A Franchise to Rival Final Fantasy
Lost Odyssey on the surface looks to be a typical JRPG that could be enjoyable for fans of the genre but nothing that memorable or stunning. However, as you delve into the world of Lost Odyssey, it easily tops it's main rival in the genre Final Fantasy in a number of ways - especially when you look at the latest iterations of the FF series.
The story is what makes this game so unique and seperates it from the crowd. While it keeps a pretty standard JRPG format, following a group of people trying to stop someone evil, the story itself is much more mature and interesting than your standard JPRG plot. It follows the story of Kaim, who in the beginning is engaged in a massive battle between two armies - only for a great meteor to drop out of the sky killing everything in sight, but him. For Kaim is immortal, and throughout the story we see and learn of the pain and suffering of 1000 years without dying. There are optional stories to enhance his experiences, which even turned me around into reading them - something I would normally look over in any video game. The stories are fantastically written and make you excited and anxious to read the next in the series of dreams.
The characters are fantastic and lovable, bar the two children you pick up in the game and another female character I won't talk about for spoiler reasons, and really add to the story. You start the game with two fellow characters, Jansen and Seth. Jansen is the typical JRPG comedy character but he is the first of his kind to EVER make me laugh. His lines are so witty and well written that your guarenteed to crack a smile at the very least. Seth is also immortal like you, and acts as the character to add some energy to the crowd, since Kaim is a little on the depressive side in the early stages.
The thing to focus on in the story however, is the story itself. It's full of political backstabbing (in a good way, not boring politics!), plot twists, relationships and even emotional moments. I found the end of the game pretty upsetting to say the least - but it's also one of the most satisfying endings in a video game. I would love to go indepth on this story, but for fear of spoiling anything, I'll leave it here.
The gameplay is your bog standard JRPG style - a turn based system using items, spells, attacks to defeat an enemy. However, there have been some twists added to the gameplay to improve an old format for JRPGs.
The first is the Ring system. As you do a melee attack, you hold down the right trigger as a circular "minigame" appears on screen - the aim to be to try and let go of the right trigger when the outer ring reaches the inner ring of the onscreen diagram. Hit it dead on (which after about a disk in will be almost always) and you'll get a PERFECT, allowing you to hit more and have more chance of a critical strike. Miss it by a little, you'll get a GOOD allowing you to hit a small amount more than usual. Attempt it and absolutely fail, and you'll get a BAD - reducing damage. Or you can ignore it altogether for no penalty or reward. It helps to keep you engaged and spice up the repetitive battles of JRPGs.
The second is the skill system. Immortal characters must learn skills from the mortal allies they gain in the game by skill linking. You must choose an ally, choose a skill, then get a certain amount of SP (gained from winning battles) to learn it - but your ally must be in your team of five on the battlefield so you can learn it. It adds a nice reliance on using all characters, and allows those who really train their characters to make the immortal characters a real fighting force to be dealt with.
The final addition is Formation, something that has appeared in other JRPGs but I thought was worth mentioning. This feature allows you to move your weaker characters behind your stronger ones - should they be attacked, your front characters HP will make up a defence rating, significantly reducing the damage taken by the back row. However, when the front characters take damage, their defence bar rating goes down (healing does not bring it back up) and allows more damage to be taken by the back row. If all your front row is weak, your back row of characters is very vunerable.
The story, the gameplay, the music and the world itself is something very memorable and has made it a much loved game of mine. The voice acting is fantastic, the music is remarkably good and sticks with you even after you've finished the game, and the story is a brilliant example of how a more "grown up" JRPG style can work wonders. The after content support has already started, with new items such as one to allow you to watch cutscenes without playing the whole game again, and a whole new dungeon with the toughest boss in the game - and when I say tough, I mean tough. Additionally, Mistwalker are promising there is more DLC to come.
The more adult nature of the game makes it shine out from the rest, and puts most other JRPGs to shame and enables itself to easily rival some of the biggest games in the genre to date - and puts it firmly in the Must Have list for the Xbox 360.
Story: 4.5 / 5.0
Gameplay: 4.0 / 5.0
Graphics: 4.0 / 5.0
Audio: 4.5 / 5.0
OVERALL: 4.5 / 5.0
Note: Many places reported long loading times - I have had no such issue. Longest load time was 8 seconds or so.