Mistwalker returns to deliver another exclusive RPG experience on the Xbox 360. Taking a more mature approach then last years Blue Dragon, Lost Odyssey comes with full intentions of giving us the emotional roller-coaster ride we wanted out of the dragon. Defining the term EPIC, Lost Odyssey lifts gamers into another dimension of pure traditional role-playing. It's time to meet the immortals, let the journey begin!
Gamers have been looking for the next Final Fantasy game to reignite their long lost passion for RPG gaming. Sure, the 'next-generation' has released a handful of role-playing games like 'Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion', and 'Mass Effect'. However, in the traditional J-RPG style of the genre there has been few that have lifted our spirits.... until now. From Mistwalker Studios headed by Final Fantasy creator Hironobu Sakaguchi comes another four-disc epic in Lost Odyssey, a testament to classic storytelling wrapped in a RPG shell. More mature than Blue Dragon, Lost Odyssey is the right treatment for gamers who have been missing the days of the old.
The subject matter in Lost Odyssey might read like a game you’ve played before, buts its not all cut and dry. The storyline penned by novelist Kiyoshi Shigematsu matures as you progress creating an interesting weave of plot developments with depth and intrigue. The story follows the footsteps of an immortal human soldier named Kaim Argonar who looses his memory during a war between two rival civilizations along with another immortal, a woman named Seth who has also has the same ailments as Kaim. Rounding out the pack is the comic relief character, Jensen, a womanizing mage. Once all three party members find their way to each other, Lost Odyssey starts to pick up. As you start you linear travels you will start to feel and believe in the magic of Lost Odyssey.
Aside from the depth in the storyline, Lost Odyssey combat mechanics have a considerable amount of depth. The combat sticks to the traditional turn-based random encounters which is probably the biggest reason some gamers might shy away from Lost Odyssey. Role-playing gaming has evolved past the simplistic turn-based random encounters. This doesn't mean the system doesn't work anymore, when implemented into the right game turned base battles can be a lot of fun, using your head more than your finger agility to win battles. Lost Odyssey doesn’t need to reinvent the wheel because it’s turning just fine. Using the familiar combat system in place gamers can focus on the real focus of Lost Odyssey, the story. This being said if you enjoy turned based chess like battles then you’ll love the battlefield in Lost Odyssey. In a tribute to all role-playing games that have come in the past, Sakaguchi reminds gamers why traditional doesn’t mean tired and used.
To keep things interesting, attacking has been combined with a ring system that has the user timing a moving ring with a static ring to give a bonus the attack. This keeps the combat feeling fresh which important since half the games time is spent viewing the combat screen. If for nothing else it will keep you awake a little longer if you’ve been gaming into the wee hours of the night. The technique of mastering this act might be a little bit questionable because after countless hours of battling all sorts of beasts and holding the right trigger for the just right amount of time, I still couldn’t master the fine line between being told I’m “good” and “perfect”.
The other added element to the combat system is a skill linking mechanic between the immortal characters and the humans. Immortals can inherit skills from the humans and use them without restriction to character class. This gives a lot of value in customizing your immortal characters along with choosing which humans characters to develop as you create your own version of each immortal. To prevent your immortal characters from being overpowering each skill learned has to be allocated to a skill slot within each immortal. The trick is that they only have a few initially and can be amplified when you find “skill slot” items, then like picking the right skills to learn, you have to pick which immortal will gain the extra slot. Luckily, Lost Odyssey provides plenty of chances to find the right items you need during your quest.
Lost Odyssey has one other component of customization in the game which comes in the form of magical rings each character can equip. These rings can be found, bought, or created. Creating rings are painlessly easy and only require you to have the right items to create each ring. Using rings will benefit your combat marginally by giving bonuses like improving the chance of critical strikes, but the rings really becomes useful when used to block a certain type of ailment, or when they grant the ability to use certain magical skills. Immortal characters sponge up the rings abilities just like the humans magical skills. Again, you can only allocate these learnt abilities to skill slots, so even if Kaim learns all the skills from each character and ring he will only be able to use a selected few at one time. The idea of absorbing items and knowledge from humans is interesting mechanic to add to Lost Odyssey, however there is one downfall. The downfall comes in the micromanagement of each character. You constantly have to watch what they’re learning, if they learnt the skill, and what to learn next and then go in and edit them accordingly. It would have been nice to be able to set up a string of skills to learn taking some of the tedious nature of each characters progress.
Aside from the character development combat is a straightforward process. In basics, each party takes turns attacking each other. There is a great deal of strategy involved, something I think gamers overlook. You can’t get this level of planning and strategy out of a real time action game, it’s a lot different and quite challenging given Lost Odysseys unforgiving enemies. Lost Odyssey doesn’t take it easy and you’ll have some narrow victories. This is easily shown with the games first boss that enters the game fairly quickly. This is one aspect I really enjoyed about Lost Odyssey, it wasn’t a push over, and a when your character gains a new level it really makes a difference. Winning and losing can come down to gaining another level or two which is half the fun of traditional role-playing games. Lost Odyssey also employs a level cap that slows down the experience you gain when you get around the same level of the enemies. This takes away the ability to power level and blast through the game. Giving gamers more of a challenge was the right move because Lost Odyssey doesn’t fall into over powering the gamer like a lot of games which makes the whole experience more rewarding.
Graphically, Lost Odyssey is filled with cinematic and cut scenes every 20 minutes or so. The action is balanced perfectly between giving the gamer some action and telling a story. Breaking down each disc you get about 10hrs of gameplay on each. The reason for the multiple discs has to be from the high quality of the cinematic that are provided along your journey. The end of each disc always comes in approaite times and pauses while change discs, quick, easy and painless. In Lost Odyssey you will traverse a number of landscapes, all heavily detailed and beautiful. The colours used along with the original and distinctive characters, enemies, and environments go a long way to shape Lost Odyssey into an adventure that feels epic. From the frozen landscapes of the Ice Canyon, to the impressive streets of Numara, you will believe in the world that is created within Lost Odyssey.
On par with the visual flair of Lost Odyssey is the music composed by Nobuo Uematsu who breaks out some touching pieces of music that seem to flow into the emotions of the game. When its time for retubution, a funky groove breaks in, when you’re having a heart-to-heart, the strings swell into the mix setting the perfect mood. The voice talent from the whole cast also deserves a handshake because they have created a memorable piece of work. Keith Ferguson who plays Kaim did an excellent job setting the neutral tone fitting Kaims character, and even Jansen works being his annoying self, this handshake goes out to Michael McGaham. Truly, Lost Odyssey is one of those projects that just come together merging the visuals perfectly with the audio. This doesn’t happen so often, so when it does it’s a tribute to the art of videogame making.
Mistwalker should be proud that they created an ambitious traditional role-playing game at the level of Lost Odyssey. Lost Odyssey touches the gamer on many different levels with its caring storyline, explosive battles and metamorphosing plot developments. The presentation in the graphics and audio help put the whole game together creating a beautiful amalgamation showcase some best talent seen in both areas.
If you’re a fan of traditional role-playing games, or love games with an endearing story then you will likely fall in love with the dynamic intimacy Lost Odyssey provides. Despite being challenged because of its traditional roots, Lost Odyssey embraces them and turns on a memorable gaming experience that will be remembered for years to come.
Gameplay:9.5, Graphics:10, Sound:10, Innovation:8.5, Mojo:10 Final: 9.6 / 10