Rated: Rated T
Who it's for: Old-school JRPG fans with the patience for a long, intricate journey
Switch owners have any number of triple-A games to choose from. Whether you want to jump like Mario, explore Hyrule with Link or even kill Nazis as B.J. Blazkowicz (if you're a shooter fan you really should check out the newly released "Wolfenstein II"), the Switch has you covered.
That includes gamers who enjoy more niche sub-genres, like pseudo-retro, pixel-art Japanese role-playing games. Or to be more specific, "Octopath Traveler."
"Octopath Traveler" invokes memories of games like "Final Fantasy VI" (which the designers credit as an inspiration), "Chrono Trigger" and "Breath of Fire IV," but is unabashedly its own creation.
While it may never reach the heights of these classics, it carves its own path, and I believe all but the most cynical fans of these games will love where "Octopath Traveler" takes them.
When the game begins, players choose one of the eight main characters to control. Many standard RPG archetypes stand ready, including a thief, a fighter and a cleric, along with some unusual choices like merchant and dancer.
Don't sweat too much about which character you choose as you'll eventually collect all eight and experience their stories in full. That's both the charm and the detriment of "Traveler," you don't have to worry about missing anything, but at times some may find the game repetitive as each character's story initially follows a similar play structure.
I started with Therion, the thief, who finds himself on a surprising quest (no story spoilers here). Therion fights with both sword and dagger and has some fantastic special abilities such as stealing HP and SP from enemies during battle.
He also has the dubious Path Action of being able to steal from nearly everyone, allowing me to pilfer my way through the game, saving plenty of money.
Each character has their own Path Action, opening up different possibilities with every NPC interaction. You can challenge people to duels, recruit them to help you in battle and question them to discover secrets.
After finishing your character's first chapter, you may choose how to progress — sort of. Because after you finish your first chapter, you'll still be a relatively weak level six (or so) character, and each of the characters' second chapters demand a level somewhere in the 20s.
The game pushes you to gather party mates before you can really make your way into the later parts of the game. Indeed, each new section of the map gives you a threat level, and moving too high over your current strength increases the game's difficultly exponentially.
It can be done, though, for those especially brave adventurers.
The exemplary battle system made me not mind the random battles one bit. Each fight plays out like a dance between the characters; trying to discover the enemies' weakness, choosing which character will fight each enemy and finally how best to save and use precious battle points which can turn the tide of a difficult battle.
I also didn't mind the somewhat limited pathways, since there were more than enough branches to explore to find hidden chests — and because of the beauty of the backgrounds, the visual effects and the enchanting soundtrack that made the trek so enjoyable, I was content throughout.
The game isn't perfect. It's a bit linear, though it does present more choice than many of the games it emulates.
And while all eight of the stories stand on their own, the characters' paths remain too diverged through too much of the game, making the overall experience somewhat inelegant.
These weaknesses didn't come close to marring the experience of "Octopah Traveler" for me. I ate up every plot twist, gladly ventured into areas I likely shouldn't have and relished every fight, even when it seemed too easy or too tough.
The designers of the game proudly declared there would be no DLC for "Octopath Traveler," because they created a complete game from the start. After playing it, I can honestly say I wish there were more. But that's because I'm greedy. I'm thankful for the 100 hours of great gameplay they gave me.