I don’t know what draws me to RPGs. I think there’s something about a large sweeping story that just calls to me. It's this idea of going on a grand adventure to save the world that makes me wanna grab my own backpack and go! It could also be that desire to save everyone. I too want to help people and how can you help people more than by saving the entire world? No matter the reason, I have been playing RPGs since I was a kid and have always loved them.
I remember playing Final Fantasy IV at my cousin’s house over the summer late into the evening. I have a particular memory of my cousin and I staying up for 2 days straight to beat Secret of Mana. It was a long process but the victory was just so sweet.
That leads us to our game today; Lost Sphear. Its goal is to harken back to those classic RPGs and reinvigorate the feelings we had staying up late playing Chrono Trigger or Dragon Warrior (I know its Dragon Quest now but I’ll always think of it as Dragon Warrior; sue me!) Does it live up to those lofty expectations? Well, fueled by Nightcore music and Arizona Iced Teas I intend to find out!
Lost Sphear tells the story of 3 orphans, Kanata, Locke, and Lumina all living in the town of Elgarthe. After your usual RPG antics with monsters and fish, you find that something terrible has happened. The town gets “lost.” That is to say, the whole area turns white and cannot be touched. The three orphans search for a way to save their town when they meet a mysterious character by the name of Van. Van plays the role of your quiet, mysterious stranger. He doesn’t offer a lot to the party but decides to tag along for, reasons (honestly at 8 hours in I still don’t quite know why he’s around). After resting, the leader of the group, Kanata, finds that he has a special power to restore what has been lost. The group heads back to home and sure enough, Kanata is able to save their town.
From here you go on an adventure to save the rest of the world from becoming lost. Along the way you meet a variety of characters including Galdra who I will talk about more in a moment. The story isn’t a complex existentialist conundrum but I don’t think that’s what the creators were going for. When you think of classic RPGs you don’t remember them for their deep plots. Final Fantasy IV had a fairly straightforward, "these people are evil and you need to defeat them to save the world" story. What I'm getting at is, you don’t really play this type of RPG for a Christopher Nolan type story. You play these games for the characters. This leads me to Galdra.
Galdra is a boss!
He is a medium ranked leader of the empire’s military and he is genuinely interesting. He comes to care for the 3 orphans but needs to balance that with his duty of protecting the empire. Occasionally he even joins the party in battle and that is just sweet.
The rest of the characters fall into pretty standard categories but they are fun to watch interact with one another. Kanata is probably the least interesting of the group as the "can’t do anything wrong," hero. Personally, Locke stands out to me as the most delightful character. His main goal, initially, is to eat and be merry but you learn over time that he has higher aspirations and goals.
The thing about the characters is, you learn more about them and who they are over the course of the game. Initially, they all seem like stock RPG characters but as you progress, their interactions with one another really help to flesh them out. This may have been the highlight of the game for me.
The gameplay is your classic turn-based RPG. Your characters wait for their turn using an active battle system (very similar to Chrono Trigger) and monsters do the same. The twist is, when you go to attack, you can choose where your character moves to. This actually adds a great level of depth to how you go about attacking as you need to think strategically and plan. It combines the strategy of a tactical RPG with a normal turn-based RPG.
One area that gets Lost Sphear a lot of criticism is how many mechanics it introduces over the course of your adventure. I disagree. I feel the game slowly adds new mechanics over time that keep things interesting. One feature I really dug was the artifact system. These are world affecting status changes that can have passive effects like faster run speed on the map or battle effects like increased crit chance after an evasion.
Even at 8 hours in, I still have a blast anytime I go into battle. Being able to plan out your movements and attacks along with the added mechanics like the momentum system keep things interesting.
It might be unfair to compare Lost Sphear to I Am Setsuna but damn there is a world of difference when it comes to the music. Say what you will about the game but the soundtrack for I Am Setsuna is top notch. The soft piano fits so well with the environment and atmosphere. It’s a soundtrack I enjoy so much that I often listen to it on my drives to work or while I am trying to concentrate on something.
The soundtrack for Lost Sphear isn’t bad, it just feels generic. Like someone took stock RPG music and plugged it into the game. They ditched the single piano and instead have a full suite of instruments playing the songs. This does add a bit of depth to the soundtrack but overall, every song sort of feels the same. It lacks the personality I Am Setsuna's soundtrack had. In preparing for this review I tried to listen to a few songs but I just couldn’t get into it. Again, it's not bad but definitely doesn’t stand out either.
Lost Sphear is definitely not for everyone. This game doesn’t have the most original story, nor does it have the deepest combat system. For the amount of game you get, it's a bit overpriced at $50. What it does have is a charm that was lost long ago. There was a time when RPGs had simple characters that went on a lofty adventure. You had a world to explore and as you progressed through that world, you felt like you had really accomplished something. Lost Sphear tries to reclaim the feeling you got from playing those old RPGs and I think, for the most part, it does. If it's ever on sale, definitely check it out and see what you think!