Lost Odyssey
Xbox 360
Reviewed: 03/20/2008

It’s difficult to come to a single opinion about Lost Odyssey. On one hand, it’s a solid, well-told RPG. On the other, it is one of the most frustratingly flawed experiences you could possibly have.

During the first several hours of play, the one thing that becomes clear is that this game is unfinished. Plain and simple, this is a beta. There are graphical issues galore. The framerate is never consistent, and while it never quite slows to a crawl, frames are dropped left, right, and center. Objects clip, with helmets disappearing into armor and cabinet doors opening into characters. Characters’ fingers look more like Jenga blocks, while faces are more detailed than any RPG before it. Location detection is also very poor. Oftentimes you have to run around an object with an action trigger, say a moveable block, several times before you finally find one tiny corner where the action button works.

And then there’s load times. Lost Odyssey would benefit from being installed on a hard drive more than any other 360 RPG, as it’s not uncommon for load times to span 30 to 45 seconds. Compounding this are cutscenes which often load as soon as the player steps into a new location. Clearly, load times were a known problem during development, because still images go up while the game is loading; a failed attempt at entertaining the player while they sit and tap their feet impatiently. On a 50-hour playthrough, there are at least two hours of load screens. This is not a joke.

Screen Shot
Kaim’s battle pose is far more striking than his dreams.

Lost Odyssey also suffers from very poor pacing. The main character, Kaim, shows no emotion or personality until the second disc. For the first 10 hours he is nothing more than an empty shell; your typical stoic, abrasive, silent-but-angsty hero. The first four hours are what can only be described as a new sub-genre of RPG: the town crawler. Running around a large city can be daunting, and not very fun, but doing it to find a series of trigger points to get the story on its feet is not how to start a game. The game plods through a pattern of town, dungeon, town, dungeon, town, dungeon, and so forth.

Having lived a thousand years, Kaim is an immortal with no memory of his past. Bit by bit, he remembers past events, memories he recovers in dreams. For a game that boasts 20 hours of cutscenes, the dreams are horribly disappointing. They are nothing more than text, an artistic background, and some music (always the same few tracks, however). Not only that, they are 8 to 10 minutes long each. Worst of all, they occur in the absolute worst areas. Walk into a town, take three steps, and a dream sequence occurs. Run through a dungeon, hit a trigger point, and witness another dream scene. They’re well-written, and thankfully skippable, but when trying to navigate through a new area they can be the ultimate buzz kill.

Most likely, you are human, and before reading any of the text of the review you went ahead and looked at the score. Now you’ve read the first few paragraphs and you’re wondering, with all those complaints, how this heavily flawed game could get a high score? Does he not know that “Great” is well above average? Rest assured, this score is not a mistake.

Somehow, Lost Odyssey pulls itself out of the very deep hole it creates for itself and comes out shining bright. For its first half, it’s an average game. It has a relatively average battle system, turn-based and five to a party. It has an average story about an evil villain who’s putting the world in danger. It has an average (although immortal) group of characters who have lost their memories and their companions (who are mortal) that try to help. The story is decent, though poorly paced. There is nothing spectacular to be said.

Screen Shot
The man on the right’s eyebrows often steal the show.

But there is a reason games are not reviewed when only half completed.

Lost Odyssey plods through its first half without really going anywhere. But then, just in time, the third disc begins. That is when everything changes. Suddenly relatively plain characters develop into deep, likable characters. A fairly plain story doesn’t really get that much better, but something becomes apparent: it’s not the story you tell that matters, it’s how you tell it. The pacing, earlier so poor, reverses its course. Lost Odyssey finds itself, and it finds that it’s nothing short of exceptional.

Once players get past all the flaws, it becomes apparent that Sakaguchi has created a gem. It’s an uneven and bumpy ride until the very end, but it’s a ride well worth taking. Visually, in spite of the glitches, it’s very solid. It controls well, and menus have virtually no lag. Seemingly out of nowhere, after many disappointing outings, Nobuo Uematsu returns to produce an absolutely splendid soundtrack, very reminiscent of his earlier works. After a failed attempt with Blue Dragon, Mistwalker Studios has begun to approach the quality expected of the famous names attached to it.

And all this is without mentioning perhaps the biggest reason you should play Lost Odyssey: Jansen Friedh, the comic relief character. Bare with me, I know what you’re thinking. JRPGs and comic relief characters never translate well to English. This is almost a universal truth, but this time, things are different. Jansen is maybe the first truly funny character, extremely well-written, well-animated, and most amazingly, well-acted. After years of poor adventures into the realm of English voice acting, Lost Odyssey delivers one of the single greatest performances in video game acting.

All in all, it’s a very uneven ride, but one that is most definitely worth the effort. Struggling through the first disc or two is unfortunately a necessary evil, not to mention a difficult ordeal, but the payoff for completing the game makes up for your time. After the more or less failed first release of Blue Dragon, Mistwalker is showing that they are well on their way to bringing the genre of classic console RPGs to the new generation of consoles. Lost Odyssey is a good second effort, and gives great hope for future releases.

Final verdict: purchase, and stick to it.

-Ryan Mance

Score Breakdown
Out of 10
See our Review Criteria
Gameplay Average
Story Good
Graphics Very Good
Sound/Music Excellent
Replay Value Below Average
The Verdict: 8