I started a serious shitstorm on Facebook yesterday because I had the audacity to admit that I enjoyed playing Final Fantasy VIII more than I did playing its predecessor. While the consequences of such a foolish statement were quite obvious – the kind of pointless conversation/argument that can only occur over the internet – it did get me thinking about my “favorite” SquareSoft gaming experience from the PlayStation era, which turns out to not even be a Final Fantasy game at all.
There’s a definite a dark horse when it comes to the field of PlayStation era Square RPGs. In between all the Final Fantasies and the SaGa Frontiers, the Front Missions and the Bushido Blades, there was a fantastic Square game that came out in May of 2000 called Vagrant Story. A claustrophobic dungeon crawler with deep, strategic combat, puzzle elements, an atmospheric aesthetic reminiscent of graphic novels, Vagrant Story featured a deep story told in a cinematic style and benefited from one of the best translation/localization jobs ever. It’s a fantastic game and if you haven’t heard or seen of it, check out the following video, featuring the first few minutes of the game and featuring our hero, protagonist Ashley Riot (the man with the second-most badass name ever):
This game kept me enthralled for hours more than a decade ago. While the low-resolution 3D polygon graphics may look rather defunct by today’s HD resolution games, but I dare you to show me a game that’s been made this generation that has the same sort of instantly gripping style and presence.
It’s noteworthy to mention – for any other obscure SquareSoft lore aficionados out there – that the events and locations that are depicted in Vagrant Story are said to take place in the world of Ivalice, which is the setting for both the Final Fantasy Tactics games and the excellent (if somehow strangely reminiscent of Star Wars) Final Fantasy XII. Unsurprisingly, they were all developed by many of the same producers and designers at Square, up to and including the same Japanese-to-English translator and localization expert. I guess nothing succeeds quite like success!