Cidolfas's RPG Reviews: Vagrant Story (PSX)
You Are: Ashley Riot, Riskbreaker. To be honest, I wasn't able to follow the backstory all that well, so I'm not a hundred percent sure just what a Riskbreaker *is*. But I think I did at the time. ^^;
Your Goal Is: To infiltrate the mysterious city of Lea Monde, in an attempt to hunt down Sydney Lossartot, leader of the Mullenkamp cult.
General System: VS is an interesting twist on action RPGs. You run around in 3D like normal; jumping, pushing crates, etc. However, hitting a button puts you in battle mode, at which point you can then attack and defend (but not jump). There are no shops or inns in Lea Monde; health and magic recover themselves as time goes on (much faster outside battle mode). You also don't have unlimited inventory space; you can only carry a certain amount of weapons, armor, etc. In addition, you can do all sorts of things with your equipment in workshops: you can assemble blades and grips to make new weapons, combine two weapons or armor into a new one, or store or retrieve items into a storage container. The map system is extremely well-done and makes it very hard to get lost (except in one or two places where you're meant to get lost).
Battle System: The battle system gives you a whole lot of ways to do things. You can target any part of a monster's body; not only do different parts have different weak points, but you can also cause particular effects by targeting specific areas. You can chain your attacks together with up to three abilities; but the more you hit an enemy, the more your Risk (essentially fatigue) goes up. Higher Risk means your accuracy goes way down, as does your defense; but attack goes up. Chains require a good trigger finger, so you do need some timing to do it well. You can use spells for attack or other effects; and you've got special Break Arts to use up HP to do big attacks. You can also change your equipment on the fly.
Graphics: A bit pixelly, but they give a great ambience. Unfortunately the vast majority of the game is spent underground, but there still manages to be a good deal of variety, and the areas are usually pretty different from each other visually. There are no FMVs or voice acting, which means the cutscenes fit very well into the gameplay, but they also don't look all that great.
Music: Mostly ambient, and very orchestral (reminiscent of Final Fantasy Tactics). There are some very good tunes, but most of them are just background music and not quite memorable.
Story: Ah, the story. There isn't much of a backstory or plot (although what is there is pretty deep). The plot takes forever to get anywhere, because you'll only get a decent cutscene once every hour or two if you're lucky. They're just there to break up the dungeons. Which is a shame, because these cutscenes are quite possibly the most gorgeous you'll ever see. The dialogue has all the poetry of Shakespeare without the cumbersome conjugation (or iambic pentameter). It really is a reward for your fighting. It's really intriguing just to watch the the characters' interaction.
Challenge: This is not a beginners' RPG. It'll take a lot of getting used to. Once you are used to it, though, you should be able to make it through without too many problems.
Length: About 50-60 hours, first time through, but you can't unlock the whole game until you do a New Game+.
My Thoughts: Your mileage will vary on this title. Some will love it, some will hate it. For one thing, it's a bit too overcomplicated - each piece of equipment has no less than fifteen stats! And did I ever mention I hate block puzzles, especially 3D ones? The jumps are a bit cheap, especially near the end of the game, where you really can't tell where you're supposed to make jumps. I also got annoyed at the fact that storage containers were actually on the memory card, which meant that it took forever to do any real equipment work in workshops. These annoyances do add up. However, the overall experience was still very enjoyable for me; I really liked exploring around and fighting all the (admittedly cliched) baddies. You might want to have at least one FAQ handy to enjoy it fully, but this game really does reward you for playing it.
Overall Rating: 7.5/10