Stating that there are high expectations of Lost Odyssey would be a vast understatement. First announced at E3 2005 by Mistwalker, Lost Odyssey has one of the most impressive development teams amassed in years. The game's production is being led by Hironobu Sakaguchi. If the name isn't familiar, he's the man that's arguably the father of the entire Final Fantasy series as we know it today. He alone would force the attention of hard-core RPG fans. Joining him, however, is the legendary composer Nobuo Uematsu, the famed novelist Kiyoshi Shigematsu, and fairly well-known manga artist Takehiro Inoue. The addition of these three individuals creates an all-star team for a game that already had high expectations. Even though we have yet to see or play the actual game, Lost Odyssey's pedigree promises production values that are off the charts.
"Lost Odyssey's pedigree promises production values that are off the charts."
The main character in the story is a man by the name of Kaim Argonar; however, he is far from normal. For some untold reason, Kaim, as well as many other players in the world, is immortal. Even though, the game only takes place during a brief glimpse of his life, Kaim has lived in the world for over 1,000 years. During the game, the world is going through a series of mystical industrial revolutions that open the world of magic to its denizens. Soon in the story, Kaim is thrown against forces that wish to take advantage of these magical powers seeping from the Earth. At the same time the player will be experiencing the emotional turmoil of Kaim as he lives his both blessed and cursed immortal life. All in all, it's a very typical world-ending epic that one would expect to be invented by Sakaguchi.
The gameplay, while still retaining a turn-based RPG system Sakaguchi is becoming characteristic for, is far different than nearly every RPG ever made. One significant difference is that the game spans over four, yes four, DVDs. Why is this insane amount of storage necessary? Well, those savvy with the flavor of recent Final Fantasy titles would be aware to the fact that cinematic scenes are an incredibly important aspect of the series. Lost Odyssey adopts this reliance and takes it to its next eventual step. It has been said in interviews that while the game will take over 40 hours to complete, the majority of gameplay will take place during battles and cinematic scenes. On top of these already included in-game cinematics, there will be an additional "A Thousand Years of Dreams" short story series to fill the story outside of the scope of the title. So while not every player may be a fan of the game offers, what Lost Odyssey will offer is truly a complete cinematic experience.
Combat, while not as spectacular as many aspects of the game, still has some innovative offerings. As stated before, the game is a turn-based RPG. It should not be assumed that the game is anything but a standard turn-based RPG; however, there are a few aspects combat that are uniquely specifically to Lost Odyssey.
For one, there is a defensive "wall system." During combat, the player has a front and a back rank of characters. This precise addition isn't exactly innovative, but Lost Odyssey takes its inclusion a bit further. Front-rank characters represent the player's "tank" class characters while the physically weaker characters, such as casters, stand in the back rank. These front-rank characters can increase the defensive rating of back-rank characters through a variety of actions, such as maintaining a high health rating. This defensive rating is displayed on a meter in the top right-hand corner of the screen. The higher the defensive rating, the less likely back-rank characters can be mortally wounded.
Moreover, attacks during combat have the inclusion of "precision aiming." After an attack is ordered, the camera shifts to display an over-the-shoulder view behind the character attacking. On top of the monster--now being displayed in front of the attacking character--two rings will be displayed: a smaller ring and a larger ring. As the player's character approaches the monster, the larger ring will shrink until eventually overlapping the smaller ring. With a precisely timed button press, the player is challenged to make the shrinking larger ring sit directly on top of the smaller ring. If accomplished, the attack will become increasingly stronger.
The graphics throughout all of these battles and cinematics only strengthens the game's effectiveness. Textures are highly detailed and animations seem natural. Facial animations have also been localized to synchronize seemlessly with the english voice acting. The visuals are exactly what's expected from a production of this quality: very good.
Since Nobuo Uematsu is single-handedly responsible for the composition of Lost Odyssey, it's easily expected that the music will be top-notch. Even if his name isn't familiar, most are probably knowledgeable of his work. If Sakaguchi is the father of the Final Fantasy series, then Uematsu could very well be the father of the music of the Final Fantasy series. Although we do not know the specifics of the score, Uematsu has stated that the audio will take a much more "pop" flavor than what he typically composes. Uematsu has rarely failed to create a successful musical score, and Lost Odyssey is probably no exception. Luckily for us in North America, the soundtrack--to be released in December--will actually hit shelves before the game does.
Lost Odyssey promises an experience unlike any RPG ever made, though only time will tell if this promise is exactly what gamers want. Lost Odyssey is scheduled to be released February 12, 2008, though it's scheduled for release in Japan in early December.