Lost Kingdoms - Review

Combining two addictions.

By: Jake Alley

Review Breakdown
   Battle System 9
   Interface 5
   Music/Sound 2
   Originality 5
   Plot 2
   Localization 5
   Replay Value 6
   Visuals 3
   Difficulty Medium
   Time to Complete

4-6 hours


Lost Kingdoms

   When any genre of games first hits a new console, one expects the premiere title to be a graphical showcase with no real meat to it. Lost Kingdoms therefore comes as a somewhat pleasant surprise by being just the opposite, some very solid gameplay wrapped in a very lackluster package.

   At first glance, Lost Kingdoms is a profoundly underwhelming game. Apart from the smoother textures the GameCube offers, the graphics look less impressive than most titles on the Nintendo 64 and PlayStation. While this is partially the result of somewhat spartan character models, a larger part of the problem comes from the terrible camera placement and controls.

   The action in Lost Kingdoms is always from top view, at a slightly awkward angle. This view can be rotated in 90° intervals, but most dungeons are laid out with passages set at a 45° angle to these camera positions, leading to somewhat awkward navigation. Zoom can also be set to one of three intervals, but past the closest setting, which leaves most enemies off screen, the camera is sent so far back that little detail can be seen. Details are even further obscured in some areas by a poorly implemented lighting engine. When inside a cave, the palette is darkened to the point where only the glowing stone attached to the heroine's hair and the HP values of monsters shine clearly out of the blackness, and when exploring the volcano, everything has a red tinge.

Summons look OK...
Summons look OK...  

   Graphics aren't the only low point sadly. The soundtrack varies from a few forgetably mundane tunes to the atonal warbling that is the main theme, and during plot points text scrolls automatically, at a faster rate than most can keep up with. Not that there's much to be missed, as the story is a cookie-cutter affair with only a handful of characters to keep track of.

   Nearly the only aspect of the game which doesn't leave something to be desired is the actual gameplay, which thankfully goes a long way towards making up for the shortcomings. Combat in Lost Kingdoms blends elements of Pokémon with Magic: The Gathering into a fast-paced real-time system which is implemented quite nicely.

   While on the world map, the player can construct a deck of up to thirty monster cards. These cards come in three basic types. Weapon cards, which can be used a small number of times to perform a simple attack, Summon cards, which, much like their Final Fantasy namesakes, launch a very powerful and graphically intense single attack, and Independent cards, which create a monster to fight alongside you.

... but everything else is too small.
... but everything else is too small.  

   When exploring a dungeon, random battles will frequently ensue, in the same fashion as traditional RPGs. The player then runs about the screen, dodging attacks and fighting back with cards. At any point, the player has four cards to choose from, which are used simply by pressing the corresponding button on the controller. Once a card is used up, or an allied monster is killed, a new card from the deck takes its place. Instead of using a card in the normal manner, it is also possible to turn weakened enemies into new cards, in a fashion similar to Pokémon. Unlike Pokémon however, where monsters are captured using special items, in Lost Kingdoms the player must use up one of his equipped cards to snag new prizes. The only real problem with this system is that the player must commit to memory the effect and range of every card based on their appearance, although this comes naturally after some time.

   The challenge of Lost Kingdoms comes in managing one's cards. Any given card can be used only once on any given trip to a dungeon. Thus, if a player uses up twenty-five of their cards before reaching the boss of a dungeon, they will have only five with which to conduct the final battle. However, there are points in dungeons which in addition to fully healing the main character, allow any cards gained by capturing monsters or opening chests to be added into the deck, replacing used cards temporarily.

Backgrounds are nice though.
Backgrounds are nice though.  

   Upon leaving a dungeon, whether by reaching the end, dying, or simply choosing to leave, all used cards are replenished, newly found cards can be added to the deck, and further new cards can be obtained by selling old cards and buying new ones. Additionally, as cards are used to defeat monsters, they acquire experience, which can be used to make extra copies of them, or transform them into new, better cards.

   The length of Lost Kingdoms may also be seen as a shortcoming. The entire game can be completed in well under six hours, as with most Action/RPGs. However, upon completion, players have a chance to go back and look for cards they may have missed, or challenge a friend to the two-player versus mode, possibly betting cards on the outcome.

   In the long run, Lost Kingdoms is a somewhat forgettable, but enjoyable game. It may be a bit hard on the eyes and ears, but it offers up enough fun to please the player... at least on a rental.

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