Lost Odyssey Xbox 360 Review
Playing a guy who is immortal and has lived for one thousand years is certainly an interesting story when it comes to an RPG. There’s plenty of stuff I’d love to do in life and with time like that I would probably be able to do them all. I’d be able to have all the time I wanted to play any game, watch any program or film. Hell I’d be able to take everything slowly, no need to rush around if I’m going to live for eternity. Man that would be pretty awesome. Maybe some would worship me as a god… just maybe. Sometimes I wish game stories were true.
Lost Odyssey is the next game from legendary Final Fantasy creator Hironobu Sakaguchi and his studio Mistwalker. It’s more of a mature game than Blue Dragon, which might please some people who couldn’t stand playing as little kids with shadow powers. The game is also very heavy on text, so if you don’t like reading a lot then the game might not show its full potential to you in terms of how deep the characters are. While Lost Odyssey might not do much in terms of innovating the genre, it does however supply a good cast of characters, solid gameplay and a story that spans four discs and while takes time to get going, is interesting and more adult themed than Mistwalker’s last entry.
The game kicks you off as playing Kaim Argonar, an immortal who has lived for one thousand years. Right from the start you are chucked into the battlefield with a war occurring between two cities. A massive meteor crash ends up finishing the battle and only Kaim, the immortal, lives to tell the tale. Kaim isn’t in best of shapes as he seems to have been struck with a serious case of amnesia, he can’t seem to remember what he’s actually done in the past one thousand years. Kaim sets on a journey to find out as much as he can, he’s not alone though as some other immortals seem to be roaming the world, them too with a case of this mysterious amnesia. Will Kaim ever gain his memories back and what will he discover? That’s your job to find out.
Some aspects of the story are straight forward stereotypical RPG clichés that you’ve seen time and time again. Don’t let this put you off though as the game is still a joy to play through. The story does start off a little slow paced, it doesn’t really kick off until you are good way through the second disc. The first disc is a lot of wondering around, getting to know Kaim and the other characters. Well it’s more to do with Kaim discovering memories, he’s done a lot in the one thousand years he’s been alive. As you progress through the game, dreams are unlocked, which are short stories about stuff Kaim has experienced in his lifetime.
The One Thousand Year dreams are a major part of the game. Written by award winning Japanese novelist Kiyoshi Shigematsu, they tell stories of Kaim’s actions in the past. These stories are extremely well written. It’s probably easy to say that these stories are some of the most well written material to be featured in a video game. The stories are about emotions, and they certainly come across well, some of them gripped me so much that I actually felt touched for some of the characters spoken about. It’s the way it is written, and with the subtle music in the background, it just adds that little passion to the context. They’re not voiced over or done in any flashy way. You get background pictures and text flows across displaying what to read. So if you aren’t into reading you’d best get ready to, or miss a lot of history for the character Kaim. I’d say the dreams are what make this game what it is, so if you don’t want to read then you aren’t going to enjoy Lost Odyssey as much.
Some RPGs have spiced up the genre by implanting different kinds of battle systems. We’ve seen the Hex battle system from Wild Arms 4/5 and The Judgement system from Shadow Hearts. Lost Odyssey’s battle system at first glance is virtually as traditional as you can get. It features the conventional Attack, Magic, Item, Defend and Flee along with its turn based gameplay. It’s only after cracking its shell that you notice the game tries to add more depth to the system. There are a small number of key factors that affect the battle system and the characters.
The thing you will be using all the time when doing standard attacks is the Aim Ring. The Aim Ring system is used for your characters to add extra damage to the enemy. After you attack you hold down the R trigger to make the circular ring zoom down into the centre of the smaller ring. If you manage to get them to overlap perfectly, you’ll do more damage. There are ratings of Perfect, Good and Bad. It’s kind of a remixed version of the Judgement Ring from Shadow Hearts (actually the studio that made Shadow Hearts also helped Mistwalker make this game). The Aim Ring system is also customizable with the rings you attach to your characters. These ring accessories that are found or created act as attack modifiers, for example adding elemental damage, turning them to stone or introducing poison, so getting that perfect helps if you are to maximise the potential from the rings.
Wall system is the other major feature included for battles. Characters can be put into formations on either the front or back line. The backline are protected by a barrier known as Guard Condition (GC) while the front line act as a defensive wall, reducing the damage that the party members in the back row take. This is what the GC Wall is made up; it’s a total of all the HP of the front line characters. The total is split into four levels, with four been the highest. It gains mostly by having your tank characters on the front line, as when they get hit, the GC level reduces by the amount of damage that character was hit for, so more HP means more GC. It’s a good system to get around the problem you sometimes have when magic casters have such bad defence, they always seem to die in a few hits. It’s also good for those under levelled characters you have sitting on the bench.
On the subject of levelling up, Lost Odyssey has a level cap system going on in the background. When you reach a new area in the game, you’ll notice that you get experience quite easily and you’ll level up at a decent speed. When you hit that areas level cap though, you’ll notice that you get bugger all experience. On one hand it’s great for getting characters up to your level fast, and also makes the bosses in the area not too tough, as you don’t have to worry about grinding to level up, yet at the same time it annoyed me that I wasn’t allowed to super charge my characters when I wanted to. Some of the bosses you just wish you could have had that extra level or two to make a difference. When you get to the fourth disc though, when everywhere is explorable, there’s a good location to go to level up extremely fast.
Your journey through Lost Odyssey brings both immortal and mortal characters together. Being immortal is pretty cool; they have the ability to respawn after two turns in battle if they die. There must be at least one character alive though if they are to come back after the turns are up. Immortals for some reason can’t seem to learn their own skills or magic, god knows why, so to help them they have to skill link. This is important because if you don’t, your immortals won’t have any skills or magic and will also be wasting the gained SP (Skill Points) from battle if you leave on a skill that has been learnt with the skill points. Immortals can also learn moves from items that are equipped to them. Immortals can practically learn every move in the game, so you can customize them to the way you want once they’ve learnt things. Normal humans learn more skills/magic as they level up.
There are a lot of first person shooters on the market nowadays using the Unreal Engine 3 (UE3.) It’s nice to see the graphically stunning engine finally used for something else and Lost Odyssey uses the Unreal Engine 3 artistically. It doesn’t look like the countless clones of shooters that all share that same dark, shiny UE3 look. The locations are rendered incredibly well, with lots of details featured throughout the world of Lost Odyssey. Models are great to look at, both characters and monsters. The ones that really shine are the huge cities and places with fancy architectural designs. Not everything is well though – like a lot of games on the Xbox 360 that use the Unreal Engine 3, the game suffers from some frame rate problems from time to time. It’s mainly noticeable at the start of a battle sequence or during cut-scenes when it will randomly choke under the pressure.
They use to say you can’t have Final Fantasy without Nobuo Uematsu, well that’s no longer the case since he left Square-Enix. He’s joined up with the father of Final Fantasy again, Hironobu Sakaguchi, to produce the soundtrack for Lost Odyssey. The soundtrack is great and feels like it has been ripped out from part of the legendary Final Fantasy series. It has an epic feel to it with the orchestral soundtrack booming out of your speakers. I wasn’t too keen on the battle music at first, but after a while I seem to automatically start humming it as it is rather captivating. The tune isn’t as adrenaline pumped as some of the memorable Final Fantasy battle music, but it has a heroic feel to it. The game includes both Japanese and English voice over audio. The English dub is pretty passable; with people like Keith Ferguson (Basch from Final Fantasy XII), Katherine Soucie (Twins in Rugrats) just to name a few who add their talent to the mix. It’s certainly nothing really wrong with it. A special mention goes out to Jansen, he’s an awesome character, acted and voiced so well that he’ll probably end up as one of your faves in the game.
All this audio and high definition comes at a price. Lost Odyssey is the Xbox 360’s biggest game to date in terms of discs. The game comes on a whopping four DVDs, yes FOUR. This may make it seem like it’s a long game, but it’s actually just your standard RPG length affair. You can get through the game in around 40 hours if you don’t bother with any side quests. Side quests do net you some achievement points with the optional bosses. The game comes with 1000 points to unlock. A few of them are easy to get while others are insane. There’s one which is to find every item in the game, which means opening every chest you come across, CRAZY! Another extreme one is making your immortal characters learn all 165 skills; some of the achievements really are for the patient ones.
It’s probably easy to recommend this game to Final Fantasy fans because really that is what this is. Lost Odyssey feels like a Final Fantasy that never happened, or like a B-side to a Final Fantasy game. That’s not knocking Lost Odyssey in anyway. The game is a good RPG and has that blockbuster feel in some aspects that makes it ooze with the Final Fantasy flavour. It seems to have inspiration from a lot of the 3D Final Fantasies, yet again not a bad thing. But at the same time the game suffers from problems such as inconsistent story pacing and battle difficulty decreasing throughout. It is thankfully saved because of the fantastic Thousand Year Story dreams and characters that are interesting and well represented on the screen. Fans of the genre should check the game out as they will no doubt have an enjoyable romp through the game.
A high-quality RPG for the RPG fans out there.