Thursday, September 14, 2017

Project Octopath Traveler Impressions

As I watched the Nintendo Direct last evening I had one hope spooling around in my mind: I'd like to see more of Project Octopath Traveler from Square Enix. My wishes were answered when it became one of the four main titles spotlighted during the event. I had simply hoped for a trailer or some new information. I never expected to get a demo!

Directly after the event the demo for Project Octopath Traveler was available on the Nintendo eShop and I downloaded it immediately.

As a fan of classic RPGs and the work of Team Asano at Square Enix, the group that brought us 4 Heroes of Light, Bravely Default, and Bravely Second, I've been anticipating this project since it was first teased at the reveal of Nintendo Switch back in January.

Bravely Default - Nintendo 3DS

The game presents the player with eight different characters to choose at the outset of their adventure. Each character offers a different play-style, story, and allows the player to go out into an open world and play the game however they see fit. The game is presented in an art-style defined by the developers as 2D-HD, which is an apt name. The sprites all appear to have a 2D pixel look, however the world is in three dimensions.

In the demo you can play as two characters, Primrose or Olberic. Primrose is a dancer who can use an Allure ability, which allows her to charm people in her environment to follow her for various tasks. She can also summon characters she has Allured to battle. Olberic is a former knight serving as a protector to a small village after he lost his king eight years previously. Olberic can challenge anyone in the world to a duel, which sounds strange, but actually plays out alright from what the demo has shown.

The game's aesthetic and music hearken back to RPGs from the Super Nintendo and PlayStation era. Although the mechanics of Bravely Default, for instance, are a little more straight-laced like the Final Fantasy games of old, the aesthetic of Project Octopath Traveler is so akin to a game like Final Fantasy VI that its charm hits you almost immediately as you begin your adventure.

Final Fantasy 3 (aka VI) - Super Nintendo

One thing I've noticed is that a lot of people are aligning this game with Final Fantasy VI and I can see why. The look of the character sprites definitely feels like an extension of that game, but the music! I can't account for it - I know that FFVI's soundtrack was presented as bit-tunes and Project Octopath Traveler has a full orchestra behind it, but I can hear and feel the lineage of FFVI in some of the tracks I experienced playing the demo of Project Octopath Traveler. There are also several tracks that I've listened to on the web that feel very much like something from Chrono Cross. The music is absolutely stunning.

Project Octopath Traveler - Nintendo Switch

Here's the thing: I don't think Project Octopath Traveler is supposed to be reminiscent of the Final Fantasy games of old. I believe that Project Octopath Traveler is to the SaGa games as Bravely Default was to Final Fantasy; the branching open-world paths and multiple characters to choose from at the outset just screams SaGa.

The SaGa series was released in North America around the early 90s under the Final Fantasy branding, as the games definitely contain some of the DNA of FF titles, which were selling like hotcakes in the Americas. The first three SaGa games were released here as Final Fantasy Legend on Gameboy, but we missed out on all of the Super Nintendo/Famicom entries in the series known as Romancing SaGa and we didn't see another SaGa game until SaGa Frontier released on the Sony PlayStation in 1997.

Romancing SaGa 3 - Super Famicom

Now, I'm no SaGa expert. I've played a little bit of one of the FF Legend games - I believe it was Final Fantasy Legend II - and I've watched a fair bit of SaGa Frontier. My good friend (and Retro-Def contributor) Cole owns both of those games and I've played a bit of them at his place when we were kids. If I'm wrong on this one, feel free to correct me, but I definitely catch a SaGa vibe off of Project Octopath Traveler and I wouldn't be surprised if this game ended up as a SaGa title when it finally releases in 2018, but I still think it's more likely that it will continue to be its own thing, capturing some of the essence of the SaGa games of the past.

That's all I really have to say at this point. Even though we've had a couple of nice trailers, a feature in Nintendo Direct, and a demo of the game I still feel like a lot of it is shrouded in mystery. For one thing, even though we have a demo, the game is still being presented by it's working title, with the real name of the game to be revealed closer to release. I feel like we've only scratched the surface with Project Octopath Traveler and there's so much more to come from this highly anticipated title!

Feel free to tell me how you feel about the newly released information on Project Octopath Traveler! Have you played the demo? Hit me up in the comments below or on our Twitter and Facebook pages. I'd love to hear from you!

Hope you enjoyed,