Baten Kaitos Origins is a great RPG and a big improvement over the original.

User Rating: 8.5 | Baten Kaitos II: Hajimari no Tsubasa to Kamigami no Shishi GC
Baten Kaitos Origins is one of the better games for the Gamecube, heck, even solid title overall from the last gen. If you played the previous Baten Kaitos and liked it, then you'll love this game. With an improved battle system, less-linear gameplay, new lands and people, huge improvement in voice work and leveling, with some of the same great graphics and music, there's really nothing BAD about this game.

----------Battle System----------
Baten Kaitos is a turn based RPG that uses cards as weapons, spells and armor. The battle system is completely different than the previous Baten Kaitos. In the last game, all of your characters had their own decks, which took alot of time to micromanage. In this game, everyone uses the same deck, which makes things a little more difficult in a way because you'll get a bunch of cards a character can't use, but it offers some strategy to the game aswell.

The system is still more different as well, because you have to set up your cards in order to get a good combo attack. For an example, to start off your combo, you can throw down a "Weapon" or "Armor" card, this will boost your attack or defense. The following cards are your attack combos, which are label as 1-Weak, 2-Medium, or 3-Strong. If you hit atleast one of those, then you can use a Special attack but you need "Levels" to pull these special attacks off. The more combos you pull off, the more levels you get during a battle.

Ok, there's even more to it than that. After you pull off a single characters combo, you can pull off a "Relay Combo", which starts another combo with another character, creating a double or ultimately a triple character combo, making a massive attack overall. While this all sounds a bit difficult to understand in written text, once you jump in, the game is so easy to understand. This is such an improved system over the first one.

Now for even better news, after you defeat a group of monsters, you gain experience, money, and technical points. They got rid of the camera/taking pictures thing from the last game (thank god) and actually have shops that carry stuff worth buying. When you gain experience points, you can actually gain a level right then and there, which eliminates rushing back to the Cathedral to level up ala Dragon Warrior that was so dated and an overall annoyance. The Technical points is new (I think), and once you gather enough of those you can travel to the Cathedral through the Blue save Flower and rise your card deck class. Raising your deck class will boost the amount of cards you can carry in a deck at a time, and how many cards you can discard at a time.

Theres a ton of sidequests in this game too, and they keep track of them for you, so you can check the ones you did and didn't do. Another good thing about this game is the fact that you can travel between islands with ease without feeling trapped, so you can tackle and sidequest you want.

The dungeons and fields aren't very long, some short as 2 screens, but they offer enough enemies, puzzles and blocks to keep you in the dungeon for a while.

----------Characters / Story----------
Baten Kaitos Origins takes place 20 years in the past before the first Baten Kaitos, so you will be visiting most of the same towns, islands, and even some of the same people from the first game. This is a neat idea and if you've played the first Baten Kaitos (which I would recommend to play that before you play Origins) then you'll get a better sense who these people are, and how they became who they are in the first Baten Kaitos. Since it takes place 20 years in the past, you won't be seeing much of Kalas, Mizuti or Xelha since they weren't born yet, but Gibari and Savyna make important appearances, along with Giacomo, Geldoblame and many other characters. You'll even learn the origins of Malpercio and the War of the Gods.

In Baten Kaitos Origins, you play as Sagi, a Spirter. YOU play as the Guardian Spirit, which is still the most annoying aspect of these games, but you get over it. As Sagi's Guardian Spirit, you get to choose lines of dialog, but the point is to agree with what Sagi will say, so you should pick the most positive dialog. Later in the game you get to choose more important dialog that will change the events in the game.

Guillo is Sagi's best friend and protector. Guillo is a robot that talks in a weird mix of overdubbed male / female voice overs, which works out pretty well. Guillo was found by Sagi as a child and doesn't know of 'her' history.

Milly is a tag along spoiled girl that escaped with Sagi and Guillo while they're on the run. She is always at conflict with Guillo and tries to befriend Sagi as much as possible.

The game starts with Sagi and Guillo, who are rookie members of the an Elite group of mercenaries owned by Lord Baelheit. Their first task is to assassinate the current Emperor Olgan. As they enter is estate and prepare to take out their task, someone beat them to the punch and finish the job before them, but they get blamed for the murder and are on the run from the Empire. With the Emperor dead, the Empire goes through an election to find the new Emperor.

The character models are rendered in 3D while the backgrounds within the towns and dungeons are in 2D, with the occasional CGI sprite flickering. You have to move your character across this plain fields, like moving a character across a painting. This is pretty similar to many PS1 RPGs like Final Fantasy, Legend of Dragoon, Chrono Cross and loads of others that used this technique. So there's no camera control at all within these screens, but the camera will follow your character left, right up or down the screens. The biggest problem I have with the still screens is there's also no zooming, so if the camera is WAAAY back, then your character is about the size of an ant, and you might have trouble seeing stuff.

Compared to the first game, the graphics are about the only thing that haven't improved. I mean, in some spot's it has improved, like the monsters are rendered alot better and are bigger, and the special attacks are ALOT better, but the towns are basically the same. The opening cutscene is short and uses a weird, paper cut out puppet style of animation, which is cool and artful, but compared to the opening scene in the first it seems a little poor. I like that they use 3D animation in some important dialog scenes that require action, but they just use the battle engine to render the graphics, and it looks choppy and the backgrounds look like crap.

The music is plain and simple amazing, but there's alot of reused tunes from the first game, or slightly modified versions of them. Heck I think the Giacomo theme is an improvement. I loved the music to the first game, so I can't really fault anything here, except for the reused songs of the first game.

The biggest change from the first game to this one is the HUGE improvement over the voice work. Not only has the sound improved, from the echo-y tin can sound, to a more natural sound in the voices, but the voice acting is also an overall improvement, and it's some of the better voice work I've heard in an RPG in a long time aswell.

----------World Map----------
The world map is a connecting dots map, similar to Final Fantasy Tactics, or even more similar to Blazing Heroes but no one has played that. The world consists of various floating islands, and inside each island are ports, towns, fields and dungeons. The only difference between a Final Fantasy Tactics styled map and Baten Kaitos map is the ability to manually walk from town to dungeon. There's no monsters or really anything to be found on the maps, so manually walking is almost pointless.

If you walk into a new dungeon you have to go inside of it, but once you made it through the dungeon for the first time you may walk right over the dungeon for quicker transportation. You can save anytime on the world map aswell.

While the first Baten Kaitos was very linear and confined within each island with little chance to move from island to island within your own choosing, Baten Kaitos Origins has much more freedom in backtracking if you want work on sidequests, plus using a blue save flower you can not only go to the cathedral to upgrade your deck, you can go to a Colosseum to battle and to a sidequest town to build.

----------Time to Complete Game----------

I fought the final boss(es) at the 47 hour even mark, so the rest of that time is end sequences and credits and the final scene, which is cool. So the ending is big and worth watching. After you beat the game you get a New Game+ by carring over your "Gathering".