LTTP or ‘late to the party’ pieces are opportunities for us to catch up and write about games we missed out on the first time around. They may contain spoilers.
Tackling a lengthy role playing game with a flaky disc drive is not a good idea. This was why it took so long for me to play Sakaguchi’s Final Fantasy equivalent for Microsoft. I wish I could have shaken off the Final Fantasy comparisons though. Was it my fault for seeing them? Or was it Mistwalker’s and Feelplus’ for dressing this game with such familiar garbs?
I lay the “blame” with the developers, but not because of appearances. Aside from a few special affects and menu similarities, Lost Odyssey established its own visual identity with some of the most peculiar designs decisions I’ve ever seen. There were soldiers with giant looped helmets, guys wearing armor with exposed mid-drifts and the ability to dress said guys with the most effeminate accessories possible. Still, I liked the designs of the core party members themselves; I’m particularly fond of Seth and Sed’s.
Outside of being on the Xbox 360 and employing Unreal Engine 3.0, Lost Odyssey scarcely resembled “next-gen”. There were many fundamental elements which PlayStation 2 games have done better. I’m not against random battles or turn-based battle systems, but I am against irritating and dull dungeon construction. Why they implemented such contrived “puzzles” in these dungeons, I will never know. If you’re going to put in these things, at least have them make sense. Don’t have me use crates to stop platforms from moving, just because Kaim “can’t” to step on a track and cross to the other side.
I wish I could say that the stories fared better, but a lot of it fell flat thanks to obtuse dialog coupled with awkward deliveries. At least the back story “dreams” were noteworthy. Well choreographed placement of words and timely audio cues tugged at the heart. They fleshed out Kaim’s character and helped me emphasize with his outlook on life. These dreams almost convinced me that these screens of text weren’t a misuse of the medium; they were that good. It was as if they had a completely different writer for these – oh wait, they did.
I wasn’t dismissive of the entire story arch though. “Why was Kaim an immortal? How were his memories locked away “in his heart”?” As the story unraveled and more characters were introduced, I was pushing forward to know more. However, when the story began to shift from character rediscovery to thwarting an evil sorcerer’s plan for world domination, I stopped caring. The events unfolding at the midpoint of disc three were trite at best. The reasoning behind these events were completely unsatisfactory and I could not believe the things it was trying to pull; I was stupefied by the bullshit.
By this point, obsessive compulsive behavior was the driving force towards the end. I just had to complete build up my immortals by learning as many skills I could possibly find. And with the outpouring of optional side quests on the fourth disc, I was able to do so and extended play time by at least another ten hours. The skill system was reminiscent of FFIX’s which allowed for a fair amount of flexibility and character customization. At the end, the immortal characters shared similar abilities and resistances, but they still played to their strengths.
One of the few pleasantries in Lost Odyssey was Nobuo Uematsu’s soundtrack. The battle themes and that opening overture will be forever etched in my mind. Creating a fitting and great sounding soundtrack is one thing, but to make it stick with me? That’s an accomplishment worth noting. The range of moods and emotions which Uematsu evoked through his music was especially evocative when they accompanied the dream sequences. Very touching at times.
The 65 hours invested in Lost Odyssey was an eye opener. I realized that I’ve taken the work of other developers for granted. The premise of immortal beings living for a thousand years was by far the most fascinating aspect of game. But unfortunately that was it. And as strong as some the areas I highlighted were, they weren’t enough to elevate Lost Odyssey above the status of “just another JRPG”. It wasn’t a presentation showpiece, it didn’t follow through with the promising premise and it just felt inconsistent. But hey, if you don’t mind a bit of dissonance in your games, by all means give Lost Odyssey a try. I just think you can do better.
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For more information on Lost Odyssey, visit the official website.