Japanese RPGs have always been a triumph card for the consoles of Sony and Nintendo. If you wanted a game where you could spend hundreds of hours on it, then you simply had to get one of their consoles. Microsoft Studios figured this out as well and to try and gain some popularity in Asia they attracted several talented RPG developers that were the inventors of several of the best selling series. Lost Odyssey is a game developed by Hironobu Sakaguchi, inventor of Final Fantasy. Is it a simple clone or will it show some innovative features?
Lost Odyssey is the second large Japanese RPG developed exclusively for the Xbox 360. Unlike Blue Dragon, the setting is more grim and has a more adult approach. For the people who have never heard of the game, here’s a small introduction to the story: main character is Kaim Argonar, a person who is immortal and can’t even be killed by a gigantic meteorite. Sadly for him he has lost 1000 years worth of memories and can’t remember a damn thing. Combined with a large plot and multiple characters, each with their own opinion, and you have an interesting story worth dozens of hours.
If you mention a Japanese RPG, then most of the time you’ll think about the Turn Based Combat and this is what is also used in Lost Odyssey. Since it is from the creator of Final Fantasy, it shouldn’t be too surprising that the basics are the same. You will have different options like attacking or using magic or items. The biggest improvements is the so called Ring system.
You can link a ring to one of your characters and by doing so he will receive an attack bonus. Other benefits are more damage to fire-based monsters or a poison attack. From the moment the rings are linked, 2 circles will appear on the enemy during the next attack. When you time your strike right, and both rings are at the same place, you can do twice the damage you would normally do.
A second adjustment is the battle formation. Don’t expect anything advanced, you can either place your characters on the front or at the back. By placing them at the front their physical attacks will do more damage, but they will also receive more from the enemy.
An RPG is of course nothing without leveling and you got two different things that you gain by fighting. The first one is ‘experience points’ which let your character rise in level. The second, ‘skill points’, gain certain abilities or magic. There is a difference in this, because the ‘Immortals’ cannot learn new skills by themself. Through an ability called Skill Link, you link their learning proces to an ability of a ‘normal’ character. This way you can allow them to copy certain skills, while the normal members of your party learn them automatically.
While we’re talking about the differences between Immortals and the other characters, we can also tell you that they have a tactical advantage. If one of them dies in a fight, he/she is brought back to live after a certain amount of turns. While this is useful you still need mortal members in your party, otherwise they’ll never be able to learn new skills.
As said, you receive certain bonusses from rings during fights, but you still need to have them of course. The first set of basic rings are obtained easily but after that you’re on your own. Through an extensive system called ‘Ring Assembly’, you can upgrade existing rings or make a completely new ones if you have the resources.
We would almost forget that the main character has lost a thousands years worth of memories; During your travels you will systematically unlock these memories. A part of them you get through the main story, but others you receive through side quests. These memories are actually just a written text but it is displayed so nicely and the story is so intrigueing that you start to have compassion with Kaim, as it becomes clear immortality is also a curse and not just a blessing.
The game uses the Unreal Engine 3 as many other recent titles. Almost every zone is detailed very nicely and you can really notice the work that the developers have put into it. You will encounter a wide variety of monsters, each being well-designed, but there are two negative points. The first one is the framerate, which will drop if there are a lot of visuals on screen, while the second are the loading screens. But this is something that has always been an issue with the Unreal Engines.
The players who care about the sound can also be very pleased. All the sound effects of the weapons, magic or monsters are very clear and do not irritate. Another nice addition is that of the Japanese voices. It is a nice addition for people who are sick of hearing bad english voice overs. Luckily this is not the case with Lost Odyssey and the voice overs really fit with their characters.
Lost Odyssey is a game which will be liked by many RPG lovers. The game doesn’t try to recreate the genre, but if you were a fan of previous Final Fantasy games you will enjoy this title as well. With 4 dvd’s, packed with high quality movies and the beautiful stories of the memories, you have a game which will give the player hours of fun on both visuals and gameplay.