Vay happens to be one of the stranger entities in the Sega CD’s library, mostly because it’s neither a port or remake of something from another Sega gaming device or one of those FMV monstrosities that glutted most of the rest of its library. It is in simple terms an RPG, one of the more prototypical kind that was generally featured on the Super NES, and features little to recommend it in modern times, as it’s a fairly bare-bones RPG stapled to a pile of ’80s anime cliches and the occasional very poorly animated FMV segment.
Back in the day, though, it was fairly mind-blowing, as it was one of the first console RPGs to feature voice acting in any shape or form, albeit limited to the FMV cutscenes. It was also something fairly different from the usual in Sega’s catalog for any of its devices, where standard RPGs were a rarity compared to both the NES and Super NES’s catalogs.
It also had the dubious honor of being one of several Working Designs releases for the console which had various ’90s pop culture references and neologisms inserted into the script as was par for the course for that localization outfit. The title’s questionable level of difficulty and grinding may also be linked to Victor Ireland’s fondness for twiddling with the gameplay mechanics of the games his company localized, often to their detriment and often for strange and nonsensical reasons on the part of Ireland. Part of Vay’s significance is that it sits squarely in the period where small houses like Working Designs could release extremely niche titles to relatively large fanfare and modest financial success due to American audiences’ unfamiliarity with the broader Japanese gaming market.
The rest of Vay’s significance lies primarily in how it and other similar titles formed the basis for the ’90s-era JRPG because it comes from the period of gaming where CD tech was still very new and nobody had any real idea of how to fully utilize the extra space and cheapness offered by optical storage media. Vay represents a sort of transitional point between what’s commonly understood as the 16-bit and 32-bit RPG eras on console due to its melding of mostly 16-bit era gameplay concepts with the early vestiges of the later era’s excesses (with FMV sequences and gameplay-bloating plotting). Where later games in the genre would trade on their flashy cinematics and increasingly advanced graphics at the cost of the game at the foundation of all that, Vay still suffers from fairly sound (if mechanically bland) underpinnings marred by its extremely uneven difficulty level.
Article by Andrew Bentley
GameSpite Journal 12: Vay