Over the past few months the XBox 360 has seen some great games come out, some not so great but i am happy to say that Lost Odyssey is not one of them. Veteran gamers will recognise this style of RPG from the likes of the Final Fantasy series which continue to gain popularity with every new addition, it is its winning formular that makes these types of RPG work so well and keep fans of the genre coming back for more. Lost Odyssey fits all the necessary criteria to be considered as good as the best the FF series has to offer.
The story, written by award winner Kiyoshi Shigematsu and produced by FF creator Hironobu Sakaguchi. The story itself is compeling and full of intrigue aswell as being deep and emotional, the balance of raw action, romance, tension and comedy are just right and will have you glued for the duration. Lost Odyssey dosent make the mistake of over complicating the story too early on, Events unfold quite quickley so the player is rarley left confused or asking "why am I doing this?" or "Who's he again?" Its not just the beautiful cut scenes that reveal the story either, the story advances as you do, giving you the sense that your not just completeing basic tasks and repetative monster battles untill you've done enough to advance the plot. The story is fed to you through a mixture of impresive CGI cut-scenes and live action events taking place within the game through character interaction, as so much attention to detail has been paid the actions of the charactors dont need to be implied or explained such is commen in some older RPG's making it a more realistic experiance. The story has the obligatory twists and turns expected of a game like this but rather than being contrived or cliche, the plot twists are unpredictable and clever, only occasionaly are you left saying to yourself "I knew he was going to do that" Or the like.
The Story centres around Kiem Argonar, a thousand year old immortal mercenery fighting for the Magic Republic of Uhra. When a massive meteor crashes on a battel field wiping out almost all of the opposing armies but for a few survivors, one of which being Kiem, he is summond before the Uhran counsal to find out how he survived. It is reveiled that Kiem does not know how, furthermore he has lost his memory entirly. Present at this meeting is the Sourcerer Gongora, who confesses to have put an immortality spell on Kiem which has led to his apparent amnesia, the details of which cannot be explained due to a deadly curse. The counsal except this and charge Kiem as one of the sole survivors and an immortal to go to the suspected cause of the catastrophy "Grand Staff" to investigate. Grand staff as its name implies is a huge Staff shaped "Magic Engine" under construction by the Republic of Uhra. coinsedentaly the over seerer of its construction is also Gongora and as such the counsel suspect sinsiter goings on and halt the construction. Aswell as this they place Gongora under house arrest untill Kiem has made a report. Joining Him on his journey Kiem is assisted by another survivor and fellow immortal Seth Balmore, aswell as an agent of Gongora, Jenson Friendh. The Quest begeins as they leave for Grand staff, leading them far away from Uhra and on a journey that accross the numerous citys and landscapes that make up this fictional and very beautiful world. Questions begin to present themselves such as What did cause the near anihilation of two huge armies? and why has Kiem lost his memories? whats more, how is Gongorga linked in all this?
Lost Odyssey is Far from being a simple tale, however it isnt too complicated to get your head round and your not expected to recall a very tiny detail at the begining for the end to make sense. The Graphics are stunning. attention to detail seems to have been key to the designers and programmers from the start. You cant deny even if your not a fan of this genre, it looks damn good. The characters are superbly modeled and possess none of the cartooney feel of Blue dragon for instance, another of Hironobu Sakaguchi's attempts on the 360 whithout Square Enix. The feel of realism in the landscapes, backdrops and charactor models also go along way in keeping you into the story. What must be touched on when looking at an epic RPG is the musical score, created by famed composer Nobuo Uematsu gives the game a very contemopy feel from the composer whom also worked on the music for the FF games giving Lost Odyssey a very familier sound.
The turn based combat system in RPG's often make of break a title for most gamers, as it is a large part of any RPG it is important developers get this right. The trick is to strike the correct ballance between the amount of enemies you encounter and the rate of which your characters level up. Also it is important the increase in enemy difficulty is gradual enough to challenge you but not too hard as to make it impossible. Every RPG gamer has got to a stage in a game where the boss up ahead is impossible to beat unless your characters have reached a chigher level, and then subsequently roamed around looking for as many encounters with lower level opponants to level up all to stand a chance of beating said boss at the end of it. this proccess can make these kind of RPGs tediuos and LO is no exception, however far from being every boss encounter, you only need to roam around a few times to level up your party to a stage where you can comfortably take on a boss. The combat system, similar to alot of games in this genre, relies more on the tactics you employ rather than the power of your characters for the most part, but steadily leveling up you characters is easy enough as you will find the frequency of enemy encounters increases in certain areas and drops in others. The ring based tageting system for physical attacks puts a new spin on the majority of T-B combat systems but for the most part you may find it quite linear.
There are however a few niggles with Lost Odyssey, If your not a fan of this type of RPG with a turn based fighting system, centered entirely around an unfolding story line, typical of the FF series this game wont be for you. There is very little origionality for RPG lovers to experiance. This may be considdered a good thing to the hardcore fans of the genre but if you played FF7 onwards are looking for a little bit more then your not likely to find it here. Also you may find some elements slightly boring, at times you may feel that you are simply wondering around trying to find the right path but are contantly stopped by enemy encounters which have a habit of going on just a few moments too long, all to get up to a boss that will allow you to get to the village where you can rest up, save and then move on to the next sprawling maze for you to do it all again. This also goes along with the T-B fighting system to make it a bit repetative. This pattern is broken every now and again by some quite frankly pointless mini sections that are either over before they can start or are more tedious than the maze-boss-rest etc that you find yourself in alot of the time. An exaple of this would be when you get given the use of a speed boat to get to a new destination, similar to the "Ragnarock" in FF8 where instead of walking, you get to fly around to different locations. In this segment, you use the boat to get to your next destination, you could probably stop elsewhere before moving off to the main objective to collect some small insignificant items, seeds pop up from time to time,before going off to your real destination to further the plot, however going directly to said destination then ends the segment and you cannot return to the boat, it is also painfully short, less than a couple of minutes littarally, it is as if you have been given a respite from the monotany only to have it snatched away again. There are also moments in the game where you take control of other characters that are not apart of your party, for instance at one point you control the story's villian, but although you are in a wide open space you can only walk one way and your trip consists of a short walk down a coridor and down some steps before the CGI takes over, no real point to it at all, its hardly worth doing. I also must mention that the male charactors, although look stunningly rendered as they are, all have a slightly afeminate look to them, even the boozing, womanising Jenson friedh has very soft, female features, not that theres a partiular problem with that its just odd that they would look this way, you can however tell who the real women are because of the gratuitus costumes some wear and blatant camera positioning during cut scenes will have you screaming "OK there BOOBS!", you'll see what I mean. At first if you have the mentalitly of a 14 year old adolesent boy you will think its great, but give it a while and it will get slightly boring.
In summing up I can say Lost Odyssey is a great looking game, best suited to the RPG fans out there, It caters to the demand for more of this type of game on a console dominated by First person shooters and the like, so if your looking for something new and you havent had the good fortune to play any of the Final Fantasy games then give it a try. If your a fan of pretty graphics, and good story line its worth the money, it has some very funny parts which could be considered a little risque to some but at the same time it could be seen have more style than substace.
Lost Odyssey has stuck to the winning RPG formula that made us fall in love with the Final Fantasy series and im sorry to harp on about it, but FF has set the benchmark for this genre, by following the guide lines Mistwalker has come up with a game that is as good has the best has been, but with some origionality it could have been much more and for this reason i am slightly disapointed with it, buy it if your a fan of this genre or if you havent experianced this type of game before, if your a casual gamer and COD4 on XBox LIVE is more your thing I would say dont bother, this game needs dedication, but once you in you wont put it down till its done.
8 / 10