Lost Kingdoms was the first GameCube RPG to be released in North America, and it featured the rarely seen gimmick of digital card collecting. It has since gained a following large enough to inspire a sequel. Having said that, there is no doubt that the game has some issues, especially in regards to the technical elements. It is therefore reassuring to see that From Software has taken the complaints to heart while they were developing their sequel, Lost Kingdoms II.
Like its predecessor, LK2 is an action RPG that uses various monster cards to add spice and strategy to its real-time battles. Unlike its predecessor, which had players warp off to do battles, Lost Kingdoms II has enemies crawling around the main screen, so that the player can see what they're up against, and perhaps prepare the appropriate cards. There are six types of cards, each with a specific use:
- Trap: Get an advantage even before the battle begins.
- Summoned Monster: A one-time special attack.
- Weapon: Tara is briefly endowed with special melee attacks.
- Independent: Feeling lonely? The pictured monster will fight alongside Tara for awhile.
- Spin: Create a protective barrier around Tara.
- Transform: Tara transforms into the pictured monster and can reach new areas.
In addition, the cards are associated with one of five elements, including one new to this title: Mechanical. Also, besides the monsters, regular human NPCs will join Tara temporarily.
So who's this Tara? Tara is an orphan who was raised and exploited by a band of thieves. She has been exploited because she can use the mystical Runestone to summon monsters into battle. She finds a higher purpose for this ability when a neighboring kingdom threatens the land with summoned monsters of their own, including mechanical creations. This scenario will unfold in more detail than LK's did, which incidentally took place 200 years earlier. From has fleshed out LK2ís story with a good number of cutscenes.
Players will enjoy themselves more while watching them too, thanks to the new and improved graphics and polygon counts. This is where Lost Kingdoms really fell down, and if the sequel's visuals aren't superb, then they're at least respectable. The highlight (as it should be in any special attack orientated game) is the special spell effects, and the multiple forms they take.
From promises less linear gameplay, and it is for this reason that they have instituted the Transform cards. Tara, while in various monstrous forms, will be able to break things and fly over obstacles to find otherwise unreachable places. Players can further challenge themselves by searching for all 226 cards. Once cards are acquired, players no longer need to challenge themselves with Lost Kingdom's frustrating stacking system. Some much needed reforms have been added to Lost Kingdoms II, including the ability to re-stack cards within a dungeon, and to hold duplicates.
Further depth is added to the game with the two player duel mode - a feature all too rarely seen in RPGs. Players can fight one another either with their own decks, loaded up from their memory cards, or with decks that the game provides. As a further twist, characters from the original Lost Kingdoms can be unlocked for play in the duel mode. The main quest is reportedly 20 hours long, complete with 25 areas to explore and over 200 different enemies.
LK2, despite being released relatively soon after its predecessor, fills a niche in the RPG market that some have been waiting for. Hopefully From will have effectively addressed the problems that afflicted LK, so that this Kingdom will be Found.