When it comes to my film and video game purchases I have a tendency towards getting things that have been around for a while rather than the more recently released materials. I’d like to say this is because I prefer to critique from a position of hindsight; to discuss a project’s cultural impact in a wider, more reflective context.
I’d like to say that but the truth is that I buy older games and DVDs for the same reason I can’t keep this blog on a regular schedule; because I’m a grumpy, lazy prick.
So with that in mind, Lost Odyssey. As of the published date, I haven’t finished it yet, so maybe we should call this a “first impressions” rather than a full review.
Lost Odyssey is a Japanese RPG made by Mistwalker Studios. Fitting the typical JRPG description to a monster of a T, Lost Odyssey is a fantasy epic with a more classically structured narrative than is seen in most Western RPGs and a “work hard to succeed” attitude to gameplay that is perhaps typical of Japanese culture.
Lost Odyssey is the brain-child of former Squaresoft producer Hironobu Sakaguchi, most famous for creating the Final Fantasy series. The story goes that Sakaguchi grew unhappy with the direction Squaresoft (now Square-Enix) was taking and left to form his own company, Mistwalker. Lost Odyssey was the third game produced by the new studio and has Sakaguchi’s trademarks all over it. In fact, if I didn’t know any better I would have guessed this was a new Final Fantasy but with kelolons instead of moogles (fucking kupo…).
Legend has it that Sakaguchi took a more backseat role on the FF series after FF 9 until his ultimate departure and despite the series continuing popularity I’d say it shows in it’s declining quality. Square as a company has always been great at pushing the graphical capabilities of a console’s hardware but I am of the opinion that since Sakaguchi stepped down the gameplay has been somewhat lacking. Final Fantasy has always been famous for it’s text-dump storylines, but under Sakaguchi the stories were always compelling and always served as the gravy for the gameplay’s meat.
Nowadays, not so much. FF 13 in particular is a game that has little patience for gameplay. The formula seems to be: walk ten feet, twenty minute cutscene, one minute of combat (which you are fucking graded on), repeat. This is just not adequate gameplay for me. This is watching anime and being scored on how patiently you watch. In fact, I’d like to say FF 13 would make a better anime but not one character is the least bit fucking likeable. Even the combat is pointless. There is an auto-combat function that automatically puts in the optimal commands for the situation with no player input need whatsoever. It’s a travesty!
Lost Odyssey, on the other hand, has none of these problems. It starts with a simple concept of a group of amnesiac immortals who slowly start regaining their memories and building ties and relationships with the world, the whole time fighting another immortal with delusions of God-hood and the inevitability of outliving their loved ones constantly looming over them. This proves thematically interesting to me; the idea of the futility of creating bonds whilst also emotionally being helpless to stop it. It has that Sakaguchi heavyweight emotional gut-punch underlining it, whilst also maintaining the epic globe-spanning journeys Final Fantasy used to be known for.
Gameplay wise, there are a lot of story interruptions, but the gameplay-to-story ratio is balanced enough that it’s not a problem. The game features traditional turn-based combat rather than that horrendous turn-based/real-time hybrid Square-Enix want to push on us (seriously, screw those guys). This leads to the classic strategic RPG fights of old, with the ability to change equipment on the fly to accentuate and compliment the strengths of the party. Lost Odyssey doesn’t exactly reinvent the wheel in this capacity, but honestly it doesn’t need to. We perfected turn-based combat years ago.
If I had to pick one flaw, I’d say that leveling-up takes too long and becomes a true grind-fest at times which can just grate on the nerves after a while.
So, in conclusion: Lost Odyssey=good, Square-Enix=bad, me=prick.
Now if you’ll excuse I’m off to buy Final Fantasy 8 from Steam and remember better days.