In a few short days after E3, a demo for the Nintendo Switch exclusive, Octopath Traveler, by Square Enix, has been made available on the Switch eShop.
The game features strong "Squaresoft" era aesthetics, which are quite reminiscent of Romancing SaGa and SaGa Frontier games. I see a touch of Legend of Mana and Secret of Mana in there too.
For the most part, Octopath Traveler sounds like a SaGa spinoff, where at the start of the game, you choose one among the eight playable characters to start your journey. We can assume that each character will have different starting points, just like in SaGa Frontier and each character has their own unique set of abilities.
Let's circle back to the aesthetics. It's gorgeous. Some have called it "HD-2D" although to me it strangely looks like 2.5. The character sprites are totally 2D and the environment has a 3D effect, thanks to the impressive detail put into the backgrounds.
There is a gnawing obsession of turning everything into 3D in most games. The graphical demand increased exponentially during each platform shift. Even classic-themed games are forced to migrate because of this obsession. Legend of Mana got a 3D remake. See how that turned out. In case you don't know - it turned out terribly. Breath of Fire: Dragon Quarter was a drastic 3D change as well and it's probably one of the worst games ever to hit the shelves.
The boom of indie games proves that you don't need hyper-accurate, eye-gouging graphics. If your game calls out to nostalgia, then make it something nostalgic while bringing it to the modern world. Classic games like Lunar, Shining Force, Phantasy Star, Golden Sun, and Star Ocean don't need massive graphical overhauls, where using old school artworks with a finer polish works just as well.
Octopath Traveler is proof that a game can be nostalgic and modern at the same time. It's beautifully rendered, the higher quality sprites have richer details in them, despite looking something from the mid-'90s and have I already mentioned the mesmerizing backgrounds? It's gorgeous!
Gameplay is an entirely different subject matter here. Square Enix enjoys developing new mechanics in each game - even though their ideas are running stale as of late - so how Octopath Traveler feel as an actual game will have be played through the demo, which should be available now. As an add-on news, any progress you made in the demo will be carried over to the full game when it goes live on July 13.