Review by DragonLover
"The improvements don't outweigh the defects."
Just so everyone knows I'm not mindlessly bashing this game, I want you to know I was really looking forward to this game and I wanted to like it despite the changes. The first Baten Kaitos was and still is one of my favorite games of all time, so buying this one the day it came out was a no brainer. However, now that I've had a chance to play it, I wish I'd rented it and saved myself 34 bucks. Now, onto the review.
I'm still in the early parts of the game, but the story seems to be shaping up nicely. The character interactions, dialog, and storyline are all excellent from what I've seen so far. I won't try to summarize it in a paragraph as the story definitely has the potential to be one of the best RPG stories in recent memory.
Thankfully, this time around, actual voice actors were hired and put in an actual studio to record their lines. The echo effect and poor acting that made many gamers cringe when playing BK: Eternal Wings are gone in this one. Only one voice gets a bit grating after a few hours, Guillo's, but that can be forgiven as Guillo is one of the more amusing characters in the game.
The music feels much like the music from Eternal Wings and that is a very good thing. The musical themes for each different area feels right for the area you're supposed to be in. The battle music also serves its purpose to get you pumped up for battle and fits very well.
Graphics in games don't matter all that much to me, but I realize that they are very important to some people hence this section of the review. The graphics in the game are very well done. The animations are smooth and the whole visual area has been improved over the previous game. The visuals are equal or superior to most of the major RPGs to come out in the past year or so.
This is where the game fails to live up to its potential. The combat, to be blunt, is horrid. Where the combat in Eternal Wings was fast-pasted, intuitive, and smooth, the combat here is cumbersome and almost painful to play. The combat is still centered around offensive and defensive Magnus, but the system from the first game has been scrapped and replaced with a system that doesn't really work. All of your characters draw their Battle Magnus from the same deck. Yep, that's right, the same deck. While this sounds very nice- no longer having to customize and update a separate deck for every character in your battle party every time the elemental strength/weakness of the enemies changes would save much time and frustration indeed- it doesn't work in actual practice. This is a great hindrance for many reasons which I will explain now.
The offensive Magnus consist of generic attacks used by all of your characters, character-specific special attacks, and equipment. The generic attacks are a big pain as you can only use them in ascending order- weak, medium, and strong- which can potentially cripple your offensive move if you get a bad draw (which you will most of the time.) You can skip forward in the attacks (ex. weak then strong, medium then strong, etc.) but if you're dealt a hand of nothing but strong attacks, equipment, and healing items, you get one card to attack with for a generally pitiful amount of damage. Special attacks which do greater damage are character-specific and require MP to use so the often get in the way until you've accumulated MP, by attacking enemies, which will generally takes a long time with the way the game draws your cards.
Offensive and defensive equipment are equipped during battle and have an effect on your attacks and damage taken. This aspect suffers from the same problem as the rest of the character specific cards suffer from- being poorly organized due to the random draws.
Another part that is almost useful but falls short is the ability to discard cards. If you've drawn a mess of cards you can't use with the character whose turn it is, he/she can discard cards to (hopefully) draw some that he/she can use. The problem here is that discarding cards uses that character's turn and will usually bring up the next character to take a turn thereby wasting time and cards. Fun.
The only positive side to this new system is when one of your characters is KO'ed (which will happen A LOT) the next card drawn is usually a recovery Magnus so you can revive and heal that character. This is the only good part of the battle system as far as I can tell.
Exploration: (and the rest of the gameplay) 8/10
The exploration/adventuring part of the game is quite well done. It's standard RPG fare- exploring towns and dungeons, talking to townsfolk, obtaining items, and just general questing. There are two new features to the Baten Kaitos world that are very well done and are welcome additions to the game. The first is the Heart Wing Dash which is very useful for avoiding combat and getting across world/area maps quicker. This ability is nice to have and makes getting from point A to point B a bit quicker than simply walking. The only drawback is that using the skill fills a meter that, when full, will cause Sagi to stop and walk very slowly until he recovers. It's best used for short dashes or zipping across a village. The second new feature gets rid of climbing and allows you to use your wings to jump up onto ledges or across gaps. The jump can only be used in places where a wing appears in Sagi's thought bubble, but it is a more realistic way of getting places than in the previous game. I mean, who would climb a ladder or walk the long way around when you've got perfectly good wings you could use to get to the same place.
The overall score is not an average as gameplay is one of the most important aspects of a game. In an RPG gameplay is nearly as important as story and for RPGs the most important part of the gameplay is the combat. With the combat being as broken as it is, the game suffers as a whole. The combat sucks the fun out of the game, and a game that is no fun isn't worth playing.
Rent or Buy? Rent it first, especially if you enjoyed the battle system from the first game. If you can deal with the broken combat system, then you may be happy purchasing it.
Reviewer's Score: 6/10 | Originally Posted: 10/09/06
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