I first experienced Vagrant Story many years ago, around its release in 2000. Due to various completely reasonable but tedious to explain circumstances, I didn’t actually play the game until years later. Unfortunately, I had to return the game to its rightful owner before I got more than the barest glimpse at the greatness of Vagrant Story.
I have finally remedied the situation.
I admit that I was a bit apprehensive about venturing back into Lea Monde. Not only because the city is a labyrinthine mess crawling with undead, but also because I figured there was a decent chance that Vagrant Story wouldn’t hold up over the years. Or, more likely, that I would lose interest because of the, well, unique combat and equipment system.
Turns out, I had absolutely nothing to fear. Vagrant Story is truly excellent. It feels like an almost perfect mix of Symphony of the Night, Demon’s Souls, and Final Fantasy XII – all of which happen to be among some of my favorite gaming experiences. In addition, the plot, while not necessarily groundbreaking, is interesting and certainly feels different from typical video game fare. And the writing is absolutely top notch.
Vagrant Story isn’t perfect, of course. There’s some frustration due to the relatively vague, or even outright misleading, descriptions in the instruction manual or in the game itself. For example, you’re much better off carefully mapping out the Snowfly Forest yourself as opposed to “following the snowflies.” And I’m not sure there’s any instructions regarding how to actually combine equipment successfully (hint: bronze + iron = hagane, huzzah).
Oh, and weapon class (as in human, beast, phantom, and the like) is almost meaningless. Affinity gets results.
I actually enjoy the trial and error aspect, for the most part. It’s truly a shame that there has never been a follow up to Vagrant Story, nor does it appear that one is on the horizon. If there ever were a game worthy of being called unique, in the most praiseworthy sense of the word, then this was it. One of the great, lesser known games of all time.