Now I must say that up until now, I have never played a ‘turn-based’ JRPG (though I did get introduced to the JRPG genre earlier in the year with Ni no Kuni II: Revenant Kingdom).  I’ve been gaming for over 30 years, so it’s quite mad to think that this beloved genre has eluded me over the years.  Thankfully  now that run has come to an end and it comes in the form of Octopath Traveler for the Nintendo Switch.  The plot of Octopath Traveler follows the tales of eight different heroes, each with their own back-story and set of skills.  The eight characters in questions is the apothecary Alfyn, the scholar Cyrus, the hunter H’aanit, the knight Olberic, the cleric Ophilia, the noble dancer Primrose, the Thief Therion and the merchant known as Tressa.  Once your character is selected, you will then embark on your epic quest.  However, you can encounter all the other remaining seven characters that will assist you on your journey and in battles.

One of the first things you’ll notice is its quite unique visuals.  Yes I know that there seem to be countless titles with 8-bit/16-bit style graphics, but there’s something special about the way in which Octopath Traveler is presented, it really is quite beautiful to admire at times.  Inspired by the SNES JRPG’s of yesteryear, Octopath Traveler cleverly blends the art of 16-bit sprite graphics with a “HD-2D” world and the results are spectacular.  Sometimes I just have to stop and appreciate the visuals at hand and I don’ think that I’ve quite used the Nintendo Switch’s screenshot button as much as I have here.  It just goes to show in this day and age with your super PC’s, PS4 Pro’s and Xbox One X’s, graphical horsepower isn’t everything.

In terms of gameplay, Octopath Traveler is a turn-based game when it comes to combat.  In the past, this has been a mechanic that has not really interested me all that much, so even if you don’t consider this being your cup of tea, if I can be won over, just about anyone can.  When in battles, it’s not just the case of waiting for you move and just hitting whatever attack command you wish.  As you progress in the game, as your characters level-up, so will your enemies.  It is here especially when you have to think tactically, otherwise you will encounter defeat on many an occasion.

It’s about knowing what your strengths and enemies weaknesses are, and knowing exactly when to hit that next move or attack.  I was quite surprised to how immersed I found myself during heated battles, it was quite thrilling to say the least.  As you unlock companions, while they won’t visually follow you everywhere (though they are always with you in spirit), they will appear in battles to fight alongside you.  Some battles can prove to be very challenging, so I would recommend saving whenever you encounter one of the frequent manual save points, as it can also be very trial and error.

I was also very surprised to the high quality of voice-acting in the game, not just for your eight playable protagonists, but also some of the many NPC’s that you’ll encounter throughout the story.  Each of the characters I played as are delivered with enthusiasm and charm.  I admit that before coming into Octopath Traveler, I assumed that the characters would only communicate with text boxes, so I am glad that my pre-assumptions are proven wrong.  I must also say that the soundtrack is sublime and really adds to the tale and emotion that this game portrays.  Even as I write this review, samples of the soundtrack gleefully play in my mind, and not in the annoying way that some tunes can.

I went into Octopath Traveler knowing very little about it, other than it was a beautiful looking, retro inspired JRPG.  The fact that it was a JRPG, due to a level of ignorance being stuck in my ways, that would often be enough to turn me off and I wouldn’t give it the time of day.  However, I don’t know whether it was its visual presentation or its luring music that I had heard in one of the few trailers that I watched pre-release, but something about Octopath Traveler enticed me.  I am so glad that I gave this game the chance it deserved, because not only did I find a fantastic game, but it’s also opened my eyes to the JRPG genre as a whole.  Despite the Nintendo Switch being absolutely spoiled with choice with the exclusive games on offer, Octopath Traveler stands out on its own as one of the best games on the Switch, and quite easily one of the best games to release this year.