Monday, December 22, 2008

Capsule Review - Lost Odyssey

First Blue Dragon, now Lost Odyssey, the other big-name Xbox 360 project from Mistwalker, a studio that seems incapable of making a good game.

Lost Odyssey's premise seems tailored specifically to make hack japanese role-playing game designers weep. The protagonist, a man named Kaim Argonar, is immortal. The game, however, is a remarkably traditional JRPG. How did the designers reconcile this? Well, if an immortal character falls in battle, they get back up a couple turns later with a percentage of their HP. If everyone gets KO'd, then it's game over as usual.

At the beginning of the game, we see Kaim get crushed beneath a meteor. Everyone in a hundred mile radius appears to be dead, buried beneath molten magma. Kaim's A-OK. Later, in another battle, he and another immortal character get hit by a gust of wind generated by the wings of some kind of large bird. They both take mortal damage and die. "GAME OVER" appears on the screen. There is a problem here!

Pacing problems abound. Here's a summary of the Things You Do in the first disc (10 hours) of the game, in order:
  1. Nearly impossible-to-lose series of introductory battles. Both paralyizingly boring and pretty cool looking.
  2. Long stroll through capital city. Jab the A button repeatedly while walking along every single wall in order to find Important Hidden Items (actually not important at all). Compared to the city folk with nothing interesting to say and the backtracking between areas, pressing the A button repeatedly is actually the most interesting part.
  3. Finally leave the city for obligatory trek through dungeon that looks like a forest.
  4. Hardest first boss in a modern JRPG ever.
  5. Slightly shorter version of 2.
  6. Slightly shorter version of 3 and 4.
  7. Segment where you're trapped in prison and must walk around in circles until the game decides it is time for you to leave.
  8. Awful stealth section.
  9. Even longer version of 2.
  10. Ominous foreshadowing.
  11. Funeral minigame! First run around through a massive area and pick up 10 flowers by pressing the A button. Then do it again as another character, this time picking up twigs. Then a torch-waving minigame. Start crying.
  12. Obligatory trek through dungeon that looks like a forest, followed by a dungeon that looks like a dungeon.
  13. Save your game before inserting Disc 2.
On the upside, the English voice acting is pretty good!

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