Review: Lost Odyssey

Review: Lost Odyssey

The Xbox 360 isn’t really  too well known for having stellar JRPGs. While many have tried including the ill-fated and ludicrously named Infinite Undiscovery, to take the crown of top dog on the console, there’s hardly any that have succeeded in bringing an exciting RPG to the table. However, there is one title that remains to this day one of the most underappreciated RPGs in the last few years and that title, ladies and gentlemen, is none other than Lost Odyssey.

You’d expect nothing less from a title that came from the brainbox behind Final Fantasy. It even proclaims that in big letters on the front of the box, that this title is brought to you by ‘the creator of Final Fantasy’ almost giving it a seal of approval before you’ve even bought the game. I have to admit though, even with this stamp on the front, I still had my doubts when purchasing Lost Odyssey. I remember I actually got the game for exceptionally cheap – four disks worth of gameplay for the measly sum of around £12, in fact, so I decided to take a gamble. If it was terrible, no big loss, right? Thankfully, it wasn’t, and Lost Odyssey remains a stellar example of how a modern RPG can still get everything right.

An emotional journey filled with narrative twists and turns and an exciting, dynamic storyline, Lost Odyssey suckers you in to the game and doesn’t let go until the finishing post. It’s packed full of content including lots of secret side missions, little minigames, a unique battle system, interesting characters and an excessive amount of what can only be described as ‘boobage’ as the character Ming wears one of the most impractical outfits I’ve seen in recent memory.  It is a game, and an RPG, that plays almost with the greatness of an old school RPG, while looking incredible and shining with a level of polish we’d expect from a modern game. Oh, and some of the soundtrack was written by none other than Nobou Uematsu himself, meaning many of the  music pieces are emotional, memorable and add an excellent musical experience to a superb narrative experience. It’s a formidable combo, and it all works really well.

Lost Odyssey itself centers around a world on the brink of change. An industrial revolution involving magic took place in the world of Lost Odyssey thirty years ago, and now the world is constantly growing in power and technological innovations, bringing everything from magic-powered trains to horrible war machines into the world. It is in this world we find ourselves in the exceptionally dusty shoes of Kaim Argonar, a man who is immortal and has wandered the earth for 1000 years. However, good old Kaim has lost his memory totally due to some unknown event, and it is with this pursuit of Kaim’s memories that Lost Odyssey begins.

In traditional JRPG fashion Kaim will find himself surrounded by a bunch of followers as the game progresses – these dudes range from a few more immortals to children, a corrupt messenger and even the aforementioned Ming, who, despite excessive boobage, is in fact the queen of a nation known as Numara. They’re a varied bunch and each has his/her distinct personality traits. For example Jansen is the joker of the group – always making a situation comedic until certain things occur that cause him to reflect upon his life, growing in personality as the narrative progresses. The others progress in similar ways, finding something to fight for, or something to hold on to as the story goes on, all driven by discovering the past of the immortals, who have all lost their memories due to an event which I shan’t spoil.

Of course there’s also a villain to the piece, and, thankfully, he’s well established. None of this ‘Oh, you’ve beat Kuja now, here’s another random guy who wants to destroy the world’ nonsense we’ve experienced in titles such as Final Fantasy IX.  The enemy in Lost Odyssey is rapidly established as the villain of the piece, and his story becomes more and more interesting as time progresses. In many ways he reminds me fondly of Sephiroth – he’s not quite as established however but he does a good job at making me hate him, and you can’t ask for more than that from a good villain, now can you?

Together with all this storyliney, villainy goodness you’ve also got an excellently realized world that really feels alive. Every location is different from the last – some cities, for example, may be bustling with technology and futuristic designs, while others still live simple live worshipping little frog things known as Kelolons and slowly find themselves becoming involved in bitter wars between nations all vying for power using magic energy for their own evil purposes. There’s little linearity as well – Lost Odyssey encourages exploration in most of the locations, and there’s always a handy member of the town willing to chat with you about something irrelevant, should you so desire it. There’s also multiple chances in the storyline to explore areas in an order you see fit – sometimes you’ll have the option, for example, to go somewhere before you probably should and completely end up running away because you’ll get your backside handed to you an a silver platter by the local monster populace. However if you can struggle through the fights you may find yourself getting some nice items and hard-earned experience for your trouble, which is nice.

Speaking of which, the battle system in Lost Odyssey is one of the better ones in an RPG in recent memory. There are – god forbid – random battles in this game, but me being the old nostalgic that I am, I love this system even to this day, and random battles to me are always going to be part of the RPG package. The battles themselves take place with up to 5 of your party members on the field, usually with a main offensive physical force being on the front line while your magic casters cower at the back, protected by what’s known as the GQ gauge of your main attack force. This gauge, however, can and will be depleted by enemies as they attack you, leaving your magic users more open to attack as battles progress; this in turn means there’s a great emphasis on tactical thinking, working out exactly your best move before you attack. See, in Lost Odyssey at the start of each round in battle you must put in commands for all five characters – there’s no waiting around for ATB gauges to fill up, so you have to carefully plan whether you need to heal yourself or go on the offensive ahead of time. It’s fresh and exciting, and I love it.

Another important aspect of battling within Lost Odyssey is the idea of rings, equippable items that boost your characters stats. These also allow, through holding of the right trigger, for a character to boost their physical attacks after inputting a command, adding effects such as fire, extra damage and health-leeching to the normal attack. These only work, however, if you release the trigger in the correct sweet spot – a ring will quickly advance towards another circle as you hold the trigger and it’s your job to try and make the two rings overlap as closely as the possible. The better you do, the bigger the boost to your attack, so get practising.

Another interesting aspect to the battle system in the game is the introduction of immortal characters who, to all intents and purposes, technically can’t die. However, they can be knocked out, and all of your party being knocked out will result in the traditional game over screen. However with immortals, they will revive themselves after around two turns of gameplay has passed – mortals meanwhile will stay down until you revive them with magic or items. The immortals also advance in levels very differently to the mortals – instead of learning new skills at level intervals, they must ‘skill link’ to a mortal and learn their moves, which can then be assigned to various upgradeable slots over the duration of the game. They will still, however, gain HP and strength etc at level up – it is only the skills that must be equipped beforehand. This allows some levels of customization to the immortals. For example, Kaim, who is the traditional sword-wielding powerhouse character, can be taught useful spells such as healing and aggresive magic, further expanding his usefullness. Of course you’ll want to learn as much as possible as certain abilities come in useful at certain times, particularly with some of the boss fights.

It is with the boss fights, however, that Lost Odyssey can frustrate. I’m not going to lie to you here – they’re really hard at times. The first major boss fight you’ll hit will probably kill you at least four times before you figure out what to do, as generally there’s a tactic for beating the bosses which will do everything from attack you from unfairly strong attacks to calling allies into battle, cowering at the back of the group while you deplete the enemy GC gauge enough in order to cause significant damage to the boss.  Despite the difficulty however, I personally like the bosses being more tricky – a lot of games in the modern era hold your hand at every turn and are far too easy, so any challenge in my book is a very good one. It also means that the battle system doesn’t become boring as you’re constantly not doing the same thing – there’s a massive amount of abilities and spells to be learned in Lost Odyssey and putting them all to good use is a great aspect of the game.

PROS:

  • Dyanmic game world and constantly changing, exciting storyline
  • Incredibly in-depth battle system
  • Something fresh and new for the RPG audience

CONS:

  • Difficult at times
  • Kaim’s annoying strand of hair that hangs down his face
  • My disk 4 didn’t work until I boiled it due to faults in the PAL versions. Seriously this worked. Trust me.

So, to sum up here, you’re getting an absolutely stellar, extremely well presented RPG with a great battle system, excellent characters, an emotionally charged sountrack that will probably make you weep and a suberb, gripping storyline. Oh, and there’s also a world map, which is reason enough to buy the game alone. More RPG’s need world maps! I’d advise anyone looking for a bargain title to consider Lost Odyssey – it is an RPG that, sadly, was overlooked slightly and will really give you a significant amount of enjoyable playtime, probably for not very much money at all.

Score: 9.7/10

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