Saving the world with a deck of cards

User Rating: 7 | Baten Kaitos II: Hajimari no Tsubasa to Kamigami no Shishi GC
Baten Kaitos origins is the 2nd installment of the Baten Kaitos series, which tells the story before the events of Baten Kaitos: Eternal Wings and the Lost Ocean. You play as Sagi, a spiriter who will often turn to you, the "guardian spirit" for suggestions. Joining Sagi is his cyborg friend Guilo. The story takes place in Alfard, and you've enlisted in the dark service for vengeance on the empire's control over your hometown. Sagi work as Lord Baelheit's personal guard, and is assigned the duty to assassinate emperor Olgan. But as you make your move, it appears someone has already assassinated Olgan before you, and you end up taking the flame for the murder. Milliarde, a spunky girl who incentives remains a mystery, rescues you and joins your group. Sagi, Milly, and Guilo work together to clear their tarnished name, and to rebel the dark empire.

Right from the start, Baten Kaitos allows you to get a Feel for "Magnus cards" as you'll perform small duties to get a feel for them. Unlike other rpgs, you store equipment, items, attacks, and accessories on collectible cards. As you proceed through the game, you can interact with the environment and draw the essence onto your card. You can compose new card by mixing them together, complete numerous side-quest, defeat bosses, or by checking the surroundings in your environment. There's numerous ways to gather cards for your deck, and actively seeking them is enjoyable as the rewards are satisfying and helpful.

The battle system is the bread and butter of Baten Kaitos. it's a turn based combat system with a battle deck. You'll ultimately have a huge deck of cards, but they'll be separated as one will be used for quest and crafts, while the other is used only for battle purposes. Before you dive into battle, you can customize your deck and add whatever cards you have in your inventory into your battle deck. Once your into battle, your deck will be shuffled and cards will be drawn at random. You can equip weapons or armor, use items, boost up your MP (which ill get into later), or escape. Depending on what card you draw, you can use them, save them, or discard them for later. Attacking restrictly involves drawing attack cards in ascending order from 1-II-III. Attacking in this order allows you to build up MP to use Special attacks, which are IV-V-VI-VII.
It's a bit like playing "speed", you'll need to get your cards into increasing order, never decreasing order, to perform string combos and charge MP.

Adding to this intuitive battle system is the ability to perform "relay combos". To trigger a relay combo, you'll need two characters actively available for attacking. You'll need one character to perform a special attack ( a level 4 card or higher), and if you must have a weak attack (level 1 card) available for your next character to initiate a relay combo . You can pull off massive combos by chaining three characters combo strings together and momentarily stun or destroy your opponent. Of course, because relay combo is there doesn't necessary mean you should always use it. Cards are always drawn at random, therefore even if you have a very good deck, the outcomes of your combos are almost always luck.

Another neat addition to the battle system is the ability called "MP Burst". This is only available after reaching a certain level in your deck (by trading in your Technical Points earned from battle and trading them in at the cathedral). As your deck levels up, you can carry more cards, discard more unwanted cards, and charge MP at a faster rate. MP Burst is a lot like relay combos, you'll need a "weak attack" card for your other characters to Continue your string of combos, and they must also end their turn with a special attack. MP Burst allows you to use special attacks at no cost of MP, meaning you can string loads of special attacks at no cost. However, after the MP Burst is over, the MP meter remains inactive for a short period of time, thus certain items and spells cannot be used either. For the most part, MP Burst is your triumph card.

As difficult as the battle system may sound, its very intuitive and simple. The only problem that was annoying at times is the luck factor. Baten Kaitos is a hard game, and it requires level grinding. Even if you do have a strong deck, you'll spend a lot of time discarding unwanted cards in battle all while getting beaten down by the enemies. This is usually not a big problem but for boss battles during critical situations when you really needed that one card in your deck to save your hide, its devastating that luck plays a bigger role than skill and commitment. But of course, deck management requires trial and error, you'll need to manipulate your deck to raise the odds in your favor.

The story isn't epic but its passable, and it's a great prequel nonetheless. You'll appreciate it more if you played the previous installment. The pacing is slow at first, but midway it transcends with major plot-twist, key events, and memorable boss battles. There were many times when BK:origins would build up anticipation and tensity in key event sequences that would lead to redundant events. As much as I would like a long lasting RPG, spending hours backtracking to talk to a random NPC or fetching a monkey after a few key event sequences destroys the impact of the sequence and wears out the storyline.

The visuals are one of a kind. Its like exploring a hand-painted piece of art. Its beautiful, but it doesn't stand out. Areas are usually filled with lifeless NPC and pre-rendered backgrounds that shouts "look but don't touch". There are variety of enemies that look cool, and the in-game attack sequences look awesome and satisfying to pull off. Voice acting is superior to the original. Characters communicate with emotions and clarity, bringing out each unique (albeit cliché) personality. The music is really good, filled with soft beats of rock and mellow, it sets the mood and breaths life into the world.

Baten Kaitos: Origins is a decent rpg. The battle system is the decisive factor whether you'll like it or not. If you can't get into the battle system, you won't like the game. It takes 50-80 hours to complete, the perfectionist can squeeze out additional of gameplay. There are some annoying scripted boss battles that can lead to a dead game. You can restart a boss battle if u lose, and a save point is always available right before a boss battle. BK:Origins is one of the more difficult RPGS available in the market, players looking for some innovation or a good RPG should give this bargain big a spin. Players new to the series can also dive in as it's a prequel to the original. Its one of the better RPGs in the market and one worth trying out.