Every gamecube owner who likes RPGs and is not put off by a card system should play Baten Kaitos.
Firstly, there is, like mentioned earlier, the story. The game lasted me for 70 hours, in which lots of things happened. The story is full of plot twists and happenings, keeping the game interesting for the time it lasted. Some of the ‘cut scenes’ in the game are very long (the ending is one hour), but since they don’t bore, they’re not very disturbing. Some of the things that happened were pretty weird though, and the main story is not a very realistic one, but that didn’t bother me. The voice acting is sometimes disturbing though. Many of the ‘little girls’ you’ll encounter have a horrible voice. Luckily the voices of the characters are not that bad, but it could’ve been better.
The game is an RPG, so it has the usual RPG elements of cities, forest and dungeons you’ll have to explore. The enemies you fight are not randomly encountered though. You’ll see them moving, and you’ll have to walk into them to start the fight, just like in Tales of Symphonia.
The battle system is what makes this game special. You’ll end up having 6 available characters, and you can use 3 of them in battle. You’ll probably use Kalas, one magic card user and another random character.
You’ll have a deck of 20 to 60 cards, which you can compile yourself by the cards you find or get after a battle. There are attack cards, which are unique for every character (except for the two magic users), defense cards, which come in different categories for different groups of characters (male/female and such), and you’ll have other cards for every character, such as healing items and other non-battle items to make Special Combos with. When you progress in the game, you’ll get better new cards, so you’ll have to adapt your deck all the time, a fun activity. There are a thousand cards in the game, so there’s a lot of adapting to do.
There are two phases of battle; one is the attacking part in and the other is the defensive part, and you’ll use the corresponding cards in these phases. Healing can only be done in attacking phase though. In a turn, you can use multiple cards. The amount of cards you can use is based on your Class, just like the amount of cards you get in your ‘Hand’. Your Class raises during the game, and you’ll eventually be able to use 9 cards in one attacking combo. When you’re fighting, you’ll have a limited time to choose the next card you’ll use in your combo. This gives the game a faster pace than normal turn-based RPG’s.
The special thing of the battle system, is that there are numbers on the cards, which can be used to make number combo’s to increase the damage given or health restored, or decrease the damage taken. You’ll be able to make ‘straights’ (1,2,3), ‘pairs’ (2,2), ‘three cards’ (8,8,8) and so on. The better this number combo, the higher the percentage of increasing or decreasing. Making these combos is especially fun in the end of the game, when you can make combo’s with 9 cards.
The damage you can deal and receive also depends on statistics like health, attack, defence and so on. These will increase by leveling up, and the level system is special too. You gain experience just like in any other RPG, but you’ll can choose to level up by ‘praying’ in a church. This leaves the challenging option to complete the game without gaining levels!
There are also Special Combos. They are combos involving non-battle cards. When you perform these, you’ll get new cards as a result of your combo. For instance, using a piece of wood as the first item, and then using a fire card, gives you a new ‘ashes’ card. There are 141 of these combos, but I only had a few since you’ll really have to put some effort into making them.
I’ve said a lot about the card system already now (maybe a bit too much, but there’s so much to tell about it), but there is still another mentionable thing: cards can change in time. For instance, when you start the game you’ll have ‘green bananas’, unripe bananas which you can use for attacking. After some time, they change into normal bananas to heal yourself. Some time later, they start to rot, and some time after that they are completely rotten. This can happen to many cards and it’s fun to see what cards have changed and what new cards you got.
So the story and the card battle system are good points, but there are other aspects of a game: graphics and sound. The graphics of the game are very good. You’ll walk around in static environments, but they are inspiring and well made. The sound is very good too. You’ll be humming some of the music when you’re not playing the game, and if there is a tune you’ll want to hear again, you can at any time choose it in the music list in your gathering. I hadn’t seen this option in a game before, but it’s a great add.
To summarize all this text, the good aspects of this game are the story which lasted me 70 hours, the very extensive card system, and the graphics and sound. That’s what a great game should have, and that is what makes this game great. Every gamecube owner who likes RPGs and is not put off by a card system should play Baten Kaitos, or they’ll miss out on this great experience. Eagerly awaiting Baten Kaitos II, I give the first a 9,6.