Friday, March 14, 2008

Preview: Lost Odyssey

Lost Odyssey (2008)
Developer: Feel Plus/Mistwalker
Platform: X-Box 360
Purchase Date: 03/09/2008

After the utter mediocrity of Blue Dragon, I was pessimistic that Hironobu Sakaguchi can pull off another RPG miracle. It also doesn't help that he is extremely traditional in his view of the genre at a time when players have been exposed to extreme role playing freedom and immersion in the form of The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion. Still, he has enormous support, especially in Japan. As much as I enjoy Japanese RPGs, it is really time for them to evolve from the linear travel from one area to the next - battle - story revelation - repeat formula. Blue Dragon and Eternal Sonata on the 360, next-gen in terms of their visuals, were as traditional as they come and now LO has joined their ranks.

What? They couldn't fit 4 DVDs onto the holder so they sleeved one. Yucks.

Here's a tip for Mr. Sakaguchi - If you want to make an RPG that is linear in its progression, you have to at least infuse a killer story into the game, like what was done on Xenogears. The story here is sub-standard: You play a moody army Lieutenant named Kaim... Wait a second, another moody, "misunderstood" character? Nice. At least the reason for his behavior is better explained here than your average character conventions. You see, Kaim is an immortal that has lost his memories. The game centers on a war between two kingdoms and it is apparent that Kaim is being used to steer victory for one side of the battle. The game promises that along the way, Kaim will be questing "to reclaim 1,000 years of lost memories". What I found out so far is that some of these memories are text-based that can be viewed using the "A Thousand Years of Dream" option. Now the writing on two that I have discovered are so good that it is unthinkable that they didn't present these with characters in a cut scene format. It smells suspiciously last minute and I blame it all on the creative head Sakaguchi for missing this wonderful opportunity to make the game infinitely better. And did I mention that there is no voice over as you watch the texts unfold on your screen? What was he thinking?

The best looking RPG yet!

Hopefully I will play this game until the end and won't get bored of it on this go round. I cannot deny the game's beauty, both technically and artistically. Just avoid looking at the bad 3D construction of the character Seth Balmore's hair - Sakaguchi fell asleep at work again - and the game looks flawless. The opening scene contains the best CG to gameplay transition ever, creating a lossless illusion that you are playing an epic fantasy movie, which is the whole point of the game. Though LO sticks with random turn-based battle - like I said, it is horribly traditional - the encounter rate is quite low. In fact, I couldn't get past the first boss battle without the need to grind experience points... Hopefully that will not be the case throughout the entire game.


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