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Although it never tries to rewrite the rules of Japanese role playing games, Lost Odyssey still manages to produce an epic story that had me enthralled from start to finish. Despite such a traditional approach the adult themes of death and loss were portrayed beautifully and effectively. Within a few hours of starting I already felt connected to the characters and had many reasons to care about them. Filled with emotional scenes, fantastic battles and some wonderful grown up storytelling, I found Lost Odyssey one of the most moving games I've ever played.
Stretched over four discs and 45 hours, I was under this game's spell from the first cinematic. Playing as Kaim, an immortal wiped of his memories, I started in the midst of an epic battle, interrupted by a deadly meteor impact. From here the journey began to reclaim the memories investigate Grand Staff - the centre of a new and unstable magic energy plant.
Although there are a lot of clichéd setups, with amnesia being the worst offender, it all seemed to serve as a canvas for the characters. And it's here that the real story unfolded for me. Never mind the quest to stop war breaking out between rival nations or the power of a new magical energy threatening to destroy the world; Lost Odyssey became about the main characters and their development through the game.
It's Kaim's progression from a repressed emotional state to unbridled grief that made the opening quarter of the game so dramatic.
That's not to say I didn't find the story or the world as involving or interesting. Although the blend of industrial steampunk with magic is a familiar concept, it felt perfect for the game. Lending a grittier air to the locations and allowing for some cultural and visual variety.
The first half of the game focuses on Kaim and his brooding and dour demeanour does its best to drag the experience to begin with. At first I had serious problems with his character. There's only so much emo-like behaviour I can take before the off switch is pressed. But towards the end of the first disk his memories and story finally hit home. It's Kaim's progression from a repressed emotional state to unbridled grief that made the opening quarter of the game so dramatic.
This particular moment involving Kaim's daughter and grandchildren was one of the most moving parts of the game for me. Not just due to the obvious nature of that scene and its repercussions, but also the build up as Kaim's memories are slowly being uncovered.
These are told in an unusual way for a videogame as they are all displayed as text. This should be as boring as that sounds but thanks to the manner of their presentation I found them just as dramatic as any cut-scene. They aren't just constricted to Kaim either. Other immortals share the narrative and as the game progresses, their stories are revealed as well.
The text of these memories are revealed slowly and sometimes dynamically as you read with still, sometimes hand drawn, images fading in and out at appropriate moments. This, coupled with a truly melting and melodic soundtrack, provides some of the most tragic and heart-rending parts to the story. They tell of lost loves, or family and friends long buried and dead. Although immortality is an alien concept, the way these stories are told bring a sense of utter melancholic sadness that can elicit only sympathy for the main characters.
There's been no other game that successfully spun a narrative that affected me so deeply than Lost Odyssey
This dark tone would be overwhelming were it not for the inclusion of Jansen - a wise-cracking, womanising mortal who balances out the serious nature of the game. To begin with he was the most annoying part of Lost Odyssey. But as the game goes on his human nature provides the eyes through which the story is seen. Against all my initial feelings I ended up rooting for this guy more than the others.
The minor problem I had with the game was more with pacing than actual content. The Dreams for the first half of the game seemed to be placed with care and in context with the current story. But towards the end they turned up in some completely odd and irritating locations, breaking the flow of the main quest and serving little purpose than to take me out of the experience.
But this is to be expected in a sixty hour game and to expect pitch-perfect pacing over that period of time is unrealistic. For the vast majority of the game I was enthralled and highly emotionally invested in every part of the story.
Once the final credits rolled I realised that I felt more alive and yet more drained of emotion than any film or book I've experienced in my life. There's been no other game that successfully spun a narrative that affected me so deeply than Lost Odyssey - its focus on death, loss and love told in such a grown-up way was something that was long overdue in videogames.
Lost Odyssey changed the way I thought about certain issues, about aspects of my life, about people and my relationships with them. It became a highly personal journey that I never expected a videogame to take me on and one I'll never forget.
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