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Lost Kingdoms - Review

Disasterpiece

By: Red Raven


Review Breakdown
   Battle System 8
   Interface 4
   Music/Sound 3
   Originality 3
   Plot 1
   Localization 2
   Replay Value 2
   Visuals 4
   Difficulty Medium
   Time to Complete

5-7 Hours

 
Overall
3
Criteria

Lost Kingdoms
 

   I feel that, for many people, a review for a game like Lost Kingdoms will have wrote itself. After all, this is a game that casts the main character as a princess who roams the countryside only to be frequently commented on her beauty as she saves the world. Not exactly the most highbrow moment in the history of gaming to be sure. But for some, that is all they need to know. I'm not going to use this space to comment about how petty elitism can often ruin otherwise fun games, but neither am I going to try to convince you that Lost Kingdoms is some kind of sleeper hit. Indeed, Lost Kingdoms is one of the worst games I've ever played. What I am going to tell you is that it has one of the most entertaining and most refreshing battle systems I have seen in years. For that reason, this otherwise nonsensical adventure is worth at least a sideways glance.

   The background setup for the battle system isn't really exciting, so I will not dwell too much on it. Basically the main character, Princess Katia, is surprised in her important princess duties by an encroaching Black Fog that quickly swallows her castle. Monsters and mayhem predictably follows. Trying to escape, she makes it into the treasure room in time for the lone treasure chest to burst open, revealing a legendary Runestone. This weighty amulet quickly attaches to her knee-long hair and grants her official access to the aforementioned superb battle system.


Innovation in motion.
Innovation in motion.  

   One of the key aspects of this battle system is that Katia is completely helpless. In order to defend herself from the multitude of monsters, she must use a number of magic cards to summon monsters of her own. These monsters/cards come in three flavors: Weapon, Summon, and Independent. Weapon cards are the easiest to use: simply activate the card to summon a monster right in front of you, which attacks immediately and then disappears. These quick attacks vary from the close-range swipe of a Lizardman to the long-range screech of a Banshee. Summon cards, on the other hand, cause Katia to disappear from battle entirely as a frequently large monster appears, does an attack or other effect, and then vanishes as Katia phases back into battle. The last type of card, Independent, creates a monster that actually sticks around for the duration and attacks your foes. Using cards consumes Magic Stones, a resource that can be replenished by collecting the shiny minerals as they erupt from your damaged adversaries. "Hard-casting" a card is possible, but you will be consuming HPs in the process.

   The genius of this battle system is how simple it initially appears; only after you venture deeper into the game does it become apparent how much strategy is actually required. In-between levels, you must make 30-card decks out of what cards you have available, and those 30 cards will have to last you pretty much the entire level. While you will almost always pick up more cards during the level--which you can then temporarily add to your deck at specified deck stations--these cards are typically going to be your last resort. The rub is that you don't get to pick which cards you draw: at the beginning of battle four cards are randomly assigned to the four controller buttons. While there are three ways to get rid of your cards to draw another one--use them, discard them, toss'em at enemies in an attempt to capture them in a card--there are not many ways to restore them. Indeed, Weapon cards are the only cards that you can use more than once (typically 2-5 times) so not only does timing play a large role in completing each level successfully but luck as well; missing enemies with your Summon card attacks or drawing all your healing cards at the start of a level can make passing a mission pretty much impossible. Luckily, dying or quitting a mission brings no other consequence than having a lack of "last resort" cards to pick up on the next go-around.


Duplicating cards is not only possible, but encouraged.
Duplicating cards is not only possible, but encouraged.  

   Sadly, the rest of the game is entirely disappointing. As stated above, you control Princess Katia as she searches for both her father and a way to stem the tide of the mysterious Black Fog. Unfortunately, the Black Fog never seems quite that menacing and neither do the main antagonists for that matter. The many dying soldiers you meet along your travels do not help in this respect either; the last thing many of them say before slipping away into oblivion is "You are more beautiful in person," "I'm glad I had a chance to meet you," or "You'll make a pretty Queen." A compelling drama this game isn't.

What doesn't help in the drama department is the completely lackluster musical score. Best described as elevator techno, it is pretty clear where most of the budget for Lost Kingdoms did not go. When the game has a "Main Sound Creator" instead of a "Composer," you know something is wrong. What's also wrong is how utterly generic the whole game looks. The entirety of the GameCube hardware processing power seems to have been spent emulating something a 2nd generation, PSOne title could have achieved. It doesn't look bad per se, but I docked points simply due to the development team's apparent lack of effort in the visual department

I want to make one last point abundantly clear: do not buy Lost Kingdoms. Spending any more than $5 for a rental on this game is a waste of money. However, the very interesting battle system warrants at least a passing glance as you head to Blockbuster with your "Rent 1, Get 1 Free" coupon. The entire experience only takes one lazy afternoon to complete, and it's not any more embarrassing to be caught playing than, say, Final Fantasy 9. So while the GameCube's first RPG is not exactly a stellar addition to our genre as a whole, at least it isn't a complete failure either. Better luck next time.




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