I was told when I started playing Lost Odyssey a couple of months ago that it was essentially a modern version of Final Fantasy 6, which is one of my favorite RPGs of all time. Now I’ve had many RPGs recommended to me over the years, and I’ve found that rarely do they ever live up to the strength of their recommendations. In this case, the game completely exceeded its recommendation beyond anything that I would have ever expected. As I write this I have finished Lost Odyssey completely: I’ve beaten all of the optional bosses and have gotten all of the achievements (I am not typically an achievement hunter by any means). I don’t mean to write a full fledged review for this game just yet, so let me tell you a little bit about what, in my opinion, is easily the best JRPG of the 360/PS3/Wii generation, if not even further back.
A frequent criticism of modern JRPGs is that they just don’t feel the way that they used to (whatever that means). I’m here to tell you that this game feels more like a completely modernized version of a 16 or 32-bit era JRPG than anything else I’ve ever played, and that is a fantastic thing. It’s hard to describe in detail, but the way in which you interact with the game world feels very much like Final Fantasy 6 or 8 to me, but with far more relocatable and better fleshed out characters than either of those games had at the time. The writing in this game is absolutely not trite or trivial, which is what allows for characters that I became attached to in a way that had not happened to me in a game since the 16 or 32-bit eras.
A huge part of this are the fantastic visual novel parts of the game that come in the form of Kaim’s memories returning to him. They were written by Kiyoshi Shigematsu and translated into English by Jay Rubin, both of them real authors. These sequences of the game will make just about anyone feel some sort of emotion, and make for very interesting interludes for the game’s otherwise fairly standard JRPG fare gameplay. Rounding out the entire experience is music by famed Final Fantasy composer and frequent Mistwalker collaborator Nobuo Uematsu, art by Takehiko Inoue of Slam Dunk and Vagabond fame, and one of the most fantastic voice casts (speaking for the Japanese audio) ever to appear in a video game.
I could go on and on about how much I love this game and exactly why it is far greater than any reviews ever gave it credit for, but allow me to wrap this up by making a final point. Back when Blue Dragon came out for the XBox 360, it was understandably viewed as the next Chrono Trigger because of the collaboration with famed manga artist/writer Akira Toriyama. What many did not consider is that it was missing a lot of the other collaboration elements that Chrono Trigger had (Yuji Hori, etc.). While Lost Odyssey may not seem as epic of a collaboration when compared to Chrono Trigger (probably due to the fact that Chrono Trigger was the first time that sort of a collaboration really happened), I would certainly argue that its results produce something just as epic given the talent involved.
My plea to everyone who has any interest in playing a JRPG on the XBox 360 is to give this game a chance. If you have any nostalgia for a Hironobu Sakaguchi-era Final Fantasy game, Lost Odyssey will certainly not prove to be a waste of your time.