When I first started to read the reviews of Lost Sphear, I was disappointed, as I decided to allow my spouse to preorder it for me as a late Birthday Present. I played the demo, and quite enjoyed it, which is why I could not wait for the game to come out, which, to my annoyance, came out12 hours after when most preordered games would come out, and not even at the same time.
It came out for the PS4 first, and people were playing it for hours before I was able to play the preorder on my Switch. If I preorder a game, which I almost never do, I believe I should be able to play it before other people can purchase it from the store. People got their physical copies long before I got my digital one, but I digress.
Many of the first reviewers hated this game, and after playing for many hours, I could not figure out why people hated this game so much. Well, upon further playing, I have found a few reasons why. For one, about 20 hours of gameplay in, you can “beat” the game and the credits roll. However, there is another segment to the game after the credits finish rolling, and it lasts about another 10 hours. Many reviewers were so eager to write that they did not even see the second half of the game! There are also side quests you can do as well near the end of the game, making the game closer to 35 hours, depending on how you play it.
They also seem quick to compare this game to the likes of Chrono Trigger. Now it has been years since I have played Chrono Trigger, but I cannot for the life of me see how this game is very similar to it at all. Maybe many reviewers got themselves a little too hyped up, which hurt their expectations when the final game could not live up to the hype. It could also be the 50$ price tag as well.
That is not to say that the game is in and of itself fantastic either, as it has many flaws, which I will talk about in their respective categories. First off, let’s talk about how the characters play into the story.
When it comes to RPGs, especially JRPGs, there is always something that we tend to expect. These are referred to as “tropes,” as they are highly cliché plots, mechanics, and characters that appear in video games and other media. The thing is, this game has a whole bunch of tropes, as well as some hidden references to earlier games.
For instance, you start off as a pale-faced male with dark short spiky hair who wields a sword and finds out that he has the power to bring back people who are “lost” so he goes on a quest to bring happiness to all for no legitimate reason. Gee by golly, if this game was any more cliché we’d call him Link.
You also have two childhood friends, and befriend a monster who “isn’t like the other monsters,” a mage, a general from the empire, a war maiden from an oppressed tribe, and a broody prince. Original to a T.
None of the characters really have any significant character of their own, and dialog for many seem to be so shoehorned in that it feels embarrassing. It is not hard to make characters feel as if they are in fact human enough to understand how social interactions would work. Otherwise, the game’s dialog is worse than Atelier Sophie, and good lord did that game’s ending make me cringe.
Even when the main character has his Hero Complex battered by being stabbed in the back later on, he just forgives the perpetrator like it wasn’t a big deal, and even apologizes for being stabbed!!!
He is not the only one either. None of the characters have any real conflict that lasts anymore than 5 minutes, and generally lasts 5 seconds. Something deep is said by a character, or one character distrusts the group, but then they just get over it. This is pretty pathetic writing for characters that don’t develop ever as the game progresses.
The story plot is hilariously cliché, basically things are vanishing, you have to get them to stop vanishing with your moon magic, and later on find out that an evil disembodies vessel of darkness hates you want needs you dead so he can control the moon magic.
The whole “lack of any real conflict” thing seeps into the story as well, as even the nations adore each other. While you and the empire hate each other for about half of the first half, by the second half of the first half, you are buddies. The other characters, including tribes, kingdoms, empires, and villages all just learn to side with you based solely on your charisma and great personality.
I do, however, enjoy the fact that the “bad guys” are not really all that bad, they just have their own view on what needs to be done to the betterment and safety of the people. You start off siding with the “bad guys” until you start to realize that what you are doing is immoral, and then you start to fight with the bad guys. However, you only realize this through hints and nudges until it is finally thrown at your face like today’s newspaper blowing in the wind.
The story could use a lot of reworking, especially if it wants to stand on the shoulders of it’s old school giants. Although it did have some points where I was either shocked, such as the Samus reference, or actually made me tear up. Although I could just be hormonal.
When it comes to how the story progresses, you can say that it progresses like Final Fantasy XIII, extremely linear. Between the group chat and the main characters telling you exactly where to go, it is impossible to get lost in this game. Which sucks, as this, along with the lack of secret areas, just kind of destroys the sense of exploration that you would get from a regular RPG. Although Lost Sphear does have treasure chests in random areas.
Aside from the graphics, the mechanics are also where this game truly shines. The battles are turn-based but also utilizes a more strategic way of battling. This prevents you from being able to just spam the X button as you play in order to fight monsters. When it comes to battle systems, you have normal attacks, of which there are a large variety depending on your character.
Some characters attack from a distance, while others are more melee based. The distance attacks and skills that can be used can attack multiple enemies at once, making these characters a go-to character choice when battling hordes of monsters.
You also get to use skills, which start off as “OK” but get much better as the game progresses, and far surpasses any of your normal moves. You also get the chance to use what are called Vulcosuits. When you first get them, they are practically useless. But as the game progresses and you get your “attack” skills, they become a necessary force for good.
There are also things called Artifacts that you can activate, these mainly help you passively during battle. Some can cause stat increases, cause the enemy to receive damage every turn, or even cause save points to fully heal you, which they don’t usually do… sadly. However, there are areas where you cannot use Vulcosuits or Artifacts, so better not get too used to their effects.
These mechanics are not anything new to RPGs in any way, shape, or form. Despite this, they provide a great deal of familiarity and structure to enemy encounters. However, when it comes to boss battles, there was a pretty big spike between the bosses and the surrounding enemies. This make it kind of difficult to beat the bosses on Normal difficulty.
Which reminds me, you can change the difficulty of the game at any time during gameplay. There is Easy, Medium, and Hard. Despite simply making enemies harder, you also get more experience and more money from beating them the harder the difficulty. I played on Normal for half the game, than went down to Easy because I am more of a Casual gamer.
One thing that I really liked about this game, is that there are no random encounters. You can avoid enemy encounters if you like, although it is best not to. Even on the world map, there is no random encounters. This makes playing though the game feel a lot less irritating.
The average gameplay graphics are fairly nice, and reminds me of Legend of Legacy, or Bravely Default. Many claim that it looks a lot like a mobile game, but I think the graphics look much nicer than what you would see on any mobile game. Granted, it was developed by Square Enix, so the graphics are going to look fairly good.
However, when it comes to the parts of the game that portrays scenery, it is absolutely gorgeous. Some of these places are mesmerizing, and I have to tack on a few points for making me feel as if the game, even for a second, could stand up to the graphics of games of the current era.
The music for the levels is pretty great as well. A lot of the soundtrack utilizes this piano medley that changes as you progress the game. However, a couple stand out to me, one is a somber piano medley that wonderfully symbolizes the feeling of doubt that spreads through the game. While you are supposed to be the hope of the people, you are constantly being plagued with doubts.
The other one is when you are playing in the “last” level, and the sound track is playing. The piano in it not only makes it sound interesting and menacing, but the background grunting sounds almost mocking in nature. As if the evil itself is laughing at your vague attempts at overcoming it.
This makes the soundtrack another shining feature of the game. The story may need work, but the music accomplishes the feeling that you should have all by itself. The doubt, the fear, the crippling sadness, it’s all there in musical form.