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Vagrant Story
"A gripping and suspenseful storyline that unfolds in a series of dialogue balloons similar to that of classic comic books"
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Developer  Square Co., Ltd Game Type  RPG
Distributor  Square Electronic Arts Preview Date  Apr 00
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The Story so Far:
      Ahhh…. Another Square title to sink our teeth into folks. Set in a medieval era, Vagrant Story is about to take gamers on a journey through the darkest dungeons in search of a self-proclaimed prophet of the apocalypse. Along the way gamers will experience a story that is chock filled with conspiracy, intrigue and suspense. With this title I immediately got the impression that Square is heading off into yet another subtle direction with their RPG's. The overall look, style and "feel" of the game is a slight departure from a typical Square adventure.

Where it all begins…
      The game opens up with our hero Ashley Riot venturing through a labyrinthine area…prefaced by a side story where you learn a little bit about a few of the characters. It seems that a murder has occurred within the castle walls and culprit must be found before all hell breaks loose. This whole opening sequence is done in a movie style cinematic much in the same way that Metal Gear Solid opened, complete with the credits flashing up on the screen as the intro unfolds.

At this stage in the games development Vagrant Story appears to be a very complex and dark story. It seems that there is a very powerful warlock of sorts named Sydney who possess a great deal of power and magic to back up his claim of "prophet". We also get to witness a murder scene in which poor Ashley (who for some reason is outfitted in what appears to be a bib overall), has lost his wife and child at the hands of some errant ruffian's. This of course has a profound impact of his life and compels him to join a criminal task force called the "Riskbreaker's". As a result, I immediately felt a kinship with the main character and took a vested interest in making him succeed along his journey.

      The graphics in Vagrant Story are quite interesting. Once again, the style immediately reminded me of MGS with the rich textures, yet grainy overall appearance. With everything in the game appearing as polygons, I honestly believe that the mighty little Playstation is on the verge of choking to death trying to produce all of these textures and animation…not to mention all of the special effects in the game. There is little doubt in my mind that Square has successfully squeezed every final drop of juice out of the console at this point. Overall the presentation, animation and graphic style is superb.

Of course there is also an incredible opening CG video that will blow you away.

Creaks and drips…
      Of course no game is complete without sound and music and Vagrant Story is no exception. The musical score is going to impress the hell out of you and elicit all kinds of various emotions and responses from gamers.

Sound effects are remarkably well done and run the gambit from scary dungeon creaks and groans to the splendidly alive sword clashes and magical explosions. The whole effect does wonders to draw you into the atmosphere of this title.

As it stands it looks like Vagrant Story is going to make some real waves once it hits store shelves and should prove to be immensely popular for RPG and adventure fans alike.

Key Character Background:
      Name: Ashley Riot
      Age: Late 20's
      Height: 6'0"
      Association: VKP Riskbreaker Group.

After graduating as valedictorian from the VKP (Valendia Knights of the Peace) Academy, Ashley worked as an elite soldier. Following the death of his wife and child, he transfers into the Dangerous Criminal Task Force, a.k.a. "Riskbreaker", the most danger-ridden post at VKP, where he remains to this day.

Riskbreakers conduct their investigations alone, infiltrating into and investigating foreign crime syndicates over long periods of time, which always puts the individual at high risk. Many lose their lives during their assignments; the survival rate stands at less than 30 percent. Ashley, always maintaining his composure in all situations, has succeeded in mission after mission.

When Mullenkamp cultists entered the Graylands and seized Bardorba's manor, a chain of events was set into motion, ending with the assassination of Duke Bardorba. Ashley's involvement in the intrigues at the dukes manor makes him a prime suspect in the duke's assassination.

A Riskbreaker with a tragic past, Ashley must now face a future filled with uncertainty. Only his efforts can revel the truth and clear his name.

      Name: Sydney Losstarot
      Age: Unknown (Late 20's?)
      Height: 5'10"
      Association: Mullenkamp

Leader of a cult that worships the ancient sorcerer Mullenkamp, Sydney is a self-professed prophet who preaches to his followers about human weaknesses and the end of the world.

Sydney can precisely describe the past of those he meets for the first time, and it has been said that he holds a special power that allows him to manipulate others at his will. His charisma has attracted many zealous followers, prompting Parliament to declare the Mullenkamp cult a threat to state security.

After masterminding the seizure of the Bardorba Manor in the Graylands, Sydney held the duke's family and servants hostage in the exchange for the release of his followers, but it seems that his true intent lay elewhere.

Riskbreaker Ashley Riot encounters Sydney seemingly by chance during his mission, but their meeting is fated to occur….

      Name: Romeo Guildenstern
      Age: 34
      Height: 5'11"
      Association: Knights of the Cross

General of the "Crimson Blades" - Knights of the Cross, a military order under the direct control of the cardinal.

Although every bit a knight of elegance and breeding, he can be utterly cold-blooded, never hesitating in the name of justice for the kingdom.

He led the Knights of the Cross during the incident at Duke Bardorba's manor and led the effort to suppress the riots that ensued. Why the cardinal's Knights of the Cross became involved despite having received no orders to so remains a mystery.

      Some of the games key features include:

  * Amazing use of lighting, texture, music and camera angles to create the perfect ambiance of a medieval world

  * Innovative Weapon System (hey it is Square afterall) that enables players to mix and match different weapon parts to create highly unique and destructive medieval weaponry

  * Unique Status System which allows specific parts of the body to be attacked, thus bringing more depth and complexity to battle sequences

  * Smooth transition from gameplay to cut scenes, coupled with the games realtime action, heighten the game's movie-like experience.

  * A fully polygonal and richly detailed environment that allows a 3D 360-degree view of the world

  * A gripping and suspenseful storyline that unfolds in a series of dialogue balloons similar to that of classic comic books

  * Chain attacks and counterattacks for optimal damage and recovery using the unique Chain Craft system

  * Switch from third to first person perspective for an up close look at the unique medieval environment drawn to startling authenticity

  * Compatible with the Dual Shock analog controller