Lost Odyssey Xbox 360
Published by: Microsoft Game Studios
Developed by: Mistwalker
Release Date: Out Now
Whilst the Xbox was disappointing for RPG enthusiasts, the same cannot be said for the Xbox 360. We've already reviewed several quality RPGs for the system and there are more still to come. In the early days of the console's lifespan, much was made of the fact that two games were being developed by the creator of the Final Fantasy series, Hironobu Sakaguchi. The first of these games, Blue Dragon, arrived last year. Perhaps the game that most were looking forward to is Lost Odyssey. Unlike Blue Dragon, Lost Odyssey has a more serious tone to it and can be considered the first RPG on any of the next generation consoles to look truly impressive.
The storyline in Lost Odyssey is very impressive and becomes more enjoyable and involving as you progress through the game. The central character in the game is Kaim Argonar, an immortal and fearsome warrior who at the beginning has no memories. As you play through the game he’ll have flashbacks and dreams that will gradually reveal what has happened to him for the 1,000 years or so that he’s been alive. The storyline isn’t just concerned with Kaim. There are three other immortals that have also lost their memories and there are warmongers to be found amongst the game’s three nations. Initially it doesn’t appear this way as the game does get off to a rather lacklustre start despite being thrown into the middle of a war straightaway. For the first hour or so I was actually quite unimpressed. Thankfully this isn't an issue for long because as soon as your party expands with the addition of Jansen Friedh (who injects some much needed humour into the early stages of the game) and Seth Balmore the game begins to warm up and turns into the rich and rewarding experience RPG fans were hoping for. The main storyline is interesting enough but the flashbacks and dreams that Kaim has really adds a surprising amount of depth to his personality and the storyline as a whole.
The battle system in Lost Odyssey will feel familiar to anyone who has played any of Sakaguchi’s RPGs over the years but there are a few new twists that do help to make battles feel slightly different from those in other games. The game features an Aim Ring System which allows one of your party members to add something extra to their attacks if they have an enhancement ring equipped. If your character has an enhancement ring equipped and performs an attack, you’ll see a targeting ring appear on the enemy you’re about to attack. As your character runs to carry out the attack you’ll hold down the RT button which causes an outer ring to appear and close in on the targeting ring. The idea is to release the RT button when the rapidly shrinking ring overlaps the targeting ring. Your timing will either be Bad, Good or Perfect. A rating of Bad will mean that your equipped ring will have no effect at all whilst a rating of Perfect will take full advantage of your equipped ring. The game uses a Wall System that allows characters in the front row to protect those in the back row. You can also equip your characters with accessories.
The immortal characters in the game can acquire the abilities that the accessories provide if they wear them long enough, although these learned abilities do have to be equipped and each takes up a skill lot. What this means however is that it’s possible to obtain a key accessory, have an immortal character wear it just long enough to learn a skill and then pass the item on to other characters. Mortals cannot acquire skills in this manner however. Immortals can also learn abilities that the mortals in your party possess.
One criticism that was levelled at Blue Dragon was that it was too easy (a free update was released that gave you the option to choose a higher difficulty level however), the same cannot be said for Lost Odyssey. Here the difficulty level feels spot on. You will need to do an acceptable degree of levelling-up if you are to survive the boss fights. The boss fights by the way are far more satisfying in Lost Odyssey than there were in Blue Dragon and you really have to be on your toes and have a sound strategy (attacking elemental weaknesses and having items equipped that can give you an edge for instance), if you are to be victorious.
In some respects it’s a shame that Lost Odyssey doesn’t veer too far from the traditional console RPG formula. Random battles are present and correct and at times they can be a little irritating when then occur more frequently than you would like. You’ll see the usual animations before and after a battle that you’ve seen many times before in a console RPG game. You still have to get to a save point in order to save your progress, which does seem a little old fashioned. Most of the time it’s just not possible to have a ‘quick game’ because you never know how long it’s going to be before you reach the next save point. At times, they are only a couple of minutes apart and at other times you’re looking at over an hour before you reach one.
For the most part, Lost Odyssey looks very impressive. The cutscenes are first class and the quality of the character models and most of the environments that you’ll explore in the game are excellent. Unfortunately, there are some technical issues that do take away a little from the game's visual gloss. The frame rate dips rather awkwardly at times (usually in the introduction to a battle) and there are far too many times when you'll see a loading screen (even if it is only for a few seconds at a time. There have been some comments about how the game spans four DVDs but as you simply progress from one disk to another, and are not constantly swapping between disks, it’s not really an issue.
Lost Odyssey is subtitled and the subtitles are enabled by default. The games’ cutscenes are subtitled. There are no character names or portraits placed alongside the cutscene subtitles but it’s almost always possible to see who is saying what. The in-game dialogue does display the speaker’s name above the text and you’ll get to read the text in your own time as you need to press the A button to move the dialogue forwards. All of the game’s tutorial messages are shown in text. Comments made by your party members during a battle are not subtitled. The dreams are also in text which can be read at your own pace. About the time you start the second disk, you’ll encounter some Cubic Music puzzles. These can be frustrating for deaf gamers. Essentially you have to play a piece of music by hitting blocks (each block corresponds to a musical note). It’s a trial and error task in that you’ll hit your chosen blocks, when hit they each play a note, and then the correct tune is played. The correct tune will give hearing gamers a clue to which boxes they need to hit. Unfortunately there are no visual clues to indicate what the correct tune might have been. Deaf gamers will have to either keep guessing or simply find a walkthrough that tells them the correct boxes to hit. These puzzles aren’t compulsory but you do get some rather useful items if you manage to work them out.
In many ways Lost Odyssey is a very traditional console RPG. If you’re like us you’ll certainly have no problem with that. In fact, a traditional console RPG very much in the same vein as the Final Fantasy series is just what many 360 owners wanted and Lost Odyssey truly delivers. It also has a few unique twists of its own that work well. It’s a shame that there are some frame rate dips and frequent (although never long) load times to put up with but on the whole the quality of the storyline and the overall quality of the game more than compensates for any technical niggles. Lost Odyssey is definitely a game that every RPG enthusiast should play and it’s definitely one of the best Xbox 360 RPGs to date.