RPG Maker has made it easier for those who have always wanted to create their own role-playing game to do so, and due to its accessibility we’ve seen an increase in releases through digital sites like Steam. Another title in that long list is DarkElite Team‘s Memories of a Vagabond, an ambitious throwback to the turn-based era of the SNES. Channeling its inner Final Fantasy while offering a unique approach to death helps the game stand on its own, but does its incredibly short length prevent that innovation from standing front and center?
Memories of a Vagabond starts out with our hero meeting the love of his life, ready to request her hand in marriage. In typical RPG fashion, she’s somewhat immediately kidnapped by an evil force and you’re soon thrown in to a losing battle. After tasting the inevitable death blow, you come to in a strange room and are introduced to the backbone of the game — its death system.
You can choose between one of four souls (classes); Warrior, Mage, Bounty Hunter, and Assassin. Each class obtains their own abilities as you level up, but if you die you can choose to be reborn as one of the other souls; keeping your old spells and abilities in the process. Having the option to combine abilities between the four classes is a really cool idea, and one that I was eager to see play out, but unfortunately the length of the game prevented me from playing around with it too much. It’s still a great idea in theory and I’d love to experiment with it more if additional content is added to the game, but I just didn’t die enough in my 3 hour playthrough to get much out of it.
Another idea that sounded great on paper was the alchemy system, where you collect items strewn about the world and use them to craft potions, weapons, and armor. I always seemed to have enough gold to buy the best weapons and armor already, so I never felt the need to buy or hunt down materials. I did play around with alchemy and craft a couple of potions, but I generally just bought what I needed from the innkeepers instead. Again, I thought this was a cool idea and DarkElite Team was on the right track, but I think the overall short length of the game prevented it from ever being a worthwhile investment.
If you yearn for the days of menu driven turn-based combat, Memories of a Vagabond will apply a band-aid to the affected area. Combat is well executed, offering a nice mix of attack commands, debilitation spells, and heals, as well as an element system for magical spells like fire or lightning bolts. It’s not the Active Time Battle system from Final Fantasy, so you can take as long as you like planning your strategy, but each character’s stats seemed to play in to the order of attack.
If you aren’t battling it out with the baddies you’re tackling the rulers of the overworld, and Memories of a Vagabond nailed the epic boss themes perfectly. Each boss features some awesome power metal tracks that I’d proudly listen to outside of the game, including chugging riffs and classical sounds in front of double bass thudding in the background. It reminded me a lot of 90’s Japanese visual kei music like Malice Mizer’s later material, or Moi dix Mois. It definitely added some much-needed intensity to the important encounters, as it was so different from the standard battle tracks or what you would hear on the world map.
Overall, Memories of a Vagabond is a fun RPG that has some really cool ideas, but not enough time to really dig in to them. Part of me hopes this was a demo of things to come from DarkElite Team, as I’d love to play a full-length RPG from them in the future. What it does, it does fine, and it offers up all of the old SNES-era tropes like world maps, quirky characters, fishing, crafting, and side-quests, but it’s like eating an RPG appetizer. It primed the pump, but once I got settled in and ready for the main course, it was over. It’s worth its $5 price tag, but I think it was just a little too ambitious for such a short experience. It’s length really is the deciding factor, as once you take away the things that never really had time to come to fruition, it’s just a bare bones turn-based RPG with a lot of great ideas on paper.
Bradley Keene is the Executive Editor here at What’s Your Tag?, generally handling news, reviews, and a bit of our public relations communications. He’s an aspiring writer and Baltimore native that can usually be found watching terrible B-movies or knee-deep in a roguelike, a horror game or some sort of point-and-click adventure. His favorite console is the Dreamcast, favorite game is the original Metroid, and he could watch The Goonies for the rest of his life. Contact him by e-mail at the address above, or follow his insanity on Twitter.