Oh Baten Kaitos, you are the Gamecube's underrated saving grace...
Lets start to tear it apart:
Gameplay: World: You basically move, climb, push, pull, talk, and...walk some more.
Battle: The battle system is very peculiar. I had the misfortune of starting out with Origins and getting aquainted with discard, move, and the like. I think I cried when I couldn't discard. But enough about that. I think that making all of your attacks, items, finishers and what not cards adds a nice element of strategy into the game, moreso than other games. You actually have to THINK your turn out before you act. Ok, example time. Lets say it's Lyude's turn. He has basic magnus (that's what the cards are called, incase you've not grasped that yet) to choose from: Attack, item, finisher, and defense cards. He can chain a certain amount of cards together which is dictated by his class level. At class level five, he cna have 50 cards in his deck, and he can have a combo of 6 cards. So he uses five basic attack cards, which range from items that have an offensive value to his various brass intruments (His weapon uses cards such as Magnum Cornet, why I'm not entirely sure of) And the last card he can use, if he has one available, is a finisher card. They generally require a certain amount of cards in the combo to become usable. So he finishes off with the Crecendo finisher. Complicated yes, but intersting nonetheless. Now he's being attacked. He has some defensive magnus in his deck. He can use them to well, defend against the attack. Elements come into play, as in he should use the element opposite of what the offense is using to halve the damage; using the same won't help you. The same goes for attack magnus. If you use water and fire in the same combo, they cancel each other out, lessening the offense you throw. (All of which I learned too late...)
Sheesh that was long...
Music: What can I say? It's MAGNIFICENT. I'm overjoyed with the ability to play the music in-game with a feature that creates a playlist of sorts with the music selections you've already heard. That just makes me veeery happy.
Plot: I don't know HOW they do it, but the plot is incredible. It has THE biggest plot twist that you'll NEVER expect...but I spoiled that before I got the game. But if I didn't, I'm sure I'dve had my jaw on the ground
Characters: Ok. Let's be honest. They really overdid the character designs. I mean that in a good way and a bad way. Good way: The detail on the characters is so well done that I bow down to them. I don't know how they did it, but I envy their skills as an artist. Bad way: In certain scenes where the main characters are with generic townspeople, you can't help but notice that they stand out. It's OBNOXIOUSLY apparent. I mean, Xelha is just so bodaciously pink that she's noticable from a mile away. I'm glad they toned down the palette in Origins.
Setting: The setting of the game is amazing. There's a huge variety in the places that you get to visit, from an ancient city covered with clouds to a quaint farming village.
Sound: Yes. They are speaking into cans. I know most people found it annoying, but I honestly didn't notice it anymore after say...getting halfway into the first disk. I think that it's rather interesting, since you are a spirit inside the body of Kalas, and you're hearing it from a third-person perspective INSIDE his body, rather than a third-person in a not-breaking-the-4th-wall game. The music, I have to say is just amazing. You honestly have to hear it to believe it. The themes, while re-used a bit, are incredibly composed. Mr. Sakuraba did an amazing job with the different feels and styles. From an upbeat "follow-me" on an outer dimensional trail, to the soft, solemn and magical forest in Sadal Suud. I often find myself listening to the soundtrack whenever I surf the interwebs. ^_^
Overall, the game is fun, challenging, and a really great way to spend a sleepless night. Some of the bosses may be a bit hard if you're not properly equipped, but the game allows you to re-try a boss and re-arrange the decks once you've gotten a bit of insight on how the boss ticks. It's a shame that this wasn't given the noteriety it deserved, because this is definetly one of the best games out there.