Lost Odyssey (was) amazing

Where do I even begin? I had the game pre-ordered for months, and picked it up two days ago upon its release and bought a 360 pro, and have immersed myself in the game since.

I’m sure that anyone with even the slightest interest in the game has read by now that the game is a traditional RPG, and most reviews tend to whine endlessly about this. So let me get it out of the way: YES, Lost Odyssey is a traditionally-styled RPG. If the thought of playing one doesn’t sound appealing, then do not go anywhere near this game. If you normally don’t like the genre, this game was very obviously not made for you. Its combat isn’t as fast-paced or cinematic as Panzer Dragoon Saga, and its exploration segments aren’t nearly as brilliant or genre-breaking as something like Skies of Arcadia or Shin Megami Tensei III: Nocturne, and its play structure isn’t as off-the-wall unique as Persona 3.

If, however, you DO enjoy a good traditional RPG in the vein of Suikoden or Shadow Hearts, then you’ll be in heaven. There is a world of difference between the terms “traditional” and “generic”, and Lost Odyssey has nothing to do with the latter. Don’t let the “from the makers of Final Fantasy” ad campaign fool you. The bulk of the development team is made up of ex-Shadow Hearts series team members, and that fact shows through on more than one occasion.

Upon starting the game, one can change the language to one of any five different choices. When you start playing, you are treated to some brilliantly directed cutscenes and some fun, fast-paced fights, and about half an hour in you are basically turned loose on a pretty massive city.

The core combat mechanics are very simple, but so far it’s all very polished and seems to rely far more on strategy than grinding, so grind-haters should be letting out a long sigh of relief. The music in the game is absolutely phenomenal, to the point where even if you hate Uematsu’s previous work you’ll find a lot to love in here. The visuals have some definite rough edges, but the art style is strong, the levels are well designed, and the cutscenes are sublimely directed. Exploration is handled in a very Shadow Hearts-ish way, with a pulled back, mostly fixed camera angle. Items are tucked into literally everything, and one thing that I like is that it’s not just chests. I’ve been peeling posters off of the walls of the city and finding items behind them for godsake! XD The voice acting so far is a bit spotty, but the primary cast is quite strong.

You may have noticed that my summary of these various aspects until now was quite brief. That’s because I want to get to the real meat of the game: the impeccable storytelling. When I first started the game I was impressed with the cutscene direction, but was finding the whole experience a bit unremarkable. I was beginning to wonder if I had made some form of mistake…

And then, it happened. The game’s primary storytelling device, the “Thousand Year Dream” system, was introduced, and there is simply no going back now. I’m not exaggerating when I say that the game’s Thousand Year Dream system is absolutely the greatest storytelling device in the history of the genre, and is the best thing to happen to JRPGs since Suikoden III’s Trinity Sight system! It is as essential to the Lost Odyssey experience as the Celestial Brush is to Okami, music to Rez, or Yorda to ICO.

The game’s lead character, Kaim, has been alive for a thousand years. He has little to no recollection of why, and at the current moment the fact that he can’t remember much isn’t being handled in a typical “amnesiac hero” fashion. The beauty of this system is such: suddenly, when exploring the environments for items, you have a new goal, one not present in most RPGs of this ilk. Instead of scouring for items, you find yourself scouring for actual plot. Let’s say you wander into the serene Uhra park, and you see a man and a woman and their daughter sitting on the park bench. Suddenly, Kaim will reel back and the screen will distort, as a flood of memories comes rushing back into his mind. This is what the game calls a “Dream”. Some of these are required, but the beauty of the system is that most are not. It really encourages exploration, as you’re being constantly rewarded not with items, but instead with some of the most gripping and emotionally potent narratives the medium has ever produced!

Heavy words? Perhaps, but it’s quite true. The Dreams are essentially short stories or scenarios that take place at various moments in Kaim’s long, long life. The game presents an interesting take on the concept of an immortal: instead of glorifying it, they make it real. Our short lives are often full of pain and sorrow, but also joy and wonder. Kaim’s immensely long life is full of so many doses of these things that it would drive any of us mad. The Dreams are absolutely wonderfully drawn and directed, and the literary mastery on display here is maddening. It’s hard to believe that this quality of writing was translated from another language. It’s so natural, so poetic, and so rich.

I’m choosing my words carefully, as I would never wish to spoil these sequences for a potential player. But suffice it to say that they are unrivalled in their power. I’m not ashamed to admit that out of the very few I have managed to find so far, nearly all of them have brought me to tears. Sometimes sorrowful, and other times joyful. The game is quite depressing, but never in an over melodramatic way. The game deftly balances sorrow and joy in ways rarely seen in even the greatest of emotional works. If the true goal of art is to affect one’s emotions, then Lost Odyssey succeeds in ways unimaginable.

I’ve got to say you pretty much called it right . I really do love this game and the music score is one of the best I’ve ever had the pleasure to hear.

This piece of music , its right up there with the camping song imo. Its just Beautiful


I agree with most everything you say, my only complaint thus far is the writing in regards to the underlying plot. I can see this as perhaps not being the centerpiece of the game to some, but the cut scenes that try to move the story forward in the game seem very disjointed, and half the time I didn’t really understand why the characters were going where they were.

Granted I’m not finished with the game yet, and I could understand being confused in the beginning since the main character\s don’t have there memories back yet, but I’ve just started on the last disc and I’m still pretty lost about the details of plot concerning immortals.

The subplots and character interactions are top notch though, and the voice acting is some of the best I’ve heard in an RPG (except that Numaran general, he’s atrocious).

I love how the battle system is more strategical than most turn-based RPG’s. The lack of level grinding makes you really play each character to their fullest regarding formation and what skills are available to use. The fact that there are so many characters to choose to bring into battle later in the game make it seem almost like a tactical RPG.

It will be interesting to play through this game again once I’m finished, I feel like I’d get more out of regarding the plot. But right now I’m thoroughly enjoying it and can’t wait to finish, too bad I probably won’t get another chance to play until the week is over.

So has anyone finished LO yet? I’m on Disc 3 at the moment, and it’s all very interesting! I’m getting a little burned out on the play mechanics (though polished, they’re simply far too conventional to stay engaging), but the story has still more than maintained my interest.

Playing through it, and it gets a C+ from me so far. The Thousand Years of Powerpoint segments are by far, the best the game has to offer. The writing quality of everything else on the other hand, is average at best, and terrible in a lot of the dramatic sequences. The sequence when you first meet the brats on disc 1 is a perfect example of what I’m talking about… that whole segment was not even remotely believable and was an artificially created problem because it fulfilled the “we need boss fights every two hours” requirement in Sakaguchi games.


Honestly, not one of the boss fights have been interesting so far, so I’m not sure why the developers felt the need to slap them in at the end of every single level.

Unfortunately, the more I play, the more I find the game slipping from my graces. I think the phrase “amazing mediocrity” could accurately sum up the experience so far. I LOVED the game when I first started, but now (on Disc 3) every single aspect of the play mechanics has grown repetitive and have severely worn out their welcome. The game is punctuated by a few select moments that are absolutely heartfelt and some of the character interaction is just wonderful, but the overall writing of the main plot is somewhat awkward and lacks direction. The overall experience seems to lack a certain “cohesion”, and this becomes more and more apparent the further I progress.

Fortunately, I can still readily maintain that the Dream sequences are among the finest and most poignant stories I’ve ever encountered not just in the medium, but in any literary work. Which brings about an interesting dilmemna for the game itself: the Dream sequences were all written by brilliant author Kiyoshi Shigematsu. A few weeks before Lost Odyssey’s Japanese release Shigematsu’s LO-based novel, He Who Journeys Eternity: Lost Odyssey: A Thousand Years of Dreams, was released. To my knowledge, it contains all of the Dreams present in the game, as well as a small handful of Dreams exclusive to the novel!

This is where the dilemna presents itself. The ONLY thing suspending Lost Odyssey above the pit of mediocrity is the mind-bending writing of the Dream sequences. Considering the game’s already decent financial success and strong international focus, as well as the fact that roughly 95% of the novel is already localized within the game, it is very likely that Shigematsu’s novel will be translated and fully published outside of Japan at some point soon. Should this happen, it will render the game itself all but useless, in my estimation. Unless Disc 4 suddenly rejuvenates the game, I will never load it back into my 360 upon completion so long as this novel is published.

So, to those still on the fence about the game, I say to wait. Let a few months pass by, and we may likely find word of Shigematsu’s novel of Dreams finding its way to other shores. These stories are honestly some of the most touching and powerful works I’ve ever had the pleasure of experiencing, and I am deeply, deeply grateful for them.

EDIT: Title change to reflect the fact that the overall experience is steadily going downhill the more I play.

Well I decided to check it out… I’m not the most righteous person to be judging any traditional RPG, but it’s definitely reminding me of just why I can’t stand them generally. The battles are essentially tolerable for me, though still a little too standard… what seems most odd is that it’s a little on the hard-core side for how cheap the enemies are at times, but it rarely lets you get into any kind of battle groove before there’s another hour of mostly non-interactive material? It just seems really wonky in that balance, since the battles are so secondary to the cinemas and other narrative production, why make grinding so old-school when it’s never particularly satisfying anyway?

The facial characterization and animation has to be considered a new benchmark for realtime rendering though, extremely impressive at times. The eyes especially, they look absolutely right, and I think this is the first game I’ve ever seen where I’d say that. So it’s engaging me as much as anything just for being eye candy for now I think… though it is almost sad in a way that the most compelling aspect of the story is mostly just text. However, it seems like they put the best “dreams” in the beginning, some of the later ones are getting to be a chore…

Still only on disk one, and already vaguely wondering if I’ll end up finishing it, but it’s a good enough time waster for now.

slight spoiler

I couldn’t stop laughing after about half way through the funeral… the MC guy’s voice and outfit, and making you adjust the torch just a couple times WHY? Really… REALLY bizarre sometimes.

Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune on PS3 outclasses Lost Odyssey by a large margin in this department. Some of the cutscenes are realtime and others are not, but the graphics are identical in either case as the pre-rendered footage doesn’t use any models that weren’t featured in the game already. The reason they were pre-rendered in some spots was to avoid load times in certain situations since the Blu-Ray drive is slow as molasses, and the developers wanted to avoid forcing you to install the game on the hard drive (see: Devil May Cry 4). Regardless, you can see the level of detail and animation quality put into the game, the video below is realtime.


It was an excellent game, though the replay value is kind of low.

Well only going by videos Uncharted is still basically stuck in the uncanny valley to me, which it’s not as stylized as LO so it’s at a disadvantage anyway. And after bringing it up here and being more actively critical as I play Lost Odyssey… I will say it can still look off at many times according to different lighting and angles, but it’s still damn impressive that I only really noticed the eyes when they looked good. And in terms of the overall impression it has at least as much to do with the animation as the rendering, there’s a lot of subtlety that seems to be incorporated into the library of expressions, and unlike most attempts at that sort of thing - even previous benchmarks like Half Life 2 - they often come across as the pure expression rather than a “I’m making an ironic face now, isn’t this impressive?” still mechanical quality. I think it’s in part the simple fact they don’t make them hold the expressions past a natural moment, again almost like a “see this expression? it took us WEEKS to get this so APPRECIATE IT!” mentality trapping most attempts…

I’m gonna go out on a limb and say that Heavenly Sword for PS3 outdoes both LO and Uncharted in terms of facial animation. Minute details like eyes wavering, pupils becoming dialated depending on lighting, little creases and wrinkles on the skin constantly changing to indicate small emotional changes in their expressions. The developers really did a great job with the cutscenes in that game.

Just a quick opinion of the game:

I just beat Lost Odyssey, and all I can say is: It brought back to me that feeling of nostalgia that I so longed for while playing most modern day RPGs. The graphics were amazing and helped create a living breathing world of magical machines and steam-work. The battle system while strictly turn-based was interesting due to the ring creation and ring system. It was fun trying to time your strikes in unison with the overlapping circles! The story was great, but this is my only gripe with it:

The dreams.

I loved reading them, but imagine how much the story could have benefited from them if they were in game cut-scenes. I mean it gave the characters more background, more development. And I know most people who played the game didn’t bother to read them due to their length or ADD lol, and will say the story wasn’t that great. The dreams enriched the story and showed Kaim’s internal struggle with immortality and his endless journey. No one should judge the story without having read all the dreams. That’s what I think anyway. Overall I would rate the game a solid 9.