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Bland Odyssey

Posted by Doug on February 5, 2009

As a longtime fan of JRPGs in general and the (older) works of Sakaguchi Hironobu in particular, I’ve been wanting to check out Lost Odyssey for a while now. I started playing yesterday, and now that I’m about fifteen hours into the story, I thought I’d stop and share my thoughts.

Fair warning: my thoughts skew towards the sarcastic.  And there might be spoilers.  And ranting.

The Characters so Far: On the team, we have the blandly generic sword-wielding guy (Keanu Kaim), a female pirate-in-name-only with a stripperiffic sense of fashion (Seth), the guy you’d like to punch in the face every time he talks…repeatedly (Jansen), the clueless and naive queen with the stripperiffic sense of fashion (Ming, and does anyone else notice a trend here?), and two annoying brats with magic powers (Cooke and Mack).  They have run into a bunch of forgettable minor characters whose names I have, predictably, forgotten.

The Bad Guy: Gongora.  This shouldn’t count as a spoiler, because it is obvious from the moment he makes his appearance, he’s the bad guy.  I mean, really, when it was revealed that Gongora was somehow involved in Kaim’s daughter’s apparent death, I wasn’t surprised at all.  I really, really hope he’s not the BBEG of Lost Odyssey, because if he is, he’s the lamest BBEG ever.

The Story: Kaim is an immortal with some convenient amnesia.  At the start of the game, Kaim slices up Khent soldiers by the dozens, and survives having a meteor dropped on him, but then he promptly died after a few random battles versus a few half-dead/undead/whatever Khent soldiers, causing me to have to restart the game.   Now, admittedly, I was goofing around, but they’ve already established he’s immortal and can survive a meteor the size of the Vatican dropped on him.  Think about it for a second.

Okay, let’s try that again: Kaim survives the battle/meteor, the Council wants to talk to him, the Council decides Kaim’s boss, Gongora, is incompetent and dismisses him, but Kaim is no doubt still trustworthy enough to lead an expedition to investigate the Big Magic Stick with a former pirate and a fop.  Kaim gets to the Big Magic Stick, gets captured, ends up on another continent, does a bunch of totally unrelated stuff…uh, where was this all going again?  Its like they rolled a d6 to generate the plot (1 = they get captured, 2 = boss fight, 3 = move to new territory, 4 = Gongora does something evil and nobody bothers to notice, 5 = go fetch the widgets, 6 = Kaim remembers something useless).

The Gameplay: It’s nice that you can have up to five characters in your active party.  The trend has been towards smaller groups in console RPGs, but with five characters, you have the opportunity to be very strategic in battles…except everyone is so generic in their abilities that there is absolutely no reason to bother doing so, and it never seems to help make battles easier anyways.

More “powerful” spells take longer to cast, but aren’t that much more powerful.  A one-round spell will do, say, 250 damage against an enemy with no elemental affinity, and a two-round spell will do 400 damage against the same enemy.  I could have used those same two rounds to do the one-round spell twice, and do a total of 500 damage, instead of 400, and I probably would have saved some magic points, too (I think).

And the Aim Ring: what exactly is it good for, anyways?  I was getting “Perfect” on it at least half the time, and I never noticed it doing anything (I scored a couple of achievements from it, but that doesn’t count).  No increase of damage, no extra effects based on my equipment, no…nothing.  Regardless of whether I got a Perfect or Good or Bad or Not Even Trying, the results were the same.

The Final Assessment: Lost Odyssey is mediocre.  Nothing in it stands out.  I still plan on finishing it, just on the hopes that at some point all these mediocre parts come together and form something far greater than the sum of their parts, but I’m not getting my hopes up.  It seems that the Gooch just isn’t what he used to be, or maybe my preferences in games have changed in the two decades since I cut my teeth on Final Fantasy II*….

*And yeah, I know that it was Final Fantasy IV in Japan, but the game cartridge I put in my Super Nintendo called it Final Fantasy II, so that’s what I’m going with here.

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