Good modern RPG with many tradtional traits

User Rating: 8.7 | Baten Kaitos: Eternal Wings and the Lost Ocean GC
When Baten Kaitos: Eternal Wings and the Lost Ocean (Baten Kaitos for the rest of this review) was released, I found myself having some reservations about purchasing the game after reading some information about it from other sources. I decided to go ahead and try the game out anyways, and boy am I ever glad that I did, because Baten Kaitos is an outstanding RPG, and along with “Skies of Arcadia” the best traditional role-playing game available for the Gamecube. The game is very traditional in nature, in that there is not an over-abundance of cinematic sequences, and therefore it feels like a purist videogame and not a game/movie hybrid, and I definitely prefer the former personally. The story is interesting and at times very enthralling, however it does start out a little slow for the first four hours or so, yet there are other game aspects that will keep you entertained until that point which I will cover throughout this review. The story and background plot really pick up nicely and there is one particular twist that nobody will see coming, I was very impressed to say the least. There are times when the common dialogue is less than interesting, but there some amusing moments to be found also so this pretty much remains in balance, I found the characters in general to be very like-able. One major annoyance that I had with the game were some of the in-game cut-scenes that featured some pretty tedious voice-acting, I don’t count this against the game however since there is the option to turn the voices during these segments off, which I promptly took advantage of, the segments in question will be sped-up considerably this way also. Baten Kaitos is a pretty long game, about 50-60 hours depending on skill level and whether the player chooses to complete optional but important side-quests, the overall difficulty is average for the most part, the opposition is formidable at times, however the experienced RPG gamer will cruise through the game with only a moderate amount of resistance.

Game-play/Play-Mechanics: First thing to mention is the battle system, it truly is unique to this game and once the player is familiar with the basics the battle engine becomes highly addictive. The game uses cards as a means of attack, defense, and item use; however this does not control like a traditional card game, the feel of the battle system is still very much like that of a traditional RPG with a few innovations. You can potently chain appropriate cards, up to nine of them, by numerical property, elemental effects, and also combo them with a super-attack. It really is difficult to fully detail because there are a lot of nuances within the battle system however the game does a god job of bringing the player along gradually, once the player becomes proficient some seriously impressive combinations and damage can be dealt out. Defense is also handled in a similar way while the adversary is attacking, and items can be chained and also combined during battle to increase potency. There are a lot of possibilities with the Baten Kaitos battle engine and it was always a fresh experience. One nitpick gamers and media seem to have is that useable cards will not always present themselves when needed and can disrupt a turn. There is that randomness to the game and I actually like this aspect of the game, it keeps one alert and stimulated, always figuring out ways to adjust and react in a short period of time, and after a while being good at will begin to feel like a skill of some sort, I really can’t say that for most RPG’s. The opponents also have to play by the same rules as the player so all is fair. Speaking of opponents, there are some seriously epic boss battles to be found in this game, encounters that the gamer will reflect on fondly years after completion.

The characters are quite varied, interesting, and all worth becoming familiar with, although I definitely favor Xelha over any of the others. The game-progression is very cool also, with the different islands in the sky to visit and explore, there is not a lack of things to do and see, that is for sure. Earning money has a different approach, as the player is required to take pictures of enemies during battle, allow the pictures to develop through passage of time, and sell them to the shop in town. Other item cards also change over time, and can also be combined with other cards, like a recipe if you will, to create new usable items, there are just tons of possibilities to explore, but if a player doesn’t want to deal with all of that then just a few good recipe’s are more than sufficient. In summary, even after completing this game, I still went back for more to continue to just build up my characters since the game is so much fun to play and there is so much relevant customization.

Visuals/Artwork: One word will best describe the over-world graphics in this game: Pristine! Every last area of the game is an undeniably beautiful sight to behold, very impressive that such great artwork was maintained throughout so many different environments. These are no doubt some of the best visuals that you will ever find on the Gamecube, and the phenomenal artwork will easily stand the test of time. The battle visuals are also pretty good, not quite the beauty of the over-world, but the special attacks are all well-executed and fun to watch and the character models are pretty good as well. Whenever I think about gorgeous-looking games, Baten Kaitos is definitely one that frequently comes to mind.

Music/Sound: The music is extremely well-done, both in the areas of production-quality and arrangement-writing. There is a very nice mixture of styles, and some very impressive compositions, just listen to the acoustic guitar ocean-port town music (Bellflower) to confirm. My personal favorite, being a lover of hard melodic guitar-driven rock is one of the tunes used for the bosses. (Vitriolic a stroke) The other heavy boss tune (The True Mirror-Guitar Version) is also worth mention. Even the styles that I am not normally inclined to like (Chaotic Dance) are very competently executed. One of the primary climatic arrangements (Journey of Glittering Stars) used for important story sequences and moments of success is very good at oozing feelings of emotion into the game, and many of the softer pieces make outstanding use of the violin and piano. The character voice-overs for the battle sequences do add quite a bit to the overall effect and impact and help to give the characters some personality.