Review by buruburu1

"An Overall Great and Engaging RPG"

Graphics (27/30, judged by era)- At first blush, it was seeming like this sequel would not be the graphical equal of its predecessor. Namely, this was because many of the areas that you visit are pulled precisely from the first game. All the major continents are there—the capital cities are identical, and so on. Some of the wilderness areas are identical, many enemies, also identical. Then, slowly but surely the game begins to toss in new areas at you, both within existing continents, and within a very large new continent that gets revealed over time. By the end, roughly half the game or more is made up of new areas. And, as with the first game, most of them are really nice looking. Again, backgrounds are pre-rendered 3d graphics, mixed with digitally painted portions, and with animations or lighting effects and such. New enemies are added, in-game graphics cut scenes, and by the time the game is over, you do feel the game was basically fresh. In-battle animations are nice and varied, spell effects are once again exciting. The game still has a penchant for incongruous weirdness. In the first game, it resulted in a weird dessert-land. In this game, it's a sub-quest village that, from our perspective, was literally built from clay. These sorts of tangents were distracting to me then, and continue to be so in this game.

A point is being knocked off here and in Story for one of the main characters, whose name I can't type because it will get filtered here. It's actually an interesting character, mysterious and voiced simultaneously by a male and female voice, which is a little creepy, but cool. There's a decent explanation for it near the end of the game, but all the while it is a visual train wreck. Rather than do a left-right, top-bottom or some other even split of male/female, this character looks like a cool robotic magician who ran through a Broadway dressing room. Its head—which appears constantly in dialog bubbles—is well-designed and very cool. It has these metallic-but-organically flexible arms which are great. And then it wears a bra over its clothes over one breast, has fishnet stockings with a garter belt, and high heels. There is a whole lot of wrong here, and it's not even a politically incorrect thing. It's just poorly designed and looks awful. As this thing sits there shaking his or her hips rhythmically during battle while waiting its turn, you will probably hope no one walks in to see what you're playing. Because rather than looking like a woman in those parts (which would have been more appropriate), it just looks like a man in drag. What's most odd about it is that it's a construct or robot of some kind—there's not even a reason for why it should be wearing stockings and heels. It would've been far better to design it in something gender-neutral, and let the voice and dual nature there freak you out, while looking aggressive and cool, which it otherwise is. I kept hoping there would be a way to swap it out for another character, but unlike the first game, that can't happen here. The character is necessary to the plot and will be with you always, making you feel uncomfortable or at least juvenile.

Sound- FX/Voice (6/10) Generally, the sounds are made up by in-battle noises, which are by and large well done, and uses audio cues well to help prompt you a bit during the rather hectic battles. The voices again, unfortunately, ruined much of the experience, with cloying battle phrases and mediocre acting again. Again, after a little time, I simply shut the voices off. Thankfully, you can, with the exception of their post-battle taunts.

Sound- Music (9/10) This is a long game, but the music deserves credit once again for shining and being enjoyable, even with much of it being lifted straight from the first game. There are definitely new tracks, however, and the world music vibe is interesting and helps carry you through.

Game play- Length/Replay (15/15) At 70 hours, there is a lot of game here. And that's without doing all the fetch-quest side quests, and one long and insane collection quest that launches after the midpoint of the game. I did do many side quests, however, because they were fun enough and yielded good in-game items. You'll revisit old dungeons for advanced boss battles, and hop back-and-forth across a world whose continents all open up before the end of the game. There is also a Coliseum mode, which features sets of battles that can be undertaken in stages, throughout the length of the game, and which are great ways to level up and earn items.

Game play- Story: (3/5) As with many games in the genre, this one gives with one hand and takes away with the other. Telling a prequel story some 20 years or so before the first-released game, it goes into a lot of detail about the distant past, has an interesting tale of political intrigue, of science vs. metaphysics (for lack of a better word). It actually becomes quite interesting, which is something I rarely find in video games, and isn't something I tend to need or look for. However, my enthusiasm is tempered by the fact that your main 2 companions often act like grade school students, calling each other dumb names repeatedly, and being totally immature. It's a rather annoying disconnection from the gravity of what's happening, done in the name of, "adding personality." Then there is the whole "It" thing—while the character has a pivotal role to play in the story which is quite interesting, gender-bending and all, still it manages to be completely silly looking the whole time. So when you see this completely dominating aggressor taking down enemies no one else can, you are removed one step from impressed by its audacious wardrobe while so doing.

Many ask whether the games shouldn't be played chronologically in terms of story (meaning this one would be played first). I would say, no, play the later history first, and play this one after, but within a few months. The story here was built to have meaning within the context of playing the first game. If you haven't played it, much of what's significant won't matter, and neither will it be a big surprise when it shows up in the game with the later chronology. Going backwards, however, by playing this title second, will in fact lead to some interesting surprises. But if you wait too long between playing them, you're bound to forget many plot points.

Game play- Game Design (27/30)- There is a lot of game here. It's been significantly streamlined from the first title, and generally improved. It's more hectic than the first game, and battles move faster and more frenetically. As with many similar titles, it features heavy amounts of world exploration. The game features almost no random battles, placing creatures on the map so you can see them and perhaps avoid them—though many battles are indeed inevitable. In these sections, you can collect items and "cards" for use in battle. The variety of items in the game that serve as fodder for fetch quests is quite large. Some of these items grant you status changes by possessing them. Others can be infused into battle items to strengthen them or create new ones. Many of them can be mixed into other inventory items through a recipe system that starts to be interesting, but often requires so much backtracking to implement that later recipes cease to be useful. This is unfortunately further hindered by a severe lack of inventory space for such items. They are stored as essences of the items, on cards. But you get very few empty cards on which to store them, and you're constantly having to trash these items to put new ones on, and most essences can only be found on certain continents, in certain maps. So you start to see the re-treading that will happen as you move forward.

As mentioned, there are lots of side quests, including the aforementioned insane collection quest, and a return of the Gray-thorn quest in which you find these little creatures and talk to them. Both of these quests begin way too late to be motivating to complete, unless you're that kind of player. I participated in both of them long enough to grab the low hanging fruit, and some benefits, and then moved on.

There are tons of people to talk to, and that is one thing I like doing exhaustively.

Then there are the battles. This is not your typical genre battle system. You will not repeatedly hit the A button to choose Attack for each player turn after turn until you need a potion. No, you will be completely involved battle after battle, and your fingers will move quickly. Using cards, you quickly will pick among them to form combos, you'll discard cards that are unusable at the moment or because no character-specific cards appeared. It's all pretty exciting and refreshing, and makes the experience at this point more like an action game, even though you're simply choosing attacks and things, not pressing the button to swing a weapon, as in actual action games. While battles are fun to watch, more often than not you will have your eyes glued to the bottom of the screen to quickly manage your cards and form attacks.

Between battles you will constantly find and upgrade new cards, and will often be tinkering with your deck construction, to try to achieve the most efficient and damage-dealing deck you can. It's all very fun and forms the core of this series.

**Final Thoughts: This is one of the system's finest games, and if this genre is interesting at all to you, you should play it and its companion title. If you are wary of it not being a straight ahead role-playing game, throw out your preconceived notions and enjoy. If you're tired of the usual battle systems these games often have, then this is for you.


Reviewer's Score: 9/10 | Originally Posted: 07/14/11

Game Release: Baten Kaitos Origins (US, 09/25/06)


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