Jon (chairman_mo) wrote in vg_review,

Lost Kingdoms (7/10)

~ Graphics - Very effectively implemented but artistically and technologically mediocre. Scenery is inconsistent, some stages are incredibly detailed and interesting while others are quite spartan. The characters and monsters in the game are a bit blockier than one would expect on this generation of system, and most get slightly blurry on high zoom. The art is detailed and high quality, but all standard Japanese fantasy-style. Some of the non-staple monsters are very creatively rendered (most of the "spinning" monsters are highly entertaining). The game scales well (save for the previously noted blurriness) and the camera is very flexible.


~ Sound - The sound is one of the game's weakest points. The score is decent but lacks variety. Sound effects are unspectacular and similarly repetitive. Worst and most noticeable is the total lack of voice acting. At the start of many conversations there will be a snippet of Japanese, then silence. This leads me to believe that the Japanese version of the game did have voice acting, but this version didn't have the time/budget to include it.


~ Interface - The interface is almost perfect. The menu interfaces (managing your decks, primarily) are slick and fast. There are a few very minor instances of irritating lack of options, such as the inability to sort or filter the displayed cards in the store. On the overland maps and in-battle the interface is unbelievably simple and effective. Overall the interface shines, and it wouldn't surprise me to see elements of the battle interface copied in future games.


~ Replay Value - While the main game is quite short, there are some factors that boost the replay value to respectable levels. The "main stages" are totally linear and if played straight through take only 8-10 hours to complete. There are, however, 9 additional optional stages, and you can abort before the end of a stage to replay it (while keeping all the experience you've gained). Doing so is necessary to get all 105 cards, which is a surprisingly fulfilling accomplishment. Still, this only adds another 4-5 hours, and you probably won't want to do it again. The game also features a 2-player mode. It's wild and fun, but wears old pretty quickly. This game is a perfect rental, essentially.


~ Gameplay - While billing itself as an "Action RPG", LK is really more action-strategy. Interaction with others and development of your character, the main RPG staples, are very underdeveloped. It pays lip service to some RPG elements (there is _a_ store, your character "goes up levels" when you gain new Runestones, the scattered Red Fairies and a single library provide some background plot information), but most of the game is split between deck building and exploration/combat.

The deckbuilding element is interesting but shallow. If you simply stack your deck against whatever enemies are expected to be in the area (which you always know beforehand), you can breeze through an area with no more thought than "earth beats water". It's possible to make slick, ultra-efficient decks that mow through anything, but the value of doing so versus just dumping in a bunch of good cards is limited. The gaining of cards through the development of existing ones is well done, although I feel there were major balancing issues (you could play a card the entire game to get the 5000 experience it needs for its ultimate transformation, only to find that it's a transformation that some other card of similar power got at 2000 experience).

Combat is where the gameplay stands out. The premise is basic, you run around and either use the cards in your deck, or discard them to gain access to later ones (the order is "randomly" determined at the start of each stage, although it seems that cards are weighted to tend to appear earlier or later in the cycle). Using cards cost crystals, which you can collect from damaged enemies. All enemies in the game are represented on cards, and in most cases you are able to capture monsters rather than kill them, giving you a copy of that monster's card. This system works extremely well, lending to fast-paced, easy to manage combat. The main blemishes are your main character's physical ineptitude (she can't jump/run/evade in any way) and the poor timing on post-damage invincibility. Monsters stay invincible for quite a few seconds, making combo attacks on them impossible. Meanwhile, the main character barely stays invincible for a second, so if even a couple of quick monsters get close to her it is all over, just because she'll be continuously immobilized from being smacked around. Hit detection is also sketchy at times, but it's pretty easy to learn where there are problems and compensate.

Overall, the gameplay is well designed and implemented, with the main fault its tendency to be TOO simple.


~ Enjoyment - This is one of the most fulfilling games I've played in a while, which is strange considering the utter detachment I felt to the story and characters. I think it was just the game's catering to my CCG-player background combined with the fun and at times zany combat. I will repeat, though, that this is a definite rental. Once I got all the cards I just said "Okay, I'm done. Time to return it." without even bothering to beat it again with my new ubercards. All I can say, I guess, is if you like the collecting aspect of CCGs you'll probably really enjoy this game.


~ Swear word rating - Quite low. Perhaps a couple of mutterings when my character got trapped and ripped to shreds by nasties, but since it's one of those games where you can't "lose" (just get kicked out of the board and have to retry it), it was never that intense.

Overall: 7, not worth buying (most places are selling it for $50, and I would be enraged if I paid that then discovered how short it is), but _definitely_ worth a rental.
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