How many years has it been…?
The very first time I heard about Lost Odyssey, I was immediately hooked. As a fan of the Final Fantasy series for over a decade, I witnessed the flourishing SNES and PS1 days, the decline of the SquareSoft company, the devastating resignation of Hironobu Sakaguchi, and the eventual merge into SquareEnix. I believed that the whole genre, along with the series, would be lost forever. When I heard the news that famed game designer Sakaguchi and music composer Nobuo Uematsu had come together to form a company, Mistwalker, making next-generation video games, I admit, I felt a sincere emotion of happiness. Granted, I had not heard this news until Lost Odyssey was announced, so I missed out on the so-called ‘disaster’ of Blue Dragon. So finally the time has come, a JRPG which sticks to the roots of the genre, and I have to say, I’m really excited for this revival.
One thousand years of pain and suffering.
Storyline – 10/10
With Sakaguchi onboard with the creation of Lost Odyssey, it was a given that the story would be amazing. We start off on a battle field with thousand of soldiers. Fighting for their lives, the camera eventually fixes onto one man wearing no armour at all. Kaim Argonar, this story’s hero. Amazingly taking on the whole army, Kaim easily weaves in and out of enemies, slicing them as he goes. As the battle unfolds, a meteor appears in the sky, releasing magma onto the battlefield, and killing every single person. Every single person, except for one. Kaim emerges unscathed, which is when we learn of his gift; his curse: immortality. Kaim has been living for one thousand years, but some unknown force has left him with no memory. Now Kaim embarks on a quest to discover his past, whether he wants to or not. It leads an emotional journey, where you will really feel for Kaim’s misery. The story really draws the player in and makes them feel for each of the characters. While most games just tell a story, Lost Odyssey releases emotion upon the player, pulling them right into the game, and evoking raw emotion. You could actually find yourself shedding a tear or two before you even finish disc one. A large portion of the side story consists of short stories called “A Thousand Years of Dreams”. These stories reveal certain events in one of the four immortal character’s lives that usually has no effect on the current situation. These stories are accompanied by beautiful music, and some may even bring the reader to tears. The option to read the short stories is completely optional, but skipping out on them may cause the player to understand less of why a character is feeling a certain way at some points and as to why they act in a certain way during some situations. It is highly recommended to read the Dreams.
The restoration of FMV, but can you really tell the difference?
Graphics – 10/10
The graphics are simply stunning, even for this generation. Unlike other games featured on the Xbox360, Lost Odyssey uses FMV cinematics, meaning that certain cutscenes don’t even use the game engine, they are completely animated. While this does heavily contribute to the 4 disc memory, it achieves an effect that in-game cutscenes could never do. You will find yourself waiting for the next FMV, just to see how good the graphics really are. Aside from special FMV cutscenes, you have the game engine scenes, which aren’t far off from FMV, graphic wise. While the graphics in Lost Odyssey may not be the most realistic, they are some of the best to date, even with it’s own unique style. The character models are completely original, especially the main character Kaim. Rather than have the basic ‘spikey-haired’ anime character, Kaim’s look depicts all the sorrow he has felt over the last 1000 years. Many of the other characters, Tolten, with his very shiny gold armour, comes to mind, are just cool to look at, while still keeping the traditional JRPG look. The environments are pretty standard for any RPG, which is good. RPG’s usually have some of the best environments to play in, and Lost Odyssey is no exception. Whether you are traversing the city of Numara, the Crimson Forest, or making your way across the world on a ship, you always find yourself staring in wonder at how realistic and well designed the environments are. I’m not one to judge games on graphics, much more things than graphics make up a game, but with these graphics being so outstanding, I can’t help but talk so much about them. In short, FMV does make a huge difference. The cinematics are much clearer and smoother than an in-game cutscene could ever be.
Is turned-based really revolutionary?
Gameplay – 9/10
Yes, this is a turned-based JRPG, but does it really matter? If you’re a fan of the whole RPG genre, you should feel right at home with this gameplay. What stands out with Lost Odyssey is that there is a significantly lower rate of random encounters, meaning you can focus more on the story, rather than spending hours in a dungeon. You may find yourself sitting there for an hour only pressing ‘A’ to progress dialogue, but once again, RPG’s are mainly story driven. While turned-based isn’t for everyone, some new features are added into the mix to help break up the monotony. The Aim Ring allows players to craft rings outside of battle, using components obtained from enemy drops or bought from a store. These rings have certain effects, such as extra damage, or the ability to poison. Once in battle, after choosing the attack command, a ring will appear on-screen. The player must press the Right Trigger, and another, larger ring will appear. As the trigger is held down, the larger ring will shrink in size. Once the larger ring is small enough to overlap the small ring, the player must release the trigger. Depending on how well the timing was, a “Perfect”, “Good”, or “Bad” will appear on the screen. Perfect means that the effect of the ring will be added to the attack, Good means the effect may be added, and Bad means the effect will not be added. No matter, an attack will still be performed, you won’t be penalized for getting a “Bad”, although it can make all the difference in a boss battle. Other features such as Formation and Skill Linking help mix up the pace and appeal to non traditional RPG players. Formation is used as a way to protect party members with less HP, while the stronger characters stay in the front row. The Guard Condition is a number consisting of all the front row characters’ HP added up. Once the GC has been depleted, damage to the front and back row will be equal. Skill Linking is used to teach skills to Immortal characters. Only mortals can learn new skills and spells, so an Immortal must link to the abilities of a mortal. This will only work if both Immortal and mortal are present and active in battle. Once the skill is learned, the Immortal can set it to a list of skills and continue using it without the mortals present. This helps keep a balanced team, as mortals and Immortals will have to constantly be rearranged and substituted to learn new skills.
Nobuo has returned!
Sound – 10/10
With Nobuo Uematsu taking the position of composer, it was expected that Lost Odyssey would have great pieces of music. As long time composer of Final Fantasy, we have come to expect a level of high quality work and dedication from Uematsu. And Lost Odyssey does not fail to please the audience. Many of the tracks are very reminiscent of Uematsu’s old work, which is packed with nostalgia. Some of the best songs accompany the short stories found throughout the game. The music adds a whole new depth of emotion that one would never think to find within a simple story. Music in dungeons and towns are equally beautiful, offering deep emotion of the characters when necessary. Some tracks, such as the battle music, may seem repetitive at first, but they are so well written that they never get old somehow. The battle score is simply a repeating sequence of notes, but it fits so perfect to every battle. The voice acting in Lost Odyssey is top notch, which is also expected in the JRPG genre. Unlike some games, the voices are actually realistic, offering true emotion behind each line. Along with the script, Lost Odyssey offers some of the best sound on the 360.
One of the best in years.
Overall – 10/10
So after all is said and done, Lost Odyssey is the answer to all the fans of the JRPG, or even RPG genre, for that matter. No, it doesn’t reinvent the wheel, but that doesn’t need to be done at this time. In a generation that is more concerned with online shooters and MMORPG’s, it is great to see that one company is sticking to the winning formula. Mistwalker has brought us a game that we have been wishing for since the Final Fantasy series turned in a different direction. The story in Lost Odyssey is a complex story revolving around Immortals, which may not be completely original, but it still works. The graphics are great for the Xbox360, offering FMV’s, which I personally prefer to game engine cutscenes. The gameplay is turned-based, which a lot of people have complained about. Innovation is not needed for a game to be good. Even if one did not like turned-based games, the story alone is worth a playthrough. And the music is another great compilation by famed composer Nobuo Uematsu, so nothing could go wrong there. All in all, Lost Odyssey is the best RPG/JRPG I have played in many years. Hopefully, along with this new rejuvenation of JRPG, we will see more of the appear, perhaps some more great games from Mistwalker.