The Japanese RPG is a genre that shows signs that it’s on the way out. Well at least that’s what a lot of other media outlets would leave you to believe with their scathing reviews that complain about pacing and narrative. Most outlets would like you to believe that every game needs to follow the Oblivion model, with its hands off way of giving the user the story. Sure you can play something like that and get a fulfilling experience, or you can play something like Lost Odyssey and get the fulfilling experience, just in a different manner. Lost Odyssey embraces the common JRPG conventions and builds off the strengths of a strong narrative, and interesting characters.
Lost Odyssey is an emotional game. Hironobu Sakaguchi’s Mistwalker Studios was able to learn from the downright unlikable characters of Blue Dragon and create a much more compelling cast this time around. Every character has something that drives them, and it is through good writing that each of those characters is properly developed. The first disc alone is packed with more emotional moments than a lot of games released within the past five years combined. A lot of the events sit heavy, and a lot of it comes from thinking about your own mortality. The only unfortunate aspect is that by the time a lot of this is hammered home, you find it a little pretentious and unnecessary.
The story follows Kaim Argonar, a man who simply cannot die, an immortal who is “doomed” to walk to Earth. He spends his days wandering the planet, witnessing the everyday events that most people would take for granted. A lot of these events are told through dreams that Kaim will recall as he experiences events that remind him of the past. Unlocking all these events gives you a deeper understanding of what Kaim has experienced in his immortal life, all the people, the rise and fall of empires, the love of his life and more. And like your typical Japanese RPG he’s got amnesia and he’s forgotten a lot of the events of the past. After meeting the ex-pirate Seth Balmore on the field of battle, Kaim realizes that he and Seth are slowly recovering their lost memories. From there it’s a trip down memory lane so to speak.
The story is rife with twists and turns, a few of which you can see coming a mile away and some of which are terribly cliché. And while the story and characters are the strong suit of the game, they do become a little tired towards the end. I eventually reached a point where I had had enough of hearing about how Kaim lives forever, and has to see what he sees, I get it, life is a short and we should treasure the experiences that we have, and that there is something tragic in having to experience a lifetime of passing, knowing full well that your time will never come. Thankfully the other characters are just as vested in this story, some immortal and some not, so you have an interesting dynamic there between the mortals and immortals. Especially at the end of the first disc, which has one of the most emotional scenes I’ve ever seen in a game. If Aerith’s death pushed you over the emotional edge in Final Fantasy VII, I’m scared to think about what Lost Odyssey’s going to do to you.
The inclusion of Jansen in this story is also a huge help. He may play the comedic relief more often than not, but his actor does it so well that you can’t help but love him, and his interactions with Seth and his love story with Ming. His ability to make any scene more lighthearted is greatly appreciated. It’s too bad that he’s offset by Cooke and Mack who happen to be quite the polar opposite of Jansen. And bless her heart, Kath Soucie needs to stop being type-cast as a spunky child role. She was the last person I expected to be present in this game, but sure enough, she showed up and while her work is admirable, I just can’t shake the mental image of Rugrats from Nickolodeon whenever I hear her voice.
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