When I first heard that Lost Odyssey was due for release, nothing in me cried out for joy. I didn’t anticipate it, and even after looking at the commercials for it, I wasn’t sure I wanted it. Being a huge Final Fantasy fan and after hearing Hironobu Sakaguchi, producer for numerous Final Fantasy games, including my favorite – FFVII, was heading up this game and bringing a little flavor from the Final Fantasy series, namely the style of music and production side of the story, I still was a little anxious, but nothing to die over. That was until I started playing what I consider to be one of the best RPG’s out right now.
From the start of the game you are in the middle of a battle and your main character that you control is an immortal by the name of Kaim Argonar. Kaim is quiet, and emotionless in the beginning. He is one of those main characters that if they really existed, you’d feel as if they could take you out whenever they wanted to, but they only did it if they needed to. Kaim is calm and collected and chooses his words extremely carefully in the beginning. For the first couple of hours in this game you don’t do much fighting. I would suggest that if you are a casual gamer that just likes to pick up and play, you may not be able to continue with this game diligently; because in the beginning there are a lot of cut-scenes that set the story for you […so grab your popcorn - Ed]. The council of Uhra has asked that, since you are an immortal, you go to investigate some magic energy in a place called Grand Staff to see if it is stable or not. They have stripped a character named Gongora of his responsibilities in overseeing the Grand Staff project and he is not to continue until you go check it out.
From here you will notice that the graphics aren’t anything to be particularly proud of. They are great at times, not excellent, and the attention to detail to other body parts other than the face could have been done better. I have to admit, I’ve seen some cleaner cut scenes on the PS2! Granted, this isn’t Advent Children we are talking about, but I would have expected better in-game and theatrical cut-scenes graphics from such a title featuring on a next-gen console. Sometimes it appears polished, other times it appears grainy. There were times even when tears seemed to just be messing up people’s faces, graphically, than looking as if they were tears. Although it didn’t happen often, it was noticeable that when the characters spoke, it looked like they were baby dolls whose wooden mouths would move up and down rather than them seeming as if they were actual human beings. Overall, it wasn’t anything atrocious, but it definitely could have had used more polish.
On your way to seeing if Grand Staff is stable and can continue production, you establish a partner relationship with another immortal named Seth. Before you can fully depart on this journey to check out Grand Staff you meet a man named Jansen who became my favorite character in the game. This is because he keeps the mood of the game balanced with his constant joking, sarcasm, and complaining. As Kaim, Seth, and Jansen are traveling through the woods to get to Grand Staff, Jansen is winded. Seth makes a reference to Jansen wearing out too quickly when it comes to them running through the woods. Jansen replies, “Yeah…well I don’t wear out in bed!” […I guess you had to be there – Ed].
Unlike Seth and Kaim, Jansen is mortal, and this plays an important role with learning new skills. A skill link is an action you can take with immortals when equipping them with skills. For immortals to learn new skills they must be linked to a mortal’s skill that is battling with them. The immortals learn new skills through the gaining of skill points (SP). You gain SP by winning battles, just like you gain levels from winning battles. Depending on the type of skill depends on how much SP you need to learn the skill. Once the skill is learned you must equip the skill into a designated skill slot to use it. Learning SP for your accessories is the same for immortals. Mortals can equip accessories no problem, but for an immortal to take full advantage of an accessory they must learn it with SP.
The battles themselves are not particularly mind
bending, it is your basic turn based RPG. You don’t have to worry about taking
too much time on one move because it isn’t like Final Fantasy XII or X-2 where
if you don’t pick your action quickly enough you’ll get attacked anyway.
Leveling up is pretty interesting as well. Most RPGs I am used to playing
require that if you want to beat a very strong opponent you have to spend a lot
of time wandering around leveling up your characters. In Lost Odyssey, yes you
will have to level up, but you will be pleasantly surprised how fast you level
up. This helps new party members, which you may want to have in your group,
level up very quickly. Instead of having seven fights to get one level higher,
it might only take three or four, and in the mean time your party members who
are already at a strong level for that area level up very slowly. All in all
this makes it easy to keep the characters levels balanced.
Since leveling up is not hard to do, most boss battles can easily be passed in one turn. This isn’t to say they are a cake-walk because even at my most strategic I had trouble with some battles, but for the most part, if you are keeping up with new weapons, amulets, magic, and skills, while fighting every monster you come in contact with toward getting to the boss, you should be fine.
Now to the meat of what this game is all about, the storyline and the way it is presented. It is irrefutably infallible, excellent, exemplary and flawless. I fell in love with every character, each in a different way. Even the characters I wasn’t too fond of I fell in love with, even the villain of the game. When I played Final Fantasy VII, I didn’t hate Sephiroth, I just wanted to beat him to beat the game. In this game, I absolutely hated the villain and could not wait to see him be beaten. That can be accredited to Sakaguchi who has made the villain believable and not corny by any means.
Sakaguchi managed to incorporate sound, music, and text to make a stunning experience. One clear way he did this was in Kaim’s (and sometimes other immortals’) memories that are revealed to him throughout the game. The interesting aspect of both Seth and Kaim, and other immortals you will encounter in your journey, is that they have completely lost their memories. So when Kaim regains his memories and you get to read the story that goes along with the heartfelt memory, you become attached to Kaim in a way that you won’t be attached to other main characters in games. When Kaim regains his memories there is no theatrical clip, it is simply text, background artwork, music, and sound. The text will appear on the screen, but in a fluid motion that may go along with the word that is being seen on screen. For example if you see the word’s “He poured him a glass” poured may come down from the top of the screen and you will hear a glass filling up. At other times when the memory is getting emotional, the tender music, reminiscent of Final Fantasy’s composition, will play at the exact right moment. You have to read all of his memories though to get the full experience of Kaim’s character and the game as a whole. If you do not read the memories you will be skipping a crucial part to the emotionally tied storyline.
The cut scenes themselves are also done beautifully in terms of acting, and music. The producers did a great job in capturing a moment with the music and actors voice to the point that if there is something funny you will laugh and if there is a sad scene, you will cry, as I did no later than the first disc. Lost Odyssey is not simply a game, it is an epic experience. It is clear the producers were aiming for that, because you will rarely get frustrated in this game, it is very forgiving. If one character gets defeated in a battle, a few turns later they will be revived. If you save with no MP or no HP and come back and load your game, your party will be at full health and MP. Although sometimes it seems save points can be spread out, at other times they are extremely close, so in the end it all ends up balanced.
With everything considered, is Lost Odyssey the best RPG experience on the market? If it isn’t it’s making a strong push towards being one, at least being the best on the Xbox 360. It is however near the top as far as an intimate storyline and a true JRPG. Lost Odyssey is definitely not a game for the pick-up-and-play gamer, it is for the committed gamer who has a true understanding of what a JRPG is supposed to be. And ultimately, it makes for a lovely gaming experience that you will always remember.