Review by lopp3

"Normally I don't give 10s."

Ranting is something I don't do often. But BKO deserves a rant. As a reviewer, I swore I would never give any game other than this one a 10. This is my standard. Any RPG fan with a Wii or GameCube simply must own this. A complex battle system emphasizes skill and practice over fancy items or level grinding, the story would make most Square Enix writers jealous, and the graphics are easily some of the GameCube's best.

Baten Kaitos Origins is the prequel to the original BK, and has you taking control of the spiriter Sagi. You find yourself in the very same world Kalas lived in, only 20 years before. Suddenly on the run from the government of Alfard, one of the floating continent nations, Sagi flees to his homeland of Hassaleh and takes refuge there. He defeats a mysterious monster, causing him to black out and be transported to a dream world where everyone recognizes him as someone else. And thus unfolds a beautiful and genuinely enthralling story. The last time I felt as moved by a story was in the original Baten Kaitos, and the last time before that I cannot remember.

Battling takes on a very different card-based appearance from its predecessor. The old system had a personal deck for all six of your characters, which meant you spent half of your time hunting for endless copies of all the good cards and stuffing them into people's decks. Then, when the time came to fight, you had to make sure not to mix opposing elements and only use certain weapons/spells, even heal your enemy so you can get the finisher in. This all lead to some ridiculous battle strategy and relied heavily on luck. Origins throws the old system out the window. Every character runs off of one deck, with much more limited finishers. They all use simple weak, medium, and strong attacks, which gain in power when used in order. Characters can equip one item, either defense or attack. The new system also allows you to chain combos of multiple finishers on each character; this combined with the ability to have multiple characters "relay" (all do their attacks in a row to prevent the enemy from moving in between) and the "MP burst" (which lets your characters use any finisher for one combo) can lead to sickeningly powerful and delightfully destructive lightshows which thoroughly and heartily obliterate your enemies and leave them a smoldering pile of dust.

This fantastic destruction isn't to say that excessive battling can become tedious. Battles are not short by any means, and they're quite difficult too; however, this is just another enjoyable aspect of BKO's challenge. Most bosses are too hard to be beaten if you simply throw attacks at it; this leads many players to think that excessive level grinding is required. However, this is actually an emphasis on skill--by stringing together well-timed combos, these bosses can be easily trumped. Reliance on luck has been partially eliminated as well. You have the ability to discard cards from your hand (the number increases with deck level), as well as increased spirit draws (instances where the game finds a card you need and draws it for you) with deck level.

Pre-rendering hasn't seen much use since the days of the old PlayStation 1 Final Fantasy games, but it makes a triumphant return with the Baten Kaitos series. BKO boasts many of the same pre-rendered environments as BK1, which are, simply, stunning. The battle effects, as alluded earlier, are also flashy and beautiful. The whole package is a satisfactorily gratifying visual experience.

Even though much of the deck micro-management is gone, you'll still spend lots of time in menus. You still need to manage your deck quite a bit, and you'll find yourself changing the finishers you have to compensate for certain bosses' weaknesses. You also need the game's menus to keep track of your side quests, of which there are more than plenty. BKO is one of the few GameCube games on two discs, and you'll easily get 60 hours out of it. That's without side quests. Add all the extras in and you've got 100+ hours of role playing enjoyment.

Motoi Sakuraba pulls through with a perfect soundtrack. The tunes are genuinely emotional, with heavy, dramatic music for climactic moments and quiet sostenuto parts for after the fact. The soundtrack is one of the best on the GCN--no, one of the best from ANY game (ranks #2 behind Shadow of the Colossus in my book). It's quite honestly worth downloading.

Anyone who ever played Final Fantasy VII will adore BKO. Hell, anyone who ever played an RPG and remotely enjoyed it will be heartily satisfied by this wholly beautiful experience. As I stated, I don't normally give 10s. But this is the exception, because it would be injustice to award it anything else.

Reviewer's Rating:   5.0 - Flawless

Originally Posted: 05/05/08

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

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