Lost Odyssey is the latest JRPG from Final Fantasy creator Hironobu Sakaguchi’s Mistwalker Studios.
Gamers who have played through pretty much any Final Fantasy game will feel right at home the moment they take control of Kaim, the main character in Lost Odyssey. The game is huge—it comes on 4 DVDs, which guarantees many days of gameplay.
After a truly spectacular opening sequence, the journey begins with Kaim Argonar, a thousand year old immortal, surviving the deadly impact of a meteor crash on a battlefield. There are three other immortals and they have all lost their memories. They are all searching for their identities and their memories, which they unlock through the game in the form of dreams, revealing the key to thwarting a sinister plot threatening two worlds.
Kaim is the strong silent type, the mysterious hero with a soulful scowl and a deep sea of unfathomable secrets. But he doesn’t struggle alone; Lost Odyssey does not neglect the rest of its fascinating cast. Lady pirate Seth, benevolent queen Ming, the simple and noble prince Tolten and several others provide companionship. All their lives intersect at one point or another. The storyline is serious, but comic moments are plentiful and most of it involves the inadvertent spy Jansen. He is a flamboyant ladies’ man and one of Kaim’s very first companions, managing to be both annoying and charming.
The main story follows a predictable path but it is really beautiful and is about self discovery and the timelessness of the relationships we develop. The memories of our hero and his companions are presented in simple but effective sequences and are recounted via stylized text, accompanied by static images and subtle music. They make for a good amount of reading, but if you skip through these memories, you will miss the game’s most touching and heartfelt moments. In fact, these moments make you stop everything and consider how beautiful and cruel life can be at the same time.
Virtually everywhere you go, someone can provide a morsel of helpful information. Talking to everyone you see, from boring old innkeepers to hyperactive children is very useful—you never know whose knowledge will lead you to a special item or prompt one of Kaim’s memory-inducing dreams. The story is just that much richer when you get the perspective of the people in it.
Some quests are more elaborate than others; for example, one puzzle will have you paying your respects to 16 statues scattered all across a mountain village, while another will require you to play tag with a young girl.One of the weak aspects of the game is combat. It is typical JRPG—turn based and random. You can attack, use an item, cast a spell, defend, activate a skill and even attempt to flee if the situation gets too hot to handle. Weapons are pretty boring as none hold any special properties whatsoever; they have an attack rating and nothing else. Spells and most enemies are based on the usual Earth, Fire, Wind, and Water elements which counter each other.
Combat animations take an astonishingly long time, slowing everything down. Enemies and combat animations are the prettiest part of the game, and are in fact outstanding examples of next-generation beauty. For every round of battle, you must choose what you want each character to do—fight, cast a spell, defend, etc. What you can’t decide directly, however, is when your characters will perform their actions during each turn. Each member of your party has a speed rating that serves as a baseline for when they will perform their maneuvers, but many factors (such as spells and status effects) can go into changing that speed. When you’re choosing what action to perform, you won’t be able to see the turn order of the upcoming round—only once the battle sequence begins will you see who is attacking via a row of icons on the bottom-left of the screen.
In addition, each monster has his own speed rating that has to be factored in—pay attention to when a monster attacks, as a given monster tends to strike at the same time during every round of battle. There are a number of ways for you to engage in battle. Most of the time, battles will occur randomly while you are in field and dungeon areas. You can save your game by standing near glowing orange save points. Save often, even in towns, as challenging areas tend to sneak up on you.
A couple of additions to the combat and leveling system add to the thrill. There is an interesting ring building system. Defeating enemies and searching through the huge game world will earn you components which you can combine to form “rings”, which offer hand-to-hand combat bonuses. The first few rings created can be upgraded with other components or combined with other rings to turn them into more exotic and powerful ones. Rings can be switched anytime during combat without losing a turn. This allows you to use a water-based ring against a fire-based monster, etc.
Equipping a ring also adds an interactive element to combat. As your character runs towards an enemy to attack, a targeting ring appears on screen. This is the ‘Aim Ring system’ in action. Holding the left trigger creates a second Aim ring which begins on the edges of the screen and quickly shrinks in. Release the trigger when the Aim ring overlaps the target ring. Do it perfectly and you will dish out bonus damage; miss and you actually hear the character curse on screen.
Your party consists of a mixture of humans and immortals. A human acquires skills and spells as they level up. Immortals are quite different—they learn skills and spells from the humans in your party and from the accessories they use. At the end of combat you earn your standard XP and also ‘Skill’ points. You don’t use skill points as you might in other RPGs. Instead, SPs progress you towards learning a specific skill you have linked to a human party member or from an accessory which you are wearing. This also creates an interesting dynamic between mortals and immortals. When an immortal falls in battle, he or she is automatically resurrected after a few turns. But immortals can learn certain skills only from humans who must be fighting alongside.
Powered by the awesome Unreal 3 Engine, Lost Odyssey boasts stunning visual fidelity and rendering quality. The technology pushes high definition visual designs to a higher level and brings out the smallest details in the largest battles. Story sequences are penned by the award-winning Japanese novelist Kiyoshi Shigematsu, artwork is handled by famed Japanese comic artist Takehiko Inoue, and renowned composer Nobuo Uematsu creates a soulful yet contemporary soundtrack.
Lost Odyssey sets a new benchmark for the RPG genre with a combination of true-to-life cinematics and a heart-wrenching story of an immortal man and his companions. The massive worlds, memorable characters and epic story play together as an intense blockbuster film.If you have an Xbox 360 and you are an RPG fan, I would definitely suggest you go out and get Lost Odyssey. It is not just a great game but also a heart-touching experience that you’ll remember for a very long time.