STAFF REVIEW of Lost Odyssey (Xbox 360)

Sunday, March 2, 2008.
by Rick Wallace

Lost Odyssey Box art We all know Hironobu Sakaguchi?s work from the classic Final Fantasy series. He combined great storytelling together with traditional RPG gameplay to create enjoyable games for everyone. Now Sakaguchi brings that successful formula to the 360 with Lost Odyssey. Does he succeed in establishing the traditional RPG as a viable genre for today?s gamer?

You start the game as Kaim Argonar, an immortal who has traversed the world?s wars fighting to stop them over the last 1000 years. But Kaim has lost his memory, and as he completes his current journeys his primary goal is to try and regain his memories that have slipped him. This proves to be key to the storyline of the game, and not so much a side story. The city of Uhra depends on the production and consumption of magic energy to protect and defend their city. But something strange has happened at the construction site, Grand Staff. Kaim is summoned by the Uhra Council to travel to Magic Staff and find out what issues lie there. Due to your immortality, they have deemed you as the only one who can travel their safely.

Another immortal, Seth Balmore whom you had met earlier in a cut scene, will travel with you on your journey. You?ll also be accompanied by a mortal, Jansen Friedh who dabbles in magic, and at times can just be plain annoying with his dialogue. You?ll find out why he accompanies you fairly quickly in the story. So that?s your starting party. You'll gain other party members as the story progresses.

The first 30-60 minutes of the game contains some fighting sequences, but focuses more solely on establishing the storyline through many cut scenes. You?ll make your way from the initial battlefield you start on, to the city of Ulhra. The cut scenes are very well done, and you?ll honestly get to know the characters very well just by watching these scenes. Something that Mistwalker emphasizes very well in this game is facial expressions. You?ll know exactly what a character is feeling or thinking at times by just watching their facial gestures. It?s actually amazing at times what they have accomplished with the facial movements of each character. This is one of the outstanding and innovative features this game can boast, and is something basically no other game has yet even come close to mastering.

The game itself is your traditional turn-based style RPG, and you truly will feel like you are playing a game from the last decade at times with the exception of the beautiful graphics. For any fan of Final Fantasy or any other traditional JRPG, this is a must have. You?ll have various, skills, weapons and magic at your disposal throughout the game. You will collect new items by exploration, and obtain some items only through auction houses and shops. As with any traditional RPG, you will gain party members to help you in your quest. You will increase their skills and abilities as well as yours throughout your endeavor. The weapons you will use are pretty basic and don?t have much upgrade ability. You will use rings to enhance certain aspects of your attacks such as strength, defense, etc. We?ll talk more about the ring assembly system in a bit, which is a welcome addition to the standard RPG gameplay.

One thing I noticed while playing, all battles would take place randomly without any kind of notice. In more recent RPG?s, including the most recent Final Fantasy for the 360, you can actually seek out enemies to fight because they are visible throughout the land. In Lost Odyssey, you do not see your adversaries until are in the fight screen. All landscapes are barren of enemies making it difficult to just run around and level your character up. Part of this is probably based upon the linear nature of the game. While each area you traverse allows you to roam freely throughout, you are still headed to one destination to move forward to the next area. So in all honesty, the term ?open-world? applies, yet it doesn?t apply. I think the game would benefit more from displaying random enemies throughout the worlds, and allowing you to level up a little faster than the game allows you now.

Customization of your characters is very limited unfortunately. There are no clothing upgrades that we have grown accustomed to with more recent RPG?s. Your character will look exactly the same at the end of the game as it did when you started the game. Fairly disappointing aspect of the game in my opinion. Weapons are very basic and have no upgrade ability either, other than the ring &t; it receives if wearing a ring. You?ll be able to swap out current weapons for more powerful weapons, but there is no option to enhance any weapon really. What you have in hand is what you get. As an immortal you will also be able to learn skills, but only when you ?Skill Link? yourself with a mortal in your party. Mortals are the only ones that have the ability to learn skills as they level up on the battlefield. As the mortal learns a new skill, you can set your immortal characters to ?skill link? with that mortal and over time they will learn that skill as well. This is the only way you can learn a new skill with your immortal.

One of the more interesting concepts in Lost Odyssey is the ability to create rings that enhance your characters. Rings are used to enhance attacks, magical abilities, HP recovery, etc. You?ll gather ingredients from battles, in auction houses/shops, talking with NPC?s, and finding hidden items throughout levels. When you view the ring assembly menu you?ll be able to see ?ring recipes? for any type of ring you have some or all the ingredients in order to create. If you have all the ingredients, you can just click on the name of the ring type and you?ll be asked if you would like to form it. If you only have some ingredients, the ring type will be grayed out, but you?ll be able to see what ingredients you still need to locate. As you discover new ingredients, new types of rings and their recipes will come available in the list. Even though you have 5 fingers that could where a ring, you can only wear one at a time. Again, a disappointing aspect to the game.

The battle system is pretty straight forward in the game, and pretty much what you would expect from this turn-based RPG. You?ll see the order of the player attacks in the lower left hand corner. The game integrates a system call ?The Wall? that allows you to put more powerful characters in the front row of a battle formation, while the lesser characters or magical characters can remain in the back row. The folks in the back row will take less damage than those in the front. Your ?wall defense? is known as Guard Control or GC. You?ll be able to see the status of your GC in the upper right hand corner of the screen during battles. GC can be replenished using certain spells or skills.

Now when wearing a ring, the ?Aim Ring System? comes available when in battle. As stated Enhancement Rings add special effects to an party member?s normal attack. The Aim Ring System determines how much strength the effect has during a normal attack. When attacking an enemy, using your normal attack, you will hold the right trigger. Holding the right trigger causes an outer ring to shrink in on the target ring. You want to release the right trigger when the outer ring overlaps the inner ring. You?ll receive a rating of Perfect, Good or Bad based on your performance. Get a perfect and you maximize the rings effect, but get a bad and rings effect will fail.

The typical RPG status ailments are all here during battles such as Paralyzed, Sleeping, Poisoned, Frozen, etc. All of these ailments can be cured using items in your inventory that you have purchased or found. You can cause these ailments on your opponents as well using various items, skills or spells as well. If all the members of your party are ?KO?ed? then you will be reverted to the last checkpoint. But you can revive individual characters during the battle. Immortal characters will revive themselves during battle after a duration of turns has passed or you can revive them with spells or items. Mortal characters can only be revived using items or spells.

Once a battle is over, you?ll get the Battle Results screen. This will show you experience you have gained, as well as any items obtained or skills learned. That?s the battle system in a nutshell. Again, nothing totally out of the ordinary, but its definitely a system that works well with this game.

You?ll travel over land and sea throughout this game battling enemies and revealing a great storyline as well. The world is vast, and as mentioned while somewhat linear in the end, each area has a lot of points to explore. Be sure to explore as much as you can to find new items, dreams and storylines. At times the story can beomce quite and emotional ride, and you'll find yourself having sympathy for the characters involved. A large part of that is once again due to the excellent work done in facial expression and display of actual feelings. There are a few mini games found throughout the game as well, such as one called the Music Box. You?ll spend many hours in this game if you want to experience everything it has to offer. Lost Odyssey spans 4 disks. For those worried about the switching of disks, have no fear. Switching disks does not take away or interfere with your game experience at all. Loading times were a concern among many before the retail version hit screens, but I am happy to say that the loading times between areas are mostly on the short side and acceptable. If you are looking for an standard turn-based RPG, then this game is most definitely for you. While it doesn?t offer anything hugely innovative, the story is well done making the game quite addicting. The battle system works well for the most part, and the enemies are a decent challenge as you progress further into the game. Check it out if you are interested in the RPG genre at all.

The game is great with a few minor flaws. Retail Packaging comes to mind first and foremost! Please find a different way to package multiple disc games. The Japanese received an actual case that had a spot for each of the discs, while the North American version had 3 discs piled on one another and 1 disc in a sleeve tucked on top of the manual. Make enemies visible within the world for easier leveling up abilities rather than running around hoping to find an enemy. Add character customization, upgradeable weapons and armor.

Overall: 7.8 / 10
Gameplay: 7.5 / 10
Visuals: 8.5 / 10
Sound: 7.5 / 10


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