Lost Odyssey was created by Mistwalker, the development studio founded by Hironobu Sakaguchi, creator of Final Fantasy. This is the studio’s second release since being founded, the first being Blue Dragon.
Lost Odyssey is the story of Kaim, an immortal who has lived over 1000 years but who mysteriously doesn’t remember his past. As a traveling mercenary, he is engaged in a battle on one side of two warring armies. During the battle, a giant meteor settles over the battlefield, laying waste to both armies. Our protagonist survives the encounter, and is then tasked by the government he works for to discover where the meteor came from. He is joined by other characters in a quest to discover what happened and recover his lost memories.
The story in Lost Odyssey won’t win any awards. That’s not to say it’s bad, or poorly written, it’s just that no chances are taken here. There are no huge plot twists, and you know from almost the very beginning who the main antagonist is. You have your standard RPG characters, and while some of them are very well done, others are nothing more than filler. One great point in the story column is something called “dreams”. These dreams are discovered as Kaim progresses along in the story, and gives you a glimpse into his past. These dreams were written by acclaimed Japanese novelist Kiyoshi Shigematsu, and are among the most strongly written and moving parts of the game. Unfortunately, while interesting glimpses into Kaim’s past, and a few will almost bring you to tears, they have almost no bearing on the game itself. As it stands, aside from the achievement you receive for finding them all, they could have almost been left out of the game altogether.
The gameplay in Lost Odyssey will be fun for those who cut their RPG teeth on earlier Japanese RPGs. Turn based battles are the order of the day, and while there is a move order that you have to consider, it rarely causes you much pause as you decide what to do next. One thing Lost Odyssey tries to move away from is the grind that is so prevalent in most RPGs of this kind. Each area has a level cap, so there is no more heading to one island to grind out some levels so you can take out that boss easier. As you progress through the story, the game gives you enough random encounters to level your characters up just enough to succeed in any upcoming battles. And while you may find yourself cursing at the screen as the first two bosses kill you repeatedly, once you find their weaknesses, it becomes your standard RPG battle.
Two things Lost Odyssey adds to the gameplay department are things called Guard Condition and the Aim Ring System. Guard Condition takes into account the characters you have in the front row, dividing it up, and letting it serve as barrier for your characters on the back row. As the characters in front take damage, your Guard Condition lowers, making the characters in the back take more damage. While it’s inventive, it’s really nothing that adds a whole lot to strategy, and becomes an annoyance sometimes because your enemies use it as well. The Aim Ring System gives you something to do while you watch the battle unfold. As your character does a normal attack, a ring appears on the screen. You must hold down the right trigger, causing a second ring to move toward the other. Depending on what you have equipped at the time, you can cause different effects if you score a “good” or “perfect”. It’s a very interesting idea, and adds a bit to the gameplay, but overall, it seems more based on luck, rather than skill or practice.
The graphics in Lost Odyssey fall just this side of above average. The character designs, the creatures, landscape, etc, all look really good. There is a lot of detail in the towns and a lot of variety in the creature designs. Unfortunately, for reasons I am not entirely sure about, the developers decided to put a blur on things that are not near your character. The FMVs, and yes, while a lot of the story is told using in game graphics, there are a smattering of FMVs, are beautiful to look at. The opening scene of the battle and the subsequent meteor is one of the best I have seen this generation.
The music in Lost Odyssey was composed by another person familiar to Final Fantasy fanatics, Nobuo Uematsu. The music in the game is your standard RPG fair, with no real reason to remember it. A few of the song choices seem out of place, re: second boss battle, but overall, especially for the emotional parts of the story, they add to the experience.
So how does Lost Odyssey stack up? It’s a mixed bag. For the most part, it’s a great game. Decent, if a bit outdated, combat system, fairly interesting plot, memorable characters, and great looking visuals. It’s hampered by some of those same things. Turn based RPGs are a dying breed, so some may not be able to stomach it for 40+ hours. And while the story is interesting, it’s nothing extraordinary, and, especially as you move on to disc three, starts to get a little boring to sit through. Constant loading times are another annoyance. Moving from screen to screen, loading FMVs or other plot points require a loading screen. And while they are never longer than one or two seconds, they tend to get a tad bit annoying.
Lost Odyssey is a solid RPG, but sadly, doesn’t take any real chances to move the genre forward. It’s firmly stuck in the past, and that’s going to cause a love/hate relationship with the game. There will be those who love its old school feel, and those who hate it for that same reason. I fall firmly in the middle. While I don’t hate the game, I wouldn’t say I love it either. It was an enjoyable experience, but not one I think will ever be brought up in “Best. RPG. EVER!” discussions.
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