Baten Kaitos Impressions

We take a look at Namco's upcoming card-battle role-playing game at Tokyo Game Show 2003.


Namco had its upcoming GameCube card-battle role-playing game, Baten Kaitos, on display at Tokyo Game Show 2003. The game seems to have unusual gameplay mechanics and a decidedly unorthodox art style.

The Baten Kaitos demo at Namco's booth focused mainly on the game's battle sequences. The battles in Baten Kaitos are based on cards, but the rules are simple and seem to play a bit like poker. The cards belong to one of seven different elements, such as earth, wind, or fire, which seem to act like traditional playing-card "suits," like spades or hearts in a deck of playing cards. Likewise, a card's element can be determined immediately from its artwork, and each has a number stamped on its corner, just like traditional playing cards. By picking up a number of cards and creating a poker-style hand such as a flush made of elements (all fire cards, for example) or a straight made with numbers (card numbers one through five, for example), you can inflict additional damage to your enemies or reduce the damage you sustain from them. You can also create a combination of hands to get an even better advantage over your enemies. For instance, a set of all wind cards that includes two ones, two twos, and two threes is even more effective than a normal straight or flush. As your characters grow stronger over the course of the game, their maximum number of selectable cards increases.

Interestingly, Baten Kaitos doesn't have any standard battle menu; the game instead places a selection of six cards at the bottom of the screen. You perform just about every action in the game, even using items or fleeing from battle, by picking cards. At the beginning of each character's turn, you choose two cards, and then you pick a few more cards in real time while each character goes off to attack the enemy. If the cards you draw contain a special hand, you'll inflict more damage than usual. The result of your hands and damage will be shown on the screen after each character's turn. In a similar fashion, you can decrease the damage you receive from your enemies by choosing cards such as helms and armors while your enemies attack on their turns, and making a special hand out of these cards will reduce the damage you sustain.

The game's cards also seem to have a few other interesting properties, Some cards change over time, like the ice card, which becomes a water card after a while. Cards can also be combined with each other to create new cards. In example, you can combine a fire magic card with a fish card, to create a new fried fish card.

In terms of graphics, Baten Kaitos' environments and battle screens seem reminiscent of those of Square Enix's recent RPG, Final Fantasy X. Even though the game has more than 1,000 cards, each card has its own unique artwork. Baten Kaitos also supports Dolby Surround ProLogic II audio. Baten Kaitos is scheduled for release in December 5, at the retail price of 6,800 Yen in Japan.

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