Review: Lost Odyssey

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I can’t remember the last traditional turn-based RPG I played. Actually, I can. Final Fantasy VII way back during freshman year of college. Jesse will probably remember me taking the time to breed that Golden Chocobo so I could run to the mountain to obtain the overpowered Knights of the Round summon spirit. Since then, it seems the entire genre has moved away from that type of gameplay. Games like Fallout 3 and Mass Effect are coming out to be the new face of the RPG world. To me, these changes are new, refreshing, and good for the genre overall.

But damn, Final Fantasy VII was some good times, no? For those longing for that nostalgic feel, but don’t want to go back and play FF7 for the 15th time, Lost Odyssey is here for you…

…right after the jump.

This isn’t going to be as long-winded a review as the one I did for Tales of Vesperia. You don’t want to read that, I don’t want to write it. So here’s the “tl;dr” version right here for you: If you liked games like Final Fantasy VII and find yourself nostalgic at times for that traditional Japanese RPG feel, you need to play Lost Odyssey. You would be doing yourself a disservice by not doing so. Everything you loved about those old RPG games, as well as everything you disliked, are here in this game, and more.

Lost Odyssey is a product of Mistwalker, the company founded by the original creator of Final Fantasy. Needless to say, you’re going to see similarities. But I assure you, Lost Odyssey is not standing in the shadows of Final Fantasy. The similarities you see will be in the game’s basics. But all the small details in Lost Odyssey make it its own game.

Combat will be the “old school” turn-based setup with menus to navigate you through all the skills and spells of your characters. This will be instantly familiar to most everyone. Lost Odyssey adds a front and back row formation option that actually has meaning, and does more than just place the back row farther from the enemy. The front row is essentially the shield for the back row. Damage done to the back row is greatly mitigated. Of course, as the front row is damaged, that mitigation goes down. This is important because your casters are pretty weak. At one point, my main character had over 7,000 HP, while one of my casters in the back row had 1,500.

Traveling on the world map has been made a lot easier. This is mainly due to the fact that your traditional concept of the “World Map” is nonexistent in Lost Odyssey. There is no running from one city to another. A screen showing a dotted trail going from point A to point B is the equivalent to traveling on the world map. Some may not like this, but I loved it, especially toward the end of the game. This makes doing sidequests extremely convenient, since travel is pretty much instant no matter where you go. Once you get control of a boat, you can still explore the oceans of the world, but you can’t do that on land.

Visuals are probably the second best part of the game. They’re amazing. While you can tell the difference between a full CGI-ed FMV versus what your characters look like when your running around in a dungeon, you would be hard pressed to tell the difference between that and what you see in combat. Lost Odyssey can (and does) go straight from cut scene to gameplay, you the player would be none the wiser. The environments are also well done and believable. Almost everything in the game, from a graphical standpoint, is truly nice to look at. The detail put into everything from the world map to the character’s facial expressions is impressive. The only thing lacking in graphics is probably the spell affects in combat. Maybe I’m used to all the flashy stuff from Tales of Vesperia, but the spell effects were a bit bland for me. That doesn’t hurt the game in anyway though, so no big. Here is a video of the Lost Odyssey intro cinematic. It actually has gameplay mixed into it. If you don’t want to watch the combat, you can skip to the 7 minute mark to see the rest of it.

The story is probably the game’s weak point. Actually, I should say, the MAIN story is the game’s weak point (more on this later). At least for me, it wasn’t anything special. It’s not a bad story, but it’s not going to do much to wow you, with a few exceptions. You play is Kaim (pronounced “Kime”), who is an immortal living in a mortal world. He starts the game not knowing much, including how he got to be immortal. The player soons finds out that Kaim has lived for a thousand years, and has lost the memories from all but the last few. Kaim regains his memory on Disk 1 (of 4 Disks. If that is not old school, I don’t know what is). He and his companions spend the rest of the story seeking revenge on the person who sealed his memory away. You know who this guy is, and you know exactly where he is. Yet, it still takes you three more disks to do it. If that’s not a sign for “filler” plot material, I don’t know what is.

Do not fret! In my opinion, some of this filler material is by far, THE best part of the game. While the main story of Lost Odyssey is nothing special, the game was still the most emotional game I have played. Ever. There are a couple small gems within the main story, but the real gems come from “dreams” within the game. As you play, Kaim will bump into people or conversations that remind him of something that happened during his long lifespan. These are slowly unlocked from his memory throughout the game, and they were my favorite part of the game. Now, what I am about to tell you may make you think I’m a weirdo, but these dreams are presented to you in the form of text. You read them. Yes, I know, I was like “WTF” too. But then the very first dream shut me right the fuck up. It’s amazing what the game can do with just music, a scenic backdrop, and a little bit of textual effects. These dreams are well written, and many are very sad. They definitely tug at your heart strings, some very violently. I’m not a person who reads or “feels” for things within a game, so the fact that I was moved and actively pursued unlocking these dreams says a lot. I will warn you that some of these dreams are long. They’re essentially short stories, and some will take 15 minutes to read through. They’re presented in an artistic way, so you’re not reading out of a book or anything. Just as a disclaimer, this WILL break your gameplay groove very blatantly, and there were times when I was playing, then I triggered a dream, and kind of went “Ah, shucks”. Do not pass on the dream though, because I never regretted reading them.

I actually mentioned the sound for this game in my ToV review. It is superb, and is one of the main driving forces behind the emotional aspect of this game. It really is hard to describe how fitting some of the soundtrack is for the game. Again, I do not pay attention to music or sound much, so the fact that I can actually hum some of the tunes means it had to have been memorable.

Recap
The game uses dated gameplay mechanics, but they’re mechanics that some of us can really appreciate, and some may even prefer them to the newly evolved gameplay of RPGs today. The visuals and sound are top notch, and while the main plot is lackluster, the side stories and history behind the main characters are so endearing that it more than makes up for the plot’s weaknesses. You will see a lot of load screens in this game, but you will get used to it after awhile. I put almost 80 hours into this game, but I did all the big sidequests and got all the achievements except for the most completionist ones. There is no replay value for Lost Odyssey. Just like Final Fantasies of old, you play it once, and it’s over. There is a DLC for Lost Odyssey that opens up a bonus dungeon, but since I’m just renting the game, I didn’t bother with it.

I would recommend this to any RPG fan because it is a very solid RPG, but I must stress that if you’ve got a little nostalgia in you, this game is an absolute must. I know SF4 just came out, and the new Resident Evil is just around the corner, but make sure you come back to this game at some point, you won’t regret it.

This still ended up being longer than I wanted. Blah…

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