In the last week I played through Vagrant Story. The last time I did so was in the summer of 2000, but I had held onto my Clear Game save and so was able to start a sort of New Game + with my already powered-up Ashley Riot, though the enemies were no harder than they ever were. It made for a pretty easy playthrough, though lengthy, at about 18 hours, total.
Visually, the game holds up remarkably well for a Playstation 1-era 3D game, even better than Metal Gear Solid. The art style and detailed character modeling go a long way, here. I'd say it actually looks quite a bit better than any 3D I have ever seen on the DS, and that is supposedly at about N64 levels of tech (though N64 games universally looked like shit). The music in Vagrant Story is nice, but the writing is where the real genius is to be found in terms of presentation. Whomever translated the game and wrote the script is very talented.
It's still a very playable game, too; nothing having come along and done exactly what it does in the intervening decade. Vagrant Story is all about weapon types and affinities. There are six families of monsters: Human, Beast, Undead, Phantom, Dragon, and Evil. A weapon will gain strength vs. whatever family it is used against, but lose strength vs the next two families in that list. Since there are six families, one weapon may be strengthened against a specific pair. Thus, one of my swords was used against Humans and Phantoms, but no other types, and I had a greatsword I used against Dragon types and Beasts, and finally a Light-bolstered dagger I used against Undead and Evil enemy types. On top of enemy affinities, there are also elemental ones to take into account, plus the weapon's damage type (piercing, edged, or blunt). You can only carry 8 weapons at a time to swap between, so while you have some room to try out different types (swords, greatswords, daggers, lances, axes, hammers, maces, and crossbows), you do have to have some amount of focus and purpose for each weapon you maintain.
You can disassemble weapons and recombine their component parts (blades and grips), smelt your trained weapons together into more powerful types, and finally socket them with gems that boost various affinities or hit and dodge rates. It's a pretty complex system, and allows for a lot of interesting combinations and a high degree of freedom in what weapons you want to use.
The game plays out as a very long dungeon crawl with a huge number of boss encounters--probably more than any other game I've played aside from MMO's. There is no overworld, but there are outdoor sections, and all the various areas of the game are interconnected like in a Metroidvania game.
Overall, it's a really cool and unique game, a sort of evolutionary dead-end from a time when Square was at the top of their game. Indeed, the director of the game, Yasumi Matsuno, is also the guy behind Final Fantasy Tactics and Final Fantasy XII, which are among the company's best titles ever released, in my book. It's a shame he was apparently forced out of the company during FFXII's development, and that we'll never see his unique vision for the world of Ivalice again. It's far and away my favorite little family of titles to come out of Square.