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Due out for PSX May 2000. Preview based on import version.

about1.jpg (3781 bytes)Everyone knows it: I’m Anglophonic, meaning I don’t speak a word of Japanese, well I speak a few. So when I get a Japanese import I’m hesitant at first as to whether I’ll enjoy it or not—it all depends on if I can get past that good ole language barrier which makes everything, from gaming to politics, difficult for us English speaking Americans. In this case, Vagrant Story washed up on my beach of indecision with the sparkle of Squaresoft in its eye – and that’s the only reason I dropped it into the PlayStation, since I usually pass over RPGs from Japan. I mean, what’s the point when you can’t read it, right?

Damn: from the opening FMV to the smooth transition into actual game play, Vagrant Story quickly became a top priority for me, from finding out when it’ll hit the domestic market (Square says sometime in May) to figuring out the story line. Yes, I attempted to play a Japanese RPG in Japanese, but, you see, the difference between Vagrant Story and other Square—or any company’s—RPGs is that for once they have seamlessly brought together elements of RPG, adventure, puzzle and strategy.

about2.jpg (2959 bytes)The game, set in the Middle Ages, has you playing the role of Ashley Riot, a Riskbreaker in the Valendia Knights of the Peace, who is on a mission (the one you’re dumped into at the game’s start) to investigate the manor of Duke Bardoba. So begins your mission… One character you’ll encounter through the game’s course is Sydney Losstarot, a religious cult leader, who also happens to be your persistent nemesis.

Also, as expected, Square has designed their own unique battle system. Instead of the RPG style of dropping you into a scenario, your battles are handled within the world view of the game, in my opinion giving a better experience to the overall game play. The game system allows you to combine "grips", "blades" and "gems" to create different weapons. You also have "risk" points, which determine the accuracy of your attacks and increase to critical levels if you continuously battle, so it’s best to take a rest every now and then or else your fighting skills will go to crap for awhile.

about3.jpg (3022 bytes)Now, with all that said and done, here’s the clincher for most on the design level of the game: Yasumi Matsuno, Final Fantasy Tactics’ producer has been partnered with character designer Akihiko Yoshida to develop the environment and characters, making this game one of 2000’s hot ticket items (aside from the PS2 of course), and one which I’ll be eagerly awaiting in the domestic version so I can, you know, read the damn story.

  --Matt Baldwin