Video Game Review: Octopath Traveler for Nintendo Switch

As a child of the 80s, I am a huge fan of JRPGs (Japanese Role Playing Games). The Final Fantasy series of RPGs is probably one of the best examples of a JRPG, which grew in popularity in the west in the 80s and 90s due to wide availability of the Nintendo Entertainment System and Super Nintendo Entertainment System. The first JRPG that really captured my heart was Final Fantasy 2 (it was actually FF number 4 in Japan, but only the 2nd FF release in the US and thus titled FF2 here). I loved the turn-based system that allowed me plenty of time to think about what my next move in battle would be, vs. the button mashing play style that was involved in so many other action and adventure games I had played up to that point. But even more I loved the story in FF2, about a "Dark Knight" who rebels against his evil king to become a "Paladin," and save the world from his (spoiler alert) brother, 4 arch fiends and a malevolent alien from the moon. In hindsight, the story is confusing and poorly translated, but it was enough to launch a life-long obsession for me!

When I heard that Square Enix, the same company that produces Final Fantasy titles, was going to be releasing a retro JRPG, you best believe I counted down the hours until Octopath Traveler became available for download on July 13th. I've been playing it every day since and I LOVE IT. I cannot recommend this title enough for those who love classic JRPGs. Most video game reviews I've read will break down what they love and hate about a game in great detail, but I'm just a professional companion who loves video games and doubt most of you reading this play them a ton? So I'm just going to be brief with what I love about it, and what I feel could use improvement.

What I Love:

  • 4 strong female characters (in addition to 4 strong male characters)
  • 1 SEX WORKER character (though I think her story would be just as good if it wasn't a typical exploitation narrative, more on that in what could be improved)
  • Lots of jobs/ classes/ roles, and flexibility with said jobs
  • Easy to understand battle system
  • BUT is shakes it up from a traditional battle system a bit
  • Different, detailed story lines for each of the 8 characters
  • Retro graphics! But with some modern details and very artfully done
  • "Path Actions" add an interesting new element for interacting with NPCs (non-player characters)
  • Tons of hours of game play- I'm at nearly 70 hours and am only just now completing the last chapters in the journey

What Could Be Improved:

  • Some of the story lines are cheesy and cliche-ridden. As mentioned above, the story of Dancer Primrose is especially disconcerting to me as a sex worker. Sex worker stories can be told without exploitation always been a theme- you can even have dark elements of sex work in a story line without exploitation! I do quite like the stories of the Apothecary Alfyn and the Merchant Tressa, though
  • Battles take a long time, especially toward the end of the game
  • Lots of grinding is necessary to get character levels up
  • Money is difficult to come by, though once you get the hang of using Tressa's skills as a merchant it becomes easier
  • Weapon and armor optimization doesn't always choose what I find to be the most optimal weapons on armor (I like high defense and smashy weapons, but the game will often choose armor high on elemental defense or damage, or that has a good balance between stats)
  • I get sick of the music sometimes, though in the games defense it does change up the battle music as you move into more difficult areas of the game. The music is very well done, too, I just don't like the repetitiveness
  • You need to be highly leveled up to gain the special job classes in the game, and I don't think I will be able to gain these classes until I've defeated most of the bosses which makes them kind of pointless

    I am crazy for this game, though. I already feel sad about the prospect of finishing it soon! I am not sure it will have good replayability for me, but I can see picking it up again several times in the future as I have done with so many of my favorite JRPGs! I give it a 49/ out of 50 dildos. Yes, I just decided this is my video game rating system.