Review by Master LL

"Most likely the last best rpg on Gamecube"

- Baten Kaitos 2: Origin (ENG Version) -
This review is based on the domestic (English) version currently.

-PLOT- [07]
{Breakdown: Main Plot- C, Character Plot- B, NPCs- C}
Baten Kaitos 2: Origin ("BK2" for the rest of the review) is a prequel to the card-battle game "Baten Kaitos: Eternal Wings and the Lost Ocean" (BK1).

The story revolves around a teenager named Sagi, who have been given the task to assassinate the Emperor. During the mission, something horribly went wrong and he became a wanted criminal. Fleeing from Alfard, he encounters a girl named Milly who helped him (and his puppet-friend Guillo) escape. From there, he travels to found out what happens, as well learn the mysterious events and dreams that have been haunting him.

Unlike most games, you do not play as the protagonist. Instead you are a "spirit" that lives and work with the protagonist. In this case, you are the "guardian spirit" who lives inside Sagi, helping him make decisions and as well as in battle.

Previous knowledge about the first game is not required. But considering this game does take place about 20 years prior to the first game, BK1 gamers will have a greater edge when experiencing the storyline in this game.

Knowing about Malpercio and its legend helps a lot (as this key legend revolves around both games). Also having sense of knowledge about the characters in the first game allow greater appreciation when you see their younger-selves in this prequel.

The overall story is decent but does not feel to have much depth unlike the first game. But one major improvement is the character development in this game. The characters are much more developed around in this game.

-GAMEPLAY- [08]
{Breakdown: Difficulty- B, Battle System- B, Puzzles- C, Control- C}
The game consists of the common two modes as in most rpgs: Adventure and Battle.

Adventure mode, you are able to travel around the world. First you need to choose which country you want to travel to. After landing at your desired country, you have several marked locations which you move your character to explore there. These marked locations includes cities, villages, landmarks (forests, desert) and dungeons.

In cities and villages, you can talk to civilians, do some shopping and receive/complete quests. Quests generally involves finding items that the Quest-Giver wants. Buying items in shops and finding quest items all takes place in the form of Magnus Cards.

Magnus Cards is the key point in this game. These cards are able to absorb the "essence" of the object so it can be used at any time. This allows the citizens of the world to hold items, food, weapons, armor, etc in cards. Pretty convenient I must say.

There are two types of Magnus Cards (with subdivision in each): Quest and Battle.

Quest Magnus
Quest Magnus allows you to hold "Quest Items" and give those who request that item on a particular quest. Completing the quests will earn you a rewards (cash, items or cards).

Second, Quest Items can also be used to mix and create new items. This can be a huge factor since there are items you must create to be able to upgrade your weapons and armors in stores.

Finally, Quest Items can improve or degrade your characters' attributes. Mountain Apples will increase your characters' HP, dead bugs will just lower Milly's HP (since she dislikes it) and a small rock will slightly boost your characters' offensive power.

So keep an eye on the Quest Items as it can work or go against your characters. Also, like the original game, there are certain Quest Items that will change during the course of time (for better or worse).

Battle Magnus
Battle Magnus are cards used in battles. These includes attack (weak, medium, strong, specials), equipments (weapons, armors, elementals), artifacts and items (potions). All Battle Magnus cards have their own spirit number (except items).

The battle system is hacked from its more complex style of BK1 to a much simpler and easier style in BK2. Instead of your characters having their own deck, they all share the same deck. Instead of the freedom of choosing the cards to enhance attacks in BK1 (poker type hands), you are restricted to the One-Way rule.

The One-Way Rule is simple... each card you choose must have a higher Spirit Number than the previous chosen card. You can not go backward or mixed numbers at all because of this rule.

Also, unlike BK1, there is no more Offensive and Defensive Phase. Instead, anyone can freely attack anytime as long their "Delay Timer" is over. The Delay Timer's length is determined on how much attack is done. So the larger the hand dealt for that character to attack, the longer it takes for the Delay Timer to dissipate. Once the Delay Timer is over, the character will be in "Ready Mode" and awaits for your decision to give them the dealt cards to attack. This is similar to Final Fantasy's Active Time Battle system.

Finally, there are three more features in this new battle system: Magnus Power, Relay Combo and MP Burst.

Magnus Power (MP) allows your characters to perform their Special Attacks. Each Special Attack consumes a certain amount of MP Level, thus you must build up your MP Level by dealing attack cards or using items.

Second, Relay Combo allows two or all three characters to double/triple team against a targeted enemy. The result will be a much higher combo as well as increased damage.

Last, MP Burst allows unlimited MP once activated at the max of MP level 5. This mode gives you the potential to go beyond what damage you can normally deal, since there is a limit to how much Special Attacks you can perform due to limited MP of 5 levels.

MP Burst, like Relay Combos, allow extreme damage output due to unlimited MP, allowing to use all your Special Attacks.. but the downfall is losing the MP Gauge for a minute making you vulnerable since you can not use any Special Attacks or Artifacts that requires MP afterwards.

The battle itself is a huge change of pace compared to the original game. The battle is much faster due to the simple, but yet strict, structure of the rules. Hence knowing this, strategies of battle is different now.

In BK1, the goal was to create a powerful poker number combination with your cards, to deal extreme damage for each character. In this game, the goal is to a greater depth of teamwork between your characters, to help create extreme damage through Relay/MP Burst combos, and to make decisions on when to attack and how.

Since battle flows more freely, the difficulty tends to rise due to the quickness of battle.
Difficulty can vary depending how well you manage your deck and leveling.

A well-managed deck and character level will make the difficulty a little easier but still prove to be a challenge from some bosses and battle area; while a not-well-managed deck and low level will prove the game to be challenging (but not impossible).

Regardless, the overall factor of your deck is all based on luck, since the cards drawn is completely random. The only factor which will give you an advantage is the ability to "Spirit Choice". The better the relationship you have with Sagi, the higher the chances of having the next drawn card you need.

Luckily there is an "Easy Mode" battle option you can choose, to help those who aren't adept to the quickness of battle (compared to the defaulted "Normal Mode"). "Easy Mode" stops and freezes everything in battle while you are choosing cards or characters are attacking. Regardless, do not be fooled that it will make the difficulty any easier for it does not. Easy Mode just lowers the overall quickness of battle, allowing you to slow down and better decide on your course of action.

Winning a battle will net you Experience and Technique Points. Experience gain will allow your characters to level up, making them stronger. Technique Points allow you to level your Deck, which will greatly improve your battles as it allows many and improved functions (MP Buildup increases in combo, able to discard more, etc).

Puzzles in this game are not too tough. Most puzzles deals with finding the correct item and using it at the correct location. Unfortunately, there are many places that a player can get frustrated from being stuck. This may be due to the controls (pushing at the wrong angle), the lack of clues/information to help determine what is required to be done, and worse.. unexpected & flawed game designs where you are forced to a boss battle without any chance of leveling.

-GRAPHICS- [08]
{Breakdown: Graphics- B, Animation/Cutscenes- B, Full Motion Videos- F}
One great thing about creating a prequel is the recycling of environments. You will recognize over 80% of the locations in the game as well as a few dungeons. But yet, looking at them, they look brighter and better than before (well at least to me).

Despite the numbers of recycled locations, there are new dungeons as well as some of the older dungeons have been modified, making it slightly different than before.

Battle animation is pretty and the effects is much more flashier and detailed unlike the first game. Combine the animation, pretty effects and quickness of battle... the system should keep the user up without being too bored.

There are no FMV so it will not be graded on.

-Composition- [08]
{Breakdown: Background Music- B, SFX- B, Voice- A, Memorable- 15%}
Just like the graphical locations, music is also recycled due to the prequel. Most of the towns, countries, worldmap, and dungeons will be familiar to the BK1 gamers. There are remixed and new themes which will surely please those same gamers too!

Sadly, most of the new tracks for BK2 does not have a huge impact unlike the first game, but that is not to say there are no good tracks. "The Valedictory Elegy" is a quick and great battle theme considering how active and quick the battle is now. "Le ali del principio" is a beautiful song in which Sakuraba Mio sings (daughter of Sakuraba Motoi). Let's not forget "The True Mirror (Orchestral Version)" as well as "Chaotic Dance 2".

The voicing in this game is excellent. This is a major improvement compared to the previous game (where it was hollow sounding and the script felt like it was read off). Milly and Guillo had some of the best scripts and acting in this game. I was not disappointed at all.

-REPLAY- [MED]
{Breakdown: Extra Difficulties- F, Secret Moves- F, Bonus Dungeons- F, Collectors- B, NewGamePlus- C}
Gathering all the Magnus Cards and completing the Field Guild is the core reason of replaying the game. Thankfully with the quick and easy battle system (especially once you understand it), replaying the game will not be as annoying since fighting is quick and easy.

While the game does keep track of your playthroughs, there seems to be no changes when playing a new game+, aside from having your Field Guide and Magnus Collection transfered (I believe).

-THE FINAL GRADE- 08 / 10 (8.5)
Baten Kaitos 2: Origins has some huge improvements and yet some minor disappointments.

Improvements:
+ Improved cast personalities & superior voice casting (unlike BK1).
+ Overhauled battle system is quick, flashy & fun with the new Relay and MP Burst features.
+ Previous BK1 gamers will feel appreciation to the whole storyline of this game as well as meeting the BK1 characters' younger self.

Then, we have the downside...
- Recycled locations hurts the BK1 players, as they already know the place, hence lessening the impact of "discovering new locations".
- Battle system is now striped down to "simple & strict" from it's original "free & complex".
- Inexperienced knowledge & understanding of the new battle system will demoralize the gamer from playing and liking the new system.
- Overall story is not as in-depth compared to the first game (especially the ending). BK2's ending leaves a bad taste since the quality of the ending is not as high as the first game.
- Horrible game design in some areas. One such area is fighting a boss right when you switch to Disc 2 without a chance to level at all. If you do not have any additional saves prior to this battle, you are out-of-luck or going to have a hard time against the boss (especially if you are not well prepared).

Overall, Baten Kaitos 2: Origin will most likely the be last best RPG for the Gamecube (and no, Zelda does not count). By keeping intact with using cards for questing and battling, that will bring back many fans from BK1. The question is how well they will be accustomed to the new battle system.

If the gamer give time and patience to understand how the system works, they will come to realize how much quicker and in-depth the system is in teamwork.

For those who are new to this type of game OR a fan of Baten Kaitos (but unsure how well you'll like the battle system), check some gameplay videos and/or rent the game. Otherwise, spending money on possibly the last best Gamecube RPG would be an ideal choice, especially for Gamecube owners starving for a rpg.


Reviewer's Score: 8/10 | Originally Posted: 10/10/06


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