Lost Odyssey offers traditional RPG gameplay, but minor tweaks help it stand out as an excellent Xbox 360 RPG.
Release Date: February 12, 2008
Platforms: Xbox 360
JustRPG Score: 92%
+In depth skill system
-Slow paced, clunky out of combat gameplay.
-Mediocre voice acting.
Lost Odyssey Overview
Lost Odyssey is a an RPG that seems to be based on the ‘steampunk’ movement in science fiction. Players are introduced to a lush world where magic and technology are harnessed together to improve the lives of the people who populate the world. Sadly, an evil group has set out to harness the magical technology in an attempt to build weapons of mass destruction and conquer the world. Players set out to defeat them and restore peace.
Lost Odyssey Screenshots
Lost Odyssey Featured Video
Lost Odyssey Review
Before we start, I feel I should make one thing clear. Make no mistake about it, in its heart of hearts, and despite an artfully crafted and most beautiful sheen for this the next-generation of consoles, Lost Odyssey is old school. Though it is definitely polished with care and luster, with graphics to die for carefully melded with a typical epic-powerful story, this title’s underlying code may just have well been encoded onto an eprom chip and inserted into a dull-gray plastic cartridge for insertion into any number of 8-bit generation consoles. But please don’t mistake this definition as being a negative thing, as it is not. Hironobu Sakaguchi’s latest foray into the genre he masterfully helped define evokes pure class, and this master has colluded with other figures such as legendary composer Nobuo Uematsu and famed manga artist Takehiko Inoue in bringing this masterpiece to life. And Lost Odyssey is, without doubt or second-thought, a masterpiece.
The opening of Lost Odyssey drops us into the game feet first, in the midst of fighting on a vast battlefield as two great armies undertake epic combat. So we are introduced to our protagonist, the immortal Kaim, with whom should you choose to accept the challenge laid out by Sakaguchi, you will be spending many an hour.
And where better to start than with a gentle introduction to the melee system of this game, as the enemy forces teach us the fundamentals of turn-based combat, which as you can guess from the opening paragraph of this review, are flavoured with a twist of the sharpest JRPG styling. Think of almost every turn-based JRPG you’ve ever played, and you have the exact idea of what’s going on here, with only the barest of tweaks being with a judgment-ring (think Shadow Hearts) adding bonuses to weapon-based combat and a number of special abilities a la carte. The implementation of the ring system is well executed, and whereas having the odd finger-slippage-causing ring mis-hit in Shadow Hearts could end up having more severe damage consequences, in Lost Odyssey, it simply means that you miss a slighter bonus to damage dealt, rather than more severe punishments that could heavily alter the outcome of an encounter.
The tide of battle turns completely when a cataclysmic event sees Kaim as the lone survivor on a now-desolate battlefield that just seconds before cloyed with the heaving armies of two furious continents (and just as we were starting to have fun). So Kaim, with a thirst for answers to a multitude of questions (and no doubt a ringing in his ears) departs the field of combat to seek resolution, and so begins the main body of the game.
Much of the game’s story deals with the unknown background of Kaim and the fellow immortals that he encounters on his travels, and who share with him a sense of lost identity and ultimately purpose. Driven onward through a series of quests and the random battles normal to this type of game, the team try and find the explanations.
An interesting story-telling mechanic, whereby Kaim gradually reclaims these memories of his life, is utilized in Lost Odyssey via the rendering of tales told, quite literally written across the screen as you play. These vignettes, or dreams as the game refers to them, are often triggered by Kaim’s visiting a location he has visited in the past, and they really do add an excellent sense of canon to the world. Through these often melancholic but always touching snippets imbued with parable-like parameters comes one of the strongest senses of story put across in a game that I have played to date, though I fear it may be missed by many due to the nature of Lost Odyssey’s more niche appeal.
It is soon clear that whilst the style of this game is in no way mold-breaking, what more so determines the quality of Lost Odyssey amongst its peers in the Japanese-turn-based collective is a high-caliber battle system, and as that unwinds, a host of convincing and well-formed characters. Ah yes, as hinted at by the title, there is a fairly heavy-hitting roster of creative talent, and the musical score and artistic influence are pretty amazing, too. That means fluid and gorgeous graphics and a tale of fairly complex means which unwraps with accompanying epic score.
So how does it really play? With surprising freshness and challenge. As you navigate the map from start in the first city of Uhra, the seek-and-find mechanics of any JRPG title are reinforced, and it becomes clear that to reap the fullest rewards off of the battlefield, you will be spending a fair amount of time collecting and utilizing the hidden treasures of various value that are littered across the globes, in pots scattered this way and that, behind posters, in cracks and crevices, and at the bottom of the sea. You get the idea. But far from being a tedious thing, it encourages you to look everywhere in this rich world that has been crafted, and it is not just for your character’s wealth or their statistical combat-based benefit that you do this, but also for more information about the story itself.
The characters you enlist on your adventure are varied in traits as one might expect, from one extreme to another (sometimes) annoying extreme.
But enough of the story (for now), as with many games that can be a more personal experience that you may or may not wish elucidated upon. A little bit more information on the battle-system and nature of the opponents which you face on your challenge around the world might help you realize whether this title is one for your catalog of games or whether it’s a mere rental (or forbid, a complete pass).
As mentioned, the battle system utilized a ring-based system for the effectiveness of a character’s melee attack. This works well and encourages a little more attention to be paid to the nature of the battle that you are fighting. There are characters who work best when they utilize magical attacks, and for these characters (and melee characters who may use magic from time to time) the ring-system is temporarily suspended as the more fixed nature of magical damage is taken into play. The system for magic works using an elemental basis (fire vs. water), as well as a few more interesting combination using poison, darkness and light as the game progresses. Again, this makes for some interesting combination which can be coupled with a decent character skill advancement and learning system. This can be fully realized as your ‘immortal’ characters are able to learn all skills available in the game, via equipping items and/or learning directly from mortal-party members to whom they are tied and with whom they must fight alongside in battle. This can bring interesting changes to what might normally be an effective combination used in battles, as you try different combination of characters and items to level up your team as best you can. Whereas in similar games you might simply find a killer combination which you have no need to change at all, Lost Odyssey’s battle approach encourages experimentation to try new and different things on the field.
I also feel it appropriate to mention that this game doesn’t force grinding in the way that might normally be expected from a JRPG title. However it does reward smart thinking in regards to equipment, in that a few battles early on and later in the game really do get quite difficult. In fact, I must be honest and say that the second boss battle I came to early in the game was the most difficult I had played in any RPG title to date. This was not a bad thing in that it forced me to open my eyes to the different set of tactics and ensured I was using my character’s skillset to the fullest by equipping items and learning from them for my characters. This non-patronising method is a rare thing indeed in a title amongst games that nowadays lay everything at a player’s feet, from literal path-painting directing a character from one place to another, to over simplistic combat and tactics. But then, this all goes to add some burden to the body of evidence which supports this as being a lot more old school than many other titles out there today.
The mobs that you face are varied, and with the smallest sprinkling of re-used monster models and high standards of artist creation, there is little to bore your eye in the battles. Graphical and attack effects are as you might expect from the game, though as you near the end and the optional end-bosses become available, there really are valid challenges for the more achievement-hungry.
To conclude, I want to mention a few things. There are very few (in the West at least) RPGs of a traditional turn-based flair. Some consider this a natural evolution of the genre, which for some time has seen movement into action-based RPG mechanics (think Tales of Series) away from the more traditional turn-based systems that I, for one, have enjoyed and still do. There are, of course, remakes galore of turn-based classics available on handhelds and virtual consoles, but far few games still doing what Lost Odyssey does and sets out to do so admirably well.
It is clearly a passionate endeavor, and some amount of effort has gone into this game. Story, characters, artwork, score, direction – the production values of this title are superb. I genuinely felt for the characters whose lives I was guiding and directing, in however minor a way, through trials and tribulations galore. I didn’t feel patronizing, neither was I bored when playing through the game, with mechanics unique enough to have left a lasting impression.
It was also genuinely challenging at times, especially early on in the game, enough so that you knew this wasn’t going to be a walk-over in the way that many turn-based RPGs can be. Given these factors and the unique sense with which Mistwalker imbue their games (call it a factor X if you will) this game really was magical – no – mystical. So, hats off to Mistwalker; domo arigato Sakaguchi-san. Not since Final Fantasy X has this reviewer enjoyed a JRPG quite so much.
Final Grade: 92%
Lost Odyssey Videos