We’re now only weeks away from Square-Enix’s greatly anticipated Octopath Traveler! Announced near the launch of the Nintendo Switch, I’ve been paying close attention to this title. Its aesthetic hearkens back to joyous hours spent with my SNES or PSX! It wears its inspiration on its sleeves and promises a modern twist on a golden age. For those of you that have been keeping up with the blog, it should be no shock that I’m stoked for this one.
We’ve been given two demos so far, the second allowing players to carry their progress to the full game. While I’ve played the first (and I enjoyed it very much), I’ve purposefully avoided the second as I still feel indecisive on the character I’d like to start with. Clear comparisons can be made to the SaGa series and its “choose your own adventure” style of story-telling. It doesn’t look like Octopath is being marketed as a spiritual successor, though, and with games like The Legend of Legacy and Alliance Alive pulling from the SaGa formula, I’m really excited to see what today’s Square-Enix does with the concept.
Sticking to the path
The art style is, with no exaggeration, gorgeous. Landscapes look beautiful and populous, but the characters are where this game’s visuals shine for me. From unique designs steeped in classic medieval fantasy all the way down their brilliantly detailed sprites, I can’t wait to dive in and learn more about each one. Gameplay seems just complex enough to keep me intrigued, too, which is always a point of contention for JRPGs in 2018. Relying on a turn-based battle system not unlike the games so many of us look back fondly on, I think we have a winner. It’s funny how we continue to look to the past for what we want in the future, really. I believe it’s an interesting trap to fall into that leads to never being truly satisfied.
Modern technology has a lot to offer, but then again, I think what we’re all waiting for is a game that puts the right twist and sheen on what’s tried and true. It’s the comfort food of gaming! (Okay, no more food analogies.) All of that being said, JRPG is a complicated genre with a lot of the modern output either being absolutely stellar or forgettable. We haven’t gotten quite as many classics out of this generation. (At least it feels that way.) I think that might explain the reason we keep making those same comparisons to what we grew up with, though that all sounds like fuel for another edition of Nostalgia Bytes.
Octopath appears to be toeing the line between open-world and linearity as far as plot goes. It seems that each character is going to follow a relatively linear plot, but the ability to choose a character and experience something totally different with each play-through is a kind of freedom we don’t see every day in this genre. I’m sure we’ll see a wealth of side-quests along the way, too! As someone who has expressed some open-world fatigue, I really feel this will be the kind of game I’ve been craving. I’m really anxious to find out how each character’s journey will overlap! Games like Octopath may feel a bit like a relic of the past, but the amount of hype circling through the community for it is here and now. And it’s palpable!
Greater than the sum of its parts
Tying it all back up, that’s where I feel the importance of this game is. Sure, the gameplay looks great, the graphics are appealing, we can hope for a fantastic story, but there’s more to it than that. I’m also here for what this game means. What it means for me, what it means for others, what it means for the industry. The success of a game like this is huge. Widespread success even more so! It shows a large developer that we practice what we preach. The community seems more than ready to speak with their wallets to get more games like this on the market.
Revisiting a legacy
The tide has been rolling in for a bit now, though. The JRPG has seen a bit of a renaissance, though we don’t as often see it realized in “AAA” form. There have been a few smaller games released in the past few years that have drawn direct comparisons to other classics. I Am Setsuna and Lost Sphear are two of these. They were even released by Square-Enix, handled by their Tokyo Game Factory imprint. Unfortunately for TGF, their name seems a bit too “on the nose” considering how by-the-numbers both of these games feel. On the opposite end of the quality spectrum, Falcom has seen huge success with their Trails series (and for good reason), and the Ys games are feeling more relevant than ever.
There are a lot of hits coming from the indie side, too! Cosmic Star Heroine has received glowing reviews and while I regretfully have yet to play it myself, anything that gets a Chrono Trigger comparison hits my radar. Undertale is one of the most critically acclaimed games of the past few years, which is saying a lot for an indie Earthbound-alike (and I mean that in the best way possible.) Other games like Cthulhu Saves the World, the ludicrous Charles Barkley’s Shut Up and Jam: Gaiden, and the upcoming Soul Saga are just a few more that take the JRPG formula and “mess with it” to their benefit.
In short, I’m excited for Octopath Traveler. I’m really excited for Octopath Traveler. I’m excited to see it ignite spark to ember in what is often considered a stale genre. Most of all, I’m excited to play it! I’ll be grabbing it day one and making it a point to express thoughts constantly via this page and Twitter. I’m sure I’ll have a lot to say!
Follow us on Twitter at @ConsoleGenBlog!