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Old 02-11-2009, 05:17 AM   #1
a_ochoa
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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.

Last edited by a_ochoa; 02-12-2009 at 02:45 AM. Reason: Byline inadvertently removed
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