Thursday, February 14, 2008

Lost Odyssey Boss Combat Moment

*this post is somewhat a spoiler so if you want to stay completely spoiler free, don't read....I don't mention story bits but I do mention 'what' happens that changes the gameplay a bit*

Now on Disc 3.

With the adventuring party split into three groups, now I had to become more careful with my inventory. The inventory is shared between characters despite the split; however, if you're not careful, you could leave an item equipped on one character that the other party (in another location entirely) would need in a later situation.

I only remember one other JRPG that did this, from a long time ago. That JRPG was Final Fantasy 6.

The game benefits from this approach because it helps flesh out the other characters in your party. Unlike other JRPGs where there's a lot of focus on the male and female lead, this game manages to give everyone their own interesting moments. In that sense you admire your entire adventuring party as a whole, and each character's personality is really drawn out for the player.

Western RPGs rarely do this. Usually the focus is on the lead character, who is the player himself, and that character has no personality other than the player's own. While this strictly adheres to what could be the definition of a 'role-playing game', this approach in western RPGs somewhat lessens the impact of the story. In other words, the western approach, at times, can make the characters and the story less memorable.

I do notice that the western approach makes you remember the gameplay a lot more than the story. And so the never-ending debate on what constitutes a 'role-playing game' continues....

That said, the game did give me one of the more interesting gameplay moments in my playthrough last night. I faced this boss which had a spell that I had never encountered before. It was a spell that essentially nullified all magic and returned it to the caster or the adventuring party. And in that moment, the group that I was controlling only had one character which classifies as a 'Fighter' (deals damage through physical attacks and not through magic).

It didn't get any easier because, as I mentioned earlier, any equipment attached to character in a different group is no longer accessible to you. In this case, I didn't have any equipment for GC boosting.

This boss would have my party of magic-casters for breakfast.

On my first valiant attempt I didn't think this boss posed much of a threat until it used its special ability to counter your spells. There was no spell on my list that could counter its magic. Let's just say that it took me a good 2-3 minutes in each turn, because I was pondering so much on what to do.

My characters would get killed every other turn, and in some cases I'd be left with only two or three. In each consecutive turn I'd get a little conversation going in my head:

"Wait, wait...don't use 'Combo' yet. Use 'Wall'"

"No, wait....I should resurrect Ming and Cooke right now...."

"Wait! Ming is immortal. Just wait for her to wake up."

"No, wait...the best thing to do is to just cast Zephyr and hold out...."

"Wait....you forgot to equip the Talisman! Press B and start over...."

Upon my defeat, I thought to myself....that's one moment where turn-based gameplay really, really works. In that boss battle it seemed like every turn felt like it could be my last if I screwed up. You really have to form a good strategy, especially against enemies who have some form of advantage against you. While some players might cry foul and say "That's unfair, that's not balanced!" I say, look at your own party. You have a lot of abilities, weapons and magic at your disposal. And look at this boss, who has, lets say, two really powerful spells that can give you problems. How can anyone say this is not balanced? I think players who opt to think this just don't want to take the time to think and use strategy.

Later on I was able to beat this difficult boss....once again, it gave me a very good feeling of satisfaction because I knew I used my wits and not just sheer brute strength. I think the gameplay for Lost Odyssey was really designed with this goal in mind. For one thing, I'm glad that Sakaguchi is trying to improve the gameplay method that he invented in the first place. I never found this level of improvement in the gameplay system for games after Final Fantasy 7. In a way, this game is the true successor of the Final Fantasy series. I only hope that this won't be the last Sakaguchi-made turn-based RPG that I'll ever get to play.

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