Angry Robot

Lost Odyssey Part 1

I had read many things about this game before going in, many complaints. The loading times were out of control, some people said. Others mention the slow pace of battle, especially the opening animations. I think the loading times may be different on different 360s, but they were manageable on mine – about 5 seconds when entering a new area. They generally seemed milder than Mass Effect. And the opening battle animations were nothing you haven’t seen in Final Fantasy.

kaim gets his gaim on

Come to think of it, “nothing you haven’t seen in Final Fantasy” could be this game’s tagline. Of course, it’s from FF series creator Hironobu Sakaguchi’s new studio Mistwalker, so we can expect some similarities. But in pretty much every respect, this is classic JRPG, in boths strengths and weakness, with no significant innovations or deviations from the formula established many years ago. You’ll ‘explore’ linear areas, looking for boxes of loot while encountering random monsters, which you will dispatch in a turn-based manner. You will level up your characters, learn new spells, build certain items, buy things from merchants, etc. You will see many a well-made cutscene. You will press ‘a’ to advance to the next line. There will be stoic, slightly effeminate protagonists, imaginative level and character design, and nary an orc or elf in sight. So your attitude towards Lost Odyssey will be determined by your attitude toward JRPGs in general. If you are sick of the conventions, you should skip this one. If you celebrate them and are happy to have some Japanese games on the 360 finally, you will want to check it out. If you’ve never played one, you’ll probably love it, as you won’t notice all the cliches.

These games live and die by their stories. My first JRPG was Final Fantasy VII, and it was a revelation. The setting, the characters, the music, the emotional power… It was a world unlike any I had seen, in videos or film, and I enjoyed it greatly (despite doing nothing but press a button to continue for the first three hours or so). When it comes to Lost Odyssey here, I’m not pretending to have played the entire game, so I’m not exactly qualified to pass judgment on the story, but what I’ve seen so far is generally favourable. I definitely want to continue playing to see what happens, and the idea of the “magic-industrial revolution” is an interesting one… I get the idea the magic-industrial power comes at a great cost, not sure why…


Besides some of the specificities of skill learning and item creation, here are a couple of the new things the game tries. First is the ‘aim ring’. Your melee-attacking characters can equip a ring with different characteristics (extra damage, fire damage, may inflict poison, etc.). Then, when your character attacks, a ring will appear around your target, and another will rapidly zoom down from the edges of the frame to superimpose itself over the other. The goal is to hold down the R trigger and release it when the two rings line up. If you do it right, you get a substantial damage bonus. If you mess up, it’s just regular damage. Obviously it’s a simple technique for adding a bit of twitch gaming to the turn-based combat, and I thought it worked. It would be good if it worked for spellcasters too, though.

The second innovation is a thing called “a thousand years of dreams”. You see, your main character Kaim is a thousand-year-old immortal. A side effect of immortality seems to be amnesia, as Kaim only remembers anything when some part of the game triggers the aforementioned dreams. They are abstract, text-based affairs – basically little stories rendered in conservatively animated text supported by abstract imagery, sound design and music. But they are quite well-written, and I enjoyed them.

On to the learning curve issues. [Spoilers a-comin’, but I dare say you want to hear this, as it won’t reaveal anything plot-oriented, and may help you replay a certain section interminably.]

The third boss in the game (if you count the machine in the opening scene as a boss) is a real bitch. His name is the Bogimoray, and he appears along with five ‘magic insects’. The magic insects have a weak physical attack, a substantial but rarely-used magic attack, and the ability to charge. The bogimoray, an enormous magical sandworm, can only ‘absorb’ the magic generated by the charging magic insects until his magic gauge is full, at which point he unleashes para-flare, an area attack that will deal a couple hundred points of damage and paralyze everyone.

Oh, and if you kill the magic insects, they reappear two turns later.

Oh and also – once you kill the worm, he immediately reappears and you get to fight him again. He’s the same, except he charges faster and he starts with a full magic gauge, so you better believe there’ll be a paralyzin’.


Here’s what’s wrong with all of this. First off, mastering this fight requires some deep knowledge of the game’s strategic intricacies, which the game itself does a poor job of telling you about. For example, immortals learn skills differently from regular dudes. The game explains this, mentioning how you can ‘skill link’ and learn skills from the regular dudes, who simply unlock new skills with experience. But it mentions only in passing the art of learning skills from objects. You can equip an object on your immortals, and after earning enough skill in combat, they learn the skill that the object imparted when equipped. For example, in this case what you need is the yellow band, which prevents paralysis. A regular mortal dude can equip it and reap the benefits, but he can never learn the skill. Your immortals, however, can unlock antiparalysis and then put it in a skill slot, meaning they can now resist paralysis without having the yellow band on.

You can see how that would take more than a sentence to explain, yeah?

So if you find the yellow band without knowing all these details, you are likely to equip it on one of your guys and think you’re set. Once the Bogimoray para-flares your ass though, only one party member will resist paralysis and will have to spend two turns curing his two teammates. By that point, you can be sure Bogimotherfucker will have charged up fully and will paralyze you suckers again.

Anyway, another problem with this Bogimoray affair is that it requires grinding. You find your first yellow band quite close to the actual encounter area, so in order to impart its powers to your two immortals, you have to initiate at least 10 random encounters – more than you would get en route to the encounter. So you have to roam about grinding to have a solid chance of beating this clown. Grinding, for me at least, is one of the JRPG conventions I could definitely live without.

Finally, it’s waaaaay too repetitive. Even if you beat the worm on the first go – which would already require repetitive grinding – you’re playing him twice. If you have to try him out multiple times, well you can do the math. I agree with IGN AU, it can take three hours to get by the Bog man.

You know what would have worked? Let’s just fight the thing once. Why twice? Was it not hard enough once? Give it more hit points, then. I fail to see how exposing players to something this challenging this early in the game is a good thing.

I nearly gave up, but ultimately decided I wanted to hear more of this story, so I decided to do some googling and learn how to beat this jerk. I’ve written up my formula for success™ in this article over here…

But back to the game. As a definite Final Fantasy fan, I’m enjoying it despite its near-tragic flaw with the bogimoray. One may hope for a few more innovations, or dropping a few of the more annoying conventions of the genre (grinding, random monsters), but you also have to appreciate it for what it is.

I’ll report back in a week or so.

4 comments on "Lost Odyssey Part 1"

  1. Pseudonaut says:

    I hadn’t even heard of that boss, but I’m just about at that area and should come up against him tonight. Thanks for the tip-off (and well written review.)

    I’m enjoying the Dream sequences as well, so far, but I wonder if I’ll get tired of them before I unlock all seven thousand.

  2. Melissa says:

    I’m a big Final Fantasy fan myself, and have also played a lot of other RPGs. I’ve come across bosses that are more or less just as difficult before, but they’ve only required levelling up a couple of times – Phantasy Star IV on the SEGA Mega Drive/Genesis is one such game. Granted, some of these boss fights were later in the game, but I had to spend a couple of hours levelling up in order to beat them.

    I think this one flaw stems from an assumption that Sakaguchi might have made. Let’s face it, as the creator of Final Fantasy who has millions of fans all across the world, he can safely assume that 90% of Lost Odyssey players will be Final Fantasy heads, and has probably thought that’d we’d all have the common sense to work out the strategy easily enough. I admit that I’d really not thought about the properties of the yellow band, but I very nearly beat the bastard with only Jansen wearing it as he has the “cure paralysis” spell. I have been finding the fight very though though, and have spent goodness knows how long trying to level up in the Sea of Baus. Perhaps this is a flaw that should have been avoided, but we’ll live through it. Of course, it doesn’t help a first time RPG player in the slightest. It IS too early in the game for that kind of boss, but as a patient RPG player, I never give up that easily. A single flaw like that isn’t enough to throw me off. I will express though, that I believe the encounter rate is far too low. In the Dreamcast version of Skies of Arcadia, the encounter rate was ridiculously high. It’s taken me a lot longer to level up in this game than most other RPGs I’ve played, but perhaps I’ve never really noticed because I don’t find that I have to sit and destroy my soul with mindless killing of random wildlife with other RPGs for a long length of time. The monsters don’t yield very much experience either, which is another pain, but maybe that’s just the Sea of Baus – we’ll find out more later.

    On the whole though, I think Sakaguchi’s done a damn fine job with Mistwalker already on this game. Let’s hope he continues it as a new long-lived franchise like that of Final Fantasy. If there were no similarities between Lost Odyssey and Final Fantasy, then it simply wouldn’t be a game directed by Hironobu Sakaguchi now would it? He’s brought us a next gen RPG, with an intriguing world and has also brought some of the old Final Fantasy magic with it. I believe he’ll continue to bring it back more and more as Mistwalker grows.

  3. Melissa says:

    Hello, me again.

    Since defeating Bogimoray, I found myself in a number 1 stereotypical situation – in prison. After that, I’m in a place called Numara, and have to fight three guards and two cavalry. The guards are fine, but as there’s no real way of levelling up much on the White Boa, you’re generally around the same level you were when fighting Bogimoray. The guards are fine, but the two cavalry can knock a great amount of HP off you with their “rush” attack, and take into consideration that the guards and the cavalry all tend to get twice as many turns as you do. That pissed me off for a while this afternoon.

    Following that (spoilers coming up), do you remember the dream Kaim has abour a girl called Lirum jumping off a cliff? Well that’s a daughter of his. You meet Cooke and Mack in the Ghost Town region of Numara, you fight those guards and cavalry and get to meet their mother. Guess who? Yes, Lirum and within five minutes she dies of a sickness she’s supposedly had for years.
    So, that means Cooke and Mack are….his grandchildren. The cut scenes around this bit are especially emotional, and I’m wondering what the heck has gotten into Sakaguchi with this. He creates a chick flick with FFX-2, and has now gone extremely sentimental with Kaim’s story in Lost Odyssey. It’s very compelling though I must say. Play on, it’s awesome – and gets a bit twisted when you suddenly switch to Prince Tolten and Gongora for a few minutes.

    Sorry if I ruined bits of the game, but then again I did warn about spoilers. :-p

  4. D says:

    Melissa, thanks for the thoughtful comments. I wonder if the low encounter rate was a well-intentioned attempt to tweak some of the conventions that unfortunately had an adverse effect on other things. I mean, I confess to not really liking random encounters. Beyond the initial interest in what new creature design a new area might bring, they make me feel like I’m trapped in an essentially non-designed and arbitrary experience. But if a few more encounters might have saved me some of the time it took me to get past the bogimoray, I might think otherwise. (Unfortunately, I think the failure to communicate how immortals learn from items is the mistake that is really to blame, but more experience or more encounters in this area would indeed reduce grinding time which would be appreciated.)


    I’ve gotten to those parts you describe too – I’m waiting till I get a bit further until I write up my experiences, though. It’s still keeping my attention, and yes the feminineness of that part of the game, for lack of a better word, was surprising but I have to say, a refreshing change. I mean, how many games have a flower-gathering section, and a playable funeral? My fear though is that I no longer have the time and attention for a game of this length. I mean, I really want to find out what happens with the story, but that’s just making me roll my eyes when I have to trudge through another random-encounter area just to see a few more cutscenes, know what I mean? But I’ll definitely put more time into it before I give up.

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