Mistwalker’s second foray into the RPG genre is every bit as ambitious as their first. We loved Blue Dragon, and we’re happy to report Mistwalker and Feel Plus (another subsidiary if Microsoft) have pulled out all the stops to bring us an experience to remember.

The setting for Lost Odyssey is a steampunk-type civilization, a world where magic and machinery co-exist, and the story revolves around a man who has literally seen and done it all… many times over. After initially being dumped into the middle of a raging battle which gives you a taste of the action to come, tutorials are drip-fed as required, allowing you to become acquainted with the controls and game play over a comfortable period of time.

The plot is not entirely unpredictable (hardly any of ‘em are these days), but it is extremely well written and moves at a pace guaranteed to maintain your interest.

Burdened with both immortality and some serious memory loss, mercenary Kaim Argonar steps forth from the ruins of yet another battlefield – although this particular battle provides a dramatic starting point for the events to follow. As the game progresses, Kaim finds himself thrown together with characters both mortal and immortal, as he quests across a sizable map.

With any RPG it takes a bit of time to be drawn into the plot and to warm to the main characters. This ‘getting to know you’ phase usually involves a game of ‘spot the stereotype’ and as far as these are concerned, the gang’s all here: brooding heroes – not all of them noble; scantily clad, ‘kick-butt’ heroines; cutesy kids, dastardly villains and comic relief in the form of a hedonistic rake. There’s a good mix of colourful personalities and the high standard of voice acting makes for some entertaining character interaction.

Kaim’s forgotten memories are gradually revealed in a series of dreams in text format entitled A Thousand Years of Dreams. These are unlocked at certain points in the game and take the form of short stories penned by award-winning author Kiyoshi Shigemaru and set against a backdrop of accompanying images and music. Of course, if reading just ain’t your thang you can skip the dreams, but why deprive yourself of one of Lost Odyssey’s standout highlights? Not only are we treated to some poignant narrative offering insight into Kaim’s past; the dreams are welcome interludes from the repetitive business of fighting your way across the map.

Combat is turn-based and very traditional in its execution, in that you give party members their instructions at the beginning of each round then sit back to watch the carnage unfold. In typical JRPG fashion the commands used in battle are fairly straightforward and of limited scope, however there are some noteworthy features which set Lost Odyssey apart from the others. These include the introduction of a damage-enhancing Aim Ring System – the effectiveness of which depends entirely on the player’s aptitude with the right-hand trigger, and removal of the standard combat grid. While they don’t quite blur the line between turn-based and real-time combat, they do ensure the sequence of events flow smoothly and at a cracking pace.

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