SquareEnix and Silicon Studios are slicing up eight ways to enjoy some nutritious old school turn based rpg action.

SquareEnix has been up to its old ways again, which is definitely a great thing for us. Seeing these throwback games such as Bravely Default and Bravely Second, I Am Setsuna, and the newly announced Lost Sphear getting attention puts a smile on my face. Then a Secret of Mana remake is announced! My heart is soaring. But in the midst of all of this, Nintendo announced a list of titles during the Switch debut that caught my attention.

So we have (working title) Project Octopath Traveler. The short clip showed classic pixel art in a sort of 2D/3D hybrid with some very distinct nods towards Final Fantasy VI. We eventually get a trailer, and now after the September 13 Nintendo Direct, we get a demo for this Switch exclusive game. Two of the eight characters were playable, so I sat down and played through both scenarios. Then I played some more. Want to know what my impressions were? Read on!

I did mention there are eight characters, right? So the older SaGa series comes to mind due to the ability to have multiple characters all being used to tell an interweaving story. Some of these were good(Romancing SaGa), some not so good(SaGa Frontier). Okay, SaGa Frontier 2 had that amazing hand drawn art, but let’s not stray too far from the (octo)path here.

The first of our two playable characters I chose from was a man by the name of Olberic. I won’t go into much of the story here, as this is a demo, and things can change. We see Olberic fighting a group of soldiers, and after he single-handedly defeats some of them, the soldiers recognize him as Olberic the Unbending Blade, one of the two highest knights in the land under the king. After the soldiers retreat, Olberic wants to go check on the king. Surprise! Something has happened and Olberic wakes up from his dream. Many years have passed, and Olberic is going by another name now, living as a master-at-arms training a small village. While wandering around, we hear of bandits that have set up in a cave near the village. Bandits attack town, Olberic beats them down. Bandits kidnap a boy while retreating. You know what you have to do.

As I wander around, I look at this pixelated world, with 3D-esque landscapes, and really neat light effects causing some equally awesome shadows that dance around. Dubbed HD-2D by Square/Silicon, we get to see some nice visuals to go along with that classic look. Also, each character in the game has a unique ability that will allow you to interact with the world and its inhabitants, allowing you to get the upper hand or make progress to an area you couldn’t get to before. Olberic can approach almost anyone and challenge them to a dual. By doing this, you can get though someone blocking your way, obtain items, and even confront random npcs that may have evil intentions. Granted, the demo doesn’t explore this ability much, but I hope the full game takes advantage of it. And what happens in most turn based rpgs while wandering around? Bam! The screen fades to black, it is time for battle.

Here we get to see the meat of this game. Want to smash that attack option over and over again? Prepare to see the game over screen on even regular foes. The enemies in this game have weaknesses, and by using that weakness(sword or spear attacks, magic, etc…), you can “break” their guard, and cause them to be dizzy for a turn. During this dizzy state, they will take high damage, especially if you use said weakness against them. While you are fighting, you might notice the glowing dots that appear under your name. With these dots, you can Brave- I mean Boost your turn. Want to attack twice in a row? Use boost once. Want to go all out? Use boost as far as it will go. Unlike Bravely Default, there doesn’t seem to be any real negative side to doing this, such as losing your turn three times if you boost three times. Even using abilities/magic while boosting only takes the single amount of mp, but multiplies the damage. This may change in the final version though. Little things like holding a lantern while exploring the cave gives the game a chance to show off those great light and shadow effects I mentioned earlier. So we get to the end of the cave, and a scene plays out, granting you some insight as to what has happened during the past few years, and its boss time. The boss is huge! Another throwback to those golden rpgs of old. Make sure to dispatch those smaller enemies, so you can focus on the boss. Find that weakness, and don’t forget to heal! I can keep going with all the references, but know that even after I beat the boss, and was told to move on to our other playable character, I kept playing and leveling Olberic. Buying better gear, looking for side quests, etc… Eventually I was running out of things to do, and I wanted to take a look at the dancer.

The other playable character goes by the name of Primrose, who is a dancer in a hot, dry desert town. Like Olberic, Primrose also awakens from a dream, depicting evil men with distinct tattoos murdering her father when she was young. Devoting her life to tracking down these men, she has ended up the dancer we see now. Primrose has the allure ability, and if she succeeds, the person will follow her, can aid her in battle, and you can even lure people out to confront them. Once again, I’m sure there will be more elaborate ways of using this in the final game.

Primrose is more than capable of handling herself, using daggers and spells to help her along the way. I was caught up in her story from the get go, and can’t wait to see how it unfolds. You can eventually travel to the other character’s town and get them to join your party. It shows you how more than one character can interact in places, and opens up some side quests too. This game is set to release early 2018, and you can put me down as a day one buyer!

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