If you are looking for a good story teller with heart-touching music and traditional gameplay, Lost Odyssey is the answer.
What's good: A variety of beautiful and memorable places to visit; Saccharine soundtrack; Traditional-old-school gameplay takes you back to the good o' days.
And the bad: Frequent and lengthy loading draws you away from the story; noticeable visual glitches and bugs; Limited features.
My Score: 8.5
Remember back in the days when memorable RPGs are created? So marvelous that makes you want to play it again and again, even it means the 5th time you're playing it and overheat your console. Now you don't have to dig out the gadgets from your storeroom again, because Lost Odyssey will take you back to the past and experience the long forgotten warmth in gaming.
The invention of magic power has changed the world. Eventually, this power had lead to war between two nations: Uhra and Gohtza. The royal house of Uhra then decided to build a magic engine called Grand Staff. This engine was initially built to unite all magic powers, but during the construction, they came to realize that the Staff requires an amount of magic power so great, which it had lead a meteor down to the world. Ground-zero is battlefield of both nations, and no one survived the crash…except for Kaim Argonar, known as the Immortal.
The royal house of Uhra immediately halted the construction of that magic engine and sent Kaim to investigate. From here, Kaim's journey to solve his 1000 years old mystery begins, and soon, he finds that he is not the only Immortal…but there are 4 others.
Lost Odyssey's gameplay stand no difference with any other Japanese RPG. You'll mainly take control of Kaim, the Immortal, together with another 8 companions and fight your way to the end. When controlling, you will have three types of movement: Walk, run and sprint. By pressing different button on the controllers will change Kaim's moving speed.
There's a new feature called Zoom added in the gameplay. As you walk, pressing RT will cause your default camera to zoom in closer, roll the Right Stick to navigate. This is useful as it to see clearly what's located on the other side of the bridge before risking your HP.
You'll have some mini games to play with, but they're pretty simple and blend that aren't worth mentioning; such as lighting up torches, escape from the area before time runs out and some other similar ones. However, the Auction game is a good additional feature to spend some time on. It is fun to bid with NPCs for rare items.
A great proof of what Unreal Engine 3 can do. The game has lively colors and crisp character models; they are so good, that will make us engrossed till the end. Focus effect is also introduced here, the thing that make distant ambience blur and turns clearer to where your character stands.
Surprisingly, Lost Odyssey discriminates actual gameplay graphics and movie graphics. Like what you've seen in last generation consoles, when it comes to action scenes, the graphics becomes better and stimulating.
Nobuo Uematsu never failed us for bringing great music is gaming, at least not this one. There's a wide variety of music composed for each different places, scenes and boss battles; hence, there won't be such thing as repetitive (except for normal battles, which uses the same music for the whole game). If you've read my previous comments, then you'll know just the music itself can cause 'bitter' to the scenario.
The English dubs are recorded pretty well, most of the voice actors have successfully portrayed the character's identity and behavior; which the Japanese dub failed to do so. The game doesn't have the best English translation script, but much better than other JRPG, so it's acceptable.
So you walk around mountains and dungeons, and suddenly the screen flashes with couple of magic rings. What you are going to know next, you've engaged a battle with monsters.
As you might already know from all those preview videos out there, the game uses turn-base system, very similar to Blue Dragon. Each character will have 5 battle commands: Attack, skill, magic, item and defend. If you push left, you can change your equipments, rearrange party formation or escape. When commands have been given to all, both sides take turn to attack. Character who selected Item will usually go first; attack comes in second and magic, last.
It's is crucial on how you set up the battle team. A team can only have 5 members, and divided into front and back. The front characters are usually strong ones, who act as a shield to protect those who stand behind. How strong you can stand to protect the weak ones is indicated by your GC-level.
There are four GC-level with its points. When you take damage from enemy, you'll lose GC points, and when its deducted to a certain amount, GC level will drop and weaker the barrier becomes; hence, your characters at the back will suffer more damage when being attacked. For example, you have 10,000 GC points at level 4, you take 2000 damage from enemy, and that deducts to 80,000 GC points and level becomes 3; so now your characters in the back will suffer 1000 damage from enemy instead of 500.
Now, the game is made into such a way that, player must think carefully before they input any command in battle; One careless act will cause your entire team wiped out. This applies specifically in Boss battles. Sometimes Boss battles are so frustrating, that it will make you give up the game instantly. However, with proper formation and tactics, you can easily win the fight even without training.
As for spells, there are only 4 of them: Black Magic for inflicting elemental damage; White Magic for healing and defending; Curse for status change; and Combine Magic for combination of powerful magic.
At the end of every battle you will receive experience, money, item and SP (skill points). SP are needed for Immortals to permanently master a skill, either from a human character or items; which I will explain later.
Unfortunately, there aren't any monsters you can summon. All you can do is to perform a normal attack, magic attack or item attack. Also, don't put your hopes high when character HP is low, as there won't be limit attack (a.k.a. Limit Break, Over Drive) to aid you - thumbs down for this.
Now this is the part where you will get really disappointed.
Leveling is the heart of RPG. Here, each character will have a maximum of 99 levels, and each level requires 100 experience points to move up to the next. A single battle only allows you to acquire one level, so even if you defeated the toughest enemy, you will still gain a level in the end. On the other hand, you couldn't stick at one place to train, because you will begin to receive a ridiculous experience of 1-5 points. Henceforth, you need to proceed on.
All characters will have only 3 equipments: Weapon, Ring and Accessory. Equipping certain items will benefit that character with new skills and status change. Such as increase attack damage, resist against poison, auto-barrier and many more.
Ring, comes real handy in battle. Each Ring has its own effect; it can either boost attack power, or apply an attribute/effect to your weapon. Performing a normal attack with Ring equipped, you can increase your damage by holding RT when the character is running towards its enemy. This will trigger a ring on the screen to zoom into a second one, when both rings meet, release RT. Doing so will result in either Bad, Good or Perfect; thus the damage will be effected.
Immortal characters won't learn new skill by leveling; only human characters will. So what you can do is to let Immortals learn from human or Accessories. Linking skills to an Immortal doesn't mean you can use it immediately, but you must first fill up Skill Point (SP) gauge to master it. After you've fulfilled the SP required, then you're allowed to equip that skill permanently.
Loading makes your crazy:
The thing that will piss us all is the extremely lengthy load times which makes you wait and wait and…bored. It almost took 20 seconds to load the title screen, 20-30 seconds for battle, and sometimes a minute for just 20 seconds of cinematic movie. So it often causes me to recall what happened back in the last scene to continue watching. However, I've received reports saying that some players can read the disc pretty smooth and takes two times lesser to load. It may also depends on the disc you get and your Xbox 360.
There are some visual glitches but they aren't obvious. But sometimes you'll feel like your character is separated from the ground, like it doesn't blend in really well with the environment - need some fine tuning here.
'Final Fantasy Killer?' & Closing Comments:
There isn't anything else to play with in the game, apart from fighting and doing some repetitive side quests. Things like cards, mini car race, gamble, pet will never appear in the game. They are all replaced with too much cinematic scenes, hence it eaten up most of the space and left peanuts for additional fun.
Reason why it took me so long to write this is because I often find myself comparing Final Fantasy Series to Lost Odyssey. Personally I don't think this is fair. Final Fantasy is a long-running franchise for over 20 years. They came through many obstacles, difficulties, and hold a lot of experience in making RPG. However Mistwalker is a newly born and small game development company that has yet to become independent and have a tilt in RPG game.
However, with such powerful graphics, music and enjoyable battle, I would say they have done a fantastic job. Thumbs up, again.