Tag Archives: Lost Odyssey

2008’s Honourable Mentions

Not every game can be as good as Fallout, and indeed there are many excellent games from last year that I didn’t like as much as Mirror’s Edge at number ten but still deserve a mention, so here are a few more games from 2008, in no particular order, that fell short of making the main list but still deserve a mention.

  • Lost Odyssey – It was going to be between this and the game below for tenth spot on the list until Mirror’s Edge stormed in on Christmas Day and pipped them both. As one of the few JRPGs not to have disappointed this gen – I won’t play the well-received Tales of Vesperia until its PAL release – I found this to have likeable characters, an interesting story, and yes: some nice towns too.
  • Professor Layton and the Curious Village – When this became the surprise hit of the end of the year, it was well-deserved. It’s teasingly close to being a point-and-click adventure, it has a charming art style that looks like French animation, and Level-5 even managed to cram FMV cut-scenes in there to further the story. It helps, of course, that the puzzles and brainteasers are uniformly excellent and just the kind of thing to play on a handheld. Wait until the price has normalised and then give it a look.
  • Dead Space – It may be hard to describe this game in any terms other than its plainly obvious inspirations – Alien’s Nostromo with a dash of Doom 3 and a liberal sprinkling of Event Horizon, all topped with Resident Evil 4’s controls – but it’s still a highly satisfying and actually quite scary horror game. The companion animated movie is worth a rental as well.
  • Rock Band 2 – As I hadn’t bought a music game since Guitar Hero II, Rock Band 2 was my attempt to see how far things had come in the intervening generation of plastic instrument-based room-clutterers. Not all that far from the perspective of someone who only plays the guitar, but the boom in à la carte downloadable songs and the sheer amount of music that’s now on my hard drive to choose from makes it pretty irresistible. It makes you feel like a rock star and fulfils all similar clichéd review quotes, and I’d imagine it’s even better with the room for a set of drums.
  • Geometry Wars 2 – Pretenders be damned, this is the only twin-stick shooter to play. Take the successful gameplay of the first one and give it six more modes and some brilliant music and you won’t find many deals that are as obviously worth getting as that. Played on a big 1080p TV with surround sound, it may well give you a seizure, but you’ll have to agree that it’s worth it.
  • Super Street Fighter II Turbo HD Remix – The degree to which I still love Street Fighter II has already inspired its own post, and this has made the other versions irrelevant. Looks great, plays well online, the balance tweaks are enough to actually improve things while not being sweeping enough to rile the hardcore, and if you disagree with any of those comments you can turn off whatever it might be that’s offending you. I don’t have a bad word to say about it, and it only didn’t make the final list because… well… no matter how good the game is, it’s still Street Fighter II again. Roll on February.
  • Persona 3 FES – This would have been in with a shout if I hadn’t played and preferred its sequel in the same year, but it’s still worth a look for its sufficiently different setting and tone. It’s also available for a pretty good price by now, so it could be one to bear in mind for when you’ve finished all your Christmas goodies.
  • Rolando – ‘An iPhone game!?’ you say? Yep. I liked LocoRoco a lot when that came out, and this is pretty blatantly ‘inspired by’ that game but with the benefit of what the PSP game lacked: tilt controls. It’s unfair to call it a clone, though, as it has a lot more gameplay variety and more creative level design, all designed from the ground up to take advantage of the iPhone’s particular gifts, and I might well end up making a case for it with its own post before too long. In the meantime, if you have an iPhone or iPod touch and are looking for a game with some meat to it, it’s only £5.99 and bodes well for the future of dedicated iPhone development.

I think that’s enough looking back for another year. See you in 12 months for more complaining about the state of [insert genre here].

Lost Odyssey

Remember those days when an RPG being spread across four discs was cause for celebration? What once seemed like amazing value – before the crushing disappointment, seeing that Final Fantasy VIII was a whole disc bigger than VII was like several Christmases in one – now seems like an advert for Blu-ray.

Lost Odyssey

Nonetheless, Lost Odyssey is here, representing Microsoft and Mistwalker’s Final Fantasy to Blue Dragon’s Dragon Quest. As pretty as it is, especially when it uses high definition CG for backgrounds (see this video of the opening scenes), just as Blue Dragon was more than slightly influenced by Dragon Quest VIII, to look at it Lost Odyssey could almost be Final Fantasy XII running in high def. To play it, however, is a less iconoclastic experience that that Square epic.

While FFXII sought to forge new ground for the series, Lost Odyssey is far more traditional. Battles are random – and thankfully very lenient with the frequency, which is an issue that has ruined many an RPG for me (*cough*Skies of Arcadia*cough*) – and there’s not even so much as an ATB system: it’s entirely old-fashioned turn-based combat. Although there is a list of upcoming turns, a la Final Fantasy X and its CTB system, it’s mainly there for tactical reasons; just so you know that Monster A is due to attack before Jansen can get off a spell, so it’s probably worth using the others to beat it down first, and such.

I find myself enjoying this combat, although, that said, I’m only a couple of hours into disc two and have experienced one difficulty spike. Judging from the various forums that I frequent, I’m not the only one to find the first boss significantly tougher than any others so far. It’s an unfortunate flaw that afflicts a baffling number of JRPGs.

So far it’s been the skill system that’s most interested me. While the mortal characters work in the traditional fashion, gaining new skills as they hit the requisite level, the immortals will never learn new abilities by themselves. By using ‘Skill Link’, they can learn all of the abilities of the mortals, meaning that, say, the physically strong Kaim can also have a complete mastery of Black, White, and Spirit magic, as well as everything else. He wouldn’t be as good with the magic as an innate spellcaster, but he becomes very versatile and kitting out your entire team with appropriate skills and accessories (immortals will learn skills from these, too) before big fights becomes a necessity. It’s quicker and less obtuse than similar systems like Final Fantasy X’s Sphere Grid and FFXII’s inexplicable licences, and it has achievements for getting them all ;)

Is that the first time there’s been any real reason to grind?

When I started drafting this post, I was going to make two complaints about Lost Odyssey here: that the story is weak, and that Jansen – the “comic relief” – is annoying as fuck. While both of those are pretty much true for the first few hours, by the time you reach the end of disc one they’ve both started to right themselves. The story starts to differentiate itself from the dozens of other ‘warring nations’ RPGs as the issues of immortality come into play, specifically when you gain your fourth and fifth party members, and while Jansen is still prone to ill-advised wisecracks – only one has actually made me chuckle so far – he’s slowly been winning me over by becoming less obnoxious. If the story is what sustains an RPG and you find yourself disappointed with Lost Odyssey’s, stick with it.

I had no plans of buying Lost Odyssey, given the generally positive but hardly glowing reviews and my disappointment with Blue Dragon, but having played it extensively I wouldn’t have had a problem buying it. Personally I think they’re missing an opportunity by not pushing it with a demo; I know that the indifferent reaction to the Blue Dragon demo may be fresh in the memory, but even just the opening battle of this game would be a suitable demonstration of its traditional RPG credentials and the scope that a next generation platform provides.

There’s no poo in this one, mind.