Lost Odyssey Review: 14 years later, it's still the greatest game of all time
This article marks a monumental event in the RPG Ranked community... as this is our first ever review! I felt obligated to do this game first since it is quite literally my favorite game of all time, and in today's article, I will be telling you why this slightly obscure Xbox 360 JRPG is the best RPG I have ever played. As with all reviews I will be posting from this point forward, I will be ranking each game in ten different categories: the battle system, the story, the music, the fun factor, the art/graphics, the characters, the dungeons, the sidequests, the quality of life, and the uniqueness of the game. Now without further ado, RPG Ranked presents... a Lost Odyssey Review: 14 years later, it's still the greatest game of all time.
Battle System - 10
First things first: does the Lost Odyssey battle system reinvent the wheel in a meaningful and unique way? No, not necessarily. But Lost Odyssey may just have my favorite traditional turn-based battle system of all time. And when I say traditional, I'm not talking like Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door. I'm talking traditional, like Final Fantasy. Lost Odyssey's battle system is the perfect blend of the battle systems in Final Fantasy X, Legend of Dragoon, and the original three Final Fantasy games. Lost Odyssey has a turn order similar to Final Fantasy X, however, all character actions are selected at one time, similar to earlier Final Fantasy games, Lufia II & III, or the Golden Sun series. In addition, there are Quick Time Events in the form of the comprehensive and addictive Ring System. With these Rings, you can change the attributes of your basic attacks on the fly in battle, allowing you to create awesome strategies to deal the maximum amount of damage possible. This game is one of the few games where I feel that both magic and physical attacks are equally strong, and that makes each character seem great in battle. With four unique types of magic, a plethora of command abilities, and the aforementioned Ring System, combat never ceases to be fun in Lost Odyssey. Add to that the assortment of non-generic enemies, and you have a battle system that rarely gets old.
Oh wait... I forgot some stuff that no other game has really ever experimented with. These two features make this battle system that much better: the immortals and the Guard Condition status. The immortals are able to revive in battle after a few turns Knocked Out, which is literally such a cool idea that I'm surprised has never been revisited in later RPGs. The Guard Condition system is basically the most cool version of the front and back row you will ever get in a video game: it makes you really strategize what enemies you are going to attack first! Even though Lost Odyssey's battle system doesn't reinvent the wheel as much as many other RPGs and it sticks to the basic turn-based formula, as our wise elders say, "if it ain't broke, don't fix it." Overall, with such an awesome (yet retro) battle system, it's hard to rate this battle system any lower than a 10. And I didn't even mention the Backyard, my favorite coliseum in gaming...
Story - 9
On paper, many elements of the story of Lost Odyssey are very much by-the-numbers. It is a tale of good vs evil in which the protagonists go against a dictator of an empire to save the world. You want to know what other games do this? A lot of them, let's just say that. However, the execution is what makes this game's story fantastic. The cutscenes are gorgeous, the characters are oozing personality, and even with a stereotypical plot, it still finds ways to reinvent the wheel with plot elements like Spy Eyes, spirit magic, freezing an entire country, and magic energy. Highlights of the story include the scenes with Lirum in it, Gongora's rise to power, any scene with Kakanas in it, every single one of the final cutscenes, and basically the entire Disc 3. Though the game slows to a halt story-wise during a couple of areas such as the Crimson Forest and the Ice Canyon, the majority of the game moves at a breakneck pace that makes you want to keep playing.
With the stereotypical plot, a very slow prologue to the game, and a couple of spots with pacing issues, I would probably rank this game a 7.5 or an 8 in terms of plot. However, the spectacular Thousand Years of Dreams remedy this issue. These short stories dive into the backstory of Kaim and occasionally the other immortals, and nothing else in a video game has ever invoked such raw emotion and such great character development with so few words. Though these stories are occasionally quite long and are very grounded, unlike the main story, it is always worth your time to read through these wonderful pieces of literature. Overall, even through its flaws, I absolutely adore the story of Lost Odyssey.
Music - 9.5
It is incredibly hard to go wrong with a soundtrack composed by the legendary Nobuo Uematsu... and I find Lost Odyssey's soundtrack to be one of his best works. Since he had so much time to hone his craft and find his own unique presence in the musical world, he was able to compose yet another banger soundtrack that perfectly encapsulates the tone of the game. Though I wouldn't give it a ten (I'm saving that score for my top two all-time favorite soundtracks of his), it is almost there. Standout tracks include the incredible Main Theme, the Victory Theme, every single battle theme, Gongora's Theme, the Old Sorcerer's Mansion Theme, and the Uhra Theme. There are very few tracks in this game that I genuinely dislike, and that is a huge bonus, because I am usually quite critical when it comes to music! Overall, I find the Nobuo Uematsu's soundtrack in Lost Odyssey to be one of the best he has ever created, and because of that, this category definitely deserves a 9.5 out of 10.
Art & Graphics - 9.5
Though the characters outfits are rather wonky and odd, and a couple of cutscenes seem a little unpolished (why does Kaim look like Mulan in the first cutscene?), almost everything else in this game is beautiful. With the power of the Unreal 3.0 engine, the cinematics in this game are quite breathtaking, and the environments and visual effects such as weather and water are fantastic. There is a certain portion in Disc 3 where there are like 40 minutes of cutscenes back to back, but due to the fantastic graphics and the high stakes intensity of the sequence, I was literally so engrossed in the game that I forgot to do my laundry even though my mom asked super nicely like seven times. Though the 3D graphics are slightly dated by today's standards, if this game just got a well-done Xbox Series X remaster, it could potentially be one of the most beautiful games on the market. Overall, with fantastic cutscenes and revolutionary 3D graphics, Lost Odyssey is a win in the art department.
Characters - 9.5
Let's get this straight: the only reason this doesn't score a ten is because of Mack. And yes, I actually really do like Cooke, believe it or not. But Mack? He is a stupid idiot kid with almost no personality except whining about his mom. No offense, but that kid made me want to rip out my eyelashes, replace them with fake eyelashes, and apply a bee venom mask to hide the zits I get from watching this guy in cutscenes. But I digress, because every other character in this game is fantastic. Kaim is not your typical JRPG protagonist... he's not like other boys. He goes from a battle-hardened, badarse soldier to a melodramatic family man with deep emotions he wants to hide from his companions. Seth is your kind-hearted thief and pirate, and she is a fantastic character that shows her true colors many times throughout the game. I'll skip Jansen for now, I'm saving a paragraph for him. Cooke is a strong girl that has been protecting her idiotic brother from the hard things in life, and she wants to train under Seth to become a pirate (which I think she would be quite good at, if I'm being honest). Ming is an incredibly intelligent and kind character that makes for a great queen, and her moments with Jansen and the people of Numara are awesome. Sarah, though not the most fun character, is a great motherly figure who is very wise and emotionally intelligent. Tolten goes from a spoiled trainwreck (no offense) to a reliable king figure who can stand up to Gongora, and I applaud him for his efforts. And my second favorite character in the game is Sed, Seth's mortal son who looks older than her (it's quite hilarious, actually). Sed is full of personality and was a mainstay in my party as soon as I got him. All of these characters are phenomenal, much in part due to the talented voice cast! Some of the best voice acting I’ve ever heard (for the most part… other than Mack… ugh).
But Jansen Friedh? Jansen Friedh is my favorite character in any game, book, or movie (though Jack Sparrow comes pretty close, if I'm being honest). Jansen may be a goof-off, he may be a fool and a player, but throughout the story, you can see the emotion in his eyes. You can see the love he feels for the other characters, you can see the growth he has throughout the plot as he goes from a mercenary to a man who helps save the world even though he is deathly afraid of doing it. I don't know what exactly it is about Jansen that makes me think he is the best character ever (maybe because I act as high as he does, I don't quite know), but I will stand by that opinion to the day I die. If it wasn't for Mack being a piece of crap, Jansen alone would elevate this game to a 10 out of 10 for me, but since I just really don't like Mack, overall, I had to give Lost Odyssey a rating of 9.5 in the character department.
Uniqueness - 9.5
The whole system of immortals and mortals is my favorite way to learn skills in any JRPG. Though it leads to a game where the immortals are much more powerful than the mortals, it works because this system just makes so much sense with the plot and tone of the game. The Thousand Years of Dreams show that the immortals have learned many lessons from the mortals they have met over their thousand years of living, and this intimate and powerful story element is incorporated into the very way the characters learn their abilities. Though accessories also play a part in teaching the immortals their abilities (similarly to Final Fantasy IX or Final Fantasy Tactics A-2), the skill link system is just such a unique idea. This game also has some super cool features such as the Cubic Music Score, the aforementioned Thousand Years of Dreams, the amazing Backyard, the 25-floor Experimental Staff Remains, the aforementioned Ring System, Tolten’s sidequest, invisible chests, and more! Add to that the unique character designs, the new-and-improved traditional battle system, and the fantastic dungeons (which I am just about to talk about), and this game is a game that is just as unique as it is fun.
Dungeons - 10
What other game has this many fun and unique optional dungeons? From the Numara Atoll to the Kelolon Village to the Pirate’s Fortress to Gongora’s secret laboratory to the Temple of Enlightenment to the Experimental Staff Remains, this game’s dungeons are amazing. Each dungeon has its own unique perks that set them apart from the rest, and each time you enter a new dungeon, it feels completely new. Though the Temple of Enlightenment and the Great Ancient Ruins are pretty similar (which is fine since they are both epic!), every other dungeon in the game has its own unique style and gameplay! So overall, I don’t have any complaints with the dungeons in this game… they are superb across the board!
Sidequests - 10
Just like I mentioned, the optional dungeons are a huge part of why this game has a 10 in sidequests. All of those optional dungeons are incredibly fun and unique! The sidequests that you can receive from talking to people are also great, the two Pippot side quests are fun, the Cubic Music Score is epic, finding all the invisible chests is interesting, Tolten’s quest is awesome, and the Backyard is absolutely spectacular. It is a common issue in today’s games to have too many sidequests, and sometimes, less is more. Though Lost Odyssey is no Ni No Kuni or Dragon Quest XI in terms of sheer content, all of it is great, and none of it is subpar. Overall, there isn’t much else to say that I haven’t already covered throughout this review, but if you are playing Lost Odyssey, make sure you do the sidequests… you will not regret it.
Quality of Life - 8
This game has some frame rate issues on the original 360 version, but if you play on either of the newer Xbox systems? This game runs incredibly smoothly. There are very few glitches and bugs outside of the frame rate issue, but some of these bugs are rather annoying… but some are also quite beneficial! So it balances out. There are two bugs that can ruin the game: sprinting in tight areas and the battle/item softlock. If you collect an item and run into a battle at the same time, you must reset the game after the battle since you simply cannot move. Also, if you dash in a tight area such as a staircase, sometimes you will clip into the terrain and be forced to reset your game. However, there are three exploits that can highly benefit your party: the save exploit, the equipment persistence bug, and the 2 billion health bug (yes, you heard me right). The save exploit allows you to save, exit the game, and come back into the game, restoring you to full health. This basically negates ever having to use your hard-earned Gold on the Inn, and it is a godsend in some of the harder dungeons. The equipment persistence bug allows you to use Persistence more than once per battle… if you just have your characters change their equipment mid-battle after Persistence is used up, you can use it over and over again! This is broken, and if you really can’t get through a boss fight, you should totally use this exploit! However, don’t abuse it: it makes the game boring at times. But you want to know what isn’t boring? Getting two billion health. This is my personal favorite exploit: and it isn’t all that hard to execute! For this to work, you have to have your entire front row dead at the start of this battle. Due to how people are revived after battle, this exploit only works during subsequent battles such as battles on top of the train in Disc 3. It does not seem to work with battles that have a cutscene between the two battles, so this is highly situational, but it is still very fun to try on the Armored Train at the very least. With the entire row front dead, your back row characters not only have 2 billion health, but they also have GC immunity. It is pretty crazy.
Moving away from exploits and lag, let’s talk about some other quality of life issues. This game has no missable items save a couple of spells you have to buy before Gohtza freezes over, however, it is very hard to miss these spells if you make an effort to shop in every town. Also, some people may dislike the random battles, but also, some people (like me) don’t mind them, so that is a mixed bag. Another fault is the difficulty, which starts off incredibly hard and randomly spikes to become super easy during Disc 3. The optional bosses, though very cool and fun, are much too easy due to the overpowered abilities you get. For those who like it difficult, they will be disappointed, and for those who like it easy? They might quit before they even reach the best parts of the story! Another issue is there is no way to teleport out of a dungeon, which can get rather annoying when re-visiting areas for sidequests or invisible chests. Other people complain the game is not innovative enough, but like I said earlier, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” So I ignore those people. My final issue with Lost Odyssey is the lack of a world map, which I am totally okay with since many of my favorite games don’t have a world map (Tales of Xillia, Final Fantasy X, Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door, et cetera), but some people may find issue with that. However, once you get the boat? You can fly or sail across the map as much as you would like! So it isn’t too big of a deal. Also, the fast travel system in this game is amazing, so that’s also great. Anyway, overall, the quality of life is usually great in Lost Odyssey, but there are a couple of issues that plague it from being a 9 or a 10.
Fun Factor: 10
Overall Score: 95%
Lost Odyssey is my favorite game of all time, and though it isn’t without its flaws, I simply have never played a game I like better. This game got me through 2020, it was my childhood favorite game, and it simply is a magical experience to play. Though it isn’t perfect, and though I might be a bit blinded by nostalgia, Lost Odyssey is a must-play for anybody who enjoys turn-based JRPGs… and who knows? Lost Odyssey might just be the game that converts you to the JRPG cult. Because that’s what this game did to me.
P.S. - For some reason, I teared up typing those last two sentences. If nothing else shows you that I am a hot mess, that should :))
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