Sunday, December 24, 2017

A few thoughts on the Project Octopath Traveler Switch demo now that I've finally played through it

There's something hilarious--to me, at least--about the fact that I went against my original plan of waiting until 2018 to buy a Switch and instead picked up one in late September mainly so I could check out the just-released Project Octopath Traveler demo.

What's so funny about that, you ask? Well, although the first thing I did after turning on and updating my Switch was download the aforementioned demo, all it's done since then is sit on my home screen and look pretty.

I finally booted it up a couple of days ago, and now I can't put it down. Honestly, I'm completely mesmerized by this bite-sized preview of Square Enix's upcoming "HD-2D" role-playing game for Switch at the moment. Here's why:

I really appreciate how its story at least attempts to be more "adult"--Most of the RPGs Square Enix has made for Nintendo systems (handhelds, in particular) in recent years have featured stories that are more childish than mature. Based on this demo, it seems Project Octopath Traveler may buck that trend. To be sure, I don't know that I'd even describe the text encountered here as being R-rated, but it's certainly closer to that than the PG-leaning narratives usually found in the company's Nintendo releases, and for that I'm grateful.

Its visuals are the perfect blend of old and new--On the one hand, Project Octopath Traveler doesn't look too different from the kinds of games Square put out during the 16-bit era (see: Final Fantasy VI, Romancing SaGa 3, and Seiken Densetsu 3). On the other, it also looks surprisingly modern, thanks to its three-dimensional--yet still pixelated--backdrops and heavy use of bloom and other special effects. Put those two together and you've got a game that makes me want to cry due to its gorgeousness. Yes, the vignetting can be a bit much at times, but even then I love Octopath's aesthetic and hope producer Tomoya Asano and his team don't touch it between now and whenever the full game is released.

Yasunori Nishiki's soundtrack is a revelation--OK, so obviously I'm only talking about the music that's featured in the demo or that's been teased on line. Still, that small handful of tunes is more than enough for me to feel confident the full Project Octopath Traveler soundtrack will be a stunner. Which is a bit of a surprise, as composer Yasunori Nishiki is far from a household name at this point. I'm not at all sure he's going to give Project Octopath Traveler players something that approaches the ear-popping brilliance of Bravely Default's "Baby Bird" with the work he does here, but maybe that's for the best.

No joke, I think I prefer Project Octopath Traveler's battle system to Bravely Default's--And this is coming from someone who loved Bravely Default's battle system to death. Why? Project Octopath Traveler's is a lot snappier, for starters. Also, it's also more visceral, if that makes any sense. I feel a real jolt whenever one of my party members unleashes four strikes in a row against a foe while playing this demo. The battles in Project Octopath Traveler seem to be more dynamic than those in Bravely Default, too, due to subtle camera movements and some of the aforementioned graphical effects. Again, fingers and toes crossed that Asano and his crew don't mess with this aspect of the game before the final product sees the light of day.

I'm kind of surprised enemies remain static while fighting, but I also can't say it bothers me--I've seen a number of people complain about this on line, and although I can't fault their critiques, I also can't agree with it. Or at least I can't say the lack of enemy animations is keeping me from enjoying Project Octopath Traveler's battle scenes. Who knows, though, maybe the full game will surprise in this regard by adding a hint of movement to boss encounters or something like that.

So, that's how I feel about the Project Octopath Traveler demo after putting more than three hours into it. If you've played through it, too, share your thoughts, opinions, and impressions in the comments section of this post.

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