Square Enix has released the demo version of Octopath Traveler and lets you play the game's first three hours, before locking you in until July 13, during the official full release.
From the get go, Octopath Traveler is a classic '90s-styled JRPG that serves to reminiscence older gamers of what could be the golden age of JRPGs. At the same time, it's a mirror to the past that should reveal what it was like to play '90s JRPGs for the younger gamers and those who has never played the genre.
The environments are lush and beautiful. You'd had assume they were 3D rendered landscapes, but they're actually 2D, in the form of what many are calling "HD-2D." This is the future of modern classic RPGs.
For my time with the three-hour demo, I spent my time with Primrose. And this is where I noticed that Square Enix isn't afraid on taking on mature themes with real-world issues, such as sexual slavery. Primrose is a "dancer" who performs on stage and then collects "tips" from various patrons. How she got into this situation was only skimmed through, which is a bit of a letdown, as I felt there's a lot of possible story involvements in there. It only feels like, Primrose was put in this situation only to make her dark past even darker. Though she takes power in these indignities and channels them into helping her reach her ultimate goal. Perhaps there's more light to shed in the full game.
Music in Octopath Traveler is fire. The battle theme was rich and exciting, and something you might expect from a classic JRPG - was actually memorable. Voice acting is topnotch. Primrose's voice is alluring, yet bitter and detached from the world. Both the on-screen texts and voice overs complement each other, but not in the typical way - normally, the texts presented is an entire paragraph, and the voice summarizes that entire box down to a few words. It's an interesting take on speeding through the story without actually skipping the entire event.
Like many classic JRPGs, battles have straight turned-based formats. Each one of the eight characters you choose have different sets of abilities. They all play differently, making each playthrough interesting. You attack enemies, use items, use special abilities. Some enemies are sponges, taking an eternity before they die - this is because of a mechanic where you can charge up your attacks to launch several devastating moves in a single turn.
The battle animations aren't much, but all those glitters of explosions from sword slashes and cast spells are all so gorgeous that it doesn't matter if boring sword stabbing animations are virtually non-existent.
I still couldn't decide if there's a lot to explore in the game. So far, it's very linear and the maps are relatively small, even for classic JRPGs. I remember roaming around towns in those classic games were unnecessarily large. But that's the beauty in it, the maps in Octopath Traveler are small because the developers don't want you to detract from the narrative. So far with my experience with Primrose, I'm intrigued and looking forward what the rest of the characters have in store.
Octopath Traveler is a Nintendo Switch exclusive, the demo can be downloaded in the Nintendo eShop. Just make sure your account is based in US, or anywhere the eShop is available, so you can check out the demo for yourself.