Today at TGS, we were able to sit down with Hironobu Sakaguchi, famed creator of Final Fantasy and producer of Blue Dragon, to take an updated look at his latest Xbox 360 RPG, Lost Odyssey. While the game isn't going to reach North American shores until early next year, it's currently expected to ship in Japan before the end of the year, so what we saw was a game that was nearing the end of its development cycle.
If you haven't been following our coverage of Lost Odyssey, it follows the story of Kaim, one of a very small number of immortal men and women who live alongside normal mortals. Given that Kaim is over 1,000 years old, he's obviously been around the block a few hundred times, but as the events of the game approach, he finds himself swept up into the political upheaval that erupts between his world's three main kingdoms as they all proceed toward a simultaneous magical/industrial revolution. As with Blue Dragon, Lost Odyssey is shaping up to be quite a large game, with 40 or 50 hours of gameplay that'll have to be spread across four DVDs.
More details of the combat system were revealed in this latest look at the game, including the precision aiming system. In the game's menu, you can equip onto each character one of around 150 combat rings that you'll be able to find around the game world. These rings have a variety of power levels and elemental affinities. If a character is wielding a fire-based weapon, you can match him or her up with a fire-based combat ring for a little extra oomph. During combat, you can use these rings by holding the right trigger while attacking. If you do so, you'll see two large rings appear on the screen, the larger of which will quickly shrink to overlap with the smaller. If you let go of the switch just as the two rings overlap, you'll be able to execute a more powerful attack than you normally would.
Another new system involves the manner in which powerful characters can protect the weaker party members. As in other RPGs, this is represented by having the powerful melee characters stand in front of the weaker magicians and ranged characters. However, there's also a meter in the upper right-hand corner of the screen that indicates how well the forward characters are protecting the rear guard, which apparently goes up as the forward characters take and deal damage, and drops as the rear characters take damage. It's unclear precisely how the system works, but it seems that the higher the meter goes, the more effective the protection is, which presumably lessens the damage the weaker characters take. Sakaguchi claims that this system is inspired by the MMORPG concept of tanking, wherein heavily armored characters attempt to take damage and distract enemies from weaker characters.
Apart from the combat mechanics, we saw a few new cinematics and areas during the demo. As befitting a game from the man who created Final Fantasy, many of these were gritty industrial areas, where high technology and magic uneasily melded. At one point, Kaim and the rest of the main characters in the game (they numbered six or seven) were trapped on a huge platform that was collapsing into the ocean. After they escaped by jumping to a ship that appeared below, they were accosted by a group of six wizards that called themselves "The Darkness." They're apparently evil and completely unaware of trademark law, but although they attacked with powerful magic, Kaim and his group managed to dispatch them after casting numerous flashy spells.
As we mentioned, Lost Odyssey won't be arriving in the U.S. until after the New Year, but it already has a full English voiceover. Oddly enough for a Japanese RPG, the characters are being lip-synched to the English voices instead of the Japanese. However, if you prefer to hear the Japanese voices, both tracks will be available on the disc (or discs, rather), and you'll also be able to select subtitles for the Japanese voices. You can expect GameSpot to have more coverage of the game as it nears its American release date, so stay tuned.