The Starlight Megaphone is pleased to present Agent of the Crown: A Vagrant Story playthrough.
In the last year of the twentieth century, a Japanese developer hight SquareSoft published a game which sought to improve upon the political world-building that had been on display in their acclaimed 1997 release, Final Fantasy Tactics. To all but the most optimistic of observers, such a goal seemed to verge upon the impossible: Tactics had seen the creation of an world entire: not only a mythos, but social, political, cultural, and religious systems had all been constructed along historical lines, displaying divergences, developments, and shifts in cultural memory. The result was a game that not only provided a deep and compelling fantasy world full of knowledge to be uncovered and revealed, but also a setting which seemed to exist in a human reality: where history, and our conceptions of it, are shaped by long dureé structural forces in which we necessarily participate, and through which we are unknowingly shaped.
Nevertheless, in the year 2000, SquareSoft had the confidence to try and improve upon their recently-displayed mastery of realistic political fantasy world-building. Vagrant Story is the result: a game which, for all intents and purposes, plunges even more quickly and more deeply into a world of political factionalism and double-crossing machination, beneath and behind which a far darker menace lies. For, when the malevolence of man is combined with a fearsome power, it threatens the the world itself.
Released to critical acclaim both in Japan and abroad, the consensus is that Vagrant Story is one of the most finely polished exercises in world-building and game design which the industry has yet seen. With a translation by Alexander O. Smith described, at the time, as “unprecedented”, the story is delivered with a literary polish that would still be impressive today, let alone during the PlayStation era. In addition, the soundtrack by Hitoshi Sakimoto (a Final Fantasy Tactics veteran) establishes an atmosphere which is unnervingly chilling. And, the artwork of Hiroshi Minagawa and Akihiko Yoshida also follows on from Final Fantasy Tactics, firmly establishing a mode of artistic representation that would become a staple of SquareSoft–and later, SquareEnix–fantasy productions, seen in Final Fantasy XII and Final Fantasy XIV.
Now available on the PlayStation Network as a PSOne Classic, Vagrant Story is an affordable title which every role-playing game enthusiast should experience. We hope that you will join with us in our playthrough over the next four weeks, using this post to discuss and share experiences, frustrations, and observations about your place in the game: whether you have time to complete it, or only play a little, share your thoughts with us. A selection of the best comments from each week will be included in our Podcast.
We look forward to playing, and discussing, Vagrant Story with you!
The body is but a vessel for the soul,
a puppet which bends to the soul’s tyranny.
And lo, the body is not eternal,
for it must feed on the flesh of others,
lest it return to the dust whence it came.
Therefore must the soul deceive,
despise, and murder men.
-A. J. Durai