Memories of a Vagabound
Release Date: 07/07/2014
It’s no secret I’m a Chrono Trigger fan – I even nominated it for the Hall of Fame way back when. So when Alex said a game came in that was a homage to Chrono Trigger (and Final Fantasy), my interest was piqued. Hey, doesn’t seem likely that we’re getting an official sequel, so may as well take what I can get. I wasn’t expecting an exact clone of either of those games, but something that would provide me with an at least somewhat enjoyable JRPG fix. Let’s see if I got at least that.
The story begins with the hero proposing to his lover. She happily accepts, though the celebration is cut short when a monster attacks and kills her, then strikes the hero down as well. However, instead of that being the end, the hero comes to in a hellish place and is offered to be revived in one of four bodies (representing different classes, though who knows what happened to the original owners, those poor souls) so he can take revenge. The concept isn’t anything we haven’t seen before (though perhaps more commonly minus the hellish parts), though there were a fair amount of dialogue choices. I just couldn’t really get too invested in the story or characters. Your party members take a backseat once they join your party, which didn’t help on that front.
The main culprit for that is the writing. There were so many typos and poorly structured sentences that it was distracting and kept pulling me out from being engaged with the plot. There’s plenty of misplaced or absent apostrophes (e.g “Sincerely your’s”, “So lets move on!”), stilted text and typos (e.g. “Don’t you dare lift a finger on her!”, “you have the gal to ask me”, “I am very badley wounded”), omitted articles (e.g. “This place is crawling undead monsters”), unnecessarily added ones (e.g.”You’re the welcome”), and incorrect tenses (e.g. “I didn’t gave you this money for drinking!”). I even spotted a smiley (“No, your axe is mine! =)”), which really stuck out given it doesn’t occur anywhere else and just doesn’t fit in.
Some were bad enough that at first glance it was difficult to determine what the sentence was even trying to say, as in, “There hidding in a small cave to the south.” Better yet, here’s a little exercise – decipher this sentence (found in a note the drops right after you win a certain boss battle): “Bring the girl to the our real’s graveyard for the ritual.”
The answer: “Bring the girl to our realm’s graveyard”, as per a note you pick up off the ground after that battle. This one is especially egregious because both notes are meant to say the same thing, yet it’s nigh indecipherable in one note and correct in the other. That demonstrates a lack of effort and at least a once over to smooth out some of these errors that may have been missed the first time around. A couple of typos may slip through in text heavy games (given I eat up anything story heavy aka lots of text, I’ve seen my fair share), which while not ideal and easily ignored if they’re scarce. However, the volume present here would have been enough to get me to stop playing if not for this review. The game should never have gone up in this state.
The graphics look much like other RPG Maker games, which are functional but unlikely to wow anyone. The main character gets a different sprite depending on his current class, but that’s about it. Attack animations look like basic standard fare, serviceable but not particularly flashy. A couple of caves look somewhat similar, though they were still easy enough to navigate through. The music and sound effects are decent, though nothing memorable.
The game has an option to enable the controller, and it mentions controller keys during the tutorial at the beginning of the game. However, when I tried to use a 360 controller, it initially did not work well at all, with laggy response to input from the joystick and the face buttons completely unresponsive. It was to the point where I had to use the keyboard just to proceed from the main menu even with the controller enabled option turned on and exiting and restarting the game. I ultimately just stuck with the keyboard controls, which worked much better. The configuration itself is straightforward: esc or X (B on the 360 controller) menu/cancel, WASD or arrow keys (left joystick) for movement/selection, enter and space (X) to interact/confirm, shift keys (Y) to toggle turbo mode, and C to make selections/advance text. I did go back later to try using the controller again after a patch came out, and it worked after I did the following: pressed F1 and set Button 1 as C (A on 360 controller) and Button 2 as B (B on 360 controller). The controller worked much better after that, though I used the keyboard during my first playthrough.
The standard turn based battle system found in many JRPGs – pick an attack for each character, watch them carry it out and enemies attack in turn – is also present here. After battles, you can loot corpses, which are represented as bags, (odd, but hey, it’s the loot that matters). Characters also heal completely when they gain a level, which comes in handy for longer dungeon treks, though none of the dungeons in the game are massively long. Items are hidden in different things, so it’s actually worth checking every pot, box, and vase you see. There’s fishing and alchemy, though the game is too short for them to be as useful as they potentially could be. The fishing only factors in for two side quests (with the quest giver standing right near the fishing spot), with the second one taking a bit more persistence and luck to get the right fish. While the alchemy can save you a bit of money if you happen to have the materials, for the most part I just bought what I needed. The strongest equipment didn’t seem to have schematics, and while I did make some health potions since I had the ingredients handy, I found that booze was a cheaper SP replenisher than the actual stamina potions.
At the start of the game you get the chance to pick between four classes: warrior, mage, bounty hunter, and assassin. Most of those are exactly what you’d think they are, though bounty hunter is essentially more balanced stats wise. Whenever you die you get the option of picking another class or sticking to the one you’ve been using. There’s also hubs where you can change classes without having bit the dust first. The ability to class change at will (well, if you die or are at a hub) and carry over skills from one class to another is a bit reminiscent of the class system in Final Fantasy V, though it’s nowhere near as elaborate here as it was in that game. Or it would be, if the carrying over skills part worked. Whenever I switched classes, none of the skills from the previous class carried over. Which is a shame, given the Toughness skill from the Warrior class in particular would be beneficial for the other classes, especially the less hardy ones like the Mage.
There were also a couple of things that seemed to be bugs. During a dream sequence, Portia’s sprite was not visible, but you can still bring up her equip screen, and she’s still listed as a member of your party. I’m guessing since the hero was meant to be the only one there it might have been an attempt to get that across. The lack of battles in that section made it not much of an issue, but it still looked strange. In addition, party members disappear if you end a battle without reviving them. I don’t know if that was an intentional feature or a bug (I’m leaning towards the latter given you get items to revive them and they’re not marked as in-battle use only). All the same, I just avoided dying and reloaded if I didn’t get to revive a party member in time. It wasn’t onerous enough to be a major obstacle, especially since I’m a bit compulsive about saving.
After you beat the game, there’s a new game plus option wherein you get to keep inventory and levels when you continue from that save file. You can try picking dialogue options you didn’t last time, though the core story doesn’t change. Choosing to insult the enemy back when presented with the option actually provides boosts (healing a bit, raising attack and defense), though they don’t make a big enough difference to affect the outcome of the battle. You can also play on another difficulty if you prefer. There’s an arena where you can win prizes for going through it as each class. It’s completely optional, but it’s there. You can take on side quests from NPCs in addition to the main story quests. An exclamation point over a person means they have a quest for you, while a question mark means you’ve completed their quest. The quests are all basically fetch quests and generally not hard to complete. You can complete everything on your first run through the game, so there’s not a whole lot of incentive to replay once you’ve beaten it. As I mentioned above, I was barely motivated to finish the first time. I do have to give the developer credit for seeming to be open to feedback on the game’s Steam forums, but I simply didn’t enjoy my time with the game.
Short Attention Span Summary:
From the description, Memories of a Vagabond seemed like it’d have some promise, with being able to switch classes instead of getting a game over if you fall in battle, carrying over skills among classes, and paying homage to Final Fantasy and Chrono Trigger. While the class switching and basic gameplay trappings of a JRPG are present, the ability to actually carry skills and memorable plot and characters are not. There’re attempts to add in additional features like fishing and alchemy, but the game is too short to really take advantage of those. The writing is unpolished and full of errors, enough so that it detracts from really being engaged with the game and is even nearly indecipherable on a couple of occasions. If you want a JRPG fix, I have to recommend that you look for that elsewhere.