Game Review

Vagrant Story (2000)


“If man puts his honor first in relying upon himself, knowing himself and applying himself, this in self-reliance, self-assertion, and freedom, he then strives to rid himself of the ignorance which makes a strange impenetrable object a barrier and a hindrance to his self-knowledge.”
-Max Stirner



InfernalMage “The following is a guest post by the Infernal Accountant Mage.”

In modern gaming parlance there’s a lot of talk about “auteur theory;” this is the concept that a single person holds a controlling role over all the creative aspects of a given work. In film, it typically comes up when we discuss filmmakers like David Lynch who are believed to have an indelible impact on productions they’re associated with. In games, it’s a go-to idea when we’re talking about the work of Hideo Kojima (Metal Gear), Fumito Ueda (Shadow of the Colossus), Hidetaka Suehiro (Deadly Premonition) and so on.

When we’re talking about auteur theory in games, it’s often less as a means of understanding a game from an artistic perspective – such that we consider games to be art – and more as a sort of devoted loyalty, something like what a sports fan might feel for their favorite team. It’s not hard to find scathing criticism of Konami’s new entry in the Metal Gear series, Metal Gear Survive, because it won’t have Kojima at the helm. This isn’t to say that there shouldn’t be skepticism or even outright criticism of the concept behind Survive, but outright dismissing a game because it lacks a particular individual on the development team is short-sighted and neglects the collaborative effort involved in the creation of a game. In other words, yes, not only do I believe it’s entirely possible that Metal Gear exist without Kojima, but it’s also possible that good Metal Gear can exist without Kojima.


The point of all this is that while we can’t really discuss Vagrant Story without at least touching on Yasumi Matsuno, whose work certainly played some role into making the game what it would eventually become, we also need to look at the game as a whole without assuming that it was entirely Matsuno’s presence that created it. Matsuno’s work before Vagrant Story included the vaunted Final Fantasy Tactics and its cousins Tactics Ogre and Ogre Battle; he was primarily involved with strategy-RPGs, in other words, games that were seemingly a far cry from the action/turn-based RPG hybrid Vagrant Story.

Hallmarks of these games appear in Vagrant Story regardless, namely a sharp focus on inter-character intrigue and on presenting several different perspectives of events as viewed from different interested parties. If we are to look at Matsuno’s past and future work, I believe that this is the telltale sign of his influence; we later see similar touches in Final Fantasy XII, the 3DS-exclusive Crimson Shroud and even the mobile RPG Terra Battle. These are games that allow for a less strict interpretation of right and wrong; heroes have flaws and at times are only “heroic” because they’re who we happen to be siding with, villains might be redeemed if only the circumstances would allow it, and the world is shrouded in shades of gray. As the framing device of Final Fantasy Tactics shows us, history truly is written by the victors; what we know as “evil” or “wrong” is only seen as such because those who came before us decided that was the case.

The cursed city of Leá Monde, much as the worlds of Ivalice and Valeria before it and Crimson Shroud’s Sun-Gilt Palace of the Rahab after it, is subject to a conflict between multiple factions that are each interested in its exploitation for differing reasons. Backs get stabbed, allegiances are shifted, and the player ends up questioning the motives of each and every character as the story progresses. Indeed, the main theme of Final Fantasy Tactics centers around whether or not an absolute view of morality is effective or desirable (put another way, whether the ends justify the means) as portrayed in the conflict between the idealist protagonist Ramza and his pragmatist friend-turned-rival Delita.

Even outside of Matsuno’s influence, Vagrant Story stands proudly as one of the most esoteric console RPGs to have ever been produced. In a period where party-focused adventures were common and popular, Vagrant Story presents a lone hero whose only companions are his swords, sorcery and wits, and it is these that will see him through rather than the power of friendship; in a genre where young, hot-blooded protagonists were considered vital to appealing to the key demographic of Japanese boys and young men, we control an older, more experienced man with a defined past and a gruff personality. Games of the era were all about bombastic graphical display and simple, easy-to-grasp plots that could easily lead to the next expensive cutscene or summon sequence. Vagrant Story, meanwhile, displays a certain degree of production “zazz” but on the whole aims for a lower-key experience. Your victories come through hard-fought, bloody combat rather than by summoning the biggest, most impressive god that destroys the world in the most complete manner…well, in theory anyway.


When we step into Leá Monde, we step into uncharted territory, particularly if we consider the time at which the game was released. In both the Western and Eastern markets, Vagrant Story would share shelf space with games that would have been considered safer bets by far; Final Fantasy VIII and Chrono Cross were unusual in their own right but had the might of an established franchise behind them, while Final Fantasy IX and The Legend of Dragoon were more immediately accessible titles. This, meanwhile, was a wild card, a game moving in bold new directions without a popular series to back it up. One assumes that many Western players were thankful for the prominence of video game rental stores at the time!


We’re introduced in media res to our hero, Ashley Riot, a Riskbreaker of the Valendia Knights of the Peace, or VKP. He is, in essence, a fantasy take on a special ops agent, a sort of Medieval Solid Snake chosen to undertake the most dangerous missions for the government of the New Valendian Kingdom. In this case he’s sent to address a hostage situation at the manor of Valendian noble Duke Bardorba, who, along with his family, have been taken captive by the cult called Mullenkamp. The situation rapidly deteriorates as Riot meets and is subsequently forced to kill cult leader Sydney Losstarot, the man who will become his rival throughout the game to come.

Sydney’s seeming return from the dead and subsequent conjuring of a wyvern make it clear that more is going on than meets the eye; magic is largely if not completely unknown in this setting, after all. Defeating the beast, Riot and VKP intelligence agent Callo Merlose pursue Sydney to Leá Monde, a forbidden city sealed away for centuries after an cataclysmic earthquake. Meanwhile, the Duke is shown scheming, ordering the manor to be burned despite his family remaining inside and sending an agent of his own to infiltrate the city.


One point to consider is that, in a surprising show of confidence, it’s actually possible to skip through all of the events of the preceding paragraphs despite Riot’s assault on the manor, encounter with Sydney, and battle with the wyvern being playable. A player who mashes away at the Start button will find themselves at the entrance to the Wine Cellars of Leá Monde where the game proper begins, no questions asked. Skippable cutscenes were rare during this era of gaming, presumably because said cutscenes were the result of a sizable portion of any given game’s budget; being able to skip entire playable sections of a game was practically unheard of. Vagrant Story places trust in the player: either they care enough about the plot to take it in of their own volition or they don’t, with the game accepting that if they don’t care then there’s no forcing them to do so and offering a direct route to gameplay instead rather than forcing the issue. This degree of player agency, a rare quality even today, will prove central to Vagrant Story’s gameplay.




The 8-Bit Review
gameplay Gameplay:
Standing at the gate to Leá Monde proper, Riot shrugs off Merlose. “An agent with no combat experience would just be a liability,” he says, stepping into the depths alone. With this, we’re given our first chance to experiment with Vagrant Story’s interface. Ostensibly, this is an action-RPG; you control Ashley in real time, allowing you to run around, clamber up ledges and move boxes. Ashley is able to jump, and the very specific distance and height that he can jump is central to puzzle-solving and navigation as the game progresses. While he’s clearly fit and not wearing much in the way of armor, Ashley’s not an Olympic gymnast, so while he’s easy to move around he’s no Prince of Persia or anything.

Ashley can also sheathe or unsheathe his weapon, essentially determining whether or not he’s ready for battle. Naturally, you’ll want your sword out if baddies are around, but otherwise it’s best to put it away. With a weapon out, Ashley’s mobility is hindered so he can’t grab ledges or move boxes, not to mention that he takes a hit to health, magic and Risk regeneration. Risk, incidentally, is likely to be the most obvious point of confusion for new players, and we can’t really discuss what it means without talking about Vagrant Story’s combat.


Combat in Vagrant Story shifts the gameplay over to a sort of pseudo-turn-based mode, something akin to the system seen in 1998’s Parasite Eve. With a weapon unsheathed, pressing the unsheathe button again will stop time and allow you to select an enemy to attack, as well as where you intend to strike them. Smaller foes, like the bats and wolves you’ll encounter in the Wine Cellars, only have a single body part and therefore you’ll always be aiming for that when you strike. These are a minority, however, and most of your adversaries will be large enough that you’ll have to determine which part of their body you’re going to try and hit.

It’s this targeting system that defines Vagrant Story’s gameplay. This is, in essence, an RPG where you play as a single character whose gear is so central to his abilities that it almost serves as a replacement for the traditional party setup. Ashley and his opponents alike have different degrees of defenses: you have levels of protection against Types of attack (Edge, Piercing and Blunt), against Classes of attacker (Human, Beast, Undead, Dragon, Phantom and Evil) and against elemental Affinities (Physical, Fire, Water, Earth, Wind, Light and Dark). Each part of a character’s body will have different defenses against each of these aspects as well as being more or less difficult to hit, and again, this also applies to Ashley himself.


What’s more, attacking raises Ashley’s Risk level. Risk represents… well, that’s kind of hard to say, but a good comparison might be battle fatigue. You have a baseline of zero Risk and the value will rise slightly each time Ashley swings; as Risk increases, Ashley’s critical hit rate increases slightly as well, but his accuracy and defense drop precipitously as the value climbs toward its maximum of 100. At higher levels of Risk, Ashley is essentially fall-over drunk, incapable of hitting anything or defending himself and taking massive damage from enemy attacks. This can be fatal as soon as several hours into the game. Risk management, therefore, is absolutely vital – you need to make the most of each attack since it’s generating Risk to perform, along with being smart with the use of Risk-reducing items.

Risk is also accrued as Ashley uses Chain Abilities, timed attacks unlocked after the game’s first boss around an hour in. By assigning Chain Abilities to the controller’s face buttons, the player can add additional hits to Ashley’s attacks; these have varying effects, ranging from additional damage to applying status effects to repairing the weapon in use. Defensive Chain Abilities are also available, blunting the damage of attacks, countering enemy status effects and restoring HP or MP on hit. The common factor among all of these is that using Chain Abilities generates Risk, with enormous amounts resulting from extended Chain combo attacks. Being able to do damage without fear of reprisal is all well and good… but if an overzealous player then fails a Chain Ability input, they’re likely to be taken down in a single shot thanks to their enormously inflated Risk.


In practice, the multi-layered defense system and necessity of Risk management mean that hacking and slashing won’t get you very far in Vagrant Story, though the game tries its hardest to make you think otherwise during the first couple hours where you’re mostly fighting lesser beasts and undead. You need to match the right weapon to the right foe. A giant stone Golem encountered shortly into the game is likely to be the first situation where this is driven to the forefront of the player’s consciousness, since the construct’s solid body is extremely resistant to Edge and Piercing attacks. Your swords, daggers, spears and crossbows will do little to no damage against such an opponent, assuming you’re able to land a hit at all. Switch to a club or mace, however, and you’ll find that you’re once again able to do appreciable damage, as well as making informed decisions regarding accuracy vs. damage when determining where to attack.

Later, this is further complicated. Slaying dragons is a dicey proposition in most games, but Vagrant Story takes the strategy required to prevail to another level entirely. Dragons tend to have strong elemental affinities, after all, and have numerous deadly attacks, so you’ll need to fight smart. You might go on the offense by enchanting an Edged weapon with the proper elemental Affinity and aiming for the dragon’s Edge-weak tail, but any fantasy aficionado knows that dragon tails can be deadly weapons in their own right if the creature becomes agitated enough. A more defensive approach is also possible by equipping a Piercing weapon and shield, enchanting Ashley’s armor against the dragon’s elemental Affinity and aiming for the Piercing-weak head; in this case, you’re inviting the dragon’s deadly breath attack, but if you’re able to close the gap and stand beneath its head you can avoid this damage – and the one breath attack you’re likely to have to endure on the way in will be rendered less effective by your shield and enchantments, dulling an otherwise fatal blow.

The system grows even further in complexity as you go on, of course, but to really understand the depth of Vagrant Story’s gameplay we also need to touch on itemization. Ashley, like Solid Snake, is a one-man army for the vast majority of Vagrant Story. He fights alone and relies on his wits and gear to survive. There are no shops in Leá Monde and no currency to concern yourself with. Instead, everything Ashley uses is looted from defeated foes or treasure chests. The lack of an economy means that consumable items are in limited (if not necessarily short) supply, and smart play in order to conserve non-renewable resources is vital – Risk-reducing items, in particular, begin to show their value before long, encouraging the player to ration them out in order to keep their Risk at a reasonable point. The player’s reliance on items to survive lends a bit of roguelike flavor to Vagrant Story, especially when one considers that it’s not possible to just go back to town and purchase more.

This focus on itemization encompasses the function of your equipment as well as the way you obtain it. As mentioned, characters have varying levels of defense on each of their body parts, and for characters who use equipment (including Ashley) that’s what primarily determines those defenses. When it comes to gear, Vagrant Story presents an interesting take on the value of objects with a history. In a sharp contrast with something like Skyrim or World of Warcraft, Vagrant Story believes that your old sword isn’t just a tool to be thrown away when you find an upgrade – it’s a friend that’s served you well through trials and tribulations.


In gameplay terms, this means that gear’s Type, Class and Affinity levels are altered based on how an item is used. For example, swords are typically bladed weapons, dealing damage of the Edge Type when used. A sword that’s often used to slash bats and wolves will grow stronger against the Beast Class and, more slowly, will lose effectiveness against other Classes – this is on a continuum, so a common strategy is to use three weapons, each of which are strong against two Classes that are unlikely to conflict with each other’s development on a weapon such as Human and Phantom. Further, that same sword will gain and lose elemental Affinity based on what it’s used against. The variety of creatures in the cursed city combined with the need to pay attention to Class development on a weapon means that Affinity is typically managed using attachable gems that can provide temporary boosts where necessary as well as Affinity-buffing magic.

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Rules are made to be broken – in this case via Break Arts, special attacks that Ashley learns by defeating enemies with various types of weapon. Break Arts cost HP, but may be worth using regardless. Not only do they deal plenty of damage, but Break Arts may also have their own Type or Affinity that don’t necessarily match that of the weapon they’re used with. Thus, it’s possible to use an Edged sword to battle Piercing-weak enemies by using the first sword Break Art, Rending Gale, which deals Piercing damage. Learning and managing Break Arts is yet another means of ensuring that Ashley is as versatile as he needs to be; in an interesting touch, it’s even possible to learn special Break Arts that are only usable when Ashley is weaponless, which is ordinarily not an especially viable combat strategy.

Armor, of course, is also subject to Type, Class and Affinity growth, meaning that if Ashley doesn’t change his gear, he’ll gradually become better at defending against the sort of attacks he tends to take often and worse at defending against everything else. Magic becomes available early in the game, and as MP is a much more readily available resource than healing items, the player is likely to become attached to the Heal spell. This leads to an interesting conundrum, because this is a spell with Light Affinity, so as Ashley uses healing magic on himself his armor will gradually become stronger against Light and weaker against other Affinities. As Light offensive magic isn’t especially common in Leá Monde, this is almost entirely a downgrade, so keeping an eye on how healing is affecting one’s Affinity is a worthwhile consideration.

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An extended crafting system ties all of the weapon and armor systems together. As Ashley progresses through the city, he’ll discover workshops that allow him to repair his gear, attach the aforementioned gems to boost Affinity or Class levels, assemble and disassemble weapons and combine weapons and armor to make new equipment. The particulars of this system are vast, arcane and out of the purview of this piece, but most players will rapidly discover helpful basic concepts, like combining bronze and iron gear to produce more powerful Hagane steel items. Collecting weapons, armor and parts from defeated foes, then returning to a workshop to experiment and discover improvements is a central gameplay loop throughout Vagrant Story.

There’s more, of course; as mentioned, Ashley develops into a capable magician over the course of the game, so fighting with attack magic is a possibility and equipment that supports such a strategy is available. Outside of that, enhancing and debilitating spells are common and vital to success; the strength-boosting Herakles spell enhances Ashley’s Strength, providing a boost to accuracy, damage and defense alike, while the strength-sapping Degenerate has the opposite result on enemies. Combining the two can lead to victory from seemingly impossible odds. Affinity-boosting spells, mentioned earlier, can also turn the tide by enhancing Ashley’s offense or defense against a given element. It’s not long into the game before mastery of every aspect of Vagrant Story’s combat system – Risk management, item usage and conservation, awareness of one’s gear and the effects it has as well as crafting new gear when possible, and the proper use of magic – is necessary to continue to progress.

In complete fairness, that point does tend to come a bit quickly and the game doesn’t do much to ease the player into it. What is likely to happen is that the player will encounter a boss they’re unable to harm in any fashion – every one of their attacks is either incapable of hitting or damaging their target. They’re stuck; either they stop playing or resort to flailing away with Chain Abilities, which are guaranteed to do damage after a long enough chain but will leave Ashley defenseless due to Risk accrual afterwards. It’s unsurprising that many players have tried and abandoned Vagrant Story given the lack of guidance offered in a situation like this. Others, of course, have persevered, finding fulfillment in overcoming such a challenge.


visual Visuals: 7/10
Looking back at previous eras of gaming, it’s interesting to note how some titles benefit from being freed from the shackles of their native hardware. Vagrant Story is notable for being a prime example of this phenomenon; this is a lovely game held back by the foibles and limitations of the 32-bit era. Interestingly, Final Fantasy XII, another Matsuno project, shows similar improvement when given some room to breathe via emulation or its remaster on the PlayStation 4.

Vagrant Story’s human characters are detailed and interesting, particularly with regards to their clothing, but they suffer from muddy texturing. Drastic upscaling on an emulator reveals a much more impressive look throughout, but on native hardware the game struggles a bit. Significant characters are often defined by their models moreso than any textured detail as a result; Ashley’s trademark hairstyle, for instance, sets him apart, as does Sydney’s gaunt appearance. The game’s rogue’s gallery tends to fare a bit better thanks to Vagrant Story’s unique take on classic fantasy creatures and a reduced emphasis on realism. Harpies are a particular favorite, as the typical concept of a half-woman, half-bird creature is replaced by a spherical creature that appears to be a walking, disembodied head.


Lea Monde itself is both lovely and destitute, with the environments that Ashley explores whispering of greatness long forgotten. There’s some degree of variety in the locations one explores throughout the game, but it’s not one of Vagrant Story’s strongest suits. Aside from a memorable foray into a forest, you’ll spend a lot of time going through catacombs, dungeons, and ruined streets. Dark, mellow tones are a theme throughout the game. This is a relic of an era before complaints regarding the prevalence of “brown” in games came into fashion, and it serves a more slow-paced, mature experience well.


audio Audio: 7/10
Vagrant Story’s audio comes courtesy of Hatoshi Sakimoto. It’s no secret, as this game’s score is resoundingly similar to previous Sakimoto titles like Final Fantasy Tactics as well as future works like Crimson Shroud and Final Fantasy XII. Epic, bombastic fantasy is the order of the day, particularly when it comes to combat, while exploration is typically scored with darker and more solemn fare suiting the cursed city.

Sound effects, meanwhile, are largely standard for the era. The game isn’t voiced, though some characters shout battle cries and grunt during combat. Monsters have their own unique sound effects, which can be helpful in determining what is present in a new room, and players are bound to remember the iconic sounds of weapons clashing against armor and crates alike.

accessibility Accessibility: 4/10
When we’re talking about Squaresoft games, the go-to subject is the Final Fantasy series, and most of these aren’t especially difficult past the NES era. We’re not interested in that side of Squaresoft here. No, Vagrant Story is more in line with the SaGa games. It’s a complex and interconnected set of systems that will each demand mastery before the game is through, with no compunctions against barring progress to players who fail to rise to the challenge.

The issue here is that Vagrant Story is a product of its era, and as a result it’s not especially well-documented within the game. That’s despite the presence of an in-game manual, which does its best to impart the basics but still doesn’t clearly elucidate how everything is meant to work together. Save for the very beginning of the game, Vagrant Story is uninterested in revealing its depths to new players; it’s certainly possible to discover them with effort, but there’s very little hand-holding here. Learning what the game expects and how to deliver requires extensive, time-consuming experimentation.

“Time-consuming” also defines Vagrant Story’s crafting system thanks to one crucial flaw. Ashley’s inventory space is, unsurprisingly, limited, and as such it behooves the player to store extra weapons, parts and items in storage boxes found in each workshop throughout the game. This is reasonable, but here the flaw in question rears its head: the player is required to save their game each and every time they interact with a storage box in any meaningful way. This being the original PlayStation, read and write times for the memory cards were lengthy, and a significant portion of any particular playthrough will be spent watching the game save yet again after interacting with a storage box. This discourages excessive experimentation with crafting, which is ironic given the absolute necessity of crafting for completing the game. Patience, moreso than the vast majority of games even today, is key here.


diff Challenge: 8/10
As one might expect from a game that’s uninterested in welcoming new players, Vagrant Story is tough. After the first several hours it becomes positively unforgiving; if one is unprepared, unperceptive or lacks understanding, it’s entirely possible to encounter seemingly invincible foes fairly early into the game. A second or third playthrough with a greater degree of knowledge reveals how simple many challenges actually are when one already has the answer, but an initial, fresh run can feel insurmountable, to say the least.

Vagrant Story’s roguelike elements play a significant role here. Ashley is powerful, but he’s only one man. He’ll often find himself facing down multiple enemies each with their own weaknesses and attacks to consider, and no cleric is present to mend any wounds that result from battle or resurrect a fallen hero. Healing and reducing Risk are performed using items, which are available in limited quantities and can’t simply be restocked at a (nonexistent) town – farming more consumables is possible, and may be important for a new player’s first run through the game, but it’s never a matter of spending gold to load up. Likewise, status effects are brutally effective, crippling Ashley by slowing him down, dealing damage or preventing him from attacking or spellcasting altogether, and the items necessary to cure them are also a limited resource. Wasteful players – or those used to other RPGs – are likely to be thrown for a loop, while those with a little creativity may discover the value in inflicting status effects of their own on their hapless enemies.

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Vagrant Story is notorious for its difficulty spikes, as mentioned in the Gameplay section, and these stem largely from the game suddenly expecting a greater degree of intersectional mastery from the player; striking the correct body part ceases to be enough to prevail because now the player must use the right Type of attack as well, for instance, and this complexity increases the further one progresses. Rank-and-file monsters eventually become capable of using area-of-effect magic, an extremely dangerous prospect despite this being a game featuring only a single adventurer as these attacks instead hit multiple times for massive damage on various parts of Ashley’s body. A frustrating death or two is often necessary to solidify in the player’s mind which foes are worth prioritizing over others.

replay Replayability: 8/10
The inaccessible and challenging nature of Vagrant Story makes it a treat for players who thrive on conquering games that don’t wish to be conquered. Multiple playthroughs are possible and encouraged; without spoiling the story (that comes later), completing and restarting the game will reward the player with a special key that opens the most dangerous areas of Lea Monde. These areas are closed off during the first playthrough, and with good reason, as powerful equipment and a mastery of Vagrant Story’s various systems are necessary to prevail.


The height of the game’s challenge begins with the Iron Maiden, an extensive secret dungeon concluding with a powerful superboss. Even this isn’t as difficult as Vagrant Story can get, though. The reason to explore the Iron Maiden is to find a set of additional keys which can be used to unlock more powerful, timed versions of many of the game’s toughest bosses. The final challenge is a timed rematch against the aforementioned superboss, who is equipped with some of the most powerful gear available and must be defeated multiple times if one wishes to obtain it for themselves. None of this is any joke, and players seeking a goal to work towards over many sessions and multiple playthroughs will be pleased with Vagrant Story.


unique Uniqueness: 8/10
Well, it’s a Japanese fantasy RPG released during a period when Japanese fantasy RPGs were big… but Vagrant Story doesn’t have much in common with its contemporaries or with many games to come afterwards. In an era before roguelikes became a popular choice for indie developers that would saturate the market with this style of gameplay, titles that incorporated many of their unforgiving mechanics were uncommon and unusual. Likewise, the “one-man-army” concept was normally reserved for shooters and stealth titles like Metal Gear Solid, yet here was a fantasy hero fighting on his lonesome and relying on wits and versatility to survive. One assumes that Ashley would be able to compare notes with Geralt of Rivia, as the Witcher’s approach to problem solving often mirrors his own. In many ways, Vagrant Story was a prescient game, a title released before its time that continues to hold up today despite some flaws inherent to its age.


pgrade My Personal Grade: 9/10
Without going down the long and dark New Games Journalism road of making this piece about myself rather than the game in question, Vagrant Story holds a fond place in my heart for multiple reasons. It was released during an interesting time in my life, a point where a younger me both had the curiosity to explore its many intertwining complexities and the free time to fully devote myself to them. Ever since spending the sweltering summer of 2000 in an air-conditioned bedroom hammering away at the game, my only companions a printed GameFAQs guide, a bowl of chips and my resolve, I’ve been particularly fond of games that exist on their own terms.

This is an aspect of Vagrant Story that makes it a special game, even today. I’d later come to love the SaGa games, titles like The Last Remnant, and more arcane RPGs and roguelike adventures still. These are games that offer you every chance to claim victory… but at the same time, they demand that you persevere and grasp it for yourself instead of offering a helping hand. That sense of determination, of getting back up and trying again even when things are darkest and the challenge seems too much to overcome, has served me well throughout the seventeen years since that summer, through school, college and trials in my personal life alike. I like to think that in some small way, Vagrant Story helped me learn how just how important “gitting gud” and rising to the occasion really was. You can’t always turn the difficulty down, after all.

“Narrative summary and analysis coming soon in another post!”


Aggregated Score: 7.5


The Infernal Accountant Mage believes the pen is mightier than the sword…well, depending on how sharp the pen and sword are. A child of the ’90s and a prolific writer, he strews his work about like Legos made of words, just waiting for your brain to step on them. He enjoys a devilish challenge, so when it comes to talking about some of the more difficult games out there, you might just run into the Infernal Accountant Mage. Some advice: hold on to your soul around this guy, and don’t sign anything. Read more at


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12 replies »

  1. Lord C too fell into the ‘oh dear lord, what the biscuits?’ category of player.
    I was 12 when I played it, & after a couple of the aforementioned area effect smackdowns & utter lack o damage apart from endless risk chains, I’m ashamed to admit.. I too, walked away.. & never returned………..


  2. I traded for this game a while back, and included in the package was a note saying the game is hard, complete with a 😦 face. Always thought this would be a game I’d rather watch played than played myself since besides the difficulty, it’s not really my style. Do want to say I’ve seen all the Ivalice games one day though.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Thank you for your interest in writing for us and putting together this very well-written critique on Vagrant Story. I have always wanted to love this game and I still do, but I definitely fit into the category of too stupid to beat it!

    I bought this game when it came out but no way could I beat it without a guide at age 15. I tried a handful of times and sold it off eventually. I’ve tried again as an adult but I haven’t found a decent guide for it, and the patience it demands is a huge factor. I’d love to beat it, because I think it has some great visuals and storytelling, and a fascinating world, but that crafting system and inventory management (having to save each time you use a chest) is impenetrable. For me, this will probably always be “that one game” that will always get the best of me.

    Reading about those secret dungeons though… No way, Billy Ray.


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