I am a bit of a hardcore Final Fantasy fan, especially for the classics. Some of my favorites include FF6, FF8 and FF10. However, for me personally, I felt something went a little wrong with the formula somewhere around the advent of FFX-2. I don’t know if it was the merge with Enix that brought about the change, but suddenly my beloved single player romantic saga was turned into an MMO (FF11), followed by a single player game running on the same MMO engine (FF12). And I’m sure a lot of people have mixed emotions about the FF13 Trilogy, I know I sure do!
With the release of the highly acclaimed Final Fantasy XV, I thought I replay a game that I always considered a spiritual successor to the “classic” Final Fantasy series. It was even written by Final Fantasy creator Hironobu Sakaguchi and music done by Final Fantasy veteran and legendary composer Nobuo Uematsu, as well as a few other returning Final Fantasy veterans to comprise various roles on the development team such as artwork and character design. This game plays, sounds, looks and feels like a Final Fantasy game, and a damn good one at that!
Lost Odyssey by Mistwalker Studios is a JRPG on the Xbox 360. It is set in a world similar to FF6, where society is in the midst of a magic-industrial revolution, where nations wage war using both magic and machine and the world is in crisis. The main character is Kaim Argonar. His existence is surrounded in mystery as he is seemingly immortal, emerging from battles and disasters that had killed countless others completely unharmed. To add to the intrigue, he is also suffering from memory loss. Normally the amnesia card is a tired and over-used gimmick but in the context of the greater story and all of the characters involved, it plays out an amazing story that is very unique and interesting! The characters are all enjoyable with interesting backstories, and the main story is engaging with plenty of plot twists and character development. I don’t want to give too much of the plot away for anyone who might want to play it for themselves but it is a Sakaguchi story through and through and one of the most memorable stories Ive played through in any RPG.
The battle system is classic Final Fantasy, most similar perhaps to FFX. It is turn based and strategic, and sticks very closely to the “ATTACK, MAGIC, ITEM” formula. It is very simplistic with the only significant deviation coming in the form of the Guard Condition which affects the defense stats of characters in the back row of the parties formation in relation to the front rows collective HP. Battles encourage the player to remain engaged during battles with elemental and type matchups resulting in differing strengths and weaknesses and also with a timing mini-gaming to accompany your attack animations in order to increase the damage done to your foes. Battle animations look great and characters will shout or make small talk during the battles making the fights not seem monotonous but alive and exciting. Boss battles are a step up in difficulty from the average JRPG with the first boss battle in particular being somewhat of a baptism of fire. This game will sometimes require level grinding and gear farming to stay ahead of the curve!
The music is on par with any of Nobuo’s previous work, which is to say it is exceptional. The majority of the games dialogue is voice acted and if you’ve played FFX, you’ll know exactly what to expect here with every cutscene or plot development being voice acted and your interactions with non-consequential NPCs being text on a screen. The voice acting for the main characters was very well done, which made every cutscene enjoyable to watch. The world you explore is rich in detail and there are lots of nooks and crannies that can be explored for hidden treasures. One feature that had me grinning from ear to ear was the inclusion of an explorable overworld map, classic Final Fantasy style! The game isn’t open world from the start, but once you near the end of the main story (which lasts 4 DVDs and 60~ hours) the world opens up for you to explore and sets you off to find optional dungeons, armor and weapons in order to gear up for your final battle.
I may sound like a real Final Fantasy nut, but if you’re anything like me and enjoy classic JRPGs in the style of Squaresofts older titles, then I really can’t recommend this title enough! Lost Odyssey simply deserves to be played by anyone who has enjoyed a Final Fantasy game in the past.
+ Love letter to Final Fantasy fans
+ Enjoyable and familiar battle system
+ Excellent music, story, characters and gameplay
– Little innovation
– Traditional and perhaps not for everybody