Lost Odyssey - Staff Review  

Is the Hype Correct?
by Sean Kepper

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Xbox 360
Easy to Very Challenging
40-70 hours
Click here for scoring definitions 

   Lost Odyssey is the newest game by Mistwalker for the Xbox 360. Created by the dream team behind many of the Final Fantasy games, it is sure to please fans of the RPG genre. But, did it live up to the incredible hype? Well, Lost Odyssey has an amazing storyline. The game grips the player from start to finish and just doesn't let go. The characters live and breathe on the screen and the entire world comes to life. Jansen, the party black magic user and resident joker, is particularly well done in terms of personality, model, and voice work. It is simply phenomenal.

   The game follows the immortal Kaim and his attempts to recover everything that he has lost. Having lived for a thousand years, he has no clue why he is immortal, what he has done, or what he must do. Because of this unique trait, he is sent on a dangerous reconnaissance mission which results in his memories partially returning to him. Along with these memories comes a new purpose: saving the world from something that he doesn't fully understand.

   Along his journey he meets up with eight companions. Amongst the group there are three other immortals and five mortals. While some of them would not typically be seen as heroes, they are included in the story masterfully and all doubt as to their inclusion is removed. Every character has a stake in the mission and all of them are very well defined through the game's numerous cutscenes. The characters grow over the course of the story unlike in a good deal of recent RPGs.

   There is a very big difference between the mortal and immortal characters. Immortals are much more powerful than mortals but are uninteresting by themselves, as they do not learn any abilities on their own. In order to learn new skills, immortals must observe mortal characters fight or leech abilities off of accessories. Mortal characters learn skills by leveling or, in a single case, as a quest reward. Immortals can learn any skills from the pool available to them, and can then be customized by equipping them. They can equip a maximum number of skills at once and this number can be increased by a trio of skills and by using rare items. Intelligent training can be used to create powerhouse immortals that quickly leave their mortal counterparts in the dust. Also, immortal characters do not die in combat: if someone still stands, there is a chance that any downed immortals will simply climb to their feet at the end of a combat round. This trait can actually play into numerous strategies, especially for the arena battles.

Man, three blondes. He just got lucky... in triplicate! Man, three blondes. He just got lucky... in triplicate!

   Lost Odyssey's battle system is a traditional turn-based one. There is nothing new here: characters take turns hitting each other until a side knocks the other one out. The battles play out very strategically. Enemies are divided by creature type and are weak to different elements (or none at all), so it is important to match up weaponry to their weaknesses whenever possible. Luckily, the game allows the player to switch up equipment on the fly with no penalty. The only new feature that sets it apart from most older games is the ring system. By timing attacks, the player can cause more or less damage to the target. The actual effect is determined by the type of ring that the character is using. The rings are the items that add elemental, status, and slaying effects to physical attacks. While somewhat similar to the system used in Shadow Hearts, Lost Odyssey's ring system is actually fun to use. Rings can be found or crafted from items found in chests, kicked/rammed out of various objects, purchased in stores, or harvested from the bodies of dead foes.

   The menus in Lost Odyssey are traditional RPG fare and do as expected. All in all, with the people behind this game, anything out of the ordinary would have been unexpected, as Sakaguchi and his team are largely responsible for the streamlining of menu systems in RPGs today. That said, everything is easy to find, items are able to be sorted by multiple types, so it is all good here.

   There is lots of optional content in Lost Odyssey. From errands to complicated quests that span the entire world, there is plenty for the intrepid player to do. Unfortunately, taking part in this optional content leads to the player having an easier time with the main content, and can make the game pretty easy overall. The sole exception is one of the areas on the final disk. An unprepared party will die in a single fight even if otherwise powerful enough to walk through the rest of the game. This variance in challenge is unexpected and very welcome. There is a single uber-boss to challenge players that desire it.

   Lost Odyssey clocks in between forty and seventy hours, depending on how many of the Xbox achievement points the player wishes to earn. It is amazing that the game can still be interesting after such a long time playing it, but the epic story makes it worthwhile. The average player will not die often, except for against the first boss (incredibly hard for some reason) and in the later optional content.

Target acquired! This will hurt... Target acquired! This will hurt...

   Worthy of note is the Thousand Years of Dreams. This content is unique to Lost Odyssey. Throughout the game Kaim is reminded of things that occurred in his past. Such reminders lead him to recovering a memory, which is revealed to the player through a dream sequence. These dreams are written by a famous Japanese novelist and are told in the form of short stories. This unique approach is very enjoyable and lends the game some charm.

   The visuals are top notch. Everything is well animated, the spell effects are impressive, the models are incredible, and the cutscenes are simply stunning. Everything about the presentation screams quality. The jaw-dropping visuals do come with a price, though. First of all, the game spans four disks which are shipped in a weird way. Some complain that the publisher's cheapness got in the way of proper packaging, as instead of using a four-disk container a case designed for three disks and a paper sleeve were used to contain the four disks. Also, the game hitches quite a bit and there many instances of slowdown. Thirdly, due to the quality visuals, the load times are quite long and there are delays on entering different areas and battles. These few flaws don't really take anything away from the visual presentation of the game.

   The audio is similarly stunning. From the amazing vocal work to Uematsu's incredible musical score, it is very difficult to find a game that sounds better than this one. The sound system was blaring throughout the entire game and no one who heard it demanded that it be turned down. It is that good.

   Lost Odyssey was much hyped by the media. Did it live up to the hype? No, it didn't. It surpassed it. Even with its few flaws, it is almost perfect. This game is definitely recommended for everybody with an Xbox 360. Hell, it is even recommended for those that don't have one. It is the perfect reason to finally pick one up.

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