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a_ochoa 02-11-2009 05:17 AM

Please Rate This Review: Lost Odyssey
 
Final Fantasy 360….I mean Lost Odyssey

HIGH: Engaging Story, diverse skills and magic, epic ambience
LOW: Needless leveling of incidental characters
WTF: Everytime Sed calls Seth “Momma”, I feel as awkward as a chain smoker in a cancer ward.

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to be immortal? Well, Lost Odyssey would seem like the perfect place to explore the ramifications of that oft-imagined fantasy. In this epic four-disc RPG from Mistwalker, you take the mantle of Kaim Argonar, an immortal who has traveled from battlefield to battlefield for 1,000 years. Unfortunately, Kaim has no specific memory of who he is, and the only clues he has to his past are a series of visions that that he is impulsively subjected to.

Lost Odyssey being from Mistwalker, is the brainchild of Hironobu Sakaguchi, creator of the Final Fantasy series. As such, it maintains many of the sensibilities and conventions synonymous with the Square titles, and in many ways, feels more like a “traditional” Final Fantasy game than the latest Square Enix efforts. You won’t find any real-time third person hack-n-slash battle here. Just straight up turn-based, menu-driven, formation-sensitive JRPG goodness. Complete with gaudy magic, and a memorable (read: ingratiating) victory song.

You start the game as Kaim Argonar, entrenched in an encompassing battle between the armies of the Magic Republic of Uhra, and Khent on the Highlands of Wohl. During this battle, the sky darkens, and a Meteor envelopes the landscape (it happens in the first 10 minutes of the game, if you cry spoilers, cry more), pouring fire and lava over the entire battlefield, eradicating nearly everyone, except Kaim. Apparently unfamiliar with immortals at that time, the council of Uhra questions how it is possible that Kaim could achieve such a feat. Upon explanation Kaim is ordered to investigate a leak in Grand Staff, a magic engine that supplies the Republic with power. He is charged to travel with another immortal, Seth Balmore. What follows is a roughly 60 hour journey in which Kaim attempts to regain his memory, and realize his true purpose in this world.

As mentioned above, this game plays like many of Final Fantasy games, with a few tweaks and perks here and there. Essentially you take your party through some lovely pre-rendered backgrounds, until the ubiquitous random encounter occurs (fought in a similarly tiled holodeck), kill, get your loot, and level up. The environments themselves are aesthetically pleasing for the most part, with diverse cities, and a variety of wilderness and dungeons to keep your eyes active. The character models look fine, other than the normal disturbing S and M thrift store getup (What the hell is up with Kaim’s hips, and why is Cooke who can’t be older than 10 wearing stripper boots?). Of course the battle and level systems are usually where the most creativity occurs in any JRPG, and this game is no different, with the new “link”, and “ring” systems.

Your party at various points in the game will consist of mortals, and immortals. Both accrue skills and abilities in different ways. The mortals are the skill bearers. Only they can learn new skills for the first time. They do this by leveling up. What the immortals have the ability to do at this point is to “link” with one of the mortals and learn a particular skill, one party member, and one skill at a time. So basically, any skill any of your mortals know can be learned by every immortal party member. The problem (or strategy, whatever your take) with this is that each mortal only learns a particular set of skills. Jansen Friedh learns Black Magic, Cooke learns White Magic, etc., etc. So in order for the immortals to learn say, White Magic level 5, you have to have Cooke in your party long enough to learn that. While the immortals can also learn the skills from items, some skills are only available from the mortal party member, and if not, the item is usually come upon long after the mortal has learned it (provided you have leveled them). This is annoying for a few reasons.

Do you remember Aerith (Aeris) from Final Fantasy VII? Not me. Know why? Because I stopped using her so early in the game that when she died, it was just by accident that it turned out to be a good move. In Lost Odyssey, in order to get all of the skills you want, you have to level several characters whom you; a.) may not use b.) may not like c.)may be separated from in the plot.

What is further frustrating is that many of the immortals are magic based and, at the time they join your party, are better suited to fill the backup/mage role. However, because you want Prisma, or Shadowa, or whatever, you have to shoehorn a member or two into the formation. This does not completely ruin the system, it is still fun to manage the skills, and forcing you to learn your party members’ strengths and weaknesses creates a more fundamental attachment to them, however sometimes it still feels like an artificial way to lengthen the game. You will find yourself in dozens of random encounters where you were sufficiently leveled a half hour prior.

The “ring” system is another interesting new wrinkle. During the course of the game, you pick up several pieces of this or that during your travels. What most of this stuff can be used for is the construction of rings that your characters equip to endow them with special abilities/attributes. Different types of knick-knacks in different combinations create different types of rings. All in all this works fine, the only drawback is that most rings contain boosts that seem far better suited for melee combatants.

The story in Lost Odyssey is something of a missed opportunity. One of the main features is the memories that Kaim and Seth unlock called “A Thousand Years of Dreams”. These are actually very well written and quite engaging. However, they are presented as a tertiary part of the story. Many are difficult to find, and some only after returning needlessly to previous areas of the game. The main plot itself is a kind of anti-industrialist, anti-totalitarian blend, with conservationist subtext galore. Many of the creatures you fight are created by man’s abuse of the magic energy that powers the world, and fixing the problem generally involves destroying the harnesser of said energies. I enjoyed it but if you drive a Hummer, hunt with an assault rifle, or are CFO of Exxon, it may not be your cup of tea.

Beginning to end I did enjoy the narrative of Lost Odyssey, unfortunately I found myself rushing through gameplay just to see what happened next. Not so much because it was deficient, but because I was forced to play through redundant encounters to reach the next milestone. Still, I would recommend this to anyone who has not become disillusioned with the classic JRPG formula (clearly I have not) and can still take a few licks for a rewarding overall experience.

-Arlo Ochoa

Disclosures: This game was obtained via multiple rentals from Blockbuster video and reviewed on the Xbox 360. Approximately 54 hours of play was devoted to the single player campaign. (Completed Once)

Parents: This game contains violence, and depictions of fantasy monsters. There are some mild adult situations as well, and depictions of war.

Deaf and Hard of Hearing: Captions for dialogue can be turned on or off, and much of the story in-game is through text output.

Brad Gallaway 02-14-2009 03:07 PM

Re: Please Rate This Review: Lost Odyssey
 
Hey Arlo.
Thanks for the submission. This is actually a pretty good review, but it is rough in a number of areas. Nothing that can't be fixed, but a good coat of polish is called for.

First, the use of commas is inappropriate in some places. You might want to go back and rethink where you use them.

Beside that, you do a good job of tackling each aspect of the gameplay, but what I would like to see is more of an overarching take on the game. Rather than detailing each thing by itself, take the most important points, and then tell me about how they made you enjoy/not enjoy the game.

One last thing, since the story is usually of great importance in RPGs, I like to see a little more focus on that. You don't necessarily have to tell me more about it (as in spoilers) but tell me whether or not you feel that the characters grew and changed over the course of the venture. Were there lots of time-consuming side quests that didn't add to the characterization? Were there any characters that stood out in any meaningful way, and if so, for what reason? Something along those lines.

I would really like to see you do a rewrite and resubmit, I think you've got some potential here and I really enjoyed your voice.

Thanks!

aoki 02-15-2009 04:42 PM

Re: Please Rate This Review: Lost Odyssey
 
What's a memorable ingratiating victory song? What's a victory song? This reviews seems to assume the reader knows everything about the game already and does little explanation.

For example:

"Lost Odyssey being from Mistwalker, is the brainchild of Hironobu Sakaguchi, creator of the Final Fantasy series. As such, it maintains many of the sensibilities and conventions synonymous with the Square titles"

This sentence is meaningless without the additional statement: "One of the Square titles was the FF series in which Sakaguchi was the creator". Not all readers can be expected to link Square with FF with Sakaguchi.

You seem to know your Jap RPGs but if you don't explain where your ideas are coming from, that might lose some readers.

a_ochoa 02-16-2009 11:40 PM

Re: Please Rate This Review: Lost Odyssey
 
Thanks for the feedback. I will definitely review for a rewrite. I think I can focus the theme a bit more, and yes, I was a bit worried about spoilers, but I can definitely elaborate on some of the story/character development. I will probably look at making the overview of gameplay a bit more concise as well.

thanks again.

UltimoCroft 02-17-2009 10:30 AM

Re: Please Rate This Review: Lost Odyssey
 
Pretty good review. I feel similar to you in regards to Lost Odyssey, especially with the story, since I also felt it was weak in comparison to the Thousand Years of Dreams scattered about the game.

I'm no expert, but like Brad said, after a tidy-up I think your review would be excellent to use on a website or magazine.

Jason Karney 02-17-2009 10:41 AM

Re: Please Rate This Review: Lost Odyssey
 
What? Aeris dies? :confused:

Just kidding... a little FFVII humor there. :D

I think this is a great start to a review, for a genre I (like you, apparently) am particularly fond of.

I especially liked your descriptions of the character design; that section is my favorite. Good overview there.

And from reading your review, I know exactly what I'd be in for if I were to play this game.

That said, I (as so often happens) am in agreement with Brad, and will quote him for convenience.

Quote:

Beside that, you do a good job of tackling each aspect of the gameplay, but what I would like to see is more of an overarching take on the game. Rather than detailing each thing by itself, take the most important points, and then tell me about how they made you enjoy/not enjoy the game.
Definitely touch more on the story, and how it and indeed the game make you feel. Think of it as zooming out to the bigger picture instead of staying close to all the details.

I hope you'll edit a bit, I'd like to see this on our homepage.

--Jason


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