Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Review: "Lost Odyssey"

Back when X360 first released, Lost Odyssey was one of the highly anticipated games for the console, mainly because it was announced to be made by the original Final Fantasy team. Honestly speaking, back then, I didn't know what I wanted in Lost Odyssey. Something different? Something revolutionary? It is always something I look out for in JRPGs, but what can I expect from a team of developers so darn dedicated to old school turn based combat?

Right off the bat, I will mention that Lost Odyssey has great graphics. It is something Square Enix will never fail to disappoint when developing their mainstream titles. I don't think I can even critic about anything regarding this field. The foreground blends with the background, the minimal lo-res to hi-res switch (there isn't that much of a switch), the loading times, the special effects rendering, the amount of lag...they are all too good. Heck you don't even need installation to run the game smoothly.

The solution to all pixelation problems: Blur!

The music was composed by the legendary Nobuo Uematsu. I've been a fan of Nobuo since I can remember and although I feel all his music sounds the same (he thinks so too), he still did a really good job with Lost Odyssey. In fact, his style of music really blends in with the setting. Nobuo is, to me, a master of background music and atmospheric soundtracks and in that sense, it seems that he has actually improved with Lost Odyssey. He has really come a long way since 8-bit midi soundtracks.

Before we head to the storyline and mechanics, we look at the character design. Takehiko Inoue's art seems rather old school, and some characters, in my opinion, does not translate well on 3D (like Jansen). Still, I shall not question the artist, although I still have issues with the army of Tinky-Winkies marching for war. No matter how much space I give artists, their helmet design really blows.

Now we come to the biggest problem of the game: Hironobu Sakaguchi. There is a good reason why people occasionally nickname him "SUCK-aguchi". It seems that ever since FFVII, every story he tried to create result in a lot of unique content that doesn't make sense, or just plain lame and silly. Lost Odyssey was no exception. In fact, it almost seems as if he reached another level in what he is good at.

You play as Kaim, an immortal whose has a purpose in the world which was forgotten because he somehow lost his memories (it will be clear once the story unfolds). You will think that Kaim is alike to Squall at first due to his silent no-nonsense nature, but it really isn't his fault.

Along the game, you get to meet 4 other immortals: Seth the lady pirate, Ming the fair queen, the evil Gongara and...your wife, Sarah (possible FF reference here?). Everyone but Gongara (naturally) joins your party. You will also meet mortals that join you, most of them are related to some of the immortals (offsprings). Apparently, every immortal lost their memories because of Gongara (won't tell you the reason here) and he wants to build a massive tower of destruction (aka Death Star, just that he's no Darth Vadar).

Turn-based combat strikes again!

Here's a brief opinionated outline of every character:
Kaim - Silent, no-nonsense, protagonist. Kaim seemed to be like Squall from FFVIII, but after going through 1000 years of crap, you don't see him blurting out lovey stuff out of his mouth too often. In a sense, he's very very matured (1000 years man).

Seth - Seth is outgoing, and upstart pirate immortal that is like a yin to Kaim's yang. She's still quite tolerable as far as outgoing characters go (I hated Marle from Chrono Trigger btw) and she has a rather dark and sad story (again, 1000 years man). She's also your standard speed-type character

Ming - Ming is your quiet, delicate queen-type. She is hailed as a very wise queen and some thinks that she's immortal (duh she is). She's a queen of a peaceful country filled with soldier that looks like a mix of white feathered chickens and ancient greek soldiers. She also has a...dark story, but it's a simple one. Ming is a strong magic user.

Sarah - This is the character with almost no character development other than she is Kaim's wife and that she goes crazy before you met her. I have to actually search up GameFaqs to dig her name out. Sarah is a strong magic user.

Cooke - Kaim and Sarah's granddaughter. She's a child and a older sister to Mack. Reminds me of Relm from FFVI. She is a rather decent character overall.

Mack - Kaim and Sarah's grandson. He's rather air-headed and slow. Combine that with his stubbornness and he becomes a bit of trouble. Mack always make his sister, Cooke, worry for him. Overall, both of them add flavor to the main story.

Sed - Famous pirate and Seth's son. He's a very old man too. He would be a good character but his relationship with Seth and the way he acts in stuff concerning his 'mother', everything suddenly seems so wrong I can't put a finger in it. It is a rather strange scene that only Sakaguchi is capable of. Although I encourage everyone to see why, I must add that it's a bad thing.

Tolten - Oops, spoilers. Yes, this buffoon of a King joins your party. And yep, that's all I can comment.

Jansen - The clown of the party. In fact he almost dresses like one. He was Gongara's messanger boy until he discovered his plans.

Cooke, I am your GRAND-father!

I can't really let on too much spoilers here so I'll just leave what I think about the story:

"Lost Odyssey's story is a little unique due to the 'dealings of immortals that mingled with mortals', but it's only that uniqueness that drives the story. If you look at the story as a whole, with only the 'immortality' part being only as a flavor of the story, and look at how the story progresses, it is actually nothing special and nothing new.

In fact, there are certain key characters in the game that makes the game seem less serious and thus less enjoyable considering the tone of the setting, since they disrupt the feel and flow of the story. The only thing left to look at that could possibly raise my opinions is the villain and yet again, Lost Odyssey fails to deliver a villain that is special in terms of personality and actions. Like I mentioned: He just constructed the Death Star, but he is no way nearly as cool as Darth Vader or Emperor Palpatine.

To sum it in a sentence: Sakaguchi wrapped old and used contents with a completely different skin."

Gongara - Not really what I'd call 'badass villain'

Mechanics in this game is nothing really new. The only 'big' addition is the use of 'Rings'. You can equip 'Rings' to give you an edge in battle (like doing extra damage to Machines, draining HP, etc). In battle, when your character does a normal attack and has a skill ring equipped, You have to hold down the RT button and release it at a certain timing to perform more damage. Here's an example video:

Since there's immortals and mortals, there's a game mechanic related to that. Immortals know nothing at the start. For them to learn more abilities, they need to 'link' with a mortal in the active party. They cannot link with an immortal. Since the game allows 5 characters in an active party (conveniently), you will want to place all 4 immortals (since they are so goddamn powerful) and 1 mortal to leech skills/spells from. How fast you learn skills/spells are calculated by AP gained. Once you obtain a certain amount of AP required by the skill/spell, you learn it. Conveniently, each mortal specialize in something that the others don't (Cooke for White Magic, Mach for Spirit Magic, Sed for teasure hunting/grinding abilities...). Immortals can also learn from accessories they equip.

Although at first immortals can only 'equip' a few skills, there is an item out there that increases the amount of slots you have. In fact, there are too many. This causes immortals to be actually really overpowered, in a gameplay point of view.

There's also one more mechanic called 'Composite Magic'. It is basically group-based versions of your normal Black/White/Spirit magic. Without equipping it, you lose the ability to cast useful elemental spells that affect all your enemies as well as powerful white magic spells that removes status effects from your group, which is not possible with just normal magic. Composite Magic usually has long casting time that can delay your casters up to the next turn, but at higher levels, once you obtain skills like Reduce Casting Time II, you will be able to cast on the round itself. That's two times the effectiveness if you do the maths.

As far as character growth is concerned, the game stay equally hard (or easy) from the start to the end of the game as long as you know what you are doing. You won't find yourself grinding at any point of time. Looks like years of developing JRPGs really paid off in that sense.

And finally, we come to the ultimate gem of the game: Thousand Years of Dreams. It is, by far, what drove me throughout the game. It is basically just a wall of text per story. Every story is unlocked by either story progression, talking to people, or seeing certain events. It is penned by award winning short-novelist, Kiyoshi Shigematsu, and whoever translated his works to English did a very good job of keeping the feel. The short stories are truly masterpieces, each filled with an overwhelming amount of emotion enhanced by the structure of sentences. Its content was further improved by the way the sentences and phrased form while you read (there are all kinds of effects), as well as the beautiful background, sound and music. I think I almost cried at one of the stories.

Thousand Years of Dreams

- Great Graphics
- Great OST
- Thousand Years of Dreams was done very well
- Certain enemies have interesting abilities, making combat interesting for the first encounter

- Nothing really new
- Main story isn't anything new or exciting
- Turn based combat throws off the pace of the game sometimes.
- Combat can be long and weary after you found the exact steps on how to deal a certain group of enemies.

NeetGeek gives "Lost Odyssey": 7.5/10

No comments:

Post a Comment