to further chain you to your PlayStation’s already overworked controller.

Vagrant Story tells the tale of Ashley Riot, a young warrior from long ago who is charged with evicting a slimy band of religious loonies called the Mullenkamp from the stolen manor of Duke Bardorba of Valendia.

Ashley — Mr. Riot to you — is trying to destroy the evil prophet, Sydney Losstarot, who led the Mullenkamp in their assault on the manor and is now locked safely (he hopes) inside.

Vagrant Story has a lot of what makes RPGs popular: miles and miles of dungeons to explore, spells to weave, traps to discover and avoid, puzzles to solve and weapons to collect and wield to the sorrow of your enemies.

Weapons, by the way, are a huge strong point of this game, with dozens and dozens to choose from. Weapons also seem to have their own intelligence; if you use a specific weapon to attack only one kind of enemy, it will adapt to deal the maximum damage to that enemy. Neat.

Combat is what you expect in RPGs. Like most, Vagrant Story features a turn-based system, much like a formal duel, in which you take a whack at the enemy and then he takes a whack at you. You can target specific areas of the enemy’s body, so chopping off a sword arm cuts down on the damage he can do to you. I’ll leave it to you to decide if the combat system is too complex for the human mind to comprehend, but it sure is complicated. Many monsters require a specific weapon or they can’t be defeated, and if you go into battle with the wrong weapon, woe unto you.

A list of body parts pops up for each enemy, along with the odds that you can actually hit it with whatever weapon you’re using at the time, and the amount of damage you can do. The characters in this epic tale are legion, and their relationship to each other and our hero is detailed in excellent cut scenes. If this is your first RPG, the rest of your year is pretty much taken care of, since it will take you that long to figure everything out.

Squaresoft thoughtfully included a 360 degree camera, which lets you take a peek at everything around you and see around items in your way. Everything is well worth seeing. Give the graphics an A; they are lush, beautifully detailed and shaded and a delight to the eye. Sound gets a B; it combines well with the story but doesn’t break any new ground. Control is also an A. I wouldn’t say it’s a snap to learn, but once you get it down, everything works smoothly and accurately.

Role-playing games aren’t for everyone. They take forever to finish and their stylized combat mode can be tedious. But if you’re a fan — a patient fan — Vagrant Story is one of the best available. Rated T, for ages 13 and up.

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