Lost Odyssey doesn't rewrite the rules for turn-based role-playing games, but its great story and minor formula tweaks will keep you entertained.
- Kaim is a great hero, and his supporting cast is equally appealing
- Text flashbacks are well written and emotionally gripping
- Spell and skill development is handled deftly.
- Protracted battle intros and other frustrations break up the pace
- Some nonbattle gameplay elements are boring, pointless, or needlessly frustrating.
Lost Odyssey doesn't push any role-playing game boundaries, though that won't come as a shock to anyone familiar with Mistwalker's previous game, Blue Dragon. However, in the case of the developer's newest effort, that isn't always a bad thing. Yes, there are times when it feels like more of a relic than it does a true next-generation game, particularly in light of the tweaks made by other modern Japanese RPGs such as Persona 3 and Eternal Sonata. Yet while it may borrow liberally from the genre's older gems, Lost Odyssey is a game worth playing, most notably for its fascinating story and its brooding protagonist, Kaim.
Kaim, along with several other characters in Lost Odyssey, is immortal, though the origin of his immortality is left purposefully unclear at the outset of the game. It's hard to get a handle on Kaim at first; he's the strong, silent type, the prototypical moping hero with a soulful scowl and a deep well of unfathomable secrets. The game takes its time with his character development, but as information slowly unfolds, it's hard not to empathize with his internal struggles. But he doesn't struggle alone, and Lost Odyssey doesn't neglect the rest of its fascinating cast. Lady pirate Seth, kind queen Ming, the noble Tolten, and several others provide ample companionship, and their lives intersect in some surprising--and not so surprising--ways. It's a serious tale, but comic relief is plentiful, and most of it comes from inadvertent spy Jansen, a flamboyant ladies' man who manages to be both annoying and irresistibly charming.
Lost Odyssey is about its characters, not about its plot. In fact, the main story follows a more or less predictable path, pitting you against a villain you spend half the game knowing very little about. No, it's about self-discovery and the timelessness of the relationships we develop. Kaim and his immortal companions unlock memories during the course of the game, and they are presented in simple but effective sequences in which the memory is recounted via stylized text, accompanied by pretty static images and subtle music cues. It makes for a good amount of reading, but if you skip past these memories, you will miss the game's most touching and heartfelt moments. The main story doesn't often reach those same heights, and a good number of the game's countless cutscenes ramble aimlessly and end up feeling like filler. Yet Lost Odyssey's concluding hours, as predictable as they are, make you feel, and that alone makes this a saga worth experiencing.
This yarn takes place in a fully realized fantasy world in the midst of revolution both political and magical. On your journey you'll certainly see your share of clichéd caves and forests, but there are plenty of beautiful vistas to behold: rocky seaside cliffs, looming castles swarming with mysterious spirits, and portside towns with colorful cobbled streets. Lost Odyssey's art design clicks, from Kaim's lazy strand of hair to detailed enemy-character models. The depth-of-field blurring that stuck out in Blue Dragon is used more subtly and to greater effect here, particularly during the game's most dramatic scenes. On the technical side, the game isn’t quite as strong. The framerate is inconsistent, and the game hitches noticeably during gameplay and cutscenes, even during onscreen events that wouldn’t seem to tax the Unreal 3 engine, such as the map overview that occurs prior to region transitions. You will also experience some loading times between areas and before cutscenes, and while they are semi-frequent, they aren’t excessively long.
Thankfully, the game is an aural delight, and it owes a lot to its pretty soundtrack. Some of the soundtrack is predictable, like the Final Fantasy-tinged battle music, although that’s not too surprising when you consider that the score was created by longtime FF composer Nobuo Uematsu. Still, many of the tracks are standouts. In particular, the atmospheric strains played during unlocked memories are wonderfully moody and match the text perfectly. The English voice acting isn't bad, and Jansen, Ming, and Kaim are particularly well voiced. On the other hand, Mack and Cooke are acted with the usual hyperactive hamming that child characters so often fall victim to. Regardless, there are other language options, so if you'd rather listen to the original Japanese voice cast, you have the alternative.