Hironobu Sakaguchi is back on the Xbox 360 with another Japanese style RPG from Mistwalker. Fortunately Sakaguchi's last 360 epic, Blue Dragon, set some pretty low expectations for Lost Odyssey so this time around even a remotely better game would look good by comparison - that's just how much of a dismal failure Blue Dragon was.
The good news is Lost Odyssey really is a much better game than it's predecessor. Immediately our hero, Kaim Argonar, is thrown into the midst of a massive battle. The cut scenes are stunning and exciting to watch - a good thing given there are four dvds full of them with this game. It doesn't take long after the first few hundred bad guys that Kaim rips through, to realize that this game may not be for you.
The problem is, Lost Odyssey is really more of an interactive movie than it is an RPG. Granted, this is true of most Japanese RPG's, but after finally finishing Oblivion lately and now moving on to Mass Effect again, this game just feels empty. Now the second problem presents itself - I want to love this game! The world is rich, deep and beautiful. The story is compelling, despite it being the usual fare where you play the role of the only person who can save the world from evil. The mythology of the game is fairly unique too - a bit Final Fantasy, but a little more serious, made up of elements from fantasy, sci-fi and even a little steampunk. Dialogue is well written and has decent voice acting.
So much about this game rates high. But if walking around very small maps and talking with people is not your idea of a game it loses a lot of marks quickly. The one big plus over other RPG's in this genre is the combat. It's still the same turn based combat that's been around since the first Final Fantasy and Dragon Quests hit the gaming world, however it's been tweaked for those of us with short attention spans. Combat animations are quick and succinct, only the special moves take a bit longer to execute. There is also an aiming target, which amounts to a really simple way to add in a bit of trigger reflex action during combat to pass some time. Combat moves efficiently along at a pace even the more a.d.d. amongst us can tolerate.
Add all this up and we are left with a game that has considerable crossover appeal for North American audiences from the usual Japanese RPG. This is a game worthy of a try by all RPG fans. If nothing else, Lost Odyssey shows such considerable improvement over Blue Dragon that I look forward to Mistwalker's next venture on to the Xbox 360.