How well can a game that looks like it came from the SNES era sell in 2018? Well, it’s been less than a week since the release of Octopath Traveler and even Square Enix didn’t know how wildly popular it would become. Physical copies have already sold out in most stores around the world, and in the UK it’s currently ranking third on the national sales charts.
It’s not very often that a JRPG makes a dent on the national sales charts and reaches mainstream success. The last game to do so was highly modernized Persona 5 on PS4, which placed second on US NPD sales charts within the first week of its release. So why is Octopath Traveler, a JRPG that looks like it came straight out of the SNES era selling so well in 2018? Well, here’s what Director Keisuke Miyauchi had to say in Nintendo’s latest blog post about what went into making sure that Octopath Traveler would appeal to all players.
Octopath Traveler is Visually Stunning
We took inspiration from the pixel art of the RPGs we ourselves used to play.
“The first is the glorious visuals rendered in ‘HD-2D.’ We took inspiration from the pixel art of the RPGs we ourselves used to play, updating them with modern technology to create rich and varied landscapes that we believe players will find to be both nostalgic and freshly beautiful.”
Although it’s no graphical powerhouse, we can’t talk about Octopath Traveler without acknowledging the beauty of its 2.5D pixel art graphics. Square Enix has created what feels like a storybook world that extrudes the 2D RPG dungeon maps of the 16-bit console era and transcends them into the third dimension — complete with atmospheric lighting and shadow effects from the modern era. It’s certainly an eye-catcher, and it’s turning the heads of both hardcore RPG fans and casual gamers alike.
Octopath Traveler Reinvents the Formula
“The second is the interactivity, with each character able to interact with the residents of Orsterra through their Path Actions. We hope you’ll enjoy getting to know the people, with their sometimes tragic, sometimes heartwarming stories and pasts.”
While Octopath Travelers’ aesthetics pay a loving tribute to the SNES era, its gameplay mechanics shouldn’t be overlooked either. It’s no retread of past classics either. Instead, it delivers a host of genuinely fresh ideas that come all bunched together in a fantastically charming mixture of old-school meets new. Players can use special character traits from each of the eight characters within the game to interact with the world in unique ways. For instance, Therion the Theif can steal from valuable items from NPC’s all over the game world, while Primrose the dancer can allure townsfolk and later use them as a summon in battle.
Octopath Traveler Let’s You Choose Your Path
“The last point we paid special attention to was freedom. From your starting character to the course you chart across the realm, the choices are in your hands. We encourage you to spin a tale of adventure all your own.”
It’s been quite a while since I’ve been this enthralled by a JRPG. Sure, the Switch is no stranger to big JRPGs like Xenoblade Chronicles 2 and Ys VIII, but Octopath Traveler stands out by allowing its players to essentially chose their own path.
All eight heroes in the game seek independent goals. That means that if you get stuck at a boss and you need to earn a few levels, you can switch to another character’s story and take on their path as you gain the appropriate level. This mechanic alone makes the grind feel a lot less tedious and makes for an overall much more enjoyable experience.