Lost Odyssey Reader Review
A game like Final Fantasy on the 360? Really? No, seriously? A 70+ hour long JRPG with not a hint of X-Box Live multiplayer?
You�d be forgiven for not being very excited about Lost Odyssey if you�ve followed the original X-Box and the 360�s RPG status. Of course, there have been a fair few good RPGs on the consoles, but compared to other formats, RPGs are still one area where Microsoft have yet to make much of a presence, especially when concerned with Japanese RPGs.
But when you begin to play Lost Odyssey you�ll be surprised at how similar it appears to be in relation to Final Fantasy. Don�t get me wrong, this isn�t a clear rip-off of those games nor is it a unique and innovative experience: The game is attributed more to evidence of what the 360 can do if adequate support is given.
Once you�ve polished off your glasses in astonishment and got over the shock, you can begin to experience and enjoy the game. Of course, at this point, though you�re probably already aware, Lost Odyssey is pretty much as traditional as you can get, so if you don�t like games like Final Fantasy then you�d be best off avoiding. However, if you do like those sorts of games, then you�re in for a nice treat.
An area you would immediately expect Lost Odyssey to flourish is visually, as these sorts of games often do. And, at first, the game does look pretty amazing. The opening battle is nothing short of astounding and displays the artistic talent often only seen in Japanese games. However, and this is where the �traditional� nail in the coffin hits as far as "Next-Gen" games go, the game suffers from crippling graphical errors.
Heck, I�m no ogre, and if this were a typical Western developed game I�d half expect graphical flaws, but with games like these I think we�ve come to expect high standards where visuals are concerned. There�s nothing worse in a game when you look at something beautiful, only to be completely pulled out of the experience by tearing, framerate issues and flickering textures. It�s like watching a film with someone tall sat in front of you; sure, you can still see the film by leaning to the left, but that�s not the point.
Sometimes you�ll be in an area that looks superb, with no hint of error, and yet in other areas you�ll be hit with constant tearing and textures altering depending on where the camera positions itself. It�s all very ugly, and not something we should have to put up with in a game like this. The fact that the art style is superb is the only thing that keeps the game from looking like a complete mess.
On the whole, Lost Odyssey isn�t really a technical success. Visuals aside, it also tends to load frequently and - at times - the loading can last quite a while. It�s not hugely major, but it�s still a flaw especially when the game changes cut-scenes quite often, thus leading to disjointed areas where it needs to load in-between each scene.
It�d be tempting to skip the cut-scenes after reading what I said, but the storyline is good enough that skipping anything would be incredibly foolish. If the game had a lame and pointless story, then the loading screens would be appalling, but as Lost Odyssey�s plot is worth following you can overlook the technical flaws more easily.
The story has you playing as a man called Kaim who has lived for a thousand years (but I�m sure you already knew this: the fact has been spammed with about every preview and review known to man), and who has also lost his memory. It�s hard to know where exactly the game is going with the plot at first, but a few hours in and you start to get a clearer picture.
Like most RPGs, you�ll end up picking up other characters and learning more about the story as you go along. With my last similar experience being with Final Fantasy XII, it was refreshing to find that Lost Odyssey has a cast of mostly likeable characters. You�ll not find anyone in this game to match the absolute pointlessness of Vaan or Penelo from FFXII, nor indeed will the storyline be so vague that you won�t even care what happens in the end.
There are a couple of things that do kind of bring down Lost Odyssey�s overall impact, though. For one thing, there is a feature in the game called A Thousand Years of Dreams, in which Kaim will see an event happening in-game, and then recall a memory locked away in his heart. You can experience Kaim�s dream by reading it, and it�s here that Lost Odyssey displays some of the best story-telling ever seen in a videogame. The characterisation and depth of each story serves to backup the main plot and absorb you further into the game. Sadly though, the game doesn�t actually ever display anything as emotionally touching, deep or impressive as the stories. For example, in the dreams, Kaim is shown to have some form of personality, yet in the game he always seems to be stubborn and lacking of anything interesting to say. Of course, one reason for that could be that over the 1000 years he�s lived the events in the stories have made him the way he is, but there are too many examples in the dreams to outbalance why the main-game�s story simply just isn�t as interesting.
The second thing which knocks Lost Odyssey�s story-telling is a very lame main villain. Without spoiling too much, he never really serves to make the player particularly angry towards him, nor does he have any characteristics to make him a good villain. And laughing uncontrollably at your own dastardly words? Yeah...
That aside, though, like I said Lost Odyssey does have enough in the plot to make it certainly worth following and to enjoy. This is one area where the game can justify any claim that it has more depth than pretty much most other 360 games, and some RPGs in general.
After the story in Lost Odyssey has revealed itself, bit by bit, you�ll often be left to your own devices. And, more often than not, you�ll be fighting monsters, big and small. The combat works like your typical turn-based deal, except here you�ll choose all of your character�s moves at once, rather than selecting your move when the turn-table says so. The typical elemental cycles are in, along with all your status ailments, magic abilities, different weapons, accessories etc... and "rings".
I put rings in quotes because whenever you equip one in Lost Odyssey you�ll be given a mini-game whenever you do a physical attack. It works rather well, to be honest, with you having to hold down the R-Trigger until the outer ring fits into the inner ring: the closer it is, the harder the hit; the further away it is, the less damage you deal. It adds a bit of flair to an otherwise fun, but standard, turn-based combat system. It�s just a shame there isn�t any mini-game for the magic moves, as that would have added even more fun to the combat.
You also get a �wall� system to play with too. For example, you can put two of your more sturdy characters on the front row, and stick a few spell-casters at the back. That way if enemies decide to beat-down on the weak casters, your front row will absorb some of the damage. This inevitably adds more depth to the combat, but so does the incentive to want make your characters learn new skills. You see, the Immortals in your party (one being Kaim) cannot learn new moves when they level, instead they must copy and learn the abilities from their mortal buddies, or from using accessories. This means that getting an encounter will usually reap more rewards than experience, as you can often have it so at least one of your Immortals learns a new skill after each victory. You can essentially turn your Immortal members into complete powerhouses if you have the desire to play long enough (it�s also rather cool seeing them arise after being KO�d for so many turns, being Immortal �n� all).
Getting into a battle makes use of the old random encounter system -- just run around on the same spot over and over and you�ll eventually run into some nasty looking foes. I wouldn�t necessarily say it�s annoying that the developers opted for this age-old method, but nowadays one would expect some sort of sprite on the screen so you can actually initiate battle yourself. Fortunately you won�t get the "pre-emptive strike!" crap yielded from random encounters in other RPGs, so don�t expect to die unfairly too often (though the game can throw some overpowered enemies at you from nowhere if you�re not careful).
If you particularly enjoy the type of experience Lost Odyssey is offering, then there�s plenty to see and do, which is nice to say for once. With the likes of Mass Effect yielding 40 hours for even the most attentive gamer, it�s nice to see an exclusive 360 RPG earning its cost. For sticking to the main content alone, I�d say you�re looking at a 60-70 hour experience, where-as if you go for all the side stuff then you�d best put aside 80-100 hours of your time.
There�s everything ranging from secret bosses, ultimate weapons, sub-quests, treasures and even an arena-like area to test your abilities (known in the game as "Backyard"). Some of the extra content does come at a cost mind, as the game re-uses level design for some areas containing side-content, and even the hardest of side-bosses won�t be much of a match for the seasoned RPG gamers out there. However, any RPG that can offer 20+ hours worth of side-content, on-top of an already lengthy main game, deserves nothing but praise for that feat.
On the downside, if you do intend on getting everything 100% complete you�ll no doubt need to use a guide of some sort. I tried my best to get as much done without consulting GamesFAQs, and even though I managed to complete a fair amount, there are simply too many things in the game that can easily be missed no matter how attentive you are. I will give some credit to the developers though, for actually putting in an auction house so that items which can be permanently missed can still be bought later. I certainly hope this is one feature that catches on for future RPGs.
Even though there are loads of things to talk about in Lost Odyssey, it�d take too long to write about and explain it all. The only other thing I can really talk about without getting knee deep in mud is the music. Like Final Fantasy, this is an area where Lost Odyssey shows much merit. While some areas will re-use the same sounds often, they�re usually of such high quality that you enjoy hearing it again. There�s no specific piece of music that I would say is astounding, which would suggest that maybe the game isn�t fully upto Final Fantasy standards yet, but on the whole the soundtrack is very immersive and enjoyable from start to finish. At the very least, that�s all you can ask for.
And there you see me say "yet", as if to say there�ll be more games like Lost Odyssey on the 360. I�d love that to be true, as this is the type of game many of us have wanted on a Microsoft console since the original X-Box was released. For so long have we waited for a game to fill the Grand Canyon that is the 360�s RPG genre, and although Lost Odyssey is hardly covering a quarter of that gap, it�s still a small step in the right direction.
Yes, it does use some old mechanics, and yes, it does have problems. However, while Lost Odyssey is nowhere near enough to sell the 360 to hardcore RPG gamers, it still shows what the console is capable of when enough effort is made. I honestly don�t know if support for these types of games will continue, especially on the 360, but I hope for RPG fans - and me - that it will.
8 / 10